Day 1 & 2 ski touring around Matterhorn and Monte Rosa

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Period: 08-11 May 2017

Participants: Gareth Hughes, Jack Doyle, Daniel Catalin.

Day 1: Zermatt – Kl. Matterhorn – Breithorn (4164 m) – Guide D’Ayas Hut

Day 2: Guide D’Ayas Hut – Mezzalama Hut – Passo del Naso (4100 m)- Gnifetti Hut

Day 3: Gnifetti Hut – Zumstein Sp (4563 m) – Margherita (4554 m) – Monte Rosa Hut

Day 4: Monte Rosa Hut – Stockhornpass (3387 m) – Findelgletscher – Zermatt

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Day 1: Zermatt – Kl. Matterhorn – Breithorn (4164 m) – Guide D’Ayas Hut

Gareth came with the idea and the plan of a ski touring trip (4 or 5 days) around Matterhorn and Monte Rosa carrying our own food and sleeping in huts. It was the chance to go into a new area and summit some 4000 m peaks, so I was keen.

First day we were 4 lads, as Rob Powell was part of the initial plan. Unfortunately his ski binding broke, so he had to return back home after skinning with us up to Breithorn.

Started the trip with rain in Zermatt, but as we got up high the weather turned from thick clouds into blue sky.

Summiting Breithorn (4164 m) was fun, the sharp ridge together with the fog and the wind made the atmosphere for some interesting photos.

As you look on the map, you see that Breithorn is located at the border between Switzerland and Italy.

We skied down in the Italian side and got at the Guide D’Ayas Hut (3420 m) around 16:30. Very pleased to see how cozy the winter room of the hut is, as there was no guardian there in this period of time. Had to melt snow to make water to drink & cook. Jack showed us skills as a chef, cooking a delicious meal.

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Day 2: Guide D’Ayas Hut – Mezzalama Hut – Passo del Naso (4100 m)- Gnifetti Hut

This was a long day that required a complex navigation through glaciers with lots of crevasses and seracs. We have started at 8:00 with a tricky 400 m ski descend towards Mezzalama Hut (3036 m). When skiing down from D’Ayas Hut, make sure you go in the skiers far right and not directly down as there is a vertical drop!!

Skinning up towards the Col of Perrazispetz (3850 m) on Petit Glacier de Verax was possible only using our ski crampons.

From there, a short ski descend of almost 200 m and then a long skinning up towards Passo del Naso (4100 m).

Skiing down from Passo del Naso was not that easy in the actual conditions, as it was a little bit icy.

Castor (4223 m) didn’t look safe to climb (icy), so, next time!

Good weather and hot all day. Lots of peaks everywhere as well as crevasses and seracs made it feel like Himalayas.

At 17:30 we got at the Gnifetti Hut (3647 m), the guardian still there as it was a group of 5 clients with a guide skiing for few days in the area. We were aloud to sleep for free in the winter room (only 4 places!). Had to melt snow to make water to drink & cook. It’s a huge hut, 176 places!

Day 3 & 4: here

Grand Capucin – Swiss Direct (TD+,VII,300m)

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Together with Silvia Murgescu, we climbed Grand Capucin on Swiss Direct route on 11 July 2011. A short film with our climb below:

After our climb on Grand Pilier D’Angle , the weather got bad. So, for a couple of days we did different activities in Chamonix area such as Mountain Biking, going to the swimming-pool, and some rock climb in  Aiguille L’Index.

Finally on 10 July the weather got fine again. In that evening Silvia and I set our tent on the foot of Grand Capucin together with our friends from Romania Mihai Sima and Raimond. The plan of climbing Grand Capucin was made before leaving Romania both for us and them, and we kept sms each other about the weather conditions as we tried to find the perfect day for climbing it together. So, here we are all four of us, enjoying the sun-set view:


 

 

 

Before going to sleep, we reviewed again the Topo for Swiss Direct route . At 5.30 in the morning we got up, and left our tents by 6.30 am. There were other teams already in front of us crossing the bergschrund, but we hopped they will climb other routes in Grand Capucin.  Unfortunately, 7 teams (including us) entered that day on the same route (“Swiss Direct”)  while other two teams started on “O sole mio” and other team started on “Bonatti”. It was such a crowdy day because all of us waited so long for a good weather window which finally came.

 

 

 

 

We left our equipment (ice-axe, mountain boots, crampons) on a ledge at the base of the route and took with us only our rock gear as the descend was made by rappeling down the same route.


 

 

 

We made new friends on the route as we shared the same narrow belay places all the time. Some funny guys from Northern Ireland. As soon as the second climber arrives at the belay, the team leader starts the next pitch even the route is not clear. First we were a little confused, but than realized it’s the only way if we want to finish the climb in time and also to make room for others at the belay point. The route was not as dry as expected and our rock shoes got wet soon. But we didn’t mind too much, as the climb was very pleasant. We had to place a lot of nuts and cams and these require all our attention.

 

 

 

The seven pitch puts us to some aid climbing. One or two Irish teams decided to retreat from this point as they consider the time is too late for them. But we continued, together with Mihai and Raimond. We have climbed together all the way.

 

 

 

 
Next, there is a right traverse and a roof. One more short hard pitch and then two more easy pitches to the top of Grand Capucin. At 18:49 we make the picture on the summit. Such a nice view we have from here!



