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Chamonix - The flip side of the spires

August 18, 2016

It was a favorite for "Trad" climbers to integrate Chamonix into the list of destinations to climb the legendary Mont Blanc mountains. An ancestral gathering of giant mountains and imposing glaciers that Pachamama offers us as an infinite playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

We meet with Cédric who has come down from the shelter of "l'Envers des Aiguilles" ("The Reverse of the Needles") to recharge the food ... and not bear that the rain falls now. The idea is to reach that beautiful refuge with views of the glacier of "La Mer de Glace", surrounded by huge needles carved in the granite and try to climb the best routes.


We have a last shopping in the splendid city full of people from Chamonix, Mecca for outdoor activities, and we enter the little train of the "Montenvers" that takes us to the foot of the glacier, which will be the beginning of our walk. And this is not any walk! It consists first of a quite surprising descent of stairs of almost 150m where the right to error is not allowed (if we do not assure it) that takes us to the glacier. From there we climb it, making its way between the cracks and streams to reach a second set of stairs, which this time ... go up! 200m of vertiginous vertical route that take us to the continuation of the intense that to "l'Envers des Aiguilles".

View of the glacier just before the second flight of stairs

See the Refuge in sight in the distance ....? .... we are far from being reached!


6h, the ride was hard! Especially because we load all the bivy equipment ... all the climbing equipment ... and almost 10 days of food !! We are rewarded for the incredible view that the place offers and for a drink of "pastis" wisely taken. A nice sunset is offered before quickly escaping to the shops to warm up and attack early the next day. Here the walls are mainly orientated to the East, it is necessary to enjoy the sun before the shadow emerges around 3pm.

Sunset at "la mer de glace" (the sea of ​​ice)


The alarm clock gets unusually at 5am ... but well, it's for the good cause. The objective of tomorrow is to raise the needle of the Roc starting with "Voyage au bout de l'envers" and if we do not have enough with 320m of ascent we can continue the wall until we reach the end of "Children of the moon", which would add 220m. ..



A look at the guide ... 18 planned lengths!


The day dawns and we leave with difficulty, we enjoy a good breakfast under the warm sun and it is at ... 9 o'clock in the morning ... that we started the path of the ascent. Ivana who suffers from exuberant blisters stays in the camp, while Florencia and Pyd prepare the fiery ones necessary for the trip.

 Departure of  "Voyage au bout de l'Envers"


4pm and we are already in the shade!


The day went by so fast! Only 9 pitches done today! The place requires a certain time of acclimatization to the rock and the type of climbing (more plate than crack) to allow to evolve quickly and also a certain rigor in the departure time, which this morning had relaxed a bit. Return to the refuge after the series of rappels executed without problem in order to hydrate with a good appetizer.


We meet with a group of Spaniards with whom we form a large table. Gentle refugees allowed us to eat inside to cover the chilling cold that reigns at night, despite the fact that we are camping outside. We savored in the shelter the benefits of beer and red wine in our bodies in the happy atmosphere generated by the jokes of the troops

Tomorrow, despite the accumulated fatigue, we have to enjoy climbing with the sun because the weather will be bad for the next 2 days according to forecasts. A day of rest would have been appreciated but time forces us to push our limits a bit. Cédric joined us today, we can train 2 cordadas tomorrow to climb "La Pointe des Nantillons"

 Cédric and Ivana in "Amazonia" (400m / TD+)

 At the summit of Pointe des Nantillons 

 Florence & Pyd in "Bienvenue au Georges V"

Simultaneous arrival at the summit with our Spanish friends


A day of success for all ... with a small rope snap during rappels but nothing bad ... only in this case you have to climb the rope, if possible, or climb the length to go to look for the rope caught in a crack, a root, a slab ... or any other unimaginable obstacle in the way of the rope fall, then lower the current relay, or finish the length and rappel from the next relay and pray that this does not happen again ...


The plans now are to remember a little rest. Above all it will not stop raining for 2 days ... very valuable for our muscles ... and for our taste buds ... In fact, during these dark times, we entertain ourselves with card games, enigmas, stories, readings ... all that sprinkled with frugal food ... We thought about making a cake of lemons in this beautiful refuge negotiating with the refuges to use the oven promising them that they would have the right to taste the delight created in the altitude. The only big problem ... is that we have forgotten the flour ... and there, in the second negotiation with the shelters, the plan collapsed ... the 250g of necessary flour can not be obtained ... to the detriment of all the occupants of the shelter ... well! the lemon cake turns into lemon cream that equally delights our bottomless appetite.


At the return of the sun, 2 days later, we are united by a group of friends from Argentina ... Denise, Francisco, Veronica, Daniela, Juan, friends of Ivana, and also an old acquaintance that emerges with this group: Katya , Russian, friend since 2014 since we traveled together in the Petzl Roctrip in 2014. What a coincidence! Here we are 10 in total!

The very nice view from the camp


The flip side of "l'Envers des Aiguilles"...


Given the great number and the joyful ability to express our joie de vivre, we are left out of the refugee shelters that feel we are too noisy ... - "But sorry lady, it's just 7:30 pm! to inside only because it has allowed us! "-" Yes, but when some are bivouacked, some are autonomous! "... here is the phrase declared to our dear Denise who had just arrived ... The atmosphere has changed. .. form from this moment a group "autonomous" where we can give free rein to our laughter and claim "We are Autonomous."


There followed a series of incredible climbs on all sides of "l'Envers des Aiguilles":


 Ivana & Pyd in the "Tour Verte"


Florence & Cédric on the "Pointe des Nantillons" 


 Vero, Daniela, Katya, Francisco & Ivana in the "Tour Verte"


A run on the "Tour Rouge"


Flagrant crime of hugs between rope and flowersv

The efficient but noisy rescue helicopter

A team in the "Pont des Soupirs"

Meeting of Argentine friends


A lot of emotion, laughter, adrenaline, cold, heat for this expedition! 9 days have passed and the dream of taking a hot shower encourages the spirits. We ordered the camp of the "Autonomos" to undertake the tedious descent to the town. We enjoyed one last time of the view and we promise to go through other needles left pending.

In the heat of civilization, we appreciate the cottage borrowed by a friend of Florence to eradicate all accumulated dirt and enter a huge "tartiflette"! Opportunity for Argentines to discover this highly appreciated French dish.

 Los Autónomos !

Once the clothes dry, we decided to look for a little heat this time because the adventures in Chamonix have cooled us down and so to speak, the fissures are not exactly what we expected ... there are proportionally more plate passages than fissures to embed to our liking This desire for heat and fissures combined with the current geographical position introduces us the idea of ​​going to Italy to discover the famous granite saw with an established reputation for climbing in cracks:


Valle "del Orco" ... here we go!

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Escalader avec une caméra 360 : Into The Andes ► Episod #5

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