Fil à Plomb (TD-, III, 4+, M4, 700m)


After climbing Ginat, we still had some time for a one-day route. So, on 31 March 2012 we’ve aimed for “Le Fil à Plomb” in Rognon du Plan, see the topo here. It’s a 700 m ice route, in the Aig du Midi N Face.

We took the first cabin from Chamonix (7.30 am) up to the intermediate station- Plan de l’Aiguille (2340 m), passed the bergschrund at 8.50 am, climbed the route and exit in the notch by Rognon du Plan (3601 m) at 11.50 am.

The main reason for climbing fast (3 hours) was: We were worried about loosing the last cabin descend to Chamonix, as the next day we had an airplane back to Romania.

It was Saturday, and the route was very busy: 8 or 10 teams maybe. It felt like running a marathon, simul climbing all the way up except the crux (40 m ice at 85°-90°). See the film below:

Fil à Plomb Topo, the line of the route is in red (this photo is not my property):

In front of us many teams approaching Fil a Plomb:

Silvia on the left. From this point we rope up.

Passing the bergschrund…

Passing over 2 teams.

From this point, we could see the crux in front of us. 2 teams are already there.

Me starting to climb the crux. Not to bad at all, the route is heavily frequented, you only have to hook with your ice axes.

Looking down the crux pitch: ropes all over the place.

Exiting the ice fall…

That’s our destination… Aig du Midi.

Reaching another 2 teams from behind… up there we can see the exit.

The final push up on easy ground.

2 italian teams in the notch.

There is Silvia coming.

Me getting some sun. Photo by Silvia.

Silvia enjoying the view…

Rognon du Plan in the background.

A lot of people at Aig du Midi.

Enough with the rush. Now we have time to make picture and admire the view.

Silvia in this wonderful land.

Skiers on their way to Vallee Blanche.

Last steps to Aig du Midi. Beautiful places left behind…we feel a little bit sad for leaving.

But we hope to come back in the next vacation. 😛

Coltul Balaceni, Fagaras. Winter climbing

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Together with Silvia, we spent  New Year’s Eve with the tent at the foot of Coltul Balaceni (2196m) in Fagaras Mountains. During 31 Dec-02 Jan 2012 we enjoyed a small vacation and did some winter climbing in this remote and special place from Romania. Below is a Topo with the routes:

On the 1st January 2012, we’ve started climbing route no 3. We’ve climbed 4 pitches (out of eight-we used a 40 m rope) and then decided to rappel down as the time was late and our progress slow. This is the hardest route in Coltul Balaceni (5B, Romanian grade). See our video:

On the next day, 2nd January, we’ve climbed route no 1 (3A, Romanian grade). The conditions we found during our climb were not the greatest, but we had fun, see in the video:

The rock you will find in Coltul Balaceni is granite and schist, mostly solid and very nice to climb. I heard the last 2 pitches from route no 2 are not as solid…

There are pegs on the routes, but is good to have 3-4 pegs with you for route no 3 (the hardest). We also had a set of nuts and 3 cams with us (small size). We used a 40 m rope. If you use a 60 m rope, you will get to the top in 5 pitches.

The climb starts at an altitude of 2000 m. From the top you can follow the path to the South till you get into the Fagaras Main ridge (marked) and then go West to Fereastra Mare a Sambetei where you can descend back to the North. 

You should consider a full day for approach if you start from Sambata de Sus Monastery, or 2 h from Valea Sambetei Chalet.

Some picture from route no 3 (climbed on 1st January):

Pictures from route no 1 (climbed on 2nd January):





 For a more detailed story of our climb, please see Silvia’s articles here and here.

Arpasel-Vartopel (W-E), Fagaras.

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Location: Fagaras Mountains, Romania
Team: Silvia Murgescu & Catalin Pobega
Date: 14 May 2011

Arpasel-Vartopel is the most technical part of the main ridge of Fagaras Mountains. You can either climb it from West to East (as we did it, and it’s the most demanding) or from E-W. It is situated between Portita Arpaselului and Fereastra Zmeilor, not far from Balea Lake chalet. The highest point on this ridge is Turnul Vartopel (2385 m).The snow conditions are very important not only for climbing the ridge safely, but also for the approach and descend, as the avalanche risk is high in the area during the winter time.
It’s not such a difficult climb (4c steps maximum, in situ pegs), depending on the snow it can be time consuming. So, one full day should be considered for the entire climb, approach and retreat included.

See below some pictures from our climb (spring conditions):

Peuterey Integral


Topo for Peuterey Integral you may find here.

Peuterey Integral was our big project for the summer of 2010. Jon Griffith inspired us with his film on Peuterey. He was the first one I’ve contacted to ask about the route condition, the minimal equipment to use, the rope length,  bivouac places, etc. Thanks Jon!

For this dream to come true, we have prepared in detail for one year both physically and mentally. Our previous experience in Alps was not huge at all: in 2009 we’ve climbed Matterhorn via Zmutt ridge, Eiger via Mittelegi ridge and Mont Blanc via 3 Monts. So, Peuterey Integral came as a real challenge to us, a real adventure. To be honest, I was more afraid about the rappels section from the top of Aig Noire than anything else. The facts now:

Together with my girlfriend Silvia Murgescu, we climbed Peuterey Integral (TD+ / 3 / 5c / VI ) between 05-08 July 2010. Enjoy the film we did:

For this long rute (more than 4500 m ascent on different types of terrain), we’ve tried to be careful and choose the lightest equipment we could afford to buy: light alloy ice-axe and crampons, light bivy kit.
Climbing Aig Noire South Ridge (the first section of Peuterey Integral ) where you have some steps of 5c with a big backpack it’s quite demanding. So, we managed to keep our backpacks under 10 kg and it was the right way to do it.

