Rob, Matt and I leave for El Chalten next Tuesday, which is pretty damn soon! So the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get out on my legs as much as possible to prepare for the monster approaches in Patagonia.
Whereas in times gone by climbers used to pitch camp close to the peaks in Patagonia, it seems with modern weather forecasting and the fact the El Chalten now boasts some places to eat and drink (not too much booze Rob!), the usual technique is to stay in town, and then hike in when the weather clears – which is a long way.
So I’ve been ski touring quite a bit, and trying to get as many vertical metres in to my legs as possible. With variable skiing conditions around Chamonix at the moment this has meant driving a little way to the Aravis, but I have been rewarded with some great (and some not so great skiing). The snow cover has been quite thin, so it is still best to take the old rock skis, but there is powder out there!
As well as some great skiing I also had quite a big day climbing the Terray-Rebuffat (Carrington-Rouse) on the Aiguille des Pelerins. Due to the Midi lift being closed until the 20th of December, this made for quite a walk in the day before, then a great bivvy, followed by some nice climbing.
I wanted to climb at least one Alpine route just prior to heading out for Patagonia to run through some of the kit I am taking. I’ve just got a new Marmot Helium sleeping Bag, which is a model I haven’t used before, so I was pretty keen to see how that performed. It’s rated -9c and I was fine that night in an open bivvy with no thermarest (I used a hut blanket to sleep on), so that is good to know.
An interesting fact about sleeping bags that is worth bearing in mind when buying one is this: a ‘4 season’ sleeping bag isn’t as versatile as a ‘3 season’ sleeping bag. With a super warm 4 season, you are likely to be too hot a lot of the time, sweating in the bag (not good for the bag or you). With a lighter 3 season model, if you do find yourself a bit cold, you can beef it up with your clothing. So a ‘3 season’ bag covers more seasons that a 4 season. Just something to think about…
Anyway, the winter refuge at the Plan de l’Aiguille was really full (17 people!) so we slept outside and were rewarded with a great view.
And the climbing was pretty cool too…
The best part of course was the ski / walk down. The snow was the most unskiable I have ever come across and I only skied around 1/3rd of the way to Chamonix from the refuge. After that it was quicker to walk! I was quite pleased to read that even Ross Hewitt took his skis off!
There’s more skiing condition info on Charlie Bosocoe’s excellent Chamonix Conditions Blog, with some more details of some of the spots where we’ve been in the Aravis.
Email: Jack.geldard ( at) gmail.com