Alpine Rock

Charley on Cacao Girls

Yesterday Charley and I had a day of sport climbing on Cacao Girls at Gietroz, which is close to Barberine and directly above the French-Swiss border controls on the Col des Montets to Forclaz route. The route provides 12 pitches of good climbing mostly around 5b/5c with one pitch of 6a+, so it gives a good long route that’s easier than most of the other’s hereabouts. You can download the topo here. Highly recommended!

The Island of Rugrats

After quite a lot of faffing around Chris and I finished our trip with L‘île aux Razmokets in the Vallon du Berard. The faffing came about because we had intended to go climbing on the Brevant, but that turned out to be the only place in the entire area that was clagged in. So we ended up needing a quality day to round off the fortnight from a lunchtime start! And spending no money on uplift was high on the aggenda too.

Anyhow, it turned out to be an ideal afternoon route: great climbing, very well equipped, very soft touch 6a (it never actually reaches 6a because of chipped holds), 12 pitches, 320 metres, not a bad day.

Enough said. All the info is in the Vamos Chamonix Valley Guidebook.


On Wednesday we climbed Madagsikara, which apparantly is the Madagascan name for Madagascar. After being rained off Fraise des Boatchs from the top of the first tier last week we still wanted to climb to the summit of the Grande Floria. Also we were feeling a bit wrecked from the full traverse of the Domes du Miage and the long descent to the valley and we thought a bit of rock climbing would be light relief. We had intended continuing to the Durrier Hut to traverse the Bionnassay, but somehow it didn’t feel like the right thing to do when we got to the highest of the Domes. Strong winds, recent snowfall, verglass on the rocks at altitude; we had too many misgivings and decided to call it a day.

There are three tiers of climbing to be had on the Grande Floria, followed by a short scramble to the top. Most of the climbing is on the lower tier, and many parties descend from here down the abseil piste or the snow and scree. The second tier is barely worth the effort, but the third tier has 3 substancial pitches that I really enjoyed. This tier is more lonely and feels like mountaineering. From the end of the climbing you can reach the top in 10 to 15 minutes.

You can abseil the top tier and then descend easily, but we followed the Voie Normale down in order to make a traverse. It’s easy enough to scramble down the SW arete to the col, and from there either continue traversing the Petite Floria or descend the couloir back to the Index chairlift. (If you aren’t carrying gear for the snow then there are abseil anchors in the couloir if you need them, but you’d need to leave some slings or tat).

The Piola guidebook to the Aiguilles Rouges is excellent!

The Aiguille de la Dibona – Voie Berthet-Boell

This fantastic rock spire is a climb not to be missed! If you simply wish to reach the summit you can do so easily (PD) by snow/scree fields and a short rock climb up the North Ridge. Richard and Claire wanted to extend themselves further so we chose the Boell Route, an AD/IV climb that provides an excellent “tour of the rock”. This classic route starts on the East Face before traversing the South Face to a diedre on the West, then it returns via the South Shoulder to the crux moves back on the East Face, and finally tops out via a long line of slanting cracks and ledges on the east side.

Being early in the season we needed lightweight axes and crampons as the approach was on steep neve. Check conditions with Martine, the guardienne of the Soreiller Hut before you leave the valley. Rock shoes made the climbing enjoyable, and you’ll need a small rack of wires, hexes, cams and clips, plus plenty of slings. A single 50m rope is fine for the 2 well equipped abs on the descent of the normal route.

Routefinding is quite complex so study the climb in advance. Martine and Marie at the hut provide wonderful hospitality and advice. There are a couple of files of topos and photos in the hut. Check out the essential ones, which I’ve copied, and more photos here.

Dont miss it!

The rain has stopped

It rained in the valley for the best part of four days, leaving the Chamonix Aiguilles well plastered with snow when the weather finally came good on Thursday. True to form it was Chris’s last day just as the sun came out, so we decided to do some cragging in the Giffre valley en route to Geneva airport. A mellow day in an idyllic spot, highly recommended,photos here. Tomorrow I’m heading over to the Ecrins to meet Richard and Claire.

The Papillons Ridge

We were hoping to go to Swiss Val Ferret to try the Gallet Ridge on Mont Dolent. However, with heavy rain on Friday, warm temperatures and recent avalanche activity we decided a quick drying rock route would be a better plan. We left Les Houches at 07.45 and got an early lift, despite it being pretty busy with Mont Blanc skiers. Anyhow, we had a great day on the Papillons Ridge, the last time I did it being 30 years ago. It was easier than last time around; rock shoes instead of big boots and approach shoes and lightweight axe served well for the descent. We used a 60m rope doubled for the climbing so we had a long rope to abseil on the ordinary descent, and this worked well. (For info the top pitch of Lepidopteres was snow covered.) The Papillons is a great route that deserves respect. This morning we woke to see the Papillons covered in fresh snow! Photos and recommended guidebook here.