Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Day 9: An amazing day out, -26C and the summit of Aiguille du Midi.

Well it seems that my regular sleeping pattern is back big time, another short 5 hours or so of sleep before getting up at 7am for breakfast. I'm actually beginning to get used to eating in the morning though, maybe I should try and keep it up since it is the most important meal of the day so I'm regularly told. Breakfast of champions today, cornflakes topped with coco pops and then 3, yes 3 croissants and yet another 3 cups of tea. I'm sure some people won't believe I managed to eat that much at such an early hour.

Lynette and I decided that as it was her day off and the weather was absolutely perfect, that we would hang out and head up to the top of Aiguille du Midi for some good views, good chat and a way to pass some time. So once we knew the top was open, we hit the street for a 10 minute walk to reach the cable car. It looked like quite a large queue but it moved so fast and before we knew it, we were at the very front of the first car watching as we were wizzed so quickly up to the first station at 2354m. What a difference in the temperature already. After taking in the view and grabbing a few price pictures, we head off to the next cable car that would traverse Les Pelerins glacier before rising up the North Face of the Midi to 3800m. Overall you have an altitude gain of over 2700m in 20 minutes... impressive stuff.

We then headed off for the summit and upon reaching the 3842m that is the top of the midi, the recorded temperature in the pretty strong 120km/h wind was -26C and in Lynette's words; was a trifle fresh. Within a few seconds of having my gloves off to capture the outstanding views, my fingers were freezing cold and my toes, even in my mountaineering boots with 2 pairs of socks could feel it. My phone camera decided that it was too cold to continue working and I was sure I got a little bit of brain freeze. As you can imagine we didn't stay n the summit for too long before we retreated and headed back down to the museum of elite alpinists. It was certainly nice to get some feeling back in my fingers as I basked in the videos and info of all the amazing feats of mountaineering of the past and present. It's amazing to be surrounded by it all, it really does inspire and motivate me to work hard and push the limits of my dreams. Never giving up is the right mentality.

What a fantastic day out I had, not just for the summit of the Midi but for the amazing company that is Lynette, she truly is an awesome person and someone that I am so glad I met in such an amazing place.

For my very last night in Chamonix, I had dinner with the guys again, enjoyed their stories of their day and then randomly bumped into Dave, one of the guys I met in one the ice in Cogne. It really is a small world at times. We all had a drink in the bar and then Simon joined us and after the hotel bar was closed, some of the staff, Dave, Simon and myself all went out into Chamonix Sud to have a drink in a bar called the Jekyll where we drank some beer, played a game that would never be permitted in a central Scotland bar... You hammer a nail into a tree trunk and the loser (the last one to get the nail all the way in) buys the shots. Genius really. I'm so glad I had a week of ice climbing to prepare for this game, my precision was so good that I managed to kick some serious butt... Something to be proud of I reckon. What a great place! Chris, the owner was just brilliant. Good music choices, everyone knows how much that impresses me. So we got our dancing on before finally having to leave 2am. Thank goodness I packed earlier otherwise I'd have to get up super early in the morning.

I definitely had a wonderful time this whole trip and tonight was just a perfect finish. Good memories and new friends to cherish for a long time. I look forward to the day where we meet again.

S xx

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Day 8: Rest day, future planning and meeting new friends

Today is the 1st rest day I've had and you would think I'd be taking advantage of a long lie in bed, lots of sleep and a big hearty breakfast but instead, I had about 5 hours sleep, got up at 7am and ate a bowl of cereal and croissants (my favourite thing in the world) before washing that down with about 4 cups of tea. You would also think that I would be loving being able to not do much and just chill out but those closest to me will know that after about 2 hours (maximum probably) of having nothing to do, I tend to get a little restless and bored. I like the fact that I always want to be doing something active, I don't think it's a bad thing at all.

The weather here in Chamonix isn't the best today so I won't be doing anything touristy that requires a good view to make good use of it. Instead I decided to spend some time reading and writing and then I began going over some plans for my next adventures. Lots of investigating and pricing of trips, training and equipment. There is so much I want to do and then there is even more that I have to do in order to allow me to fulfil my future dreams.

It's always a difficult thing to decide what is next on the cards, lots of questions can be asked at this time: What should I do first? What comes next? How do I arrange that? How much will it cost? What training is involved? How much time do I have to dedicate to that? The list of questions is endless really. I don't know how other people go about making sure these questions are answered but for me I usually find it best to write things down and just work through it, kind of like a to do list of questions. But that's just me. So today I took some time to write some stuff down and give me a new list of things to answer.

After a few hours of sitting around, I had to get out. So I out on my waterproof jacket and off I went to wander in the light snow around Chamonix Centre. Not heading anywhere in particular, I just strolled and looked in some shop windows before I bumped into Ben. We decided to go for a drink to pass some time and I got to enjoy one of my favourite drinks, desperados and watch some rugby in a little pub somewhere off the main beaten track. We had a spot of lunch and then went back to the hotel as Ben had to leave for home, hope all goes safely there. So here I was again back at the hotel, just relaxing with a cuppa watching some rugby before I decided to go get showered and ready for dinner. I arranged to meet up with Simon again for a few drinks after dinner. It's always nice to have an evening plan in a new place. Beats sitting watching YouTube videos alone in the room haha.

