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Rod's Euro 2010 - Trip Report
5:45:50 AM
Got the first available flight out of Perth that had a chance of a connection through Dubai since the Iceland eruptions shut down Euro airspace. Connection boarded no probs, the first flight out of Dubai in a week. Several hours later I was feeling a little excited seeing the Alps for the first time in 9 months and, despite a few funny noises going through the dust cloud, we landed uneventfully. Stoked to be back.

Got dealt the hand from hell on the train, some crazy religious woman decided I looked like a good target and everyone around me just buried their heads. Clarity after 21 hours in airports and planes was surprisingly high, a withering look at the bare feet in my lap and a withering French put-down later she backed off and got off at the next stop.

Dropped into climber's quarter to find Regis at home and a bunk for the night. Boulder session at l'Ermitage and a few red's before sleeping like a baby...

Several weeks since then we've done a bit of climbing, I've finally got on top of the bureaucracy, multiple hangovers have resulted in the connections started to be made and the trip options started to build...1st plan Ascension 4 days to check overall form.

Ascension: I ripped my right middle finger to pieces blowing the exit from a crux in a cave away from the rain...2.5 weeks of it in a row so far, game over for the day. Day 2 tried to get out in a dry spell, reopened the gash through the dyno crux of a 6c+, sent it and called game over for the trip. Drinking helped.

Got out for a run today on some 5c/6a's and it went OK, another couple of days off it and I might even be able to pull down on something hard.

Ceuse on the agenda next week if I don't find any work, lets see how this Euro jaunt develops...
5:50:14 AM
Drove to an RDV today looking at the Alps and lake Geneva the whole way, a little cloudy but nice...snow line is REALLY low for this time of year. Finished up a pleasant meeting and headed back to Valais CH. Did the bin run, etc then a stop in at Dorenaz to see if I could find someone to climb with. Success: the previously unknown Hube Caloz walks up and proposes the invite just as I'd opted for the solo rig rather than making the ask to 30+ cool.

Hube torches everything in sight looking like he's spent the past 25 years at Verdon. I managed to not embarrass myself too much, "deja vue" on all my routes, kinda slabby poof/verticle today but even so I'm stoked by the fact that my finger injuries didn't bleed...I might be able to pull down on a few decent ones at Ceuse after all.
3:52:20 AM
Bernard and Pincette called from Finale...I'm heading down to hook up with them tomorrow and destroy the rest of my fingers, plan is a bit of Finale cragging before we road trip westward for a couple of weeks.
5:01:00 AM
Finale Rocks!

Pretty sick place to regain form and definitely not a place for holiday grades...if you climb "6b" expect anything from there on up to 7a+ in the "same" grade range, awesome for progression and curing ego problems.


Day 1 climbing on steep pockets 6a through 6c, find my project of the week

Day 2 obligatory multi pitch climb - desperate crux pitch with a falcon watching from a close perch

Day 3 climbing on REALLY steep pockets 30m to 35m on each route with the beauty being that if you managed to get past the crux then its a run out pump fest to the chains...many, many flame outs with 2 metres remaining

Day 4 tape heavily, climb steep pockets

Day 5 Are there any columns here? More steep pockets

Day 6 Flame out on warm up routes, lower off mid-pitch from yet another 6b defeat on only the third run of the day...early gelati

Day 7 After yesterday's semi-rest FINALLY send the week's project, a lovely 6c pocket run for which the name has something to do with Anchovies. Split for Eco and spend the rest of the day onsighting 6a/b stuff.

Day 8 Rest

Day 9 Rest, explore a cave system and send a late in the day trad pitch in order to merit the gelati and beer run

Day 10 Morning rain results in a change of program wherein we climb to exhaustion in a cave full of tufa's...failed to redpoint the week's first 7a (but at least I managed to reach the chains...Bernard I could have done without the run to recover all the gear), do some more in the 6b/6c range then change spots to Maleducato for some late in the day 6a/6b technical face climbs that seemed ridiculously hard.

Day 11 Torched, pack up the tents and head back to Swissie with Pincette whilst Bernard and Bastian head West.

Socially things were pretty hectic down there, struggled to maintain the combination of night and day time antics with many a headache the next morning and plenty of sore finger complaints.

Finally a photo of some Alveoli rock formations just down the road from our camp, according to our local hosts its become a protected site as there's a cave just above with neanderthal links.

10:05:12 PM

Ah, the pics finally are posted!
Sounds like you are having a blast Rod, and I am following the reports with interest.

>Finally a photo of some Alveoli rock formations just down the road from our camp, according to our local hosts its become a protected site as there's a cave just above with neanderthal links.

Given the look of the route in the pic, it would suggest that Neanderthals were pretty good climbers, ... or that climbers have not progressed much from those days!
Heh, heh, heh.
1:14:53 AM
G'Day M9!

Alveoli are found all over the place in Finale but I haven't seen them that much anywhere else. I was talking to Sergio about them and he reckons its due to Finale's geological history: eroding Alti Plano (4 or 5 exist detached by small valleys) expose the rock, sea level changes before salt, wind and finally freshwater erosion did the rest...of course that was all in Italian and we were very drunk at the time so I doubt the explanation now.

Wikipedia calls them Tafoni:

Bernard's son Bastian arrived at the end of our Finale trip...we've all gone down with the lurgy he brought along.

3:05:12 AM
On 31/05/2010 IdratherbeclimbingM9 wrote:
>Given the look of the route in the pic, it would suggest that Neanderthals
>were pretty good climbers, ...

Or were much more tolerant of choss than modern climbers!

7:29:00 AM
... so it is not true then, that in the beginning there was aid climbing!

~> hmm, use of pro?
... maybe bold runouts don't require a lot of climbing intellect?
12:42:43 AM
lots of looking for work, plenty of related admin, humid hot weather and 2 weeks of the flu kept me off rock but got out with a local swiss crew last night and gave it a lash. bloody good spot: cowbells a go go, birdsong, etc...i could hardly think for all the noise. lots of steep, long, very difficult to comprehend pocketted limestone routes, quite a bit of space between bolts...a mini-ceuse really with a 10 minute walk in as a bonus. fell my way up most of them but it was fun to relaunch the mass.

you've got to love being able to climb until 9:45PM before retiring for a few recovery beverages on an outdoor village terrace.
12:36:42 AM
got in about 150 metres of climbing yesterday on an unusual sort of gneiss conglomerate, really nice to climb on. all in all it was a nice positive day, tested out the right finger damaged in may which though a bit weak seemed to handle things ok. i'm pretty happy its finally mended, the first night as i cleaned it up i could see the tendons either side of the finger.

been seeing some pretty cool things this trip: spent some time in a distillery during saturday seeing how it all works, they certainly produce some rocket fuel out of the thing, tasted a couple at about 45% and nearly blew my head off.

in general though its been a pretty hit and miss trip so far. weather has been so bad lately: humid, hot and dusty/pollen ridden, mountains are still pretty much a no go zone so everything decent low down is attracting a crowd. have been feeling as weak as a kitten on anything really steep as the continuing spate of colds/allergies take their toll. its been so bad on that front i haven't even been drinking and have dropped 3kg of weight...hopefully that'll help my climbing when i finally turn the corner!

1:08:54 AM
On 15/06/2010 rod wrote:
>its been so bad on that front i haven't even been drinking and have dropped 3kg of
>weight...hopefully that'll help my climbing when i finally turn the corner!
... and from pic of the week wrote;
>top shot, sick angle on the left foot placement, i'm not even sure i can get that sort of external rotation out of my ankles.

>m9...10 additional kilos have led to marked improvements in my footwork!

... ~> so your footwork is ony 70% improved now?
Heh, heh, heh
7:51:04 AM
I had a great few weeks at Finale in 2008 - best coffee and gelati, Finalborgo is a gorgeous village and the old ladies running the fruit and veg store we went to all the time were hilarious - so many conversations of mimes and laughter. And the climbing was great - although I agree the easy grades could be all over the shop.

What's the camping situation at Monte Cucco these days Rod? A new toilet/shower block was being built whilst we were there and we wondered if it would still be free camping when it was finished.
6:18:17 PM
Cucco - really weird. seems they prepared that tiny little area you saw with the intent it become a formalised campground. it was finished but locked with no-one in attendance when we dropped in and people were still free camping further up the hill as if nothing had changed. cold showers though so i sent a text inviting ourselves over and we headed for sergio & laura's.

we had some fun up in the castle on the night we arrived, looking for a cavers meeting we happened to stumble into the women's sleeping can imagine us trying to mime our way out of that one.

got out at l'ermitage near the centre of neuchâtel late one afternoon this week and, allergy free, it went really well. i don't know if it was weight loss, finally not feeling like i had a cold or that i simply wasn't fatigued from over climbing. so nice to be able to torch stuff you've been struggling with. weather's still shocking.
7:20:34 PM
when i say the weather's shocking, this kind of illustrates what i mean...miserable again today.
1:39:30 AM
Sun, a bit of a breeze and finally more than 20C today, amped!

Got on 6 routes 6a through 6b+, lovely rock and each 30m to 35m.

One of them was a beautiful crack route at 6a+ which took every cam in my rack from 00 C3 through #3 C4, wonderful little finger and hand jam pods from start to finish and every time I thought it was setting up for a long lieback run there'd be a little kink in the crack that a foot jam could profit from coupled with a fingerlock pod: jam, fingerlock, clamp a foot gear in total comfort...jam, etc...manna from heaven.

Still not worth getting into the mountains but FINALLY some promise of things to come :)
8:12:03 AM
sweeet, have fun matey & keep us posted, gotta live vacriously these days now that im a uni bum
1:35:04 AM
Blimey, I thought you were dead J.C...was almost on a plane to Sydney for 10 months work last Monday but canned it due to numerous cross border issues, would have been fun trying to balance that with your uni student disruptiveness. One day maybe...

Got up early to deal with work related stuff before heading into the mountains yesterday lunchtime.

Lovely day, nearly karked it for lack of oxygen on the walk in and, it being slabby poof 5c's, my calf muscles were on fire the whole climb time. Hung out at the top and chatted looking at 4,000m+ peaks to the South and patch work farm settings 2,000m down below. We're kicking ourselves about not taking a camera, it was pretty nice up there despite the amount of snow that's limiting things. Off to Val d'Aosta, Italy tomorrow.
5:17:07 AM
1 long route in Aosta and we decided it was too hot then headed for a Tuscan villa in Chianti, no climbing but Paleo in Sienna was an event.

I put all the weight back on so my weighted training method is no longer jeopardised. Put in a couple of real climbing days over the weekend, one on my birthday for which I climbed far lower grades but had to put in just as much effort. Climbed with Super Cyrille this arvo and sumo'd my way up a 7b project on top rope - it actually seemed like a feasible lead. He's 20kg lighter and still didn't send which just goes to show the benefit he could enjoy from overweight climbing for an extended period - it really does improve the footwork.

Now that the snow has finally melted, with a bit of decently hot weather its mountain time...we're headed for one of the Cham glacier lands: L'Envers des Aiguilles.
6:35:46 AM
L'Envers des Aiguilles 1/3

8am rendezvous and we headed off over the passes into Chamonix in Steve's fully loaded Fiat Panda. Organised all the gear in the carpark and got on a train to Montenvers.

Nice views up the valley lulled us into a false impression of the approach: something like 3 hours and lots of climbing down ladders before walking onto the glacier, walking along it, before falling off it inelegantly before climbing lots of ladders then traversing up to the still unseen cabane. It was kinda hot...arriving around 1PM we sat recovering for about 10 minutes before pulling out the guidebooks and settling on a couple of routes above the cabane: Le Piege was for Regis and I at 200m of trad granite it seemed like a nice way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

The 6b+ first pitch was killer, I ended up aiding it for lack of enough power and C4 #3 and #4's - Regis felt heavily reliant on rope stretch as I belayed him up on second which was good for my morale at least. From pitch 2 it became more reasonable both angle and gear wise: 6a+ well protectable; 5c well protectable; 6a or 6b well protectable with an interesting fin formation...pull on the fin and the "solid" nuts fall out...and a small roof that was pretty demanding before the chains; 5c nicely protectable and then a 5b finish. Easy rap off and then we spent a full 4 minutes on the walk back to the cabane for a feed and the usual crappy night's sleep.

Rolled out of bed at Axel's urging and we decided on a bit of a traverse across the glacier field for 30 minutes or so to tackle a 300m trad route in the 6a/6a+ range: Amazonia (RH side wall in the pic below)

6:38:37 AM
L'Envers des Aiguilles 2/3

After the approach we discovered that there was a 10m deep (at least, it was so black you couldn't see any further down) 3m wide snow hole obstructing us from the base of the starting pitch. I had the rack so it became my problem: kept the mountaineering boots on, found a slot for a C3 #0 about 3 metres up off the snow bank 5 metres right of our line, downclimbed, pulled on the climbing shoes which got absolutely drenched then had to traverse my way around an ill defined slabby arete into our line. It was a bit hairy, wet shoes, a suspect placement, etc - I was glad when I got onto the line and could place a decent C4 #0.75. Thereafter some easy crackwork lead to a 15m rising traverse to the left across a slab before reaching a small finger crack that took a tiny nut where I got totally shut down because I couldn't get my fingers into the bloody thing. I aided 3 metres on some sketchy nut placements until it widened enough to get back to work. Continued on upwards until reaching a roof with crumbly crystals which took a C4 #1 and underclinged left to the gratefully clipped bolted belay. 2 pitches in 1 6a+ (aided section) and 6a.

Axel then had a nice short pitch which was a little steep for about 3 metres before backing off into a well protectable crack system. Pretty nice section of climbing on second.

According to the route guide I then had a 5c pitch: slab with bolts for 10 to 15 metres before a section of aid in order to access a brilliant sustained 20m or so lieback crack. Got pumped in this top section and a foot slip whilst placing a C4 #2 led to a nice little ride onto gear. A good finish on direct hand and fist jams lead to the bolted belay.

Axel then got to lead a really good pitch, lots of variation in the crack size with plenty of little pods to slot the hands and feet into so as to find rests whilst placing pro. Probably 5b or 5c and great fun.

I seconded my way up and then things went a bit pear shaped: our route guide said to lead in a rising traverse rightward across a slab at 4c before establishing a belay which lead into the next pitch heading up leftward into a chimney/corner system at about 5c. The 4c was probably a section of 5a/b slab and easily protected but only 10 metres long and no belay station to be found I just headed straight into the next section thinking that I was still on the easy pitch...even if it wasn't I was thinking "it's only 5c so it'll be a stroll". On I go and well into the corner section get in a nice C4 #3 about 15 metres above the slab. 10 metres later I'm at the entry of the chimney and there's no gear placements in sight, a few metres later I spot a semi possible C3 #0 and opposite that a C3 #1...up climb past them in hope of something better...down climb back and put them in because there's bugger all...get about 5 metres above them through some bloody stiff super physical climbing with nothing remotely likely to take a piece of gear and then I'm facing the top out. It's full of loose rock, table top sized with very sharp edges and all slightly less heavy than I am, grab any of it and I'm likely to lob and cut the ropes in the fall: it was a pretty freaky situation. I can't remember how I flopped over onto the ledge but none of the rock fell and I was one happy man....there was even an old belay station to clip, oddly inconsistent with the earlier belay stations.

I belay Axel up, he had an equally fun time on second and is full of superlatives for the C3 placements. Primarily the superlatives featured the F word and thanking the creator it wasn't him having to top out above those C3's, then he encountered the loose rock top out and nearly had a fit, then he saw the belay station and went silent before glancing upwards at the next pitch...

"Yes Axel, I suspect we're off route...time for lunch"

...and an agreeable location it was too!

Some contemplation time later, Axel decided he wasn't up for leading our way up 15m to 20m of a plant filled crack system to get us back onto the route and expressed his desire to rap off and get onto the first pitch of the route next to ours...after my last experience I wasn't too resistant to the proposal. This was our high point...approximately R6 in the old guidebook, 15m to the left of the revised location of R7 now.

We only got 130m to 140m of the 300m done but it certainly wasn't boring...we rapped off.

A 30 minute walk and back at the cabane we found Steve and Regis, defeated at about R9 and 170 metres up their supposedly easier route: Steve took a fall with the rope misplaced and flipped upside down; they'd also found the route finding somewhat challenging.

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