Monday, 23 March 2009

The winter ends in happiness on on Sans Nom

This winter can only be described in terms of snow falling in epic proportions. But then unlike last winter the last week was a wet dream come true. The snow was consolidated, temperatures cold and from no where great conditions appeared on some rarely climbed routes and faces in the Mecca for alpinism, Chamonix. This was a clear North Face week. Fore some reason the east facing routes seamed to relatively dry. I say this after climbing Pinoccio on Mont Blanc du Tacul IV 6+ M7-, 450m. It was bone dry with spots of ice but no real formation. Given that this is a Ice rout we brought Ice Screws this was dead weight though what saved our ass was the Aliens. I was a bit concerned to learn that Steve House had found the route quite difficult after doing it a few weeks before as this was supposed to be our warm up route. But the route proved to be possible to do even in dry conditions but more as a M-route than an Ice route. Apparently the route was in great shape last winter a far cry from what we experienced. On the other hand it was perfect training for what was to come.

At first we ditched our plan to do the Gabarrou Silvy on the North Face of Aiguilles Sans Nom 3982. My partner had a strong desire to tick of one of the last North Face routes in his quest to finish all classics off so our plan was to do the North Couloir on Dru. But walking to Dru the Gabarrou Silvy was simply irresistible. The conditions looked perfect. The thin and steep ice runnels in the upper face looked inviting and WHITE. The Start looked nice and dry dry and the Boivin start was white and all indications was that this was a rare chance to do on the most bespoke route in the Alps. I have had this quote in the last post but I cant resist from repeating it.

"This appears to epitomise the ultra-modern Alpine mixed route involving high standard rock climbing and hard serious ice work. Subsequent parties have confirmed this to be one of the finest and most varied routes they have ever climbed. Normally, the climbing will be objectively safe, belays are good and the technical pitches are well protected."

Lindsay Griffin legendary Guide book author.

And I cant agree more with Griffins description. Its truly one of the best and most varied routes I have ever climbed. The complexity in required skills is challenging and the different style of climbing exiting and beautiful. The top part of the route is hardly never under 80 degrees so it a vertical playground at the highest level. My partner Krister Jonson who I rank as one of the absolute finest in the elite of world alpinist did one hell of a job of some of the upper pitches. The mixed climbing is truly mixed and some times consistently overhanging and the same goes for the Ice. Its not just a few short passage that is weighting in at 95° you will be tested for real on this route and I think the Ice grade at present should be set at 6+. Its humbling to know that the first accent was made in 1978 and given the technical development this route must have been at least a grade harder at that time. Chapeau to the first legends doing the first accent. We ended up climbing a slight variation or mix between this route and the Boivin route.

This is a dream come true and it made up for all the shitty snow that has been poring over the Alps this winter. Now its all game over and the UIAA winter is gone but I think given the present conditions I will make an exception and extend the alpine climbing season a few weeks and have a go at a few other targets that simply looks to good not to try even if its not winter any more...

Our accent of the North Face of Sans was the first Swedish winter accent and maybe first ever of the face and we bagged it via the finest route on the face.

Photo and climbers: Krister Jonson & David Falt