I had dinner with the guys on the weekend ice climbing trip and got to hear some great stories and learn a little more about them all and then met simon and his friend for a drink and had a great night with some new friends.

Talking about stories,. Dan (on the ice climbing weekend course) in particular has a great story to tell, he is heading to Everest in March this year and plans to out the first red nose on the summit for comic relief. As it's not really my story to tell, it's best that he tells you himself to please go to www.everestmillion.com to check it out. I do wish him all the best of luck with it and I am sure the whole expedition will be a massive success. I look forward to following all the progress online.

S xx

Friday, 1 February 2013

Day 7: The last day on the ice, E Tutto Relativo and the return of Chamonix

Hotel La Barme, I really love It here. I think the staff are wonderful and some of the people I've met here have been so nice. I love that about the climbing community, it's full of the best people to surround yourself with. If only I could stay longer but I have to say farewell Today. I wish I had gotten everyone's name and that I could keep in touch with certain individuals. I can only hope that we meet again sometime, sooner rather than later I'm sure we will see each other randomly on the ice.

An earlier start today for breakfast, thank goodness I had packed my bag last night as I found it difficult to focus on my mere 7.5 hours sleep... What's happening to me? Over breakfast we discussed the days itinerary and decided to get up and out to the route early to avoid being caught in queues when we have a return to Chamonix afterwards. The weather report stated some light snow and colder temperatures so at least our ice wouldn't disintegrate in the warm sunshine today.

Our route today is the elegantly named E Tutto Relativo. (I just love that name, it rolls off the tongue so beautifully and it's so true) It is going to be a popular route today as a few of the guys in the hotel were on it yesterday and stated that it is in good condition right now (the ice was fat apparently). I looked up some information on the route and was a little nervous about some of the comments about it, especially the 3rd pitch which has scared a few people away in the past. No matter, it's my last day I thought and I'm ready for the challenge, I'll give it my best shot for sure. No point ending the week with a half hearted effort.

Pitch 1 was quite nicely angled, the axe and feet placements were really good and the whole climb just felt really fluid. As I reached the top of the pitch it started to lightly snow, there goes my straight hair I thought. Not that the helmet didn't ruin that anyway.

Pitch 2 begins with a snow slope up to a short section of low angled ice into a little corner, another relatively simple climb, good feet and axe placements with a nice warm up to what looked to be the crux of the route...

Pitch 3, now this was going to be difficult. Standing in my little cave, protected from the snow which was falling heavier now and from seeing the real beast of a climb that was to come, I felt a little nervous about how difficult it looked up close. Andy led the pitch and Ben followed, next it was my turn. I knew from Bens climb that it as going to be a difficult one but I'd give it my best. The beginning of the climb looked difficult as i had to traverse around a bulging bit of ice before even getting to the vertical part, as it turned out this part was really nice and easy. As I removed the 1 ice screw, I eyed up my challenge and bit did it look super steep. I worked my way up as best I could but feeling some pressure from the newly arrived climbers below who, by their shouts of venga, were clearly in a hurry to get out of the heavy snow. About halfway up, struggling with an ice screw, even though I had a solid axe placement, I felt that horrible feeling... with a little girly scream I, off I came and when I finally came to a halt, I was way past where I started on the route. Andy, sensing that I was not loving my big fall, came to the edge to give me some moral support which really really helped me. So, under his instruction, I took advantage of the rest and then I took a deep breath and got back on the route. This time, I felt much more confident and I don't know how, but it felt like a much easier climb. Maybe it was the speed of which I ran up it the 2nd try that made all the difference. When I reached the top, it was heaven and I felt amazing to have completed the route. My last climb was apparently really good too, so a massive thanks to Andy for the moral support, without it I think I could have been beaten by that pitch.

Abseiling back down was just so much fun after such a hard route and so quick which, in all the heavy snow and with how soaked through we all were, was a blessing. We trudged back down the snow slope and back to Village du Cogne for some lunch and well deserved caffeine before our next part of the adventure... The drive back to Chamonix.

Cogne, what a place. If you are an ice climber and haven't been there, you have to work it out and get yourself there. What an amazing charming place. Filled with some great people, lots and lots of routes to choose from. I'm already planning to come back, wish it could be tomorrow but I'm patient and determined so I can wait longer... Just about.

It's good to be back in chamonix though, I do love this place. The hotel la chaumiere is such a lovely place, Nice staff here too.
Andy met with his new ice climbing participants tonight and we all had dinner together. Lovely people, they'll have such a wonderful time. I'm so jealous. I wish I was climbing with them. A week is just not long enough, next year I might just do 2.

S xx