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Very high resolution topo and beta for the Frendo Spur on Aiguille du Midi

Having finally climbed the Frendo Spur two weeks ago, I can now do the next best thing: creating a high resolution topo of the route. This is a giant image, stitched from several 12MP shots, taken two days before our successful ascent. It shows the entire route from the initial ramp at 2600m to the junction with the Arête du Midi at 3700m. It should be noted that this was taken after an unusually warm and dry spell, so there is virtually no snow on the rock buttress (we actually climbed it in rock boots). Most of the time, this is a mixed climb done in big boots.

Click here to access the full resolution topo (but please note it is a 5MB file, so it may take a while to load):

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Some routefinding and climbing notes:

  • Overall, the way is quite obvious and there is little chance of getting lost. Not that this stopped us, of course.
  • The initial ramp is easy but very loose without any snow.
  • Don’t miss the first left turn. It is a fairly obvious slanting ledge, but steeper than I expected.
  • The lower crux (rateau de chèvre) is a deep diagonal crack in a giant block barring the way. I thought it was even harder than it looked, but it is well protected.
  • Just after the rateau, go straight up the gully above you rather than downclimbing and traversing right, which might look tempting.
  • When the long and easy section on the right of the ridge suddenly steepens, traverse left on a ledge for a dozen meters, on the other side of the ridgeline, and head up an easy double gully (marked on the topo).
  • The sections with red rock are very loose and of poor quality, I’m pretty sure our gear wouldn’t have held anywhere. Thankfully they are quite short.
  • After the exposed col, take the dihedral immediately left of the ridgeline, not the one ten meters further to the left. We did, the climbing was quite hard (at least V) and we had to do a tension traverse to get back on the right line.
  • From there on, it stays quite sustained, between III and IV+ for several hundred meters. It is also very well protected and super fun.
  • There is a new fallen block not mentioned in any topo. There is only one hard move to get above it but it is at least V+, if not harder. Pitons are in place and everybody (including us) pulled on them.
  • Just before reaching the top of the rock buttress, there was a short cave/chimney with a high potential for getting stuck. Stay on the outside.
  • Unless it’s icy, the snow arete is unprotectable until it steepens. We could then place a few (poor) screws.
  • We went left of the Rognon which was straightforward and quite easy, even the 80º ice bit. Pro is on the rock on the side but it is fairly loose. Also be careful as falling rocks go scarily fast and could potentially bounce into people on top of the rock buttress.

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The Frendo Spur is the buttress to the left of the one below the Aiguille du Midi cablecar.

Our rack consisted of one strand of 8.6mm 50m rope, four cams (Camalot .5, .75, 1 and 2), 8 nuts (the 5 DMM alloy offsets worked amazingly, we didn’t use the other three), 7 ice screws (nearly useless in those conditions), 6 quickdraws and a few single and double slings. We simulclimbed everything except for a couple of cruxes and managed to finish in under 10 hours (9.5 from the base, 11 from the hut).

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Crazy plastic pulling at the climbing World Cup

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In the middle of a very alpine week (the shortest of the three routes I did was 500m long), some contrast was provided by the first stage of the climbing World Cup, in the big market place of Chamonix. While there was also a speed climbing event, the main thing was of course the lead competition. In the finals, which I attended, 8 men and 8 women tried to onsight F8c+ and F8b routes, respectively. It was extremely inspiring to watch, as they all were incredibly solid and with smooth, precise and powerful moves.

I wasn’t ideally placed for photos but made good use of my 70-200 lens. Here are some of the coolest/funniest shots I got from the event.

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A few Chamonix shots

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I have been in Chamonix for a bit over 2 days so far, but unfortunately have been sick most of that time. I still managed to bag an awesome warmup route in the Aiguilles Rouges with my partner Nick on the first day, the 12 pitches trad classic Chapelle de la Glière. Yesterday was a lazy day but I made good use of my cablecar pass and spent a few hours on the Arete du Midi and around the cablecar station, shooting climbers coming back from Mont Blanc and other nearby summits.

The weather is terrible today but the forecast gets a lot better soon, so we’ll probably get on the Frendo spur tomorrow, which would allow us to see the 14th of July fireworks from a bivy on a ledge in the middle of the north face of Aiguille du Midi!

In the meantime, enjoy some of the photos from my first two days. There are more on google+ and facebook.

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D700 tryout

With my photo career growing, I decided recently that my trusty D90 wasn’t quite cutting it anymore, mostly because of its DX sensor format. Since I have an alpine trip to Chamonix coming very soon (I am actually leaving tomorrow), I finally went ahead and got myself a D700, a camera which I have wanted since it was announced back in 2008.

Here are a few of the shots I got in the first couple of days with it, including a bunch taken in the very dark climbing gym of Copenhagen, with ISOs between 4000 and 6400!

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Swedish weekend warriors

Over the past couple of weeks, I have managed to take advantage of reasonably good Scandinavian weather to head out to some rock in southern Sweden (the closest to home, since Denmark doesn’t even have proper boulders). One trip to the bouldering hotspot of Kjuge on the baltic coast and the past two weekends in Kullaberg, the natural reserve with seacliffs which offer the best option for trad climbing near Copenhagen, at the cost of having some of the worst rock I have ever climbed on. Yesterday was a milestone for me: I finally climbed a (Swedish) VII trad route, King Kong, in Åkersberget. British purists would no doubt complain about the three bolts protecting the long technical slab section, but since the crux roof is done over trad gear, I’ll still count it (especially since I took the big fall at some point, and managed to make a dent in the cam which caught me!).

While waiting for some proper mountain stuff (I’ll be alpine climbing in Chamonix next week), enjoy some photos from those last trips:

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