Dec 23, 2016

Chulilla - a tufa paradise

Chulilla - a rockers paradise


Premier, it sounded like a great idea, to book a late season trip to the sunny Spain. A good place to meet up and enjoy some good food, coffee and limestone. Also a good time to escape a wintery Chamonix and push the ski season a bit forward. The choice fell on Chulilla. A modern limestone dream with a lot of steep climbing on pockets and tufas. It was even promised some crack routes. 
Let's go!
tung rott...Malaga in tears!

A week before going I started to watch the weather forecasts. Didn't look to promising. 
Huge flooding in Valencia and heavy rain all over the sector. 
And typically, the weather in Cham was super warm, perfect climbing conditions, in the absence of snow. 
Good choice!!

After a week end in a chilly Stockholm I felt a little more motivated and after a de-tour via las Palmas I arrived in a late evening at Valencia airport. And yes, it was raining. 
We quickly cleared the car hire and headed the 40 min drive west to our goal. Straight forward easy drive. Found our apartment for the stay and got set. 

first house on the left, the Bar!

As always a good cup of java lightens up any dark clouds. And this morning even the birds was singing. But they got it stopped rapidly with huge amounts of water, free falling from the sky. 
Any thoughts of climbing was to be abandoned. We could always do some sightseeing!? 
But as we already know, that isn't our thing really so after a couple of hours we decided to at least ignore the rain and go to have a "look see". Get some fresh air and have a look over the potential. And just bring the equipment just in case. 
Of course, it ended up with me high on a most humid 6b, I think you could call it slippery as wet. 
But I had seen my line and after rain there is sun, right?!
Muro de las lamentaciones

Chulilla is very easy to get to, if you have a car. A 40min drive from Valencia, which is the closest airport. 
The climbing has been developed over the years but it's only the closest sectors that is somewhat polished. As always. Walk a little and there is a huge potential. 
And since the walls are facing north/south it's possible to climb late in the season as well as during the warmer months. 
The big issue is just the amount of people. Stay away during the bigger holidays!
Finding places to stay is mostly quite easy, camping, Hotel and Airbnb apartments. Or the climbing hostel overlooking the village as well as the climbs. If you can make it trough the gates that is:-)

Super Zeb, the best 7c in the gorge

the climbing
The routes are mostly of a steep character. But on high quality rock, for most of the sectors, as well as good bolts and anchors. 
Since the routes is somewhat long a minimum of 70mts rope should be brought. A 80m isn't a bad choice. And some 20QD's. 

Most of the climbs is to be found down the canyon after the river that runs through the area. And there is climbing from 1min approach to 40min. 
There is a couple of ways to get to the area of Oasis and its neighbor walls. Which are the best ones in quality. I recommend everybody to parlay the first parking after the recycle station by the river. Instead of driving around the whole area just to get some 10min shorter walk. It's a good warm up and very scenic.
Busy times at Oasis Wall

There is a number of "must does" but most of them are to be found from 6c and up. If that's your maximum it will be a difficult stay. 
1/because the number of good routes between 5-6 is low. 
2/a lot of people on the the whole time. 
3/the south European style is often to occupy the route in some family outdoor day. So if it's one team on it, there can be some 2,3,4 others in the same team. So get a good picture.

And, there is something about Spaniards and their dogs...most of them are nice, the dogs, but there is a little to much layback attitude many times.
This one, well we wasn't quite sure what it was. A Gremlin was the closest we got.
the Gremlin "thing"
Actually we found the routes graded 6b+/6c often harder in someway than a 7a. The sixes often had a super hard crux at some point with the sevens more predictable. And since the bolts on the higher grades often are quite close, don't hesitate to give it a try. 

el Diagonal 6c

The second day, a bit clear sky's but with all the previous rain accumulated in the soil, it was still like heavy raining in the tufa areas. 
But slowly my motivation was coming back to me and I started to enjoy the climbing. And with that started to climb better. Working the days until last sun rays and walking out in the dark. Finishing the days at the local climbers hung out at the parking. Very polite community of climbers and easy to find people to climb with if you show up alone or your partner is taking a rest day. 

If you are a true climber, you should not miss out El Diagonal. A two pitch adventure at the Sexy Shop sector. A must do! Take good care of pitch 2, it has many opinions regarding the grade...

