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Jonathan Griffith Photography Blog

Dent du Requin- Baumont-Gaby

I'm enjoying getting on random routes for the moment- lines that aren't often climbed and still hold that 'will it or wont it go' mystique. Unfortunately random lines often require exceptional conditions which we definitely don't have at the moment, but when Korra suggested we do the North Face of the dent du Requin I had to admit that I hadn't even heard of the route before. We headed in as two rope teams- myself, Colin, Ben, and Korra- and hoped for a fun day out. What we actually encountered was unconsolidated sugar snow on slabs. As the rest of the route looked like it would entail pitch after pitch of unpleasant sketchy climbing we headed over to the right and ended up climbing a really fun route called the Baumont-Gaby. It's a really good alternative to the Ice is Nice lines in the area and quite a step harder given how thin it is- it's never pumpy, just delicate fun chamonix climbing. The crux pitches are 4 long and thin corner pitches that are really worth a visit right now.



Korra and Ben on the lower gully at sunrise






Colin on the first mixed pitch





Korra on the first mixed pitch



Korra on the first mixed pitch





Colin on the second mixed pitch












The South Face of the Aig Fou






Korra on the second pitch





More great climbing on the second pitch






Colin tops out of the 4th pitch







Hmm sun and 'summit'





Korra tops out




A very hot descent down the backside to our skis



Posted by Matt Dawson on April 09, 2014. Post or Read Comments on this entry

Naia- Aiguille Verte

I've been wanting to do Naia for a few years now- it's the perfect combination of an area that I havent been to, with the fact that it looks like a good winter route to climb with skis on your back. It's hard in winter to find objectives that allow you that 'up and over' feel as you have to carry skis with you or endure 8 hours of trail breaking up to your waist back to town. Having done the latter on a couple of occasions I'm keen to avoid it as best I can! 


The weatherman had given us a few days of good weather, but with the Foehn still lurking it was best to not get on anything major and commiting as you never quite know what is going to happen when the Foehn is visiting. So I managed to convinvce Ally for one last mountain burn before he jumped on the plane for some home time. Given the amount of snow we've just had I figured it would be the perfect time to get on Naia- being a natural gully line I thought it would be buried in snow and therefore pretty fast and easy to climb. I was wrong, but hey we got up it anyway.


The approach was horrible- the sun bore down on us with a warm Foehn wind and soggy wet snow. It took hours to break trail up to the Charpoua hut- but as usual the views up here are incredible and it's always magical having a bivy hut in winter to yourself. After chatting the rest of the day away and attempting to play Uno (an impossible task) we headed off to bed.





Ally arrives at the hut





Hut life....




Cross dressing night...© Ally Swinton



A 4am wake up call saw us heading up to the base of our route. The snow pack had refrozen overnight in to a perfectly annoying crust- not thick enough to support body weight but also too thick to break under ski edges. So it took a while to get to the shrund- plenty of swapping skis and boot packing and swearing. Arriving at the base and it all looked good- at least there was ice on the route! 



Arriving at the shrund as the sun rises over Mont Blanc



Nice views from up here



The sun rose behind us on the Mont Blanc massif and Ally started up the first ice pitch. What looked good was obviously not as he climbed up eggshell old ice and got his first introduction to climbing steep ice with skis on his back. 


Ally gets stuck in to the first pitch


From here on it's a fast couloir romp to the cruxes above which looked mighty thin from below. It was good to feel like we were moving fast again, less good was that I'd only brought 4 cams as rock pro. A good schooling in thutching with skis on (not pretty) saw us out of the cruxes and on faster terrain to the Sans Nom Ridge. By now it was obvious we weren't going to make last lift down Montenvers so it was just a case of kicking back and enjoying where we were. The ridge itself actually took some time- skis catching on gendarmes coupled with plenty of traversing on black ice wasn't too conducive to setting any speed records but it was great being up on the Sans Nom Ridge.



On the easy ground, Mont Blanc in the background





Ueli Steck-ing it





High up in the couloir with the Grandes Jorasses North Face in the background




High up in the couloir with the Grandes Jorasses North Face in the background






Myself eyeing up the dry cruxes above, © Ally Swinton





On the first crux pitch- dry...very dry. © Ally Swinton









The second pitch looked fun but with skis on was a bit of a struggle, © Ally Swinton





Since I have no shame here is me thrutching with skis © Ally Swinton





Ditching the pack was the best thing I did all day, © Ally Swinton




Ally tops out from the second pitch, Jorasses in the background





Easy ground to the ridge




Myself arriving at the Sans Nom, © Ally Swinton





Sunshine! © Ally Swinton





The Sans Nom ridge to the summit of the Verte




Questing up the ridge, © Ally Swinton










Looking back at Ally and the Mont Blanc





Epic alpine terrain!





