Up early to head off for city airport. Met Matthew on the tube and we checked
in together, and got breakfast while we were waiting for our slightly delayed flight.
Simon joined us here and we met Tamas, Craig and Gavin on boarding and by coincidence
Gavin sat with us for the flight on the rather bumpy swiss air jet. Touched down in Geneva
just after 11am which was 1 hour ahead of english time, and got into a minibus to take
us to Chamonix, some stunning mountain views were seen on the way. We arrived
early so shopped around town and had a few beers in a sandwhich shop along with
crepes for me and burgers for all the guys. We got to icicle met Sarah and Kingsley,
got kitted out, with boots and kit and shown to our chalets. I was sharing with Tamas
which was lucky as the others guys were four in a room. We joined up with icicle guys
and some guys who had finished their ski holiday to go to the microbrewery. Here we
had steak and giant 5 litre beer giraffes we bought with the kitty. Afyerwards we headed
back to town and got some beer in the south bar quite close to the apartments. Only me ,
Matthew and Gavin made it past 11pm.
Up early, me and Tamas were first into the icicle offices for breakfast of toast and cereal.
We were given our briefing, by Sarah and Kingsley. On belaying and stowing ice axes on our bags.
We picked up our snow shoes as the weather meant we would need them and we set off to
the train station. Tamas and me bought the traintickets which were 16 euros each and we
met Frank our french canadian guide for the day. The travel up the mountain was quite
picturesque and when we got to the top there was a restaurant and a chance to adjust
kit before getting on the cable car down to the ice field. After we got down the cable
car we still had a long way to go down the steps to get to the ice field.
We got roped up then and got our snow shoes on so Tamas could rescue his helmet.
We then headed of up the third largest glacier in the alps the Mer de Glace,
roped together in one group of 4 and one of 3, I was behind Gavin and in front
of Craig and it was quite some technique to keep the rope at the right tension.
After about 30mins we made it to some small furrows of ice about 15 to 20 ft.
there we took our snow shoes off and put our crampons on. And preceded to
practice traversing up the ice keeping all 10 points of contact and using the ice
axe. On the way down on snow you really dug your heels into the snow. After
that had a quick go at climbing up just using the classic ice axe and that was
fine. I then spent some time being rescued from a crevase and then it was
Tamas's turn. After that bit more ice climbing on the steepest stuff, first with
classic ice axe, and then 2 technical axes which made the job very easy.
It had however started to snow hard and so we roped up to head back, my
hands were freezing at one point but the ability to blow into the gloves and
warm your hands up helped a lot. On the way back I led with Matthew behind
me on the rope we progressed down the glacier ok, and checked out an ice
tunnel, then a man made one, with exhibits in. We climbed back up the steps
then and got onto the last but one cable car as they were closing it due to the
weather. We caught the train down at 3pm then, and Matthew and Gavin got
in a bit of a kip on the train as the view was obscured by ice. Back then to the
apartment and a quick kip for Tamas and drying out of kit for me. Then back
to the icicle office for more instruction on knots and stuff, then round the
corner to the restaurant Tetras, that gave us free beer with our food. We
moved on then to chamber nine for a few beers. Before finally moving
on to Bard up, again just me, Matthew and Gavin by this time. We lost
Graig and Tamas in the previous bar, and Simon had stopped to talk to some friends in the restaurant.
Up early and down to breakfast at 7.30am. Then we checked out and got our
ski poles and ran to meet Frank who had helped us jump the cable car queue
by an hour and a half. We were given avalanche transceivers as the avanlache
threat was rated 4 out of 5, the previous day and an avalanche is more likely
after fresh snow, which had fallen yesterday. It certainly was an impressive
double cable car system up the Aguille de Midi. The final restaurant was at 3,847
metres. We kitted up and headed down some very steep snow which was roped
but was very difficult for the skiers but was relatively easy for us with our crampons
on, once away from the skiers we switched to snow shoes and preceded generally
downwards along a serious of ridges. Frank showed us how to make a belay from
a hole and some snow shoes. Then we preceeded on down dropping nearly 500 metres.
I stopped for a yellow snow break and we all stopped for a very quick snack when we
realised we had to get Gavin back in time for his flight. The weather of couse picked
up at this point and as we pushed on up the mountain to return to the cable car we
encountered snow in sub zero winds. Making progress very difficult, Tamas was in
front of me and I was keeping the rope slack on him as much as possible but it felt
like I was continuously pulling the guys behind me up the moutain. Things seemed
to get a bit dicey on a very steep ridge that Matthew and Simon kept falling on, it almost looked
like we had got stuck, you couldn't see the cable car or anything we were headed for,
and Frank seemed to be getting a bit upset. But we did get over the top of it and did a
lot better when the snow hardened and we could swap to crampons. The final accent
of the steep slope back to the cable car was very tiring though with some large steps
. When we got in people were fairly relieved looking. Gavin had to dash for the cable
car and Graig was suffering a lot with his hands which had got very cold, and the returning
circulation was very painful. We had a few bites to eat in the restaurant and made our
way down via the cable car. We got back to icicle and checked in our gear and boots
and they walked us across to our hotel. Myself and Matthew shared a room and Craig
and Tamas paid more for separate rooms. We had a shower and a kip then tried to
go to the microbrewery again but it was too full so we went to the pizza place near
the hotel which was very nice. On the way we heard the loud crack of two avalanches.
Afterwards we went to a bar with a live singer for a couple of beers then braved the rain
to get to the red horse pub. By this time it was just down to me and Matthew we finally
ended up at the chamber Neuf again that closed at 1am.
Woken up at 8am by some roadworks outside our hotel. But by
this time the others had already hear 5 separate avalanches. We
had breakfast of bread and coffee in the hotel, then set off for a hard
morning of gear shopping, Matthew getting some carabiners and the
like. I also picked up some french chocolate for Ballu and got some books
and photos of the areas we had been. We stopped at a café for coffee and
spicey wedges, then back the red horse for a beer, before lunch at the
restaurant of the previous night were we saw Craig and Tamas returning
from their skiing and walking respectively we picked up our bags and got
the minibus and picked up Simon outside Icicle were he was returning the
snowboard he hired. The drive was uneventful and we had plenty of time at
Geneva airport but I just bought some Swiss chocolate for Ballu. The return
flight got us back at 7.20pm and I had got home had a shower and was at
Mile end to give Ballu her chocolates by 8.30pm.