An other good line is El Oasis 7a, Odin 6c, Eco Dildo7a+(guess at what sector?) Plan Z 7a, Placebo 6c+, la Seduction 7a and Nazarten 7b, to mentions a couple. As you understand, there is quite many.
Two briljant 7a is Top of the Rock and Zona Facil.

Anna following pitch2 of El Diagonal

Every time I saw "my line" my mental focus grow bigger. And after being able to send a few harder routes I started to think it could be done. 
A long sustained and technical 7c. More then just a sport route, it was actually an obvious line. "Super Zeb"
But on the second last day, after having some serious trouble on a 7a+, I simply gave up the idea. 
Which in the end sent me below it anyhow, all other optional routes occupied. So either just stand and wait, it was getting late in the day, or do some climbing. 
We're not the kind of waiting. 
So rack up and take off. Expecting to slip of at any point it just flows on...

close to the crux at Super Zeb 7c
Chulilla Rock climbing topo, can be bought at the local climbing Bar 
or at the tobacco shop in the town square
Minimum 70mts rope
A good rope bag!

Sometimes it looked useful with a clip stick since the first bolt could be quite high. Possible to make one from the bamboo at the river. Or just borrow. 

A good link to the local crag is at

//Bring a big umbrella and you will have a blast!

Oct 17, 2016

Via dei Ottoz - Aig. Croux

Via dei Ottoz, Val Veni Italy - Courmayeur

aiguille Croux to the right of the Rifugio

  This south side of Mont Blanc holds a big number of good high quality rock climbs. Much less famous then its northern neighbor of Chamonix.
One reason could probably be that the info of this routes and the whole area is much less why I am writing this? Should just keep it quiet!
Well, the other reason would be that the access to the rifugios and the climbs is much longer by foot, no lifts to make it quicker/easier, its pure walk by foot. And many times quite demanding by it self.
As one friend of mine once told me,
-the hike up is just by it self an adventure!
But the payment is superb and the views are stunning, as well as the exposure.

Approach begins...
  We decided to go for a long classic route via rifugio Monzino - "via Ottoz" on Aiguille Croux.
A 350 meter climb over 13 pitches with maximum 6a and 5c as obligatoire. Easy accessed from Monzino, as far as you just up there!, and straightforward climbing, mostly on good rock as you find it in the mountains.
And just as important, the descent is mostly done by foot! A couple of short rappels from the summit part. But still, a long day out if the plan is to descent all the way back to the valley and Courmayeur afterwards. A plan that we for sure had made up already, this was the type of ballade that was to be enjoyed with some good italian cousine afterwards, together with the rest of the ingredients.
Hanging around at le Diosaz
  After a slow but interesting morning with some warm up climbs in Servoz at le Diosaz. And some short impulse shopping at a local out-door supplier we headed off thought the tunnel to the "sunny side" and the land of great espresso!

Interesting still, but after have been living for such a long time in CHX I hadn't really been driving that high up in Val Veni before. Just skied it a number of times! And never been up to Manzino before. And as usual the parking it self was the hardest part to deal with, where to place the Ford...
But finally, a bunch of top packing the sac and we was "en route".
Once on the track it is easy....

  Heading up the valley we soon found the first part of the famous via ferrata, which actually make the whole thing possible to get up to the hut and the base of the mountain it self.
Quite funny to think of, a big great installation up a more or less impossible face so climbers can get to something even more impossible looking face...
Busy busy...
  A 2 hour walk and we arrive at a very quiet rifugio, well almost, a couple close to doing some activity  who for sure ain´t expecting any company at that time is just about to inside.
And our entre is a bit ... situation difficile ...for a moment but quite soon its lighten up and we are all well installed inside.
the only problem turns out to be the water issue. With two big glaciers, one on each side of the hut, it feel a bit strange that there is no fresh water available. The solution is a 15min hike up the path and the bigger ravin which still is flowing with some fresh stuff.
With all bottle swell filled I just recon the next days walk to the cliff and head back for a late dinner with a view.

The 6 a clock alarm is as always most expected, waking up just the usual 30seconds before it fires of.
And my morning coffee feels better than usual with a sun rise that could melt anyone, a magic light over the massif slowly warming up the mountains and its habitants.

"Born by the Mountains - shaped by stones and hard rocks"

  The regular light mountain breakfast is quickly played and we head of towards todays goal, Voi Ottos. Named after Arturo Ottoz, a well know Courmayeur guida, who together with Eugenio Hurzeler climbed this route back in 1935. The route is famous for being hard to place gear on, which has changed quite a bit these days since it has big number of bolts on it as well as belays.
Safer, sure! But has taken a big amount of adventure away!!
The only place that isn't really well protected is the 6a crux, quite hard 6a as well. A very airy step which shows sign of being protected with a fixed sling, long time ago.

