Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Rose Marie, Triolet and the Refugio Dalmazzi - Part 2

A relatively good night's sleep passed and before you know it we were finishing off a morning cup of tea with breakfast and heading off towards the climb. The route meant we had to cross the moraines by the shoulder of the Triolet glacier above us then hike up the glacier a fair way to get to the starting pitch. Unfortunately we only had about 100m of easy pathway to work with before we were downclimbing a rocky shelf to get to the moraines. These damn moraines - just endless boulders and unstable rocks on often treacherously steep slopes really were an effort in concentration. I had visions of broken ankles and we carefully picked our way through them and jumped onto the clear ice of the glacier with a certain amount of relief. The sound of rocks falling away under your feet and bouncing and cracking their way down the steep slopes was thankfully past!

Ascending on the glacier - the target of our climb is the highest of the three rock pinnacles on the right hand side

We donned crampons and pulled out the ice axes almost as soon as setting foot on the glacier feeling pleased that the blue skies and clear sunlight were providing a good amount of warmth and creating the most magnificent views. The refuge was by now out of sight and we were pushing through the unseasonably deep snow on the glacier fighting for breath and taking care to walk around crevasses. The feeling of only seeing your own footprints on the glacier and being completely alone is really breathtaking and exhilarating. The air was clear, the sun was shining and we were marching off in the middle of an adventure - it doesn't get much better. The noise of all the ice creaking and cracking continually permeated the air with noise and we knuckled down to the business of getting where we needed to be.

Coming up the top section of the Triolet Glacier

After an exhausting couple of hours wading through the deep snow on the glacier we reached the berschrund (a crevasse formed where the moving ice of the glacier meets the rock). Brian weighing as much as a gnat, skipped over the snow bridge to get to the rock but as I stepped on it both feet went straight through and I slammed my arms out to each side trying desperately to get as much surface area as possible onto the crumbling snow - as per the book says. I could feel my feet hanging in space whilst slowly working one leg free to lay on the bridge.

My heart was absolutely pounding in my ears by this stage and I could feel by breath coming in guttural chokes. I worked my other leg free and then slowly and carefully eased off the unstable snow bridge and back onto the glacier proper. A quick glance into the holes my body and feet had made confirmed my fears - the crevasse was deeper than I could see - just an inky black abyss reaching down. Obviously I was absolutely shitting it but forced myself to swallow it down and then try another route. Well I'd obviously not been to church for a while because I managed to do the same thing 2 minutes later on another part of the bergschrund. Luckily I'd probed pretty well with my ice axe and only one foot went through. I wriggled out of it to above the crevasse onto the rock and caught my breath.

It had taken us a hard 2 1/2 hours to get to the climb.