Thursday, 20 July 2017

A Reoccurring Theme

It's funny how some places stick in your mind. Following a visit to the cliffs of Sca Fell earlier this year I found myself obsessing over guidebooks and online blogs reading and researching the many rock climbs that weave across its buttresses. The climbs we did, Botterill’s Slab and Grooved Arete were definitely some of the most inspiring and absorbing climbs I’ve done in the Lakes, so I was keen to discover what other gems might be harboured on those mighty walls. Names like Moss Ghyll Grooves, Moss Ledge Direct and Jones' Arete and Mickledore Grooves all classic MVS/VS grades with reputations for being shy and adventurous. My climbing partner Rob (who walked up with me in 2016 when we were turned back by rain) was in agreement for another trip. Now all we needed was a dry Saturday!
The mighty Sca Fell East Buttress

As we drove down the valley the road surface was still damp and fog clung to the peaks at around 2,000 feet completely obscuring our objective. No matter though. The forecast was for bright skies with a gradually strengthening wind. By the time we had slogged up to the base of central buttress the fog was thinning and there was even the odd burst of sunshine. None the less, the climbs on this face looked cold and uninviting, streaked with patches of damp with the top of the crag still in fog, giving the impression of an endless wall towering into the sky, so we continued around to East Buttress in the hope of some drier rock and sunshine.

The climb we opted for was Mickledore Groves. A well regarded VS with a particularly stiff 5a start up a small overhanging wall. The guidebook described previous ascensionists bouldering this bit and having gear thrown up to them whilst sat on the narrow ledge just above. We both thought that sounded a bit of faff so I decided just to lead it with gear but do it quickly. It took a few goes up and back to the ground to figure out the holds but eventually went for it and in the end it didn’t even feel that tricky! The rest of the pitch climbs a gangway followed by an awkward corner, with a cramped step across into another groove, before a spacious belay is reached below the slab. Rob lead the second and final 4c slab and corner pitch up to the top of the buttress. The pitch was quite sustained and very balancey, quite a contrast to the thuggish first pitch and definitely no soft touch at 4c.
Rob seconding the first pitch of Mickledore Grooves (VS 5a)
Rob just stepping onto the technical slab on the second pitch of Mickledore Grooves (VS 5a)

Looking back down the main corner from the top of the second pitch on Mickledore Grooves (VS 5a) with a party behind just starting the slab
 With most of the fog burned off we moved route to the central buttress for the main objective of the day, Moss Ghyll Grooves. This climb is described as a typically shy Lakeland classic, often encountering a few wet patches and only in condition after a lengthy dry spell. Furthermore, its grading of “mild very severe” (MVS), a grade unique to this part of the world, cements the route as a true Lakeland star.  It essentially climbs a slabby groove on the right of the main face of central buttress in 3-4 outstanding pitches. The main event of the route is a tenuous 4c traverse out of the groove line onto the arĂȘte just above the belay on pitch 2. The intimidation one feels on this crag is indescribable and in reality quite incomparable, perhaps the shaded aspect and its general historical significance combine with the apprehension of vertigo making it feel like you’ve swallowed a swarm of particularly lively butterflies. In the end the pitch was a joy to lead with only a few tricky 4c moves across to the arĂȘte where the climbing eased and the exposure exploded. The other pitches were equally interesting and exposed and should be on the list of any adventure loving climber!   
Ron nearing the end of the first pitch, just below the technical 4c slab pitch on Moss Ghyll Grooves (MVS 4c)

Looking down the second pitch from the Look Out on Moss Ghyll Grooves (MVS 4c)
Central Buttress on Sca Fell taken in April

Monday, 29 May 2017

Now't but us up here

Looking across the the top of Grooved Arete towards Central Buttress on Sca Fell

A few weekends ago in April myself and Matt ventured up into the high mountains in the Lake District on the promise of dry rock. High pressure positioned over the North Sea and Scandinavia meant it hadn't rained properly for weeks. Farmers in Kent were threatening of poor crop yields and the government were issuing reports of river levels being at an all time low. For us climbers, this news triggers only one thought. big mountain season has come early!

Don't get me wrong, it was still supposed to be cold. Strong easterly winds were forecast to be blasting the high peaks all weekend with variable cloud cover and maybe even a shower or two. Hardly big mountain climbing weather I hear you say. None the less, the temperature gauge read at a steady 14 degrees on the dashboard. Flicking my glance between that and the blue and cloudless sky on the drive down through the Southern Uplands I thought a promise of poor weather felt unlikely. Still, I thought such a classic crag, folk will be taking a punt on the weather and going for it, surely?

