After what feels like a long hot summer, the weather has cooled and the fresh snow has stuck around.
This has really helped some routes that have been getting a bit icy. But for our teams on the Matterhorn and Eiger this week it has been a bit frustrating. We needed dry rock, and as the temperatures have dropped the rock has been slower to clear.
It had snowed between twenty and thirty centimetres in both the Grindelwald and Zermatt mountains, and despite a few days of sunny weather the snow wasn’t melting off the shady sides of the hills.
Isabel and Maria who were on the Matterhorn with Fede wisely decided not to waste the time they had and rather than attempt the mountain they came back to Chamonix and climbed some excellent routes in the valley including the traverse of the Perrons and the normal route of the Peigne. Both full days out and good “value”.
For the Eiger team, we knew the Mittalegi wasn’t going to happen with all that snow, but the south ridge looked pretty promising. After an early breakfast we broke trail over to the ridge and gave it a pretty good go. But after an hour and a half we were making slow progress and the ridge ahead was going to be very insecure. Ironically the crux of the route was looking dry, but getting there was proving to be a mission.
When you’re climbing these sort of peaks you’ve generally got some good experience of the mountains, and therefore facing difficult conditions or weather isn’t new. But making the decision to bail can be pretty tricky. There’s always the desire to achieve the objective, and our guests are (nearly) always highly motivated to climb their summit.
Sometimes the mountain makes it very obvious. There’s a big storm or ice or huge amounts of snow. But when the conditions are just a little “iffy” it’s certainly harder to make that decision and teams can end up pushing on further and further. Looking at those same conditions analytically, the decision is more obvious. Getting home in one piece is priority number one.
We turned around, and after a coffee at the Monchjoch hut we climbed the SE ridge of the Monch, which had a particularly narrow summit ridge. Heart in mouth stuff. The Jungfrau was climbed the day after in good time, being our third 4000m peak that week.
It was a productive week for our Alpine skills courses, with less dependance on the weather they all did plenty of climbing including the Petit Fourche, Marbrees traverse, the Grand Paradiso and plenty of crevasse rescue practice as well.
It feels like summer is winding down here in Chamonix. Town is quiet after the UTMB madness. We are climbing into October however and the first of our September Mont Blanc courses starts tomorrow.