Friday, 12 July 2013

Summer snow time! The Kuffner and Contamine-Mazeuad

So I wrote this a little while ago, but it has been trapped on my dying computer for the past week! I can only apologize for the lack of useful condition reporting; snow changes fast.

Sunrise hits the slope and at last we are clear of the initial gendarmes.
Good snow climbing in July seems like an unlikely pastime but this is an unlikely year! Although the daytime temperatures are much more like summer at last, the snow up high is still pretty climbable. Having heard reports that the Kuffner Arete on Mont Maudit was in super fun condition just now, I was pretty keen to get on it in the good weather last week. Heading up to the hut on Monday with John, we were pretty surprised to find only one set of tracks up the snow couloirs to the Fourche bivouac. Looks like we were definitely going to get beds for the night! We were even more surprised to find out that the other occupants of the hut weren’t going to do the Kuffner the next morning. We had a slightly odd conversation in French between the four of us before John and I made a poor attempt to be extremely quiet over dinner whilst the others slept. It wasn’t until the middle of the night when the other two were setting out, that we realized that we were all actually English....

Long way down! But a surprisingly long way horizontally too.
The route itself was pretty fun, although very long. We had to trailbreak for the first section, which resulted in climbing up into a few dead ends and then reversing. Eventually, at sunrise, we joined the tracks from the Torino hut and life got a bit easier! The tracks weren’t entirely accurate though as we followed them across a snow traverse that turned out to be very thin and fairly sketchy. This lost us a lot of time as we realized that we had gone off route and could have got around it fairly easily. Oh well, it was absorbing climbing! Once again the day ended with me being totally beasted and struggling back up the arĂȘte to the ice cave. It just doesn’t get any easier but at least this time we weren't rushing for fear of missing last bin.

Thursday was another fine day for adventuring of the Midi. Ally and I decided to do the Contamine-Mazeaud as a nice first summer alpine introduction. Ally is by no means a newbie to alpinism, he’s just never been here in summer! Once again we managed to get lost twice on the route somehow and had to backtrack an unprotected traverse that I hated! Fortunately, climbing it the second time felt a bit easier. Luckily the snow is in very nice condition on the whole, really solid and not at all slushy, just a bit aerated in sections. However, the calf-burn from front pointing the whole route was pretty bad! I enjoyed the mixed scrambly climbing at the top of the Triangle a lot more than the steep snow slopes. Still a typical Scottish mixed climber it would seem!
Ally starting up the initial ice slopes, surprisingly easy to get waylaid on this route!
Nearly topping out...

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