Here are some photographs and memories from the last year.
Its been another really fun year working as a guide meeting and working with lots of really cool people. I've managed to climb and ski lots of fun things for work and leisure.
Last winter started with a distinct lack of snow. I quite enjoyed the lack of snow being able to climb a few more things. Throughout December and January we had a good wee bouldering gang, making the most of the friction, although it was minus 14oC. No finger tendons were snapped. Jono and I ticked off a great little 7c called Notre Damn down at Medonet amongst some other bits and pieces. Ug displayed his unrelenting psyche whatever the temperature.
WIth good persistent cold some good ice routes came into condition and it was a great opportunity to climb on the Rive Droite of the Argentiere glacier. I climbed the mega classic WI6's Shiva Lingam with Ben and Icelander with Miles.
I also had a nice day at Cogne with Stu climbing the Uber classic WI6 repentance.
In February I went to Norway for 3 weeks guiding working for Martin Moran. We had a great time exploring new areas with clients, and climbed some superb ice.
Between the ice climbing and bouldering I had some good days out on the planks, and did lots of days ski guiding around Chamonix. Working on skis is a lot of fun, but certainly has its challenges picking safe terrain that is suitable for the group.
South Face of the Fou
In April I completed a little dream to free climb the South Face of the Aiguille de Fou. This is a beautiful route up a superb diamond face of excellent granite. While the rest of the aiguilles are often slabby and discontinuous, the south face of the Fou is a perfect vertical and overhanging wall propped up steeper than its surroundings at the back of a huge couloir. The couloir has become very hazardous to approach in the summer time nowadays many parties find another way to the top and abseil in to climb the route. I had always wanted to climb it from the bottom in spring time when a safe approach could be made from the bottom with skis, and then climbing up the couloir. I climbed the route an Irish friend Jono, and we had a good laugh, just about managing to stay warm enough to free climb. The crux was a 7b+ pitch which I just about managed on my second lead attempt. The rest of the pitches all felt quite hard but top quality.
Arve Valley Rock climbing
Between Spring skiing work days I climbed a heap of routes down the Arve with mostly WIll, but really whoever was psyched for getting fit down at on favourites Balme, Maladiere and les Vuardes. Being able to ski in the morning and climb superb limestone multi pitches in the same day is such an incredible privilege and it makes me very happy to be able to live where I do.
In May I went back to Ireland for a few weeks. To my great surprise I managed to get myself up another dream route, Divided years. E8/9. As far as i'm concerned, the best route in Ireland. Also a bit of exploring the steeper parts of Donegal with Ricky, Michelle, Kev and some VERY Strong French folk.
The summer was a blur of Matterhorns, multipitches and other 4000ers. I climbed a lot of routes I hadn't done before and some I had done lots before. I guided the Matterhorn 5 times over the season and it was good to get to know the route very well. It was wonderful to guide lots of people up their dream routes, or just to hang out in the mountains and show off what a playground it is.
Walker spur Grandes Jorasses.
In the middle of the summer I had an unexpected day off. The weather was stable and Stu was itching to climb something in the mountains. Neither of us had climbed the Walker Spur, and it looked dry. We hiked in to the Lescheaux hut on Friday afternoon, had an early start on Saturday and were back down in Courmayeur late on Saturday evening. It was a long day but I was able to climb the entire 1200m route in my rock shoes. Will kindly picked us up from Courmayeur. I had 3 hours sleep, then drove to Zermatt to begin another weeks work.
Mid September I decided to get away from Chamonix and walking up lots of different hills, to go down to Ceuse and walk lots of times up and down the same hill. The vast wall of streaks and shade must be one of the best crags in the world. I spent 2 weeks in ceuse working various projects and accumulating some endurance. I climbed lots of 7's, an 8a called Petit Tom and the Superb Femme Blanche 8a+.
At the start of October Will and I climbed a beautiful route on Le Fiz. The Impressive walls of le Fiz dominate the view when you drive out of the Chamonix Valley. We had climbed the Route Betelgeuse 7a 2 years ago and since I had been itching to go back and climb Dret dans l'pentu, 7b+. The climbing is hard, technical and often very blind. These routes don't get a lot of traffic. The ambiance is incredible looking at the Mont Blanc range from a completely different angle. Every pitch was incredible, although the bottom pitches a little friable.
Michelle and I climbed fidel fiasco also at the start of October. It was definitely cold in the shade but in the golden light of the afternoon it was absolutely magnificent. It was cold crisp autumn afternoon, with incredible light and a fresh dusting of snow on the ice. There was nobody else around. Its a good route with lots of nice pitches, especially the immaculate corners in the last few pitches.
In October I did two weeks work with Film Director Julian Gilbey for a feature film he is making. The work was great fun and involved a bit of technical safety supervising, stunt doubling and guiding Julian. We mocked up the north face of the Matterhorn on the Aiguille de toula. Paul and I climbed the Hornli on the Matterhorn, and abseiled down a pitch onto the top of the North face. From a helicopter Julian filmed us topping out of the North face onto the summit of the mountain. It was surreal. We then filmed for 2 days on the North face of the Eiger. The highlight was a rescue sequence from the brittle ledges 3000ft up the face. I got long lined off the face twice, while being filmed from a separate helicopter, and Julian filming on the Brittle ledges.
After this I went to Spain with the goal of climbing 8b. I climbed Dogma at Siurana, Ramadan 8a/b. I was very close to Kalea Baroka 8b+ but ran out of time. It felt very doable.
Le Grand Bleu
When I got back to Chamonix at the start of December I had a few days before the snow came and completed a little project I'd put some time into earlier in the Autumn. Le Grand Bleu is an absolutely beautiful line at Le Balme following a big blue streak up the 150m limestone cliff. With a pitch breakdown of 7c, 8a+, 7a, 8a+ 7b+ I completed my goal of climbing it leading every pitch. Tom belayed me, seconded and Jugged the ropes behind me. It was a sort of payment for letting him sleep on our floor for a few weeks.