Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The last couple weeks have been very busy for me here in Chamonix, catching first bin at the Midi or Grands Montets most days. During a week of on and off snowfall I went mostly lift-served skiing - most of it mediocre, but with some nice snow in the Capucin Couloir (off the north side of the Tacul Shoulder). The weather then began to clear, and the past week was warm and sunny every day, with lots of opportunity to go out on bigger days.

Nils Nielsen and I went and climbed Aiguille Verte via the Couterier Couloir. Colin climbing up the Couterier. Photo by Nils.

On the summit of Aiguille Verte with Mont Blanc behind. Photo by Nils.

We descended via the Whymper Couloir, in mostly horrible snow conditions. I down-climbed the top and bottom sections of the couloir, but skied the middle portion. Photo by Nils.

Next up was a day out with Maxime Turgeon to ski the Northeast Face of Les Courtes. Max climbing up the Northeast Face.

Max starting down the Northeast Face of Les Courtes. The first 50 meters was powder-covered ice. The skiing on the rest of the face was decent, but not as good of conditions as I had on it last year.

The next day I went back to Les Courtes with Nils to climb the Swiss Route on the north face. Nils crossing the bergschrund on the right.

Nils getting hit with some spindrift just above the crux of the Swiss Route.

Nils high on the Swiss Route.

Myself near the top of the north face of Les Courtes. Photo by Nils.

On the summit of Les Courtes with dried bananas. Conditions on the Swiss Route were excellent, allowing us to reach the summit 2 hours after crossing the 'schrund.

A few days after Les Courtes, Nils and I went back to the north face of Les Doites, this time with some skis, extra food and cooking equipment in our packs, with hopes to continue the next day to the Grandes Jorasses. Colin starting the first pitch of the Ginat above the central icefield. Photo by Nils.

Nils on the north face of Les Doites, branching off the Ginat route and onto the Messner.

Nils leading an ice ramp on the Messner Route.

Colin high on the Messner Route. Photo by Nils.

Nils on the summit ridge of Les Doites.

Colin on one of the rappels off the south side of Les Doites.

Rigging another rap on the south side of Les Doites, with the Grandes Jorasses behind. Photo by Nils.

Nils skiing down into the Talefre Basin from the south side of Les Doites. Snow conditions on the south side were horrendous, which caused us to reconsider our Grandes Jorasses plans for the next day. The descent off the Italian side of Grandes Jorasses involves a lot of down-climbing steep snow and hanging glaciers, which might be dangerous, and certainly a pain in the ass, in such bad snow conditions.

Rather than descend to the Leschaux hut to try the Grandes Jorasses the next day, we decided to stay in the Talefre Basin at the Couvercle hut. The view of Grandes Jorasses in the evening from the Couvercle hut. Photo by Nils.

Nils texting hot chicks from the Couvercle winter bivouac shelter.

Without knowing much about it, the next morning we decided to attempt the Aiguille du Triolet from the Talefre Basin. Colin on the Talefre side of the Aiguille du Triolet, with the main summit behind. We decided to try to climb the ridge from the two false summits, which was a mistake, and we dead-ended on steep, loose ridge climbing (we now know we should have traversed under the false summits on the north side). Photo by Nils.

The main summit of the Aiguille du Triolet from our high point on one of the false summits.

Over the past weekend Nils and I drove to Switzerland to attempt the Eiger Nordwand with the beautiful weather. Nils packing gear in Grindelwald, with the Eiger above.

The town of Grindelwald, with the Wetterhorn above (on the left).

Nils filing his ice tools at the Eigergletscher train station, where we slept the night before the climb. Above him on the left is the north face of the Mönch and the north face of the Jungfrau on the right.

We started up the 1938 route the next morning at 6:15am. Nils on the first step of climbing.

We simul-soloed the first portion of the face. Nils coming up a little mixed chimney.

Nils climbing another mixed step on the lower portion of the face. I've barely ever climbed on limestone, so it took some getting used to for me.

Nils just below the "difficult crack," where we put on the rope.

Nils above the "difficult crack," with Kleine Sheidegg visible below the face. We had a truly Alps climbing experience on the Eigerwand, because a music festival happened to be taking place in Kleine Sheidegg last weekend, and for the upper half of the face we could clearly hear the pop music pumping up the face.

Myself starting up the Ramp. Photo by Nils.

Myself on the "waterfall pitch," which I thought was the crux of the route. I think it was approximately M5 - moderate, but certainly very impressive for the 1930's! Photo by Nils.

Myself following the "brittle ledges." Photo by Nils.

Myself on the "exit cracks" in pretty dry conditions. There is probably no other route in the world with more significant climbing history than the 1938 route on the Eiger. I thought it was really special to visit all the places I remember reading about in Harrer's "The White Spider" when I was a kid. Climbing the route makes me want to re-read the classic book and refresh my memory. Photo by Nils.

Myself on the summit of the Eiger at 2:00pm. We were slowed down a bit because we had to pass six parties (yes, there were nine rope-teams on the 1938 route on Sunday!), but nonetheless the conditions were great and 7:45 from the base to the summit felt like decent time. Climbing the 1938 route leaves me even more impressed by Ueli Steck's incredibly fast time of 2:47. I think this speed record is amazing, and much more impressive than the current speed record on The Nose. Think about it - a whole bunch of climbers have now climbed The Nose in less than 3 hours, but the second-fastest time on the Eiger is 4 and a half hours (set by Italian Christoph Hainz in 2003). Photo by Nils.

Summit photo.

Nils re-hydrating on the summit of the Eiger.

Nils on the descent down the west face, which is very quick, easy and straightforward, but a bit scary because the standard route this time of year puts you below a serac for a bit.

Drying gear in the afternoon back at the Eigergletscher station. Photo by Nils.

Bjørn-Eivin Årtun arrived in Cham Sunday night as we returned from the Eiger, so yesterday the two of us climbed the Contamine route on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi to use up the last of the splendid weather window. Bjørn-Eivind on the second pitch of the Contamine route.