I've walked up to Sca Fell once before with Rob last October. It had been dry for a few days and optimism and enthusiasm combined with the season coming rapidly to a close meant we chanced it and walked up to Central Buttress. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for us the face was soaking. Streaming with water, our hands stinging with cold. The face may as well as had 'closed' sign hanging at it's base. However seeing the buttress up close, picking out the classic lines weaving through such steep ground, I knew I'd be back!

After a short but sharp climb up from Wasdale Head passing more 'three peaks' competitors than I care to imagine, we arrived at the base of the buttress. It's aspect means it only gets the sun very very early and again in the evening. The face looked dry, cold and a little uninviting as it loomed intimidatingly over us! Surprisingly, the cold weather seemed to have put other optimists off. 'Now't but us up here'. We had the whole playground to ourselves...

On the other side of the Cwm, bathed in morning Sunshine was Pikes Crag with its most popular and classic route, Grooved Arete soaring 110m up its prow. We had food and we had time, so we opted to warm up (literally) on that first. Interestingly myself and Rob had attempted climbing this route in the rain last time I was there, only to be turned around 2 pitches in by pouring rain and freezing fingers. Unfinished business indeed!

Matt linking some pitch at the start of Grooved Arete (VDiff). A great pitch in its own right|!

Matt seconding the final feet of Grooved Arete, Pikes Crag 

The route was delightful and considering its blocky appearance, quite sustained in places always being interesting. Following a quick abseil to get down off 'pulpit rock' we waded down through the hoards of people heading up to Mickledore and onto Sca Fell Pike and geared up for the main event.

Central Buttress was still covered in cloud but it was now or never. The route we opted for was the mega classic Botterils Slab, one of the most eye catching lines on the whole of the face and comprises of 3 quite long and very contrasting pitches, the second of which is the show stopper. A full 40 meters of technical 4c climbing up the arete and narrow slab. Hard to believe it was first done over 100 years ago by a chap wearing hobnailed boots with an ice axe in one hand. Kudos to you Mr Botterill!

For any likely ascentionists the first and second pitches are good value, with the second particularly being quite thin on holds and gear in its lower section. We both thought the third and final pitch was a bit confusing and a bit loose (loose by mountain standards but if you've climbed on the Culm then you'll be right at home!). I've attached some photos to keep the interest and I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure!  

The first 4b pitch of Botterill's Slab (VS 4c), steeply gaining access to the main slab pitches

Matt in the middle of the crux 

Just before the final crack high on the arete of Botterill's Slab (VS 4c), Sca Fell

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Top routes of 2015

Its been a brutal welcome to the real world this year with working definitely putting a dampener on productivity. Thankfully, a combination of some occasional sunshine and some dedicated partners has meant I've manged to drip feed my obsession and get out and do some of the routes which have been on my hit list for a while. Compared to last year there has certainly been less 'E's and more 'V's in 2015 but absolutely no compromise in the amount of enjoyment! So in no particular order, here follows the top 10 routes I've climbed in 2015..

South Face Direct (VS 4c) Chair Ladder, West Penwith
If you only have time to do one route at Chair Ladder then look no further than South Face Direct. It climbs straight from the sea to the highest point of the cliff in 4 pitches of steep corners and overhangs, which are all blessed with some of the biggest holds you’ve ever seen! A tremendous route is every sense of the word and well worth the long drive to the middle of nowhere..

High on the crux groove of South Face Direct (VS 4c) down at Chair Ladder

Emma just topping out from the sensationally steep 3rd pitch of South Face Direct (VS 4c)

 Anvil Chorus (VS 4c) Bosigran, West Penwith
The ultimate layback! The fantastic 3rd pitch provides a fantastic challenge up the central crack before a wild traverse rightwards leads to the finishing mantle. It’s also set at one of the most atmospheric crags in Cornwall so you couldn’t ask for much more!

