Swiss alps climbing questions

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by kheegster » Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:57 am

Tom Fralich wrote:When I think of climbs in Chamonix given an alpine grade of D, I think of routes like Frendo Spur, Kuffner, Mer de Glace Face of the Grepon, etc. In Zermatt, I think of Schaligrat, Zmuttgrat, etc. If you think that routes like Exum, East Butt of Whitney, and Spearhead are even comparable to these, you're dreaming. It's very likely that you're going to arrive there and get on a PD route and realize that it's a different environment. But the nature of the questions you ask (not just in this thread) conveys a certain lack of judgement. Look at the caption on your profile photo:

"Only truly lazy bastards would leave for the summit at 11AM."

How many lightning strikes have occured on the Grand in late afternoon? What made the day that you climbed any different? Lazy isn't the word I would have chosen.

OK Tom, perhaps I AM stupid and inexperienced, but why don't you suggest some routes that you think I should be looking at?

FYI on the Grand I had woken up late on an acclimatization day and went up to the Upper Saddle for an acclimatization day. There were some winds and some high-altitude cover but nothing that looked threatening, so we went ahead and summitted via the Owen-Spalding. It was windy but no precip or thunderstorms the entire day.

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by climbxclimb » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:01 am

Ok....I am going to step in and suggest some routes which can be a good introduction to the Alpine routes in the Alps....In the Chamonix area which I know better...

One thing you did not mention is the level of your ability as a team to conduct a crevasse rescue on the the Alps this is paramount and especially for a team of two it is critical that you know what to do...any of the routes I am mentioning require glacier travel...
Also, I know you can lead 5.7; 5.8 on rock, but how competent are you in leading ice and steep snow, considering that the latter is often climbed unprotected...and many routes require these skiils

-Arete des Cosmique ( short but interesting, some mixed climbing required too and if you do it after a snow storm is avalanche safe and harder than AD...)

-Chevalier Couloir on the Petite Verte (a good introduction to climbing snow/mixed couloir in the Alps, not to committing in the descend if you take the normal route to go back to the cable car)

-Midi-Plan Traverse (A longer route because you reverse the route to go back to the Aiguille du midi cable car, some nice mixed moves on rock and snow...)

-Contamine -Grisolle on Mont Blanc du Tacul ( nice mixed route not hard but long enough to test your speed as a is about 13 pitches and if you try to go the summit of the Tacul and back to the cable car the same day, it is a good test)

I can add more if you want...just let me know...

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Tom Fralich

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by Tom Fralich » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:28 am

Julio's are all good suggestions and I sent you some suggestions for rock routes (some with glacier approaches) by PM in the past. I'm not trying to be an ass. I had an excellent mentor with 10+ years of alpine experience when I started climbing and he kept me in my place. You're at a dangerous place in your climbing career right now. You have lots of motivation and the technical abilities to get yourself into some bad situations, but not necessarily the skills and judgement to get yourself out of these situations. North faces and grade D routes in the Alps are big undertakings. I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time and climb some great routes. Just remember, a moment of carelessness is all it takes. You often don't realize how small the margin of error can be when you are new to this game. That's all I'm saying. Sometimes a good public ribbing goes a long way.

Also, there are reasons to start early on alpine routes aside from the weather. If you start late and anything goes wrong...routefinding errors, injury, are that much closer to being benighted on the route.

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Re: Swiss alps climbing questions

by kheegster » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:07 pm

I had 'disappeared' from SP for a few months due to work, but I thought I'd post a quick update here in case anyone thought I'd bought the farm. I got in only one climb on my trip in September and did the Nollen route on the Monch.

The crux was harder than expected (WI 3+/4-) and I saw 3 separate leaders take whippers on it including my partner - I had to take over the lead. We were stuck behind for hours behind other parties at the crux and ended up having to bivy on the shoulder above the crux. But we had brought some bivy gear and extra food so it wasn't too bad. I thought the real mental crux was the 1000+ ft of 50-60 degree snow leading up to the summit... let's just say I became an expert at chopping ledges in the process.

I think I got mild PTSD from the experience and lost interest in climbing for a few weeks afterwards. Thanks for all the advice and concern from everyone here... I suppose I really did bite off a little more than I could chew.


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