Nearly there... © Ally Swinton





© Ally Swinton



Blue Steel


The views from the top of the Verte in winter are really 5 star. I've climbed the Verte 7 times now and it's still one of my favorite summits for the view. Downclimbing the Whymper was great- soft deep snow to plough down. A quick rap at the shrund saw us combat skiing on horrible snow down to the Vallee Blanche and the final ski and walk down to Montenvers just as the sun set. 



Summit pano from the Verte of the Jorasses and Mont Blanc









The Whmyper couloir




Half Way down the Whymper






All in all a really fun day out. After a couple of tough and abortive attempts on the Jorasses it was nice to move again and enjoy Chamonix for what it's best at delivering- fast and light alpine romping.




Posted by Jon Griffith on April 06, 2014. Post or Read Comments on this entry

NW Gully Petites Jorasses

This winter has been titty-deep, shred-gnar, high-5in' for skiers, but not so much for any alpine climbing antics. Deep snow, strong winds, and poor conditions have left even the keenest climbers valley based, itching to get up high. Thankfully 10 days ago the first sign of good weather finally arrived on the horizon sending everyone deep underground to sharpen their tools, dust off their cams, and pack away outdated route food. Everyone had different ideas on what to do but none of them were really great options- having very little idea of what might actually be climbable (given that it is still winter here) myself Ally and Steve headed up the day after it stopped snowing for a recce up the Leschaux basin. We wanted to climb anything on the Petites Jorasses with the greater goal to getting a good look at the main event of the area: the Grandes Jorasses.


Ally tours in to the Leschaux Glacier, the Petites Jorasses in the background


Amazingly two other teams had decided to head in to the basin that day as well. I think it's great when I see teams giving a big middle finger to conventional wisdom and just trying their best to get something done- if they fail then so be it but at least they got in there and gave it a go. I have a lot of respect for that- it's always easy following someone else's tracks but a whole different game being the first to 'open' a route for the season. Any excuse is a good excuse in winter, especially this winter. As it turned out they were both heading in for the Grandes Jorasses itself and I was dying to know what they were up to.


Ally arrives at the Leschaux hut with the Grandes Jorasses in the background


We ended up in the Leschaux Hut as our objective was laughable by comparison so we could afford the luxury of sleeping well- but I kept a constant eye out for those mystery climbers and which part of the wall they were going for. With the Jorasses in one of the worst conditions I've seen it in I couldn't help but think that they were heading for one of the hard 4 or 5 day suffer fests that snake their way up improbable parts of the wall. Now, after all, would be the time to get a winter tick of lines such as Manitua etc.


Safely nestled away in the hut, I'd grossly underestimated how much gas to bring for three of us so spent a good while melting snow under some left over tea candles late in to the night (FYI it works, but only just; gas is so the way to go). Nevertheless, nice and early we toured off in to the darkness and tracked our way up to the Petites Jorasses. We had expected some heavy trail breaking and we got it- but I could see the lights of the first climbing team high up on the central icefield of the Jorasses. They were moving fast up the Colton Macintyre and I was impressed with their tenacity trying it in such dry conditions. 


Melting snow over some tea candles....not ideal


Sunrise on the approach


Ally and the Grandes Jorasses


The main event...


The wall above us revealed itself in the light of the day and it was obvious which line to take- none of the others had any ice in them. As it turned out this was the NW Gully of the Petite Febrouze / Petites Jorasses. It's a long way to come for such a route but I've never actually climbed anything on this wall before, and given my poor success rate this winter anything is good right now. A heart in mouth shrund crossing saw us at the base of some perfect Chamonix ice which weaved its way to the top- from close up this had looked like verglassed rock but we were lucky to find it just thick enough to make fast and easy progress. The route is never hard and it was great fun to run up an alpine route again; even better to see the Grandes Jorasses from the top and take in the Hirondelles ridge and East face from this angle. That mountain just keeps drawing me in...


Ally heads up the first pitches of stellar ice


Steve on the lower pitches


Steve on the lower pitches with the Dru and Verte in the background



Ally cruising on




Cant complain about the views


Woohoo alpine ice!


Myself on the short steep narrowing before it all kicks back for a while, © Ally Swinton


Steve and Ally on the final pitch




An angle of the Jorasses I hadn't seen before


Happy Alpine smiles


Hmmm...miles of untracked powder to get home





Posted by Jon Griffith on March 15, 2014. Post or Read Comments on this entry

Mountain Photography Course 2014

It has been a long time in the planning (!) but I've put together two courses this summer which will teach you all the skills that I use to shoot in the mountains. We'll be covering real climbs on 4000m peaks as well as shooting in all lighting conditions from Full Moon to sunrises. There are only 4 places per course for a more personal feel, and two guides will be on hand to lead you up the climbs. Check out the brief below and email me by clicking here for further information.



Posted by Jon Griffith on March 22, 2014. Post or Read Comments on this entry