Approaching Croux
The climbing is very involving, most enjoyable and variated. The regular route finding is not challenging but since there is a number of bolts heading all ways of direction it would still be easy to head off somewhere else here and there.

  The start of the route is mostly easy climbing/scrambling. And after the crux section it gets back to that again, it is just to keep focus for some loose holds and steps.
The feeling of climbing on this wall is most pleasant, with big mountains surrounding us with its famous big routes as Inominata and the impressive arete du Peuterey.
Pure alpine history area.
After the last pitches which takes us up to the col and join the norma route up Aig. Croux there is 2 short pitches of easy scrambling to the top.
And from there its a short airy walk over to the real summit, just some minutes away. A couple of snacks later, on which Jan descends an impressive sandwich down an apparently hungry trout we start the long descent back down, rappelling down the normal route.

Kari on Air

Some short rappels is finally followed by a trail well marked by cairns, which at some places on the more exposed side. So its not a bad alternativ to keep the harnesses on.
Once back down at the rifugio Kari has suffered more than just bad from toe eating shoes...the non played pain is easy to espy. And still, we have some 1000 vertical meters to go....its gonna be a well deserved dinner for someone!

Voie Ottoz (Ottoz - Hurzeler 1935)
Grade 6a, 5c obligatory
Altitude: 350m, 13 Pitches
Equipment; 7-9QD´s, some extra mid size nuts and midsize Friends useful.
50m rope or 40mx2

Matériel du Ottoz
1 1/2 h approach from Monzino
4-5h for the climb
2 - 2 1/2h for descent back to the hut

Starting point: 
Parking for rifugio Monzino at 1560m
Rif Monzino: 2590m
Aig. Croux: 3256m

Kari and Janne on the upper part and final pitch of climbing

Lower summit on Aig. Croux

//Most people don’t even know enough to know how little they know.

Sep 26, 2016

Bec de Raté - Via dei Diamante

Bec de Raté - Via dei Diamante

Bec de Raté
  If you want to get away from the crowds the small valley of Champorcher is a nice hide out.
A little quiet village well hidden up on the east flank of Gran Paradiso, Aosta valley.
On Bec de Raté there is a couple of interesting climbs and ”Via dei Diedri” 6a is probably the most known route. A 9pitch climb with mostly grade 4 and 5 and a couple of 6a sections. This is a bit older route so the bolts isn’t anything close to up to date!

Anna on the middle section of via dei Diamante 6b

  Its Neighbor ”Via dei Diamante” is of a newer standard on mostly good bolts and belays.
It starts on 2050m and tops out on 2417mts with some crux pitches up to max 6b. The start is actually the hardest part! Mostly short pitches except one middle pitch which is close to 50m. So for retreat or rappelling the route it is necessary with 2x50m ropes. But easiest to walk of from the summit back down to the parking. Just look watch out for the cows!!
The general information about this area and routes is quite hard to find, mostly on Italien, but when you have found the sign with the route name, your at the right spot, easy as that.

We finally had a couple of days of at the same time but due to cold and snowy days before our main goal had to be left untouched this time. Instead we took the opportunity to cross the tunnel over to the sunny val d´Aosta and the area around Arnad and Donnas for a bit of enjoyable sporting, clipping bolts and drinking good Italian Espresso.

Sporting at Donnas, val d´Aosta

But since we both are more into longer routes some investigation well performed by Anna we found a good alternativ which could be of interest.
And as always Ford was interested as well to head into unknown areas so off we went.
And even though the road keep getting worse we arrived at the parking after some hours driving up the valley of Champorcher and Dondena village.

The mountain it self is quite obvious which make sorting out the hike and finding the path quite easy with some 20min  walk up to the face from the parking

Anna following on "Diamante"

Via dei Diamante - Anna on the summit pitch
Having fun on via dei Diamante - photo Anna Backlund

Once a the base of the cliff there is a bit of "scrambling” but after sorting out the differens between herbes and arbres things went easier.
With the ground info that it should start just next and rightwards of an obvious diedré it came very clear when we also spotted the painted little rock with the text ”Diamante”.

The rack for this route is very easy, 10QD´s. And once the first obstacle is overcome the rest runs mostly easy. 

