I’m just back from my second dose of Alpine climbing of the summer; this time I went to Arolla then onto Zermatt finishing in Chamonix.
The first route we climbed was the Traverse of the Bouquetins, a 4km TD ridge. Reg and I had attempted this climb 6 years ago, hitch hiking from Chamonix only to end up with a very scary Crevasse fall. Starting at 3am we walked up to the Col Du Mont Brule (which is also on the Haute Route). The first obstacle is a 50m high gendarme blocking the ridge, you had to climb up and over it, then abseil off the other side; so from about this point you are pretty committed as the rock on either side of the ridge is vertical choss. The ridge had numerous pinnacles with a variety of moving together, soloing and pitching on. The South Summit was the highlight with a steep imposing tower that was really quite easy! By the time we reached the Central Summit the weather had really deteriorated and it was snowing quite a bit so we omitted to north summit (it is the only point you can leave the ridge on the whole route).
So after that warm up we heading up to try the North Face of the Pigne d’Arolla; staring at midnight from Arolla we walk in during a storm. Reg and I then proceeded to get lost on the glacier below the face for an hour or so before giving up, as we could see about a foot in front of our faces.
After the miserable failure of the Pigne d’ Arolla we head to Zermatt, walked into the Monte Rosa Hutte and bivied just near it. We started at 2am the next morning, walking to the base of the North Face of Liskamm (4527m). The approach took 3 hours, the route then took 3 hours! 800m of 55° burnt our calves and lungs more than anything. We arrived at the Balmenhorn Bivi hut at 8am in the morning with the thought that we should have done a harder route. After a quick ascent of Pyramid Vincent (one of the 10 Summits of the Monte Rosa); we spent the day eating and sleeping at the Balmenhorn Bivi hut. The next morning we got an early start with the aim to traverse all the summits of Monte Rosa; after traversing 5 of the top and arriving at the top of Singalkuppe (where the Margherita hut is situated) we gave up the attempt as we had both been picked off our feet in the 100km winds several times and the rest of the traverse is a bit trickier.
The next day we headed up to the Rossi e Volante Bivi hut via the Klein Matterhorn Cable Car and a 2 hour walk. Starting early again we descended to below the north face of the Breithorn on reaching the base of our route Reg and I decided it was too warm (the snow was not frozen). So we walked back to the bivi hut, then did the fairly straight forward traverse of the Breithorn.
Finally we headed to Chamonix and climbed the Aig. Pigne via the Vaucher route and the South West ridge to the summit. This is a route that has been on my list for ages, it turned out to be much easier than expected, although did require a 1 hour 15 min run down a 600m AD route from the summit down to catch the last cable car. All in all a pretty good trip…I’m looking forward to my next one already.