30 September, 2008

Summer draws to a close

Well summer in the Alps has almost passed and autumn is rolling in, the first frosts have appeared in Chamonix and it won’t be long before I have to scrap the ice of my car windscreen before I go to work!

We have had a successful summer at Mountain Tracks with almost all of our trips achieving their summit goals. Only the last few weeks have been hampered by poor weather preventing some summit attempts on Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Our guides have worked hard to move to an area of better weather, usually on the south side of Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso providing an excellent alternative summit.

Over this summer from late June to mid September we have run 3 successful Haute Route Treks; 2 short Best of Chamonix Weekends for budding alpine mountaineers; 3 exciting Via Ferrata holidays in the Dolomites; we have lead over 20 guests to the summit of Mont Blanc this summer and many more up and over copious other alpine peaks including the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, Eiger, Brithorn, Castor, Pollux and the Aiguille du Chardonnet to name but a few. We have employed over 30 different mountain guides across the Alps to safely lead our guests up, down, over and around the mountains. They do a wonderful job and now having a well deserved rest before they start to lead our winter program.

Nick is leading our penultimate trip of this summer at the moment, a stunning trek in the Bernese Oberland, taking in the splendour of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Nick then heads off to the Dominican Republic for more safety work on a program for the Discovery Channel.

Hopefully you will be looking forward to the winter ski season with the night’s drawing in, take a look at our great range of courses for budding off piste skiers, to those who want to search out the steep and deep. Later on in the season our ski touring program begins with weeklong ski safaris to multi day hut-to-hut trips from the western to eastern Alps; there is something for everyone. Come and join us for a carbon neutral adventure!

Susie Burt

17 September, 2008

Perfect Autumn Weather and Steep Rock. Liz jones in the Mont Blanc Massif

Mountain Tracks provides thrilling mountain adventure to people of every experience level. In the winter, top ski guides such as Remy Le Cluse and Nick Parks take expert skiers to the very best steep snow in the Alps. Advanced level skiers choose Mountain Tracks because we have the most experienced guides in the business.

Summer , however is for climbing and mountaineering, and we are also the choice for top climbers. Liz Jones signed up for a week of high level climbing at the start of September. Autumn can be a great choice for Alpine climbing for three reasons. First the weather can be stable and storm-free, secondly because it is out of the main tourist season and feels less hectic and more peaceful. Thirdly, cooler temperatures can lead to better snow conditions. i.e firmer and safer underfoot.

The first face we climbed was the north face of the Aiguille du Peigne. The route we chose was the classic 'Le Ticket Le Rond le Lune'. The style of climbing is a series of 'laybacks' with feet flat on the wall.

The second route we climbed was the Michel Piola classic 'Indiana Jaune' on the limestone of the Arve Valley. The route is located on the cliff of Maladiere which is around 300m high and extremely steep. Limestone has less friction than granite, and as a general rule more finger strength is needed. Indianna Jaune is 10 pitches, and is so steep it stays dry in rain!

The third big climb of the week was the South East Face of the 'Petit Clocher de Portalet'. This lies in Switzerland, at the eastern end of the Mont Blanc massif. The Portalet is a striking tooth of granite, often admired by climbers on there way to the Orny refuge.

The route follows the lest skyline and is again very steep and sustained.

I think climbing and skiing are similar in that both sports get better and better, as ones skill level increases. It was a real pleasure to climb these difficult and beautiful climbs.

Well done Liz and see you next year.

Matt Dickinson

The Forbes Arete, September 2008

As is obvious from these fantastic photos, a truly exceptional day was had by Karin Burnett and Liz Jones on the Forbes Arete.

The Forbes Arete is a 'must do' hard alpine ridge on the Aiguille du Chardonnay (3850), which is situated in a commanding position above the village of Argentiere. The route is graded AD and is strictly for alpinists with experience.

On the Arete we met none other than Nick Parks and Jeff Colegrave! This lead to some cheerful banter which added to the day's enjoyment.

The Forbes Arete is a long and demanding journey on both snow, ice and rock. The day began at 3am from the Albert Premier Refuge, a 2-hour snow plod, is followed by a steep glacier, up to the arete itself. The arete consists of many consecutive gendarmes, all uniquely difficult in there own way. We chose to keep our crampons on for the majority, but there were sections which felt precarious, and demanded a cool and experienced approach.

We joined forces with Nick and Jeff on the descent, which consisted of 'short roping' and several rappels. All in all it was a long day, the round trip took 12 hours back to the Albert Premiere Refuge.

Often when climbing and skiing we have to adapt to less than perfect conditions, however on occasions the conditions and weather are perfect. This was one of those days, and a magic experience was had by both clients and guides.
A great end to the season.

See you all in the winter...

Matt Dickinson