Via dei Diamante, 6b max, 400mts

50m rope (2x50 in case of rappelling)
All fixed belays

Drive up val d´Champorcher from Hône via route SR2 and drive trough the village of Dondenaz.
Follow the winding road that goes into a dirt road. From the road there is a sign for Lac Raty (9A). Follow that until a big open field which is crossed at the lower part and look for a faint footpath that heads to the bace of the rock face.
Follow the path under the face leftwards and on some small ledges with herbs, the route starts just before the small diedre formation, sign ”Diamante". 20min walk

Walk of back towards the parking, follow the cairns. Approx 1h

// Det krävs alltid några krossade ägg för att fixa en god omelett. 

Sep 14, 2016

Eperon Süd Aiguille du Mid , voie Guiffra Monaci

Eperon Süd Aiguille du Mid , voie Guiffra Monaci

Picture from Camptocamp

  Eperon Süd on Aig. du Midi has a couple or actually a number of good routes, bolted as well as self protected on own pro.
The most famous one is once again the Rebuffat route but its neighbor to its left is just as nice and involves a couple of good pitches up solid rock. Well ok, the first couple of strenuous meters might be a bit crusty. 

Stressful as usual at Midi téléphérique September is the thing!

  The second pitch is a most beautiful crack system, which sadly is bolted!, but if ignored has a semi long section with nice jamming up a hand and fist crack. Easily protected, even with out clipping the bolts.
Pitch three is the most variated pitch and has a close to 40m climb up solid Chamonix granite with some interesting moves but always well protected on pitons and own pro.

Second pitch of Guiffra Monaci

The last section is divided in two short pitches but is easiest to organize in one long pitch, ending on the lower section of the classic Arete des Cosmiques.

  Overall its a straight forward route, good pro, good cracks and a perfect route as on this day with bad weather and thunder moving in on the afternoon.
Also you get the bonus of climbing the Cosmiques aerie as a finish up to Midi. 
If you don´t freak out and rappel back down that is. Better then to take a light rack, quick shoes and finish the route.

Voie Guiffra Monaci. +250m 6a max, 5c obl.
50m rope
1 small (very small) selection of mid size nuts.
Green-Red Alien
1.0-3.0 BD Camalot
Equipment for glacier travel

From the top station of Midi go down the arete and traverse under Midi south face and to the left side of Eperon.
Head for the most obvious crack system starting on the left side which levers over to the middle section of the Eperon.

Topo view at camp to camp

Just before the weather moves in,...

Aug 28, 2016

The Climate Change - a climbers reality

Traverse of the aiguille Rouges - Grande Floria - aig. des Croches - Tour des Croches - lac Blanc

Massif de Mont Blanc from led Aig. Rouges

  This last weeks has been more then warm in the Alps, I would rather use the word hot, as super hot.
So far all the summer months this year has been the warmest ever since we first started to measure air temperaturs for statistics. Breaking records as the best or rather worst athlete ever!

The glaciers are retreating in a speed that is almost visual from one week to the next.
Last year the thickness of the Glacier front of Mer du Glace was 14 meters below the Montanvers train station, this year it is measured to 7 meters. The accumulation zone in the Mont Blanc massif has gone up from 2800m to 3200meters from 2006 to 2016, its a 500meter differens in only 10 years.
Just a couple of years ago I had to cut steeps when going off the same glacier to enter the ladders up to refuge 
d´Envers. Today, well there is almost no glacier anymore. I don’t even bother to bring an ice axe going there.

And that the number of accidents are increasing, well I think so for sure. With more rockfalls reported and a big number of incidents during the whole summer with cornice collapses.
As this latest accident in the monte Rosa massif

Safer on a rock ridge, as here in massif du Beaufortain

  Every year the traffic situation are getting more and more intensive in the town of Chamonix, but not only there. Everywhere around the valley l´Arve, its more and more cars, more and more people. 
Just to get a place to take an evening swim in lac Passy is getting tougher for every summer.
2010 I was living the life of a camper between apartments and cause of that I was ”camping” quite a lot in the area, never a problem to find a parking, now its a struggle every time.
And of course this have a great impact of the general heating problem.
As a lady in her nice 4WD sub said when I approached her asking if it was very troublesome to start the car again if she turned the ignition on while just sitting parked outside SuperU.
-Its so warm outside so I want the AC running.
!!!What!! Are you serious?!
The Overshoot day comes