The 3rd pitch crux corner of Anvil Chorus (VS 4c) down at Bosigran
Blank (VS 4b) Rosa Slabs, Isle of Arran
The true meaning of the word. Set far from the road high on the side of Goatfell, the Rosa Slabs are an archetypal Arran crag. A taste for adventure and a love of steep heather are vital qualities an ascensionist must possess, and that’s without considering the route! This swathe of glacially scoured micro granite offers several 3* multi-pitch mid-grade routes with the best being Blank (VS 4b) and its harder variation Blankist (HVS 4c). The former of which culminates in a heart stopping finale up the final slab with zero holds and zero gear, just pure friction. Amazing!

The rather 'blank' last pitch of Blank (VS 4b) at the top of the Rosa Slabs on Arran

Sol Armer soaking up the sunshine on Dogleg (VS 4c) on the Rosa Slabs
 Diocese (VS 5a) Chair Ladder, West Penwith
A real fight. This 4 pitch monster tackles Chair Ladders’ Bishops Buttress head on going straight up the huge leaning central corner. An elegant start soon leads to one of the most arduous squeeze chimneys/intimidating laybacks in the West Country. If you’re not gasping for breath at the belay you didn’t do it right!

Tophet Wall (HS 4a) Gable Crag, The Lakes
This route needs no introduction and is a true mountain classic. Best saved for a sunny morning with great company.

The steep first pitch of Tophet Wall (HS 4a) on Great Gable, Lake District
Sacrosanct (HVS 5a) Sanctuary Wall, Torquay
Although it’s not the best route, the crag certainly is. With most other routes being E4 and above, saying this route has a devious line is a major understatement. It climbs through one of Torquay’s most intimidating venues on some of the biggest holds in the world, with just enough looseness to keep your palms sweating. If you fall off, you’re probably going for a swim!

Sanctuary Wall down at Torquay. Sacrosanct (HVS 5a) breaks through the lower overhangs in the center
then climbs the steep slab to the top in 2 brilliant pitches  
Original Route (VS 5a) The Old Man of Stoer, NW Highlands
Justification that sometimes 3 stars just isn’t enough. Climbing Original Route up the Old Man of Stoer has to be one of the best days adventuring you’ll have anywhere! You’ll need some swimming trunks, a tyrolean, 60m ropes and almost definitely a haggis. The route climbs this sea stack in as many as 5 pitches and although appearances may suggest otherwise, the rock is sound and the gear is exactly where you need it.

The Old Man of Stoer (no I'm not talking about Rafe!) in the NW Highlands. Original Route (VS 5a) climbs the
stack in as many as 5 pitches and requires a swimming start! 

The approach to the climb on the stack is via tyrolean which has to be fixed first. Luckily for me Rafe drew the short straw and had to swim across! 

Rafe Osborne on the steep first pitch traverse of Original Route (VS 5a)
Midnight Cowboy (HVS 5a) Baggy Point, Devon
Slab central. 3 pitches of superb Culm with an ice cream shop on the walk out. Bliss! 

Edward Tonkin just finishing the crux sequence on the 2nd pitch of Midnight Cowboy (HVS 5b) at Baggy Point, Devon
Jack the Ripper (E1 5b) Stac Pollaidh, NW Highlands
Like gritstone, but huge! I climbed this route with Rafe after driving up from Devon after work. We got to the base at about 4am and were still gearing up to go by 7am. It’s a brilliant route that has a bit of everything, and has one of the best top out views of any climb I’ve ever done!

The view at the top. Not bad really!

Rafe cruising the crux 3rd pitch on Jack the Ripper, NW Highlands
Direct Nose Route (HVS 5b) Sgurr an Fhidhleir, NW Highlands
At the time, getting to the top was out of necessity rather than desire. Wet mossy rock and hanging gardens were the flavor of this adventure topped off by a route description for seemingly a different crag. However this ~300m monster has to be one of the purest natural lines in the UK, climbing the entire elegant prow of Sgurr an Fhidhleir from bottom to top. The top few pitches provide some pretty good and nerve wracking climbing but it’s mostly choss so if you’re after another Centurion perhaps look elsewhere! All things considered this still has to be one of the best mountain challenge I’ve done in Scotland.

Sgurr an Fhidhleir, NW Highlands. You can guess where the route goes! 

Starting up the wet and mossy lower pitches of Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a). At least when your moving you're not
getting midged! 

Looking down the crux section of Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a) from the top of pitch 10

Climbing through steep ground and hanging gardens on Direct Nose Route (HVS 5a)
Overall its been a pretty good year with 91 routes ticked totaling around ~200 stars and probably countless more pitches completed. I'm hoping 2016 will be just as productive and with my recent purchase of numerous Lakes FRCC guides I'm thinking that's going to be my main target area next year. Watch this space!   