 

 

 

To get down, from the top of Grand Capucin, we made 5 long rappels (on the same route we climbed) using both ours and Mihai ropes. Right after the first long diagonal rappel (60-65 m), the rope jammed. Our problem was solved by the young Irish team above us. Thank you guys !


 

 

 

 

When the dark came, all four of us were safe at our tents having a hot drink and relaxing after an excellent granite climb on Grand Capucin.

By the way, did you know that Alex Huber climbed and downclimbed ropeless (via the same route taken to asscend) the “Swiss route” on Grand Capucin  in 2008 ?  Amazing  ! You can read the article about his adventure here, and also here.

Topo for Grand Capucin Swiss route you can find here.

For a more detailed story of our climb written in Romanian, please check Silvia’s article.

Cecchinel-Nominè/Boivin-Vallençant- Grand Pilier D’Angle (TD+/ED1)

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Together with Silvia Murgescu, I climbed Checchinel-Nomine/Boivin-Vallencant (TD+/ED1, 5c, A1)  between 02-04 July 2011. Watch below a short film we did with our climb:

This is a 900 m mixed route situated in the NE face of GPA (Grand Pilier d’Angle- 4308 m), that starts from the Brenva Glacier up to the top of GPA. From the summit of GPA you still have to climb 500 m to the top of Mont Blanc(4810m), which makes this route a major undertaking.

The idea of climbing GPA came to us one year ago while climbing Peuterey Integral . Then, on the top of GPA we met a French young team that climbed it’s NE face. At that moment climbing GPA NE face sounded like SF to us, but it became a dream for 2011.

What route to choose ? As all the routes in GPA are hard (at least TD+), we found inspiration in Jonathan Griffith’s blog. To combine Checchinel-Nomine/Boivin-Vallencant variant as they did, was our target. The below photo that belongs to Jonathan Griffith shows the line of our route:

When ? In our 2 weeks’ vacation on July 2011, we planned to climb only ice/mixed routes and GPA NE face was one of it. Everyone knows maybe that the ice/mixed routes are not in good condition in summer anymore. Everyone, except us… So, it was a big disappointment when Jonathan Griffith wrote me an Email saying we should switch plans for rock routes.  Anyway, we decided to take all the gear with us (mixed and rock).  2 days before our leaving to Chamonix, Jonathan dropped me an Email saying the GPA was in good condition for the moment. YES, GREEN LIGHT, let’s go for it !

The story in short: on 2nd July we arrived in Chamonix, took our climbing gear and headed with the last cabin for Midi. As it was quite late, we found La Fourche bivouac packed (full).  So, we continued to Col Moore and bivouacked on a ledge there. All night avalanches came down from the serac above Brenva Glacier. Not a nice place to spend the night…it gives you enough time to think if you really want to go for GPA. But we stood there. In the below photo, the red X marks the spot where we had bivouacked:

At 3 am on 3th July we’ve crossed diagonally right from Col Moore (we decided for this variant as it’s faster than making the 3 rappels down the face, though it’s more risky due to the stone fall) and then traverse the Brenva Glacier as fast as we could. We were lucky, as the Brenva was in silence. At 5 am we began climbing Checchinel-Nomine.

One hour later, a big avalanche dropped down below us on Brenva Glacier. Thanks God, we were safe on our route.

The crux pitch (5c, A1) was quite hard as it was all dry, no ice. At the top of hard section, I had to hammer one peg in order to make a traverse again right, on the ice gully. It took us more time than we expected…

As we were not acclimatized at all, after the crux I felt like I needed to rest for a while, so we found a ledge and began making tea with our Jetboil. We took a nap too. It was warm and relaxing. The idea of staying there for the night came to me, but Silvia refused it and encouraged me to pack and go. We decided to continue climbing, after a 3 hours stop.

The pitch for traversing right in the Boivin-Vallencant variant was dry also, but it was very easy.

On the upper part of Boivin-Vallencant we found black ice on the steeper section. It was the first time we had to deal with such ice, but we managed it quite well. It took us a lot of time, but felt like we learned a lot on the field just doing it.

At 8 pm we were exiting the route, unroping and heading to the summit of GPA to bivouac. It was a miserable night, as there was no platform but steep terrain and we had to stay roped in our harness. Not too much sleep…

Next morning (4th July) we left GPA at 6 am and found the snow in good conditions all the way up to the summit of Mont Blanc.

From the top of Mont Blanc, we descended via 3 Monts route. It began snowing and raining all at the time. I had no anti-snow on my Dart crampons, all the time I had to use the ice-axe to get rid of the snow. As it took me a lot of time to descend to Aig du Midi ,we didn’t make it in time for the last cabin. So we had to bivouac at the station, but this time it was warm and we had a good sleep. 🙂

Topo for Grand Pilier d’Angle North-East face you can find here.

The equipment we used on the route: 5 ice screws, 2 rock pegs, 10 quickdraws, a set of nuts, 4 cams, 2 Beal ice-lines of 50 m, Osprey talon 33 l backpacks, Jetboil, bivouac kit and of course 2 ice-axes with slings and ice-crampons.

For a full detailed story in Romanian with more pictures from our climb, please read Silvia’s article.