Half of the time spent alpine climbing is planning. Creating and recreating your top to-do list. Finding climbs that take you out of your comfort zone, where you’ll be pushed to be fitter, more efficient and more decisive. Gauging where the line is between being bold and being too bold so that you open yourself up to risks you’re not yet willing to take.
Then you re-cut your list. Who are you climbing with? How experienced are they? Will you be leading the trip or will you be learning from them? Do you have the same appetite for risk? Do you trust their decisions? Are you likely to want to take a different cause of action if you are pushed for time?
Then you think about the weather. If it’s just snowed you want to avoid anywhere avalanche or hidden crevasse prone. If it’s raining, polished rock climbs are ruled out. If you’re uncertain of the weather or of your navigation ability in cloud cover then you want something with a fast escape route.
At the top of my list currently are five routes near the Helbronner. At 3462m meters above see level, the lift to Point Helbronner opens a panoramas of the Italian Alps, the most memorable of all views I’ve so far encountered. On the French side, the ‘Dent du Géant’ or ‘giants tooth’ cuts into the skyline. To your South West the Mont Blanc massive is just visible in the distance.
At first I thought this range was well beyond anything I would be capable of this season however it’s remarkable how quickly your concept of comfort can change. Now I can recognize ‘good’ from ‘bad’ snow, and my confidence in my ability to lead rock routes has increased thanks to several stunning sport routes in the Aiguilles Rouges. So top of the list is the Dent du Géant itself (the climbing isn’t nearly as hard as I’d assumed), the Tour Ronde (this has to be returned to since bad weather and falling rock caused an early retreat last time) and the Rochefort Ridge. There’s also the Aiguilles D’entréves – possibly the friendliest of all options.
However, weather continues to be bad with rain most days leaving no chance for a three night bivy trip. So tomorrow I’m heading for ‘the’ classic climb in the Aiguilles Rouges, but if the rock’s still wet when we get there, then some kind of intrepid scramble to keep fitness levels up may ensue.
Fingers crossed the rain stops.
“What’s bivouac French for, Jonny?”…. “mistake”