So its been another busy week with a shoot for First Ascent with Caroline George up off the Aiguille du Midi, a heli fly-by of the Mont Blanc range, a shoot for Harrods (!), and finishing off with the Eiger North face which was definitely a long time coming- I cant believe it has taken me this long to finally to it!
Mont Blanc the easy way...
The First Ascent shoot went well: we clocked up alot of hours on the hill trying to capture Caroline in the new clothing that she has designed for First Ascent, but we managed some great shots on Pinnochio and the Cosmiques Icefall.
Caroline on the first pitch of Pinnochio
Caroline on the crux of Pinnochio
Caroline on the Cosmiques Icefall
A day later and Will Sim and I were packing and getting ready for the Eiger. It has been in amazing condition all winter and after a few abortive attempts just trying to get there we finally made it over to Grindelwald. The face looked amazing from below and you could see the motorway track a mile away- all good signs!
After an early arrival at the Eigergletscher we set up camp and bedded down for the night.
Making a quick escape from the Eigergletscher Hotel...© Will Sim
...and onto our bivy site
The next morning we followed a deep traversing track over to the start of the route and crossed the shrund at 4.10am. Conditions on the lower slopes are perfect with a big boot track leading you right up to the first difficulty- the Difficult Crack. Up past this and its an easy climb up to the start of the Hinterstoisser traverse. An amazing achievement back in the day which you can now fly past with the use of fixed lines and some good old bolts. This takes you to the first ice field.
Entering the first ice field after the Hinterstoisser traverse, © Will Sim
The Ice hose which links the first and second ice field is nice and easy right now and before you know it you're arriving at the meat of the climb which starts with the Ramp.
Will on the second ice field
Will heading off towards the Ramp
The entry pitch to the Ramp
Here we bumped into Caroline and Adam George already in the Ramp
Caroline and Adam George
Adam George in the Ramp
Caroline and Adam
Adam climbing up the the crux of the Ramp- the Waterfall pitch
A few easy pitches brings you to one of the cruxes of the route which is the Waterfall pitch and lands you out of the Ramp and into the Brittle Ledges.
Will heading up the Waterfall pitch
Adam George topping out of the crux Waterfall pitch
The Brittle Ledges are..well, very Brittle. But it's a pretty amazing feature as it pulls you out from the left hand side of the face and over onto a traverse line to the Traverse of the Gods.
Will heading up into the Brittle Ledges (RHS)
Myself heading up the Brittle cracks, © Will Sim
Will ontop of the Brittle Crack, Grindelwald far far below
From the top of the Brittle crack you apporach the Traverse of the Gods- a really short but airy traverse line over in the Spider!
Approaching the Traverse of the Gods, © Will Sim
A short romp up the Spider and you arrive at the final cruxes of the route, the Exit Cracks. Starting with the Quartz Crack and a short fixed rope traverse you head up the final black chimney and onto the top snow slopes.
Entering the Quartz Crack
On the final exit Chimney
Approaching the Mittellegi Ridge
On the Mittellegi Ridge
The view up top is awesome over the Oberland. It has been many many years since I was last in the Oberland and being able to see the peaks and routes I had done all those years ago when I first started Alpine climbing was awesome...how things change! When I first came here I remember walking under the Eiger North Face (in summer) and thinking that this was the reserve of the worlds' best climbers- nowadays it gets so many ascents when it's in condition it can turn into a real circus of teams queuing on the face. But nevertheless it was awesome to top out of the worlds most famous alpine climb and head back down to our bivy site for a well earned meal.
Summit of the Eiger ahead with the Oberland stretching in all directions
All in all we had an awesome day out. We started out trying to climb it fast and did so up to the Ramp. But we tacitly agreed at that point to just really enjoy being here on these world famous pitches, and instead of pacing up it just ended up chatting at belays and taking in the surroundings around us. The route felt just too historic to run past on our first try up it...hats off to Ueli and Daniel for their speed ascents- I really cant get my head around how you can climb something that big so fast.
So that's it really. Chamonix winter 2011 over...Will and I are packing for Alaska and leave in less than a week, hopefully this trip will be more successful than last year.