Friday, 21 October 2011

Cold Chamonix...

Chamonix is starting to get COLD!

This is a slightly bitty post, and hopefully a more exciting and less disjointed post will follow shortly...

In the last week there was snow as low as Argentiere, we've had first, second and third frost so far i think and my trousers actually froze to my bike seat at 6am this morning!

Heres a couple of pictures of cold things:
The view from our balcony up towards Argie

Waking up to see a winter wonderland after a night of snow last week, we spent a morning frantically trying to locate a sledge, and generally failed miserably. Accepting defeat, we headed up to Buet, stopping to get Ben and Hannah on the way and headed for a short walk up the valley...

We walked up the valley through the trees and eventually came out above the treeline to be greeted by a gorgeous sunny day and knee deep powder!
The view of the Buet valley from the treeline

Just before the hut in glorious sunshine
We had a chilled walk upto the hut, had lunch, admired the view and then walked back down again. Lots of ski tours come down this valley so we spent some time looking at potential December days out and threw some snowballs etc. General conclusion was that the snow might be skiable and psyche is high for some ski touring!

By the next day the snow had mainly melted and we were back to normal Chamonix sunshine. Both me and Jonny have been working flat out for the last two weeks, so not much outdoor climbing has been done but lots of training at the EMHM military wall (an Indy equivalent). I've been working cleaning in a very posh chalet complex in Les Houches and getting free lunches, and for the last few days in one of the most expensive chalets in the valley doing a bit of hosting and lots of bed making for a male model underwear shoot, so I'm not complaining!

In other news, we finally experienced a rendition of Marvin Gaye's Sexual healing by Rob Greenwood. This had been hugely hyped and did not dissapoint, despite him and Jack only just having returned from an ascent of the North face of the Matterhorn.
Rob 'Hot just like an oven'

The last few days we've been scraping frost off the windscreen of the van and Autumn has definately hit. The garden was still frozen at about 11 today as the sun takes a long time to hit it, but it makes for a very pretty view!
The garden just before the sun hit

As of Sunday I'm free again and have no work lined up, so I'm hoping when Sandra gets back from Germany we are going to get some routes in either down the valley or up high! Psyche is high and after a break to recover from a mega work stint, I'm sure I will be ready to get some cragging on the go. Who know, maybe even some alpine peaks!?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Sunshine funtime in Chamonix!

So here I am!
I've been in Chamonix for just over two weeks now, had a couple of ups, a couple of downs but overall having an ace time.

The kitchen in our
luxury chalet...
Our living room area
I arrived back in the valley to be met with torrential rain (bad), but also the news that rather than living in the van we would be staying in a luxury chalet (good!). Very hungry, pretty tired and a bit shellshocked Jonny drove us up to the chalet where I got shown around and generally didn't believe our luck! Rather than the van with its two gas rings and bed you assemble when you need to go to sleep, we have a fridge/freezer that produces ice on demand, a huge oven, flat screen TV, wifi, SHOWERS(!) and an actual bed to sleep in. Having the chalet has been really useful as it means that I have somewhere to stay and seach for jobs, with internet while Jonny is at work, rather than wondering the streets of Chamonix because the van has gone! Very lucky, and on top of that it stopped raining!

A normal evening at the chalet...
Wonderwall on repeat

The employment front has been slightly more sporadic, as I didn't anticipate just how hard it would be to find a job in interseason. After one very stressful week, I have one guy who I'm doing some housework for, and also working behind the bar in the 'Jekyll and Hyde' Pub at the end of our road. Having never had worked in a pub before I'm finding this good fun, but also surprisingly hard carrying lots of plates and suck the like.

Kelly and Sasha having a break from 'The Shack' and chilling at ours
One of the things that I'm finding great about Chamonix is meeting so many people, both old and new. For the last 2 weeks Sasha and Kelly, two friends from JMU have been out here and its been really nice having some people who I know about to help me settle in. They had an ace two weeks, doing Cosmiques Arete, 3 points of Lachneal and Mont Blanc, as well as a slightly less sucessful trip up to Envers. I've started making friends out here as well, and have been climbing quite a few times in a big girly team with Hannah (who is living in a red van), Heather and Sandra.

I've never really climbed much with girls before and its been quite an eye opener to see how much I've enjoyed it! I think it's pretty special to be somewhere where you can get a group of four girls who all climb pretty well to be out at the crag together, although i think we have shocked many a frenchman with the general singing and recorder playing that accompanies us!
Some local wildlife at the crag

So, onto where we've been climbing.  Being poor and impoverished, I've been staying in the valley rather than catching lifts up high but I've still got loads done in the last  two weeks (one benefit of relative unemployment!). I've been up twice to 'Le Zone', a crag with long routes of 6b and above. Me and Sasha ended up there the first time after hitching out to Barbarine, but realised that it was far too wet to climb the multipitch slabs there. Luckily the guys we were hitching with knew of 'Le Zone' and we just followed them up there and had a really good day doing loads of 6bs.

The day after that me, Jack, Mac and Hannah headed over to Switzerland to a crag called Secteur Corbeau . Me and Hannah climbed together and warmed up on a couple of tricky 6as, then moved onto a really nice 6b. We finished on a 6c that I had some issues with first time, eventually dogging my way out, and on the second go only giving up once!

Jonny climbing into the night
at Le Couteray
Another evening was spent at Le Couteray 'working' a 7a+ which i didn't do. This crag is home to an 8a offwidth-it looks horrendous, maybe another time!

Another really good day was spent at Le Coupeau, climbing with Sandra and Hannah. We had an awesome day chilling in the shade and got loads of mileage in as well as getting a 6c+ 2nd go!

Sandra on a 6b at Le Coupeau
 The second time I went up to Le Zone was with the awesome girly team of me, Hannah, Heather and Sandra. Heather bought her recorder and there was lots of singing and general merriment, a real positive atmosphere! After a 6b warm up, I managed to fight my way up probably the longest 6c I have ever done onsight, but then completely wimped out of a 6c+ with some awesome undercut moves which Heather cruised!

Toto at Chezerey
Another 2 days were spent up at Chezereys Slabs above Argentiere, both times the 45min uphill walk in the Indian summer heat nearly killed me. Me and Hannah had an awesome relaxed afternoon going up and down the Aguille d'Argentiere numerous times on easy routes then posing for silly photos on the top.  A second day was spent climbing with Heather on Voie Bleue, a multipitch climb up the slabs, with a cool corner crack pitch and a nice 5c pitch with an odd move at the top. By the time we abbed down, we realised we were on our 4th day on, knakered and so just chilled in the sun for the rest of the day!

Me and Hannah pulling silly faces
ontop of the Aguilette
A German couple ontop  of the Aguilette

So that's a general update so far. After the gorgeous Indian Summer, the weather finally broke last night and it has been raining since! The snow level is way down and should be getting lower, so we've been watching lots of ski movies to get psyched. I had a bit of a suge of employment offers this morning which was pretty cool so I should be busy for the next week at least, and we are starting looking for somewhere to live when we have to leave the chalet.
I'm missing everyone back home hugely especially the Bangor crew, but have been lucky enough for at least one game of Skype 'Cock or Ball' to keep me amused (no screenshots avaliable luckily). I'm also really looking forwards to Rosie coming out soon, partially because she will be bringing ice axes and tea bags, but also because I miss my little sister!
In summary, so far life out here is good and I'm looking forwards to adventures to come...