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Fiddlers Nose

It was dark. The air was still and empty. The only thing to see was the outline of the mountains set against the wisps of high clouds obscuring blotches of an otherwise starry sky. We knew it was going to be a long day, so we were up early. No cars, no people, no morning chorus. Just the persistent babbling of burn somewhere far off on the other side of the Glen. The forecast for the day was supposed to be okay until the onset of an approaching front in early evening. But then again, what good is an hourly estimated forecast up here anyway?

We stood on the verge, gear and maps strewn across the road in preparation for the day ahead. We were parked at the eastern end of Loch Lurgainn on the road from Ullapool to Reiff. It's such a remote place. Mountains, moorland, bog and not much else. Such isolation can't help but make you feel apprehensive.

The objective was the much sought after Direct (Nose) Route on Sgurr an Fhidlier (peak of the fiddler). The route provides over 200m of climbing located nearly 6 miles from the road in central Cogiach. As I threw my pack over my shoulder I couldn't help but wonder if this was the right decision. The barmaid from The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool said this was the wettest summer she'd ever known. But then again it hadn't rained properly in the 4 days we'd been there so maybe at least the rock would be dry? Swallowing these thoughts we set off through the gloom along the vague stalkers path across the Glen.

The going was rough wading through knee-deep heather across endless rocky knolls, each of these interspersed with deep, black and acrid smelling bogs. It was relief when dawn finally broke, but the summits retained their cloudy veils, as if they were refusing to be awakened. Given the terrain it was going to be at least another hour before we reached the base of the climb anyway. We can worry about the clouds then, we're here now and we're not turning back.  

On the approach to Sgurr an Fhidlier from Lochan Lurgainn deep in the heart of Coigach in the North West Highlands
Thankfully we were greeted in the upper Glen by a fortuitous parting of the clouds. This meant the route could be seen in its full profile, towering straight up out of the moor like the prow of a ship. It almost looked as if long ago the mountain had collided with the moor slicing through bog, heather and lochan. I stood in awe of the route. The ridge rose gently at first in a series of dripping wet overlapping slabs before rearing up into the final tower hiding the upper sections from view. I had been thinking about doing this climb for so long and now I was finally here it looked everything I was hoping for. As we stood at the base looking up and pondering on what the day would bring, the first midge landed on my hand. The sound of me wiping the wee beastie from existence was drowned out by the roar of a million tiny beating wings. This clearly wasn't going to be a day for lingering. 

Rafe won the toss so he geared up and set off climbing quickly to escape the midges. We swapped leads as we went with wet slabs quickly turning into steep grass filled grooves. A bit of background reading had revealed that both the SMC and the Gary Latter route descriptions were both useless on this route and this was quickly confirmed in the field. Reading both seemed to make everything more confusing and we had no accurate topo to delineate where the right line was. Both mentioned a cave - so we aimed for there, only to find two caves leading to yet more confusion. 

Starting out on the lower grassy grooves of Direct Nose Rose (HVS 5b)

Endless towers of perfect Torridonian Sandstone with the upper pitches disappearing into the clouds high above
We'd decided to follow a series of steep grassy grooves and corners up the prow of the nose as a 'direct approach' seemed to be the obvious option given the name of the route. The descriptions both agree that a traverse below 'a pale slab' was required before you reached 'the hansom cab stance'. We had a slab to our left. So agreed that must be the traverse. Two Aberdeen climbers had been following us and caught us up at this stance. They were convinced we were at the wrong cave and opted to climb up through a groove on the right rather than traverse. In hindsight they were probably correct to follow the groove but ignorant to the crampon scratches they had seen we set out across the face. 

As it was his turn, Rafe led off onto the traverse. Standing on the in-cut, 10cm wide grassy ledge he shuffled along leaning his body onto the blank slab for balance before disappearing round the corner and out of sight. He gave a shout and I followed him round, opting to peddle my feet on the wet wall below and yard on a fist full of turf rather than balance on that disgusting ledge. 

Rafe seconding up one of the many grass filled groove pitches below 'the cave belay'

Rafe making an unnerving traverse away from the 'cave belay'. We should have continued up as this took us off-route for 3 pitches. Hindsight is a wonderful thing really. 

