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Alps Part Deux

by Sarah Morton September 11, 2014

So, that’s my Alpine season complete. After two months – which has literally disappeared, I’m back in Scotland wondering what to do with myself.

It’s been a great summer, and I’m so lucky to have spent it in such amazing places – Chamonix, Arolla, Saas Fee, Montreux, and I’m sure many other places I’ll be reminded of when I look through my hundreds of photos. The last two weeks of my trip were by far the most eventful – the two other founding members of Team 14 Peaks travelled over to meet me for a few days of Alpinism, trail running, climbing and relaxing.

We kicked off the trip with a few days of Alpinism – starting at La Tour, above Chamonix, we took the lift out of the valley and started the few-hour Alpine hike towards the Albert 1er Hut. Most of the walk-in is fine, it’s the approach to the hut that really gets the muscles burning! We arrived at the hut for around lunch-time, so were able to spend the afternoon on the Glacier du Tour, refreshing crampon, ice axe and crevasse rescue skills. The Glacier du Tour is relatively flat and easy to walk on, however, is complete littered with crevasses – some of which were heart-stopping to navigate! Some of the others are steep enough to climb – so we all tried a bit of ice climbing – which was, of course, the highlight of the day.

The Albert 1er Hut is a pretty busy spot – lots of Mont Blanc acclimatisation trips work out of this hut, and it was full. If you’ve never stayed in an Alpine hut, it’s a bit of an eye opener. Everything is communal – even the sleeping dorms are just one big bunk bed. I managed to bag a bunk at the wall, others weren’t so lucky and ended up having a sleepless night right beside a snoring wildebeest!

We woke the next day to a very Scottish scene – fresh snow on the glacier, winds and low temperatures. We had to wait it out for a bit before setting off, but it was absolutely fine when we finally did so. We walked across the Glacier du Tour and gradually ascended over the Col and towards our summit for the day – the Aiguilles du Tour. Again, it was super busy, there were parties all over the place – all roped up and tramping through the fresh snow.

The Aiguilles du Tour is an easy peak to climb, but the conditions were quite un-summer-like, so we climbed with crampons for the duration. It didn’t take long and was a lovely climb, however, it was super-busy – like Snowdon on a sunny day! The weather cleared to blue skies, and the views from the summit were spectacular.

We then descended across the Swiss boarder to the Trient Hut, and were treated to an amazing sunset over the Chamonix valley and the pink snowy peaks.

The next day we set off early – about 6am, with the aim of climbing the Tete Blanche – I’ve wanted to climb it for a while now so was very excited about getting to tick it off. Again, it’s an easy climb, but it looks like it would be really enjoyable.

Not long after leaving the Trient Hut, I started to trip over my crampons – just on flat glacier travel. I felt weak and dizzy, and just as we were about to cross a snow bridge over a crevasse to start the climb proper, I had the scariest moment of blind dizziness – perhaps due to altitude, but most likely a combination of tiredness, hunger and dehydration. We had to turn back and work out another plan.

We tramped back across the Glacier du Trient, and ascended towards the Col du Tour – we thought we could find an easy descent out of here and back to the Glacier du Tour, but that wasn’t to be. Laraine and Rosie nipped off to do a nice solo scramble while we worked out how to get out of there – the only way was down a gully, so we lowered down – everyone’s hearts were in their mouths! I got pulled off, rocks were falling, crampons were slipping – thank goodness for ropes! Finally we reached the bottom and collapsed onto a snowy ridge. From here we were in complete solitude and walking on completely untouched snow – it was amazing. Of course, we were on terrain that could open up and swallow us whole at any second, so we had to move very carefully, and even though I had as much strength in me as a baby kitten, it was still fun and definitely a highlight!

The next day we were back in the valley and making sounds about a rest day, instead we travelled up the valley to Les Contamines and did a 20k trail run to Lac Jovet (2174m) – it was absolutely spectacular and there was barely another person in sight, we heard a million marmot whistles but weren’t lucky enough to see any of those fluffy little Alpine critters on this occasion.

The main aim for the Team 14 Peaks trip had been to sport climb – so it seemed sensible to try and squeeze one day in! We headed up the valley to Vallorcine, near the Franco-Swiss frontier, to a lovely crag for some multi-pitch climbing – it was Laraine’s first multi-pitch climb so it was a big day!

Sarah Morton
Sarah Morton

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