Following on from our last adventure I’m just going to run through the final days I had in Camp-a-rooney.
The Saturday was spent on a via ferrata with Derek and Wendy, but I have spoken of that already.
The Sunday, World Cup Final Day Alan and I went to explore some of the single pitch across the river. Everyone had tried some of the single pitch alongside the camp ground before I had arrived and had declared is ‘stiff for the grade’. This was much more amenable; short, rounded and balancey…basically grit routes with more bolts and less friction. We did 3-4 routes from 5 to 6b and they were OK, nothing great, just OK. The bolts were sensibly spaced, not run out but also not a clip ladder.
We then had to head off to visit the patient. Funnily enough, driving in France while France were in the world cup final meant there was very little traffic. However on the return, Alan was finding it quite difficult. Driving someone else’s car, on the wrong side of the road with lots of people beeping their horns…. were they doing it in celebration or because he was doing something wrong. We plumped for the former and waved at lots of happy french people
That day Rob & Dec and James & Derek decided to do one of the most prominent lines that could be seen from the camp ground… Little Palavar (5c). 7 pitches and 3 abseils. They seemed to have fun.
Monday…. after a morning described as “Peak Faff” Kirsty Forder (2018) James, Rob, Alan and Dec headed back up the mountain to do Roche Paillon. I borrowed Derek’s bike and had a wonderful ride, with some questionable route finding and long climbs but pretty exciting single track type stuff. Definitely worth taking your bike with 3-4 marked trails with one using the lift system if wanted.
Tuesday, me and Derek headed for Snoopy (5c), 7 pitches which gave some really interesting and varied climbing, some slab, some layback, a bit of chimneying. Luckily Derek messed up and missed the belay on pitch 4 meaning he got the awkward pitch requiring 1 bit of aid. Even with aid I would not have liked it…. he did really well.
It was great to swing pitches having not climbed for most of the year and we gained height over the camp ground really quickly…seeing the valley from the other direction from Ecrins Total.
The ‘walk down’ was pretty iffy at times… not one to do in the rain or the dark!
Wednesday was my final day and I joined James and Derek on Cascades Bleu (6a), so named because you cross a waterfall (twice). I took the first pitch…and we swinged leads pretty much from then on with me and Derek leading 3 pitches each and James 2, though James did get the main cascade crossing. This route meandered more than snoopy with a couple of traversing pitches but was still a lovely route with excellent pitches.
I decided half way up that 3 belay plates between 3 climbers was extravagant and decided to dispense of mine somewhere…. which meant the abseil down was harder than it should be with Derek having to lower me down (sorry Derek). Some of the ledges had also eroded meaning very high anchor points and James managed to abseil below the path requiring a top roped scramble back up through the trees… but we made it unscathed and all thought it was a great route.
So my trip was over… and I was heading back on the train (well the first train turned into a 130km repalcement bus service) but it all went to plan. 8 days, 9 trains, 2 minibus shuttles and one replacement bus journey ….. all went to plan, mostly.
I think the general consensus was…. we need to plan 2019
The AGM has been set for the 30th October at the Buckingham Hotel in Buxton.
Let me know if you wish to stand for any posts or have any agenda items
current and prospective members welcome!!
Despite some…well one major blip, I think the re-booted BuxtonMC Alps meet can be described as a roaring success. Between the group we ticked off alpine routes, higher altitude plodding, hut stays, multi-pitch and single pitch rock routes, mountain biking, via-ferrata, lower altitude walking and the traditional consummation of beer, wine and cheese.
What more could you want?
There was a reconnaissance mission led by Dave and Jaimella, their write up can be found here.
Ailefroide itself is a very small village… merely a few buildings. These building however include a newsagent, a very good gear shop, a Sherpa mini market, 3 pizza vans and various bars. These are all here to service the small town that is the campsite…. home to hundreds, maybe thousands of people but while we were there it never felt busy due to its vast size and varied camp grounds….. a home away from home.
The BuxtonMC members it attendance were;
- Alison and Darryl
- Derek and Wendy
- Rob, Alan, Adrian and Dec (or Margot depending on what ID you check)
- James, Kirsty and kids
- and finally me.
The number of people, plus the fact that within striking distance of the camp there were so many available activities means that a full write up on the 3 weeks that people were there is a Herculean task I am not willing to complete. Therefore I have created a list of what was ticked until I left
I did three Via Ferrata (Via Ferrati ?), the first 2 with Alison and Darryl and the 3rd with Derek. Non really resulted in the height gain that I have experienced in previous VF’s. Others got me into positions that as a mediocre climber I probably couldn’t have done climbing free. Whereas the first and last this trip were up canyons/ravines with limited steep ground. The 2nd was up a face and the most consistently ‘up’ but again didn’t give the exposure I have come to associate with VF…. still entertaining though.
What seemed like a 25 min forced march could have been a leisurely 40 min stroll from the campsite but Derek and Rob seemed on a mission. Those two went to climb another route so I teamed up with Alan and then Dec with Adrian.
It was a 6 pitch route which Derek assured us, as it was the afternoon would pass into the shade imminently… therefore myself and Alan decided on the ‘big drink of water before setting off and don’t carry anything’ approach.
The first 2 pitches were fairly easy going, a nice introduction for me after a while off climbing. The 3rd pitch was much harder with a optional point of aid and then, what felt like quite a necky traverse. The 4th pitch was also committing and steep but was followed by a nice scrambley 5th. The 6th was a stiffer arete type pitch but with all you needed at the right time.
By the 4th pitch it was clear that Derek had misjudged the transit of the sun and we were still in full glare and parched to say the least. Derek then realised that when he was climbing in the shade 2 days ago with Alison…. it was a totally different climb and a totally different face! so on we battled to the abseil station with dry throats and dreams of iced water.
As most of you are already aware, the descent is a story in its own right, and a story for someone else to tell. Its fair to say though that it was a little while before I was going to be satiating my raging thirst with the bottled water at the foot of 3 abseils.
…..to be Continued
The club made a welcome return to Stoney Middleton on Tuesday. in recent years the Stoney meet has usually come with a ‘softer’ alternative of Froggatt or Burbage North… but this year it was an ‘all in’ approach. I think we had 12-14 people there sampling the delights of traditional peak Limestone.
Stoney Middleton comes with its own place in the history of Peak (and UK) climbing with the stories of Windy Ledge exploits by Whillans, Brown, Allen, Birtles, Proctor and later hard bouldering by Moon and Moffatt. BuxtonMC would be following in their footsteps once again, but maybe at a more leisurely pace… and with probably less smoking.
Our trip to the Emily Kelly Hut in North Wales was like a drop of pure, refreshing water in a vast desert.
As Britain baked in the harshest heatwave since the famed summer of ’76, a small band of merry mountaineers headed to the northern Welsh countryside. Despite weeks without rain and day after day of hot weather and cloudless skies, I packed my usual rain gear. After all, we were still in Britain. How long could this anomaly last? Another several weeks, as it turned out….
In North Wales, gone were the usual grey skies, wind and rain. Gone were the usual lush green valleys and fields. The sky was cloudless and bright blue. The sun beat down and left nothing but burnt, yellow ground. The hut, usually a refuge from harsh weather, was instead a heat trap, the upstairs sauna-like upon our arrival. But who am I to complain? This was going to be a brilliant weekend.
Emma and Paul cycled on Saturday, enjoying a long tour through the hills and to the coast. Despite the burning sun and exhausting heat, the two cyclists were able to survive, buoyed by numerous ice cream and pizza stops. Paul also credited his survival to powerful sunglasses, so new, he didn’t even have time to take the label off! They returned sweaty, tired, brown, and oddly not hungry.
Jo and William went on a long walk. I don’t know what they did or where they went, but I do know that William returned tired, but carrying a McDonald’s shake cup.
Robert and I took the most sensible approach in a heatwave, venturing out in the unrelenting sun and following the water pipeline up the steepest hill behind the hut. Two hours later we arrived at the foot of Lliwedd, our shirts and hats completely soaked through with sweat.
I had already drunk one litre of water. We climbed 10 pitches of enjoyable Welsh rock and then walked back. Our glory and feeling of triumph were only increased when we learned along the way that Belgium had defeated Brazil and France had beaten Uruguay to make an all-European World Cup. Take that South America!!! Also, apparently England did well. Or something.
After the usual rounds of beer and white wine, which (exceptionally) we were able to enjoy outside in the warm evening, we managed to get to sleep. Sleeping bags seemed completely out of place, like umbrellas in the Sahara. A single sheet was all that protected me from the midges.
On Sunday most of us expected a quiet, relaxing day. We all started down toward the lake to relax. Instead we ended up plodding for some time through the heat, until we decided to wade back through the water. A boulder field on the route back served to justify our swim, as if it was instead a minefield, and only Robert had the ability to cross it. I expected we would just go in up to our knees or so. How naive I was. The lake quickly drops off from ankle deep to chest deep. Soon, we were all swimming, fully clothed, packs on backs, along the coast and through clouds of marijuana smoke, people on kayaks, and birds protecting their nests. Luckily at the last minute before going in, we had realised that wallets and phones do not dry out as well as other things, so Robert saved the day by taking these and walking back over the scary boulder field.
We thought we had seen Britain at its yellowest, but the heatwave continued for weeks after our trip. The Buxton Swimmaneering Club may yet return to swim again.
Work commitments meant Dave and I had to head to the Ecrins before the rest of the club, arriving in a very hot Argentiere la Bessee the first week of July. We based ourselves at the beautiful Maison Abeil for the first few days while we got our bearings. After arriving Monday evening we headed to Les Collets for a bit of cragging. The next day we headed to Ailefroide to get some tips on what was in condition at the guide’s office and climb the lovely A Tire D’Aile Froide (5c). By 10.30am the next morning the thermometer was at 37 degrees in the valley, so we headed up into the mountains to acclimatise and read some guidebooks.
The La Grave telephrique opened in full on Thursday so we took the first one up with the intention of climbing the west summit of the Rateau. The weather was looking unstable and the snow was hard going after the recent high temperatures, so we switched objectives and headed for the Pic de la Grave. After fruitlessly trying to find a decent snow bridge across the bergshrund we abandoned this objective and had a picnic atop of the Dome de la Lauze (F) and headed back into the valley before the bad weather hit.
On Friday we took advantage of the lingering mizzle and walked to the Pave hut. Idyllic alpine meadows full of flowers, butterflies and marmots gave way after a few hours to a monochrome slog into the cloud up a seemingly interminable moraine. After nearly 5 hours we reached the Pave hut – despite being a basic metal prefab with a hosepipe bringing water from the glacier its only luxury, it is one of the cosiest huts we’ve stayed in. We were the only guests that night and the guardian Sophie gave us a warm welcome. After a leisurely start the next morning we climbed the Pic Nord des Cavales (PD+), a superb route on excellent rock with some amazing positions. We were lucky enough to have the whole route to ourselves and the only other voice we heard was that of a lone French paraglider. We found that a single 50m rope was sufficient for the descent. We arrived back to a hut at full capacity, with beds being made up in a little cave outside the hut and in a storage area. A new bigger hut (with the same number of beds) is to be built next year. After walking down from the Pave the next day and eating enormous ice creams in the Restaurant Les Glaciers we headed to Chalet Mournier in Les Deux Alpes to take advantage of their pool and sauna.
Monday saw us walking into the Soreiller hut, nestled at the foot of the Aiguille Dibona, a perfect needle of rock which compels you to climb it. With feet in a bad way after the epic walk down from the Pave, we took the walk at a lazy pace and after 3 hours reached the hut. There we met with a French guide and the next day climbed Visite Obligatoire (TD+), enjoying pitch after pitch of astonishing rock, although some sections felt hard with a rucksack. A shoe-related incident meant that close to the top, once all the difficulties had been overcome, we ended up taking in a few pitches of the mountain’s other classic route the Voie Madier, before rejoining our route for the final hard pitch and then taking the easy ground to the summit. After returning to the hut we decided to stay an extra night to give our feet chance to recover and were rewarded by an impromptu concert by a band of travelling folk singers who travel hut to hut.
We headed back to the sanctuary of Maison Abeil on Wednesday, looking forward to sampling some more homemade muffins and bergamot marmalade and a bit of R&R. The thermal pools at les grands bains du Monetier, a 3 hour yoga class and a 7-course meal at the tiny Les Tables de Gaspard in Saint Crepan were the perfect way to round off our trip.