I eventually joined him and stood on a tiny ledge above the void. We silently looked up at the next section with the ridges final towers leaning over us high above. 'Climb easy ground and up cracks to large ledges' - The route didn't make any sense at all - we were most certainly off route at this point. All I saw was mossy wet corners and unrelentingly steep slabs.  Not wanting to repeat the traverse, I led on and up a wet corner to a semi-hanging stance on a slab about 35m below what looked like a good ledge.  

Between us and that ledge was large shattered slab riddled with small overlaps. Rafe led tentatively up negotiating flared cracks and sloping holds until a large cheer confirmed we had at long last reached a good ledge! In fact we were now at the 'hansom cab stance' - which turns out to be a large triangular ledge on the arete - great for consuming bits of crunched pie from the rucksack. Apparently it's from this point onward the real climbing starts and it had only taken us 6 hours of climbing to get to this point. I hastily lead the next pitch up a precarious hanging arete to a wild stance below a roof. It was now 17:00 and Rafes lead. It was here that a breeze started up, blowing the midge cloud around my head out of bite range making visible the showers pouring in across Sutherland to our north. Time to go.

Climbing steep wet corners - we were most definitely off-route at this point (R)

Back on-route climbing up the final towers after the 'hansom cab stance'

Looking back down the nose from the top of the towers with all of Coigach beneath our feet. (R)
Once again the route description didn't do much to help find the way. Rafe ended up linking two pitches together into one mega long 50m pitch up the tower to a fantastically positioned ledge. It felt like the whole of the northwest highlands was beneath our feet. We had one final tricky corner pitch to tackle before we broke out onto the easier angled upper ridge. From here 150m of scrambling led to the top. We celebrated in the fading light with another pie and a kitkat. 

With the hardest part of the day done we started the long scramble down occasionally glancing up at the ridge through the gloom wondering if the last 12 hours had actually happened. By the time we descended the corrie to below the route it was pitch black. Stumbling over more bog and heather following compass bearings and hand-railing burns we eventually made it back through the maze to the road and by 22:00 and collapsed on the floor by the car. The mountain was still silent. The Glen was still empty. The midges had gone. The rain was coming. And we were going to the pub. 

Top of the climb with all the major difficulties done. Stac Pollaidh and the other Sutherland giants can be seen behind. Not a bad view!  

The summit of Sgurr an Fhidlier in the fading light. Time for the pub!
I have listed below what I think would be a more appropriate description for the route (including our variation!!!). However take it with a pinch of salt - after all it's your adventure.

The route starts just left of the main ridge arete below a slab bounded by a roof and on the by a crack. Generally you are aiming to get to the obvious grassy groove running down the apex of the ridge before reaching the cave. 

Start on the left of the slab..

P1 (~55m) - 4b - Make an awkward step up onto the slab and climb boldly up rightwards and round a small rib to a groove/corner. Climb the corner to a slab above and belay on a large boulder in the middle of the ridge. 

P2 (~60m) - 4a - Walk up over grass for about 20m to the right of a large pinnacle and climb the mossy groove above on its right hand side. Continue up grass afterwards and climb a short steep corner stepping right after ~10m to belay on a ledge on the right below a diagonal crack. 

P3 (~50m) - 4c - Climb the crack and groove above and then stepping left into the main groove line after ~20m. Climb up this passing a cave on the right to the steep corner above. Surmount this and step right to a ledge with a thread belay (tat). 

P4 (~45m) - 4c - Climb past the thread and over a small slab to rejoin the grassy groove line. Yard up unpleasently on grassy ledges to join a rib on the right. Climb the rib/groove to a block belay below a large roof (SMC cave stance?).

At this point we incorrectly went left. The true line climbs rightwards through the roof following the odd crampon scratch to a stance and then making a 'belly button' traverse below the first pale slab to the 'hansom cab stance'. This description is available in the SMC route guide and states that the cave belay (P4 above) can be reached in 2x 50m pitches which is incorrect.

P5 (~15m) - 4a - Traverse the grassy ledge left along the base of the slab passing a block to belay in a crack on a sloping ledge.

P6 (~20m) - 4c/5a - Make an awkward step up left to a small ledge and climb up to the corner above. Make strenuous moves through the corner to a slab above and take a semi hanging belay in a thin crack.

P7 (~25m) - 5a/5b - Climb rightwards to an obvious crack on the arete and continue boldly upwards trending left then back right to the 'hansom cab stance'.

