Monday, August 31, 2009

Fraguel Rock, Aeri

This time Xavi chose the route - and in the end there were 4 of us, thus two teams, alone in the whole big wall of Aeri on this surprising Sunday. We went up Fraguel Rock (topo here), a recent route bolted from below. It has a pretty spaced out bolting - especially in the first pitch, the wake-up call I would call the hardest on the route. But the crux was finding where the route started as we spent at least an hour speculating, and another 30 min watching one of the Alberts go up, downclimb, and finally find the very hidden fixed rope leading to the start, way to the right from Cristina (grey bolts) and Easy Rider (one bolt, pitons in a scary dihedral).

Afterwards the route was loads of fun, with a really cool second, ultimate and the pen-ultimate pitches. Another Albert enjoying the ending of the pen-ultimate pitch, with some air below:

Albert and Xavi figuring out where to go next:

The 'intermediate' top of the route, from where a rap and a scramble up a fixed rope (better in rock shoes) leads to the 'real' top:

All the members of the team on the top top of Aeri - 2 Alberts, myself and Xavi:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vetusta Morla

More and better sound quality here. Btw anyone knows what morla means?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Photos by Willy Ronis

While visiting Arles, there was a retrospective there of photography by Willy Ronis. It is the first time i came across his work - and it is incredible.

Place Vendome, Paris:

Or Venice, Foundamenta Nueva:

Or the Nu Provencal, somehow reminding me of my vacation as well, and of Ansel Adams, associated to the last Yosemite trip (even less logically related...) :

More here. Just one more, as i can't resist - Back to School:

Friday, August 21, 2009

La Belle Provence

After climbing, time to rest - what better than vacation in Provence, this picturesque and famous corner of France? The scenery is beautiful indeed, wine and food delicious - nothing like it to grow the stomach back up after the exhortations required for the sake of alpinism. And the dessert - nothing like a sweet shop for the addicted chocoholics - below the stupendous Chope Gourmande in Baux de Provence:

Given the high temperatures sightseeing remained an arduous undertaking, although we did spend a couple of days at it, mainly driving - but also looking, i.e. the monestary of Senanques, famous for its lavander fields unfortunately already cut in August:

Nothing better than a family hike to the top of Ventoux, the small giant of Provence, a little short of 2000 meters, but still giving creeps to bikers of Tour de France and a little exercise to the early trekkers:

And there is climbing! We used the rope in Dentelles de Montmirail, near the same old Ventoux (below), but many other spots abound, such as Buis les Baronies, Buoux or the hard St Leger du Ventoux. They are all situated in small villages less frequented by tourists and thus still preserving their charm, if not untouched, than at least not completely violated or destroyed by the merchants in the temple as in Aigues Mortes for instance. However, summer is not exactly the most appropriate season if you don't want to get up at 6am or start climbing after 8 pm - and when the Canicule is gaining strength....

Saturday, August 08, 2009

More Chamonix

On the second outing to Chamonix endless rock zones, we visited another long-planned objective - first, Pointe Adolphe Rey and the Bettembourg route, a beautiful climbing with incredible views and tasty granite cracks. Sustained and pleasant. We climbed in three, with Xavi, a Spanish friend who took some very nice pictures, for instance the below one of the trio:

Here is the start of the route, a very sustained 6b layback:

Next, me starting on easier ground that I made harder going up cracks on the right of the line of the route:

And Ren following this incredible second pitch below:

Actually the best climbing is in the first part of the route, the second part is more cold, meandering in chimneys and around towers to finally reach the summit. Here is Xavi on the summit with Grand Capucin, the second objective, behind him, with Mont Blanc as the background:

As the last word we did screw up the rappels and finished 200m higher from our shoes and backpacks, up the crevassed glacier...2 hours later we finally reached the backpacks, the crux of the day.

The second day saw us camping on the cold and lonely plain of the Maudit Cirque, in front of the second objective, - Grand Capucin. I have tried it already 3 times, summitted once (by a mix of what mostly resembled la Directe de Capucin), and this made it my fourth time up the wall. We chose Sourire de l'Ete, a very little equipped route, recommended by a friend (Manu) and that proved as good as expected, although difficult to find the line due to the lack of in situ equipment.

As my camera died half way up, pictures above and below are courtesy of Bartosz, the Polish climbing the Swiss route near-by with whom we successfully rapped afterward, more of their pics here. Above is myself painfully leading the supposedly 5+ pitch on the Swiss route, just as Sourire de l'Ete joined it - one of the most underrated leads i ever tried - probably around 6b+... and below myself again, hanging in one of the lower belays of the route:

Lastly, to finish en beaute, we went up to Torino refuge with our tent, and strove up for Dent du Geant. Here it is, as viewed from the top of Capucin:

First, we did the traversee des arretes rochefort, and next climbed the Dent itself by the South face, a route soloed by Alex Hubert last year. Here is Ren coming up the summit pitch with the bad weather setting in on the Mont Blanc behind and the end of the trip coming in with the mist:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Envers des Aiguilles, 2nd take

After visiting one mountain chain in Italy, I am back to another old infatuation, the incontournable French Chamonix. Although people say it is crowded, touristy, not original enough etc. i still find it attractive and full of worthy objectives, similar to Venice in the world of art and tourism - although it does stink it remains attractive enough to the pure of the heart.

Envers des Aiguilles is one of those worthy places - the other side of the Aiguilles, the North faces of which are seen from Cham, and the South faces of which we decided to explore a little bit further. There is a refuge there (Envers des Aiguilles), but for really worthy climbers nothing like hiking up with a tent, stove, and loads of food to the base of Grepon (which finally i refused to climb to Ren's disappointment). The refuge is below, picture with a view...:

Yes, the view is good, and the approach to the climbs limited to 10 minutes! View from the tent:

3 days, 3 routes (Pedro Polar, Dracula/Marchand de Sable/Homme du Rio Grande), over 1000 meters of vertical granite. Beauty of a weather, rock up, rock down, rappel, tent, sleep, and go out again. Up the glacier, negotiate the rimaye, and go up. And the cycle goes around again. Granite is the king of rock, presenting infinite cracks to protect, or if not slab moves where Mr. Piola has generously left a couple of healthy shiny bolts.

A couple of good pictures from Dracula/Marchand de Sable mix on the 2nd day:

Julia, the layback queen in black:

The serious action took place on Homme de Rio Grande, our best achievement during these 3 days. Below is Renadu following the 2nd pitch, 6a+ traverse (very good pitch!):

And again, Renaud following one of the last pitches, a 6b+ crack on red granite:

And myself on the pen-ultimate pitch:

Another objective - Dent du Geant pointing into the skies in the distance:

Arco the Beautiful

Arco the beautiful but also the hot hot one. Always welcoming climbers for a rest day with coffee and views of infinite rock walls. The last days in the Dolomites we spent looking at the routes in Moiazza, near Civetta. Unfortunately a heavy storm drove us down and back to Arco again. Will have to come back another time for the Solda and Decima near the Duran pass.

In Arco we wasted time swimming in the lake and climbing after 6pm. We managed to do one route, a strange combination of dirt and good limestone. Here is Cathy at the last climb of our awesome trip: