Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Sequence

Current activity sequence looks something like this:
Work --> climb -->
alpine activity --> work -->
work --> climb -->
beer --> work -->
work --> climb.

Got picked up by Chris and Phil this morning to go up to the Aiguillette d'Argentiere for a spot of climbing (I've climbed it before - here's the previous blog post).

An hour and a half hike up the ridge then a couple of hours climbing, hike back down to the car and now I'm in the office working on our current contract (the deadline's a bit pressing at the moment).

The walk up to the aiguillette was its usual blend of a bit of effort and lots of stunning views. You feel like a condor with the thermals casting a hot wind rushing up the slope, it's just amazing. It makes also makes it all the more worthwhile to be putting graft into getting to the climb. Everyone's friendly that you pass on the rocky paths and there's only the sound of laughter you hear intermittently breaking up the continual scrunching beat of your feet on the loose stone. It reminds me of walking around the Austrian Alps as a kid with my mum, dad and sister. It brings up the same memory of walking down a mountain path above the Ossiacher Zee with a huge dock leaf hat on for some reason!

Chris and I were pretty shocked at how much better we were climbing than the last time we were there. Looking good boys - improvement! We even tried a double-pitch variant route along a sharp knife-edge corner leading up the north-eastern quadrant and then along an extremely exposed traverse across a little shelf before pushing on upwards over a slab with lots of lovely holds to the very top.

I loved it, Chris was beaming and smiley but unfortunately Phil picked up a stomach bug yesterday and spent the day snoozing on the rocks with the chamois mountain goats wandering around him. Chris and I tried a variety of pitches with overhangs, roofs, corners, ridges and some really nice crack climbing all featuring whilst he dozed in the beaming sun.

The views up there are amazing and I still never tire - winter or summer - of the way the valley looks. It's feels as though the whole place is a living entity with glaciers growing and receding in the same way as clipping a beard and mountains hanging heavy with snow in the winter and heavy with lush vegetation in the summer sporting different costumes for each season.

I look up and down the mountains and the valley and have this weird personal relationship with many of the features that can be seen. Looking at the big bouldery cliffs in the Lavencher bowl reminds me riding backcountry through there dodging avalanches. Further east on the Grands Montets at the top there's the Petit Vert - and remembering climbing it late season with Mark and dropping first down the hug open face cutting a single flowing line down the hanging glacier. Then there's the rounded double peak at the Swiss end of the valley - the Tete de Balme and hiking it with friends old and new. Shooting down the gulley that runs down the face of the Domaine du Balme is one of my favourite things to do - ever. Riding through the tiny village of Le Tour on my snowboard after fresh snow this winter - leaving a solitary trail in the snow through people's gardens and by the church graveyard wall. Then there's Flegere and Brevent - jumping the huge natural kicker called "The Tit" with Fred from Le Delice and also riding kilometer after kilometer of untracked powder with Kevin one major snow day. Then there are the times spent looking upwards - yearning to climb Frison Roche at Brevent; the huge daunting wall visible from Chamonix and something I'm finally going to achieve with the experienced Louise soon.

Then there's the Aiguille du Midi - start of the Vallee Blanche and of course Mont Blanc and all it means and stands for in the valley. We know and talk about its individual features and bumps and gullies as we see them every day. Crampons and I are going climb that big dome of snow and ice this winter ... and ride it down. Then of course there's looking across to Les Houches further west - the village I live in and the endless memories of there. The whole valley is filled with thousands of sparks of memory, triggered by each slow glance across the immense terrain and the subsequent empathetic rapport with what you see. This is my home, I feel it in my body.

In other news I've just paid my rent for the month, there's a load of money clearing and coming in, the business is growing, the farm is clean, I've got a tan, have met a funky girl. Things are cool now. Things are looking cool for the future.

And to top it off, Led Zeppelin are releasing a new album on iTunes. Unfortunately it's a compilation album of previous songs picked by the band, and as I've actually got every album they've ever previously released I've already got the tracks elsewhere. Still, always good to get a new toy.

Photos from the day to follow.