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We left Borelli hut at 4 am and started our climb at 5 am at the foot of Pointe Gamba. We had to put on our climbing shoes. The climb was nice, but we had to stay focus all the time, not to get out of the route. Shortening the rope, we could simul climb the easy part of the route. As a guide book we used Damilano’s 2nd volume of “Snow, ice and mixed”.

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Getting over the first step of 5c in Pointe Brendel gave us more confidence that we would do just fine on this long route.
One rappel and than more 5c steps on Pointe Ottoz – wich is the hardest-, but we found the right solution: I decide to take 2 kg from Silvia’s backpack and now she could lead in an excellent shape.

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First bivouac: It was dark when we rappeled down from Pointe Bitch and found a small ledge somewhere between Pointe Bitch and Aig Noire summit. It was quite warm during the night, we were at 3725m and the temperature was maybe around +2 C.
In the morning of our second day on Peuterey Integral, we were enjoying the view we had towards Mt Blanc de Courmayeur with all the Freney basin in the left. As the sun is warming us in it’s orange light, we get up and make the summit picture on Aig Noire at 6.30 am.

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From the top of Aig Noire we started the 400 m rappels on the NW ridge down to South Breshe of Dames Anglaises. As I remember, all the raps we did were 25 m except one long 50 m rap over an overhanging wall. We had to be very careful with the rock fall in the lower part section.

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Once in the South Breshe, we found water melting from the snow. Just in time, as we were thirsty. Traversing to the North Breshe we found rock all decomposing around us. Not a safe place to be. We got to Craveri bivouac (3490 m) at 10 pm. Nobody there. We were lucky to find snow close to the small bivouac, so we could boil water and eat a hot meal. We took a good sleep. We got up only at 5 am and left from Craveri around 6 am. (Quite late I could say now… because of this, we didn’t make it that day on Mt Blanc and we had to make another bivy (the 3rd) just below Mt Blanc de Courmayeur fighting with the deep and soft snow up on Peuterey ridge (on the segment between Grand Pilier D’Angle and Mt Blanc de Courmayeur).

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Easy but long climb all the way up to Aig Blanche de Peuterey (4112 m).

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Traversing on the narrow ridge between the summits of Aig Blanche de Peuterey (SE, Centrale, NW) you feel like being part of something special. Such a lonely and fantastic place to be ! 4 raps of 30 m (we could do it in 4 x 25 m and a little easy down climb between them), jumping over the first bergschrund and we are at the Col de Peuterey. Crossing the second bergschrund and we are at the base of South Ridge of Grand Pilier D’Angle trying to identify the easiest point where to start our climb. It looks difficult at this point, but soon we find some pegs on a traverse to the right and we feel confident being on the right route. Easy climb again, but we are very tired. From the top of GPA (4308 m) we still have a long way to go up to MB de Courmayeur (4748m) and then MB (4810 m). We meet another party that climbed GPA north face and we are happy to see them. As we can hardly move up in the soft deep snow on the high Peuterey ridge, we realize we have to make our 3rd bivouac. We fight with the horrible snow till 12 pm and we bivy 200 m just bellow the MB Courmayeur summit on a rocky spot. It was a cold night at 4550 m. Brrrr…

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In the morning we met again with the french party that climbed GPA. They were clever than us, as they stopped for the night on top of GPA and in the morning taking advantage of the cold, they climbed very fast the ridge that we found yesterday in horrible soft condition. Superb morning light reveal us all the Peuterey Integral ridge that we climbed till that point. Aig Noire, Aig Blanche, GPA arising from the clouds.

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Finally we climbed over the cornice of MB de Courmayeur and in front of our eyes we could see the crowded summit of Mt Blanc. Suddenly we realized that we finished the long Peuterey Integral and we felt great joy in our hearts. We made some pictures on the top of Mt Blanc and then we started to descent on 3 Monts Traverse down to Aig du Midi- a route familiar to us, as we climbed up this easy route to summit Mt Blanc in the previous year.

Equipment we used for Peuterey Integral:

– a 50 m halph rope (8.6mm)  for climbing and for most of the raps+ a 55 m cordelette (we used it together with the halph rope to make one full 50m rap on the N face of Noire). See the technique here.

– 4 cams (small and medium size) + 1 set of nuts, 8 quickdraws, 4 slings

– one ice-axe each (Petzl Snowracer) + one pair of aluminium crampons each (Grivel  Airtech Light New Matic)

– a bivy bag (250g)  each + a summer sleeping bag (600g) each + Z- lite Thermarest pad cutted in 2 pices (one for each). Also a stove and some freez dried food.

-All the photos in this article are copyright Catalin Pobega & Silvia Murgescu.
-For a full detail story in Romanian of this climb, please visit Silvia’s blog.

Albisoara Gemenelor, Bucegi Mountains

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Together with Silvia, on 12 March 2011 we climbed Albisoara Gemenelor. It is situated in Caraiman, Bucegi Mountains, Romania. Have a closer look at the area here. (credits Mircea Ordean).

…and some photos: