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Rod's Euro 2010 - Trip Report 14-Sep-2010 At 1:35:43 AM rod
Aiguille Rouges, A Customary Cham Adventure 3/3.

Pitch 3: 6c+ but frankly I don't rate it that hard and its just a question of style - if you're good on pockets and flakes through roofs the hard bit is done just after bolt 4; the rest is maybe 6a/6a+, 40-45m. Good fun pitch atypical of granite so if you need an ego boost opt for this one. Everyone bagged this one onsight after a good fight, except that I didn't - expecting a decent fight through the crux that didn't come, I fell asleep before missing an obvious crimp later on.

Pitch 4, 40m wide ledge...became more interesting later in the day. A cloud system had moved into the valley from the SW, made the scenery pretty dramatic. We discussed and settled on keeping an eye on it but at least having a crack at nailing the next 3 pitches. I put my softshell on.

Pitch 5: best 6b of the year, awesome vertical face climbing on small flakes and single pad half crimps/open hand holds. Everyone bagged this one. I froze whilst belaying Cyrille and Sandra before seconding the pitch.

Pitch 6: second best 6b+ of the year, similar style with a nice crux and little more run out into the last 10 metres finish at 6a+. Everyone bagged this one. Sandra and I froze whilst belaying Cyrille before seconding the pitch. Weather was looking more suspect.

Rod: "Cyrille, do you reckon this system is coming earlier than forecast?"

Cyrille: "Yep, might have enough time though so lets get this pitch done and then decide."

Sandra/Rod, after 2 minutes of pissing around getting the belay reorganised: “Allez Cyrille!”

Pitch 7: seemed like the crux, nice big roof system to overcome with some nice technical face climbing before and after. Cyrille got about 4 bolts in when Sandra and I noticed the first rain drops; it eased off. Cyrille dealt with the technical face climbing really well, got into the roof system which after a few metres traversing using a ledge, smears and underclings turned into more of a corner problem. He then established himself under and around the right hand of the roof/corner to get into the adjacent face to the right. Delicate moves to the chain and he'd onsighted it pretty easily really. Sandra off first, I seconded allowing a 4 bolt spacer between us. Sandra was under the roof system by the time I got to bolt 4 and then ran into trouble unclipping the last quickdraw before the corner, cost her the flash second and meanwhile I was trying to find a rest point amongst the crimpers to give her time to get out of there.

Whilst waiting it skipped rain and started snowing!

In my shorts and really light clothing I had to laugh. Watching it happen I noticed that the face stayed drier and with any luck at least if it kept snowing I might not get as soaked.

Sandra finally dogged her way out of there and I seconded through the roof system into the corner - really easy once you got past the face climbing - then made the spectacular move onto the face adjacent the right hand of the corner. I can remember thinking..."I'd rather be leading this safety wise" I pulled around to face looking out into space through the reach move to the arete but found it fairly easy to get established onto the face.

Meanwhile, being protected by the 3 or 4 metre roof system, I was totally unaware the weather had turned again to hail. I was shocked to discover as I pulled onto the face that it was soaking and pretty cold. Warm from effort, I was pretty keen on the flash second but the other two were having none of it...


just 5 metres to the chains and my fingers were frozen.

Thinking the other 2 must be in an even worse state of cold than I whilst rigging the rap, I forcefully changed the knot to ensure an overhand back up to an eight then warned of the risk that the rope would freeze in place so we'd better remember which colour to put the team effort into. Cyrille went first, I urged Sandra down second, double checking her rig first, then I rigged mine making sure that everything stayed connected to a draw rather than risk dropping prussic or descender in a frozen finger fumble.

Rap 1 went OK, heavy friction though. I pull orange...nothing. "OK, all pull orange." Just a little movement. Tug of war ensued and progress was slow, friction from our very wet out of range blue having put one wrap around our very wet orange. Finally get it down and the end of the blue slugs me in the face whilst free falling past us.

Rap 2 went OK, again heavy friction and a horrendous pull.

Rap 3 went OK, even heavier friction and we're talking a full body weight suspended in mid-air rap. Luckily for me Cyrille and Sandra would have been de-icing the cords through them rapping first but on this rap I copped a soaking from the reverso squeeze drying the ropes. Looking down during the rap the vire/ramp had turned into a reminder of a Joe Simpson shot from the North face of the Eiger during a storm (minus the equivalent rock fall, thankfully).

Rap 4 or rather, traverse across a waterfall/ice combination granite/lichen ramp. Shivering convulsions preceded my run across this as a fast body/brain numbing started installing itself while the others struggled their way across. When my turn came it was my hardest pitch of the day followed directly by a solo tug of war with a frozen rope that had me pretty much spent.

Rap 5 preceded by shivering fits and double controls of both Cyrille and Sandra before they rapped. I rigged up, checked and quadruple checked before committing to the rap. Finally committing, I slipped on a lichen/hail combo to face plant straight into the rock/hail bank. The first 10 metres were a rinse and repeat cycle of similar comedic rehearsal before getting to beyond vertical face and hence safer ground. Nice 40/45m rap this one...the lower level of the face had less ice and wind. Got to the belay to find two numbed compatriots.

Rap 6: another rope friction pull that had me close to exhaustion and finally Cyrille could commit to the rap.

Cyrille: ...20 metres down peering into the rain mist..."I think we might make it"...30m..."I really think we might make it"...40m..."hey, we'll definitely be on terra firma"...45m..."FREE!"

Sandra: gleeful, blue, quadruple checking, problem.

Rod: cold, shivering convulsions and fumble conscious. Prussic, Reverso, check that biners are locked, weight didn't make it through the Reverso! Repeat, commit - get a little colder and wetter but touch down with great relief.

I pull the ropes and unleash about half a tonne of loose rock that topples onto the snow bank right beside us; gleeful at not having to climb up after the blue that was otherwise snagged, I was beyond caring.

Time check - 18:00. Those raps cost us big, a 1:30 descent was now a full descent to Argentiere of maybe 3/3.5 hours. Luckily it stopped raining, we saw some mountain goats (bouquetin and chamois) on the way down, my wet gear resulted in a cowboy style walk by the time I got to the bottom but at least we were walking, the descent warmed us up and it was an autoroute of a mountain path. Lightning and thunder pealed as Sandra and I got to about 200m above Argentiere. By then Cyrille had wisely given up on us being protective of our knees and run ahead, hitched to the carpark in Cham and returned so we could then just throw the gear in the car and go straight to a restaurant. Cyrille, thanks in advance...10 years from now I hope it'll be a pleasant memory induced by your knee pain.

9:15PM we finally sat down, ordered a bottle of Bordeaux red and looked out the window as the storm proper hit, loads of lightning and rain.

Sandra: “6c+ granite, maybe it was a little pretentious of me. It's nice to be indoors watching that right now.”

Late trip home scenario, trying to keep each other awake and driving alert...


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