Normal route re-gained at this point.

P8 (~15m) - 4b/4c - Step left into the bottomless groove and climb the arete on the left past a block to a grassy ledge below an overhang. Belay here on good wires in an outrageous position. 

P9 (~50m) - 5a/5b - Surmount the overhang using the crack (peg on the right) to easier ground (possible belay?) before trending rightwards to a huge slab. Climb this on fantastic holds to a small ledge (another possible belay?) before launching up the final ridge arete finishing with an awkward mantel onto a large ledge.

P10 (~15m) - 4b/4c - Climb the final corner to belay well back on blocks.

The ridge is then scrambled for the remaining ~150m to the top with difficulties probably avoidable on the left if required. Some of the photos used here are Rafe's (R) - Thanks for letting me use them!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sea Stack Sickness

Sea stack climbing is a branch of climbing entirely devoted to the surmounting of rock plinths isolated from the main land by the sea - not to be confused with rock pinnacles which are attached to land such as Napes Needle or the Bell Tower outside the Aber Uni Student Union. Its probably considered by many to be a bit of an esoteric outing where loose rock, sketchy abseils and guano is all part of the package and where failure will result not only the dampening of dignity but also a soggy chalk ball.

The Old Man of Stoer is one of Scotlands most iconic sea stacks, The original route climbs up the middle from the base up to the right flank then onto the top and its only VS!
England and Wales have there fair share of stacks such as the Devil's Chimney on Lundy or the great red sandstone towers of Ladram Bay however, its no secret that the best stacks are in Scotland. With over 245 recorded stacks out of the ~300 recorded in total for the UK, Scotland is definitely the hub for this masochistic sport. And like all sports, sea stack climbing has its hero. Just like Gandhi was the hero for peace and Nigel Farage was the hero for nutters, Dr Tom Patey was the hero for Sea Stacks.

Often refereed to as Doctor Stack, Tom Patey climbed many of the Scottish stacks by their most popular routes during the late 60s and even made a televised ascent of The Old Man of Hoy (not technically a sea stack but we'll let this one slide..) with Bonners in 1966. Apparently his ascents were often famous for being characterized by lengthy swims, massive hang overs and usually finishing by abseiling down an accordion.

Nowdays many of these stacks have multiple routes on right through the grade range all the way to E6 6a and beyond. The tale of John Arran and Dave Turnbull driving the bold and terrifying line of The Orkneying Saga up the Old Man of Hoy is a great read and reminds me why I'll never bother to climb E6!

The crux 5a moves on Original Route involve jaming, yarding, grunting - everything you'd expect really for a Scottish VS!

Having completed 2 stacks now I feel like I have definitely caught some kind of Sea Stack Sickness. Its seems that Doctor Stack took the cure to his grave but I'm sure I'll have fun trying to find out more for myself on all of the other aquatically isolated esoteric outings around our coastline!

Getting down is certainly the easy bit

Its getting there and back which is the hard bit!
A few of these photos are Rafe's so thanks for letting me use them! 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Alpine Foray

Managed to squeeze in some 'alpism' this summer with a quick trip over to Chamonix Mont Blanc. An early attempt on anything out the Cosmiques Refuge was thwarted by some summer storms resulting in a rapid retreat down the midi lift. Later that week the weather stabled up and with a fresh sprinkling of snow we went back up the mountain to find calm, blue skies.

Looking down into the gloom. Emma still managing a smile though!!

Looking up the snow arete towards the midi station with the weather closing in

After catching the first lift and seeing such fantastic conditions we opted for the Pointe Lachenal Traverse (AD) which is a small, mildly technical ridge that sits below the impressive Triangle du Tucal Face in the Mont Blanc Massif. There was a bit of fresh snow which added to the excitement and meant there was actually some patches of ice in the 4a chimney but otherwise was a grand expedition!

Even though it took the three of us a while to do the route we made it to the base of the route 45 minutes faster than the guide time and got back to the midi even quicker. Celebratory beers were well deserved!

Dad and Jed walking in perfect conditions on the upper Valley Blanche. The lower peaks on the left side of the image is the Pointe Lachenal Traverse

Looking along the ridge of the lower peak of Point Lachenal with the Grandes Jorasses in the backdrop

Dad scrambling up the final section of the mixed 4a chimney up to the main summit

Looking at the ques back along the traverse. Good thing we got the first lift up!