April 5th, 2006

(written in the evening, Tuesday 4/4) I’m tired and I hurt all over. It could be that I was sick all last week, I’m still jet lagged, and we were climbing at altitude (for me) but really, I’m just not in shape for this yet.

I’m not sure exactly what we climbed today but it was on a sub-peak of Mt. Blanc. A 15 minute ski down to the base of the route from the Aguille du Midi tram, climb 250 meters of 50 degree calf-deep steep snow, four pitches of ‘Scottish Grade Three Ice’ which, because it was completely picked and kicked-out was more like grade II ice. But it was steep enough, fun enough, cold enough and long enough to be well worth the effort.

At our high point the couloir widened into more snow and possibly some rock bands up high but we were done with ‘the route’ and in alps-esque fashion we began rappelling the route on fixed anchors. As we went down we rapped over an Argentinian pair on the route and passed by three Brits on a neighboring line. As one of the rare clear days in the last month, the climbers were out en-force and it was a little unsettling to see the numbers–at least for me who comes from the Cascades where you might see one, maybe two other parties, but probably not on your route. I saw, just on this sub-peak, around 20 other climbers.

After climbing we skied out the Vallee Blanche, down the now mogulled glacier through ice and crust. Being tired, in telemark gear, with a climbing pack (and camera) it was pure survival skiing for me. And it was late in the day so the train had stopped running. Which meant we had to hike and ski out on an access road. We came to a point where we crossed the train track, a spot where I remember seeing hiking skiers from the day before and thinking “That’s gotta suck.” And today, that’s exactly where I was; hiking through the forest carrying my skis and sucking.

But hey, a small price to pay for a great day in the mountains on technical ice above 10,000 feet.

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