July 2014.   Report by: Bruce Macrosson


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Having spent many happy weeks out in the Mont Blanc range over the past 23 years and mindful of the sheer variety of climbing available there it has long been a dream of mine to get a JMCS contingent over to Chamonix, especially with some members who had never climbed there before. I also hoped this would generate some Club summer alpine momentum and an annual JMCS alpine trip might become an established fixture.

The team arrived in a cool, damp and dark Chamonix outside our Spartan hostel just before midnight. Talk on the way over had been of an almost freak cold and wet early summer (turned out to be one of the coldest & wettest summers for over 50 years by the end). Big dumps of snow above 3000m and an unsettled forecast was not quite the start I had hoped for. Thankfully as the trip unfolded all my companions turned out to be the embodiment of patience and stoicism. This became obvious when, having decided to go for a hill walk on the first day, rain having vetoed any notion of climbing , we ground up a steep 1000m track through dripping pines, rain and swirling mist. Much the same for the next day but at least a wee break in the afternoon allowed a few valley sports routes to be squeezed in. It was Bryan and James' first trip to climb in Chamonix and by now I was starting to feel a bit guilty having lured them out with glossy guidebooks & tales of acres of sunkissed granite and sparkling neves.

Thankfully by day three, Le Grand Beau temps had started to arrive and it was time to climb. A low snow line and still fresh temperatures left the Aiguilles Rouges as the obvious choice. Bryan and James headed up to the Brevent to perform in front of cable cars full of admiring tourists on the classic Frisson Roche.

Alan and James decided to focus in on the Aiguilles Rouges and over the course of the trip savoured the delightful gneiss of the Voie Brunat Perroux on the Aiguille de L'Index (along with half of Chamonix that day), Voie Gaspard premier on l'Aig Gaspard and Robin Wood on Aiguilles Floria. Those incut holds bit back however and Monsieur Wilson brought home a couple of stitches on his finger courtesy of the A&E department as a momento of his trip, not unsurprisingly a couple of days walking on Les Balcons rather than climbing ensued.

Gwylim's plans for the Charmoz Grepon traverse, dissolved as soon as the clouds clearing to show a dramatic, but alarmingly white gendarmed summit ridge. Deeply loaded slopes and by now strong sunshine made immediate ideas of high altitude snow/ice seem none to wise either.We then played Chamonix's trump cards; variety and speedy cable car access which allowed us to make the most of weather windows. This we did and five solid days of quality rock routes on lower altitude peaks ensued . I enjoyed them all but my favourite days were on l'Aiguille du Peigne and it's Les Lepidopteres and Papillons ridge with the NE ridge of L'Aig de l'M a close second. Took a toll on my hands though, still had the scabs of my granite rash visible a fortnight later.

Bryan and James joined us up at the Plan de l'Aiguille hut to sample some Chamonix granite. A new selective guidebook had been spotted in town by Bryan promising some well bolted, technical and quality climbing on the erstwhile unknown Les Dames Fontaines, unfortunately someone had removed the hangers from said bolts, yet none of the technical difficulties which I believe up the overall commitment somewhat ! Our ravings about the delights of Les Lepidopteres in the hut that evening soon had them heading of in that direction, in retrospect perhaps by omitting the rock hard neve on approach, Bryan's fell shoes and the exposed crumbling approach hadn't quite painted the full picture.... but I do believe they enjoyed it nonetheless. A long lie and up to the Aiguille du Midi for a change the next day with an airy snow arete & thinner air above the Valley Blanche.

Le grand beau temps had by now started to depart and it was back to a cold, wet and a rapidly falling snow line for our last full day. The Chamonix gear shop integrale and an evening of chat, pizza & beers provided a fine and contrasting finale to the trip.

Looking back from a personal point of view I really enjoyed the trip both on a climbing and a personal level. I hope the others did too. I can't thank them enough for their patience; what with rain, unseasonable fresh snows, a gite full of American teenagers & somewhat basic accommodation and never a moan at the purported organiser. It's myself who should have been giving them a rope bag to say thanks !!