Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bettembourg-Thivierge Aguille Verte

Yesterday i headed up the Grand Montet with Swedish friend Andreas Fransson to climb something on the North East face of the Verte. We got first lift and made a rapid ski to the bottom of the Couturier. Andreas is arguably one of the worlds best extreme skiiers, so it was a challenge to keep up with him.
     After seeing someone had bivvid and beaten us to our route, we decided it wasn't a goer, as we wanted to solo, which is not cool beneath people. Instead we climbed the Bettembourg, which is in fairly nasty condition with grey ice throughout. However, its always nice to climb the Verte and we were sunbathing on the summit just over 4 hours after crossing the schrund. It was inspiring to watch Andreas climb with such competence and fitness, considering he broke his neck, pelvis and a few other things less than a year ago!
Myself and Andreas.

In the Bettembourg. Its soloing territory, but as the ice is so blue right now, we stuck on a rope for 100 metres.

We then rapped all but the last 200 metres of the 1000 metre Couturier on v-threads, about half of which we replaced. In January i downclimbed this fairly fast, but its now in more icy condition so is better to rap. Must have been more frustrating for Andreas however, as its well within his skiing abilities when not so icy! The way down through the Glacier des Rognons to reach the Argentiere glacier proper was the most open i've ever seen it, and required at least 4 hops to cross open slots, and a lot of weak bridges.

Nearing the top.

Summit ridge of the Aguille Verte.

      Sadly, i got a phone call half way up the route from a friend. Another friend who had seen us set off to our route, had minutes later witnessed a large serac release from high on the Verte, which took out two climbers behind us. Not knowing whether it was me and Andreas or not, he'd asked someone to check we were ok. Unfortunately one of the two were killed, and i'm unsure on the status of the other.

Although not extraordinary in isolation, the incident has just re-affirmed to me what a terrible winter that of 2011 has been. Bairly two weeks ago the young Chamonix guide Max Belleville was killed in a crevasse fall while out guiding the VB with clients. There's been deaths pretty much daily, and most of them you can link to the lack of snowfall and warm temperatures we have had this year. The "Have you heard what happened to...." line, that as an alpinist you here far too often, has been heard far far too often this year.

Here's a good little write up from Andreas - http://andreasfransson.blogspot.com/ .

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