Back in Chamonix after an alpine start from the Almageller Hutte yesterday morning, and an excellent traverse of the Weissmeis in the Swiss Valais.
It was a new route for me, as I had previously done the normal route from the Saas Grund side but had never the the “Alpine Classic” traverse via the South East ridge. So it was a nice opportunity to talk about how to plan routes with Laura and Vanessa. Reading guidebooks, maps, online resource’s and chatting to fellow mountain guides!
The Weissmeis was going to be our big mountain of the week, and we had spent the previous four days practicing techniques and gaining confidence on routes around Chamonix. A days rock climbing in the Chamonix valley, a traverse of the Marbraees, Pointe Lachenel and the east ridge of the Aiguille des Grand Montets.
The Weissmeis traverse is a great itinerary, with a little bit of everything, steep snow, a rocky scramble and an airy snow arete leading to the summit. Descending the normal route on the far side is a contrast, with big crevasse’s and seracs to weave around down to the lift station.
Here’s the camp to camp topo (in french)
If you split the ascent into individual parts, then our “training” climbs were technically harder. But the length and altitude combined meant that the Weissmeis traverse felt like a challenge, which is what we were after. Something to push Laura and Vanessa, but not too much….
The challenge of alpine climbing and of getting on longer routes is 90% phycological, and 10% physical in my opinion. I knew the girls could do it technically and physically, but would they get there heads around it? Had we done enough practice? Were the training climbs enough of a challenge to prepare us for the final peak?
You can guess what happened – they absolutely stormed it! The snow had refrozen over night once the clouds had cleared and it gave perfect crampon conditions all the way to the rock scramble at 3700m. No trail breaking required. The rocky ridge was mostly snow free except for the occasional longer snow patch, and the rock was great fun to climb. Mostly moving together with the occasional short pitch on various sections. Probably sections of grade II climbing, but all very short.
By this time we were well out in front of all the other groups who had left the hut with us, but who had faffed or chosen slightly different routes lower down. It was great to have the ridge to ourselves and we made rapid (almost too rapid) progress up the ridge and onto the snow arete towards the summit.
The weather and conditions couldn’t have been any better, and we were soon on the top amongst teams that had ascended the normal route. We started down the well beaten track after a few minutes and were soon taking layers off once out of the wind. There are big seracs and debris near the track this year, and as we descended into this area it was like stepping into an oven but without the time to take off another layer. It was almost unbearably hot and it was a huge relief to get away from the seracs far enough that we could stop and take the jackets off.
Five and a half hours after leaving the hut we were taking the gear off and buying tickets for the lift down. A great route and a perfect ascent from the girls. Proper job 🙂