Aguille du Midi - 2300m - Solo Climbing the North Face
- Escrito por Ramiro Villanueva
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Starting from the Plan D'aguille, this north face route climbs up for 1100 meters. An early start can also be done from the town of Chamonix by taking the first cable car in the morning. I decided so bivy in the glacier the previous night in order to be at the bottom of the initial gully by 6am. The ice in the gully was of superb quality
and and quick progress was easy, at the end of the gully the route demands a long ascending traverse to the right over rock of dubious quality, this leads to the start of a big (and very hard) ramp of alpine ice, I was extremely glad bout my new crampons, blunt front point would have changed the game dramatically. For the next few hours progress was somewhat slow and my lack of knowledge about the route forced me to stop many time to check my bearings, by 11am the weather was considerably bad and forced me to stop at the top of the second ice field. I had plenty of food and bivy gear so I started cutting a ledge on the alpine Ice under some overhanging rocks, self belayed with 2 long ice screws and into the bivy bag I went.
Sipping a cup of tea I had the chance to see a couple of avalanches passing through the ice field's exit, I knew I was going to be fast.
I packed up and passed the avalanche zone as fast as I could gaining access to a narrow icy gully which I would consider to be the crux of the route, a good 100 meters long and very, very hard ice. I negotiated a few rock bands at the top of the gully and traversed 20 meters to the right to a natural ice ledge cutted by the wind under an overhanging rock, the place looked solid and I decided to make it my accommodation for the night, after all it was after 8pm and tummy was rumbling like there is no tomorrow!. The bivy spot was "spot on!", it provided enough room form my bivy gear and backpack, the cracks on the roof-rock gave good placement for cams and soon I found myself in the warmth of the sleeping back preparing dinner.
It was a restless night with short periods of sleep, the weather was very bad, cold and the snow heavy. The light of Chamonix below me gave me some peace of mind until the morning.
I was awaken by my watch alarm, the temperature had dropped to -6 and there was no time to loose, I knew all that fresh snow would turn into a nightmare if the temperature was to rise. When trying to fit my boot I noticed that my left foot was very cold, this was quickly dealt with by a cup of tea and some rubbing. Breakfast was fast and full bodied, featuring Sausisson Sec, crackers and even some disgusting Power Gels (I swear, never again in the morning). Gear up, and off we go. A couple of hours later I was reaching for the summit Seracs,from where I could see the cable car station some 300 meters up, he sun came out and rewarded me with some warmth. My calves were very tired but this was no moment to stop, Seracs and sun are not a good combination and so I kept steady phase for another 200m. The last 100 before the summit were a bit unstable with fresh snow over alpine ice, in some places the axes had to be planted some 20cm in before finding something to bite on.
It was the 11th of July at 8.30 am and there I was in the summit, immediately a wide smiled french man approached me holding a camera with a lense that would have made the creators of the Hubble telescope shiver. Mark Petzler was a french photographer for a local magazine who had been following my progress over the wall since the previous day. he took some nice pictures of me approaching the last summit slopes. He invited me to the cafe at the top station where he bought me a beer and promised to end the pictures by post, a truly interesting person.
As usual when solo climbing it is difficult to find a good compromise between weight and safety, I was glad to realize that I had used all the gear I took with me, here is the gear list:
5 pitons (3 angle, 2 lost arrow)1x 30m rope, 9.1mm, (I had to cut it in 1/2 while retrieving a desperate abseil in the middle of the route), so I ended up with a 15m piece.3 cams (0.5, 1 y 2)
Down sleeping gag, 1.4kg
RAB Survival Zone bivy bag
MSR Rocket Pocket with 100g. canister and a small pot
2 Ice screws (20cm)
5 dry-freezed food pouches (used 2x, the other 2x where just in case)
other small bits and bobs.
Ramiro "Ramsie" Villanueva
(Grupo Rosarino de Actividades de Montaña- Sede UK)