In July 2018 I and Antti Liukkonen drove up to Northern Norway to the arctic island of Kvaløya. Main plans was to climb “Thanatos”, the big 7a hand crack at Baugen and after that enjoy more classics area has to offer. We did three routes at Baugen´s beautiful 250m south face: “Flygende Hollender”, “Silhuetten” and “Thanatos”. On-sighting the main goal was a small dream come true and gave some confidence for the future.
From Kvaløya we went to Lofoten for a few days to tick some more classics like Presten. Weather was enjoyable but I got pneumonia and was forced to rest last days of the trip. Antti managed to do some more climbing though.
Nice two weeks up in the north! I won`t write anything bigger, so here´s some pictures to get idea what we did.
“post is named after Mont Blanc granite topo series cool way to describe sectors with a hastag. #agranitemust is used describing the climbing on the Pilier Rouge de Blaitiere”
This summer in Chamonix I teamed up with a German climber Till. He has a long background in rock climbing and I’m coming more from a alpine climbing side, so we thought that would make a good team. Our eyes were set to the three of the biggest summer routes in the Mont Blanc massif. For the days off we had planned three shorther, but stellar granite routes here and there. Weather proved to be the most unsettled I’ve seen during the four weeks we had. Constant high winds, thunderstorms etc. It was so unpredictable and strange that we never had a two days of good weather in a row. Of course mountains are also super dry at the moment, which definitely makes you to stay away from majority of the routes on the list.
Big alpine stuff being out of the question we went for the routes lower down. Three “must do” routes for a climber searching the diamonds of granite crack climbing: “Fidel Fiasco”, “Sale Athée” and “État de Choc”.
Here is story from the routes with little info in between!
Fidel Fiasco, 350m, 6c+
Mr. Piola and his wild 80’s slab gradings haunt many of the climbers in the massif. I probably help to keep up this legend with writing this, despite thinking a bit difirently. For example asking about the Fidel Fiasco from teams who have done it, everyone seems to wonder how hard it is for the grade, including some of the leading climbers in the world.
In my opinion the route is not hard for the grade or run-out at all if you know how to climb. People coming from the world of overhanging, qym style jug pulling where you need just power and nothing else, might feel technical friction climbing hard. Come out from the caves! Till, a friend of Spain pain caves were able do the route withouth problems. PS. A route called “Echec et Marx” proved that Piola slabs can be hard…
Well, to the route then. It follows a genius line of cracks and slabs on the grey pillar of the Blaitiere. Approach is a bit more than an hour from a Plan d’Aiguille and at least this year you don’t need other than sneakers for the feet. Walking pole might come handy though.
After passing the mandatory scree ledges at the start I started leading the first proper (6b) pitch. Friction was good and it wasn’t too cold which might be the case there often. West face can feel super cold at times. Pick a warm day!
Without describing every pitch I just say that climbing is superb until the last three pitches. Then it got more unpleasant in my mind with a hanging belay and a bit dirty/wet crack.
We topped the route with harder finger crack variation and abbed down to catch a clock five lift back down to valley. Especially Till felt excited that everything went on-sight. 😉
PS. Buy a new Mont Blanc granite Volmume 2 for the best topo. It covers the whole Chamonix side of the Aiguilles.
État de Choc, 7a
Petit Clocher du Portalet is said to be one of the finest walls in the massif with it’s off widths, overhanging finger cracks and Yosemite style climbing. The face itself is just a bit more than 200m high, but climbing is good! We wanted to go to have an shock treatment on the wild État de Choc. Windy conditions on the high peaks offered us a perfect window to visit this Swiss paradise.
Early morning drive to Champex, first lift of the morning (La Breya) and scenic 2 hour walk to the base of the face started the day. Crossing two couloirs before the face has a stone fall danger, so be quick. There has been a big rock fall this summer, so boulders can be still unstable.
Steep face loomed above when we did two ledgy approach pitches. Third one kicked the day in fire then: lazer cut granite with knee drops. Slippery feet on that pitch due to slick granite.
We left our pack under the pitch 4 and headed to the deep and steep dihedral which led to the base of the famous off width. Till got the lead and off he went. Battling up the wide crack wasn’t actually that tricky until the very last moves.
I led pitch 6 of perfect jams and build an hanging belay under the obvious roof. There would have been a bolt belay behind the corner on the right, but didn’t know that. Till traversed the roof after taking a smashing whipper on the first deadpoint try. Moves were definitely tricky and I think we kind of did diffirent variation.
I went for the last hard pitch and found nice moves in the end. Crack climbing turned to a full on sport fest. Very nice!
Short grade 4 finished the route. I was once again happy that the whole route went on-sight/flash. We abbed the Ave Ceasar and returned back to the bivy place.
Adventurous route on jammed blocks and flakes. Steep and physical climbing. Before you go, learn to jam!
Sale Athée, 7a+ (8a)
I first heard about Sale Athée when Tatu Autio mentioned it in 2016. I thought it’s just a one route with anothers and didn’t think about it too much. Why to walk up to Charpoua side of the Mer de Glace for ten pitches of climbing when you can do the same much closer? Though, I googled the route in winter and found stunning images of perfect cracks. I really shoul do that!
Stoke got higher as everyone else seemed to be interested about the route this summer also. Image captions telling how amazing the route is.
We took the first train up to Montenvers and walked 3 hours to the base of the route at mid-July. New approach path to the Charpoua is still more like a grass slope than a path, so last night’s rains made the walk a slippery one.
Also, the last 30min scramble to the base adds some adventure factor. Cross the snowy couloir and climb few meters on unprotected slabs (with good holds) to the fixed rope. After that just follow cairns and the easiest looking way up.
Cold western wind blowed as racked for the first two approach pitches of 6a’ish climbing. Clouds were coming and going. At least the friction would be good. Till set of first and I continued to a big scree ledge after that.
As I had most of the rack still, I started up the third pitch too. Scetchy pro behind flakes didn’t power up my confidence when doing thin slab moves few meters above the gear. I got lucky due to fact that Till got the fourth pitch, which begins with a big chimney flake. Not nice at all. But at this point we were warmed up and climbing got only better pitch by pitch.
Fifth rope lenght was slightly wet and I had to do a desperate deadpoint to a crimp to climb it clean. Somehow it worked. I arrived to a nice belay ledge under the money pitch of the route: 40m hand crack. I had tried to sneak this pitch to myself but after I led two pitches back to back lower down my tactic didn’t work.
Till started up and soon fought against the pump. Some sentences during the lead: “Put your hands and feet into the crack!” “But it hurts!” “This is crack climbing…”. The pitch definitely felt 7a+ for Till with some rest on gear, but as I had done only crack climbing in Finland I cruised it casually up. No more than 6b+.
Next pitches followed up spectacular finger cracks near the gendarmes left, sharp’ish edge. Situation was outstanding. I slipped on a pitch 8 while seconding making dreams of a on-sight ascent flying away quickly. Got my head together for the pitch 9 (7a) and even managed to do it despite of a rope drag. Sideway jam traverse ends to a delicate moves just before the stand.
Last pitch is supposed to be 7b/A0 or 8a. Thin slab climbing ending to a stopper move. We have heard about the chimney variation which would make more sense as all the pitches below are following cracks rather than face climbing parts. We never figured out the way of the variation and ended to a place which was like house of cards ready rumble down. Anyway reached the summit after some cursing. Make sure you follow the line of the bolts rather than venturing around.
Abbing the line went quickly and long walk back to the Chamonix through a moody and dark Mer de Glace finished the day. Probably the best rock route I’ve done!
Big plan for the summer months in the Alps was to attempt the Super Integrale de Peuterey. Massive link-up of three big alpine rock climbing routes on the south side of the Mont Blanc. Excursion was first climbed by Casarotto in winter 1982 during 15 crueling days: Ratti-Vitali on the W face Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, SW face of Pointe Gugliermina via Boccalatte-Gervasutti and legendary Freney central pillar on the Blanc`s S face. It has not been repeated too many times in summer, or at least we couldn`t find information about it. Though, I think there´s several black horses in the area whom have done it, but don´t want to tell about it.
Again, Tim Oliver was faster to write, so you can find his detailed blog here! I try to keep it very short.
Day one: Bus from Chamonix to the Val Veny and approach to the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey via Col de la Innominata. We bivied 20 meters above the glacier on a legde on the W face.
Day two: Ratti-Vitali (650m, 6a, A0) up (7,5h) and down (3h).
Day three: Boccalatte-Gervasutti (600m, 6b, A0) to the summit of Pointe Gugliermina. Ridge climb to the Col de Peuterey, where we arrived after dark.
Day four: Descent back to the Val Veny via Ecles bivy huts.
We bailed due to unstable forecast and some other factors. Without doubt our best effort during the summer anyway. Though, if I ever return, it will happen with super light weight tactics. It´s doable in two super long days.
We had just climbed the Brown-Patey over two days and needed some rest in the valley. Unfortunately (for our legs) forecast promised three sunny days before stormy period. You just have to use these windows if you want get something done.
Tim’s friends had climbed the Bonatti-Oggioni few days earlier and they reported icy chimneys high on the route. We figured out that couple of days with freezing level around 4500m would melt the ice away.
So, on the 19th of July we drove to Val Veny and started hiking upwards at 5am. It was actually really pleasant six hour walk to the Eccles bivouac. We heard that huts were full the previous night and people had to sleep outside. Fingers crossed! The lower hut was already full, but we got places from the upper one. Bob and Lee from Wales shared the place and the idea of climbing the Pilier Rouge with us.
Mont Blanc’s S face truly is a remote arena of high altitude rock and ice climbs. Good looking lines everywhere! In my opinion, after GJ’s N face, this is the thing in the massif.
Pilier Rouge du Brouillard itself stands out as a biggest tower above the Brouillard glacier. Who wouldn’t want to climb that? Bonatti-Oggioni follows a line of weakness venturing up the pillar on it’s left-hand side. Once you top out the pillar there’s still several hours of loose ridge climbing to be done before the summit of Mont Blanc. A perfect mountaineering route.
On Wednesday morning team Wales left at 4am and we started an hour later. Glacier to the foot of the route was nice and easy walk due to amount of snow this summer. We catched the boys at the first bolted stand and climbed rest of the day just behind them. No route finding pressure for us then!
The first proper pitch is a nice 6a crack, which wakes you up. I somehow managed to fill my pack with heavy stuff and leading the wake-up pitch felt a bit odd as a first thing in the morning. We changed leads constantly due to easy route finding and climbing being well in our limits.
Excellent crack pitches followed each other and in 5 hours we topped the Pilier Rouge. We did find some ice in the upper chimneys, but all in all it was good training for the Patagonia.
From the reports of previous parties we knew what to expect after the pillar. It was back to crampon mood again. Some very loose ground led to the summit of Pointe Luigi Amadeo (4460m) where we stopped for a brew at 2pm.
Brouillard ridge is loose, exposed and not very nice if you ask me. Views are great though, but it just keeps coming. Luckily the whole ridge was in good condition.
Quick pictures on the summit of Mont Blanc at 6pm and four hour downhill to the Nid d’Aigle refuge. Crossing the death couloir was again, the scariest thing of the day.
Climbing the Bonatti-Oggioni proved to be a really fun way to summit Mont Blanc. Can’t wait to return to the south side!
Since mid-March I´ve been cragging around SE-Finland quite a lot. I decided to skip spring in the Alps due to unfavorable climbing conditions. Of course one can always climb something, but getting stronger on rock seemed to fit better to my plans to spend next winter season in Patagonia.
Weather`s been suprisingly good, almost too warm in my opinion. Rising amount of climbers in South Carelia meant that it was easier to find people whom were keen to climb with a rope. Bouldering can be fun, and it´s good here, but you won´t climb any big alpine route with boulderers endurance.
Busiest weeks meant five days of climbing and two days of brushing new routes. Plan was to take some harder sport project, but eventually climbed just meters. Though “Tarzan Bundolo, 7c” felt doable and I actually did all the moves in a session and managed to climb it in two parts.
My camera was broken in May and I got it fixed just two weeks ago, so these pictures are random shots along the way.
In two weeks I´ll head back to my own element, which is alpine. Four months in Chamonix ahead! Hopefully all this rock climbing pays back.
Thank you all crag fellows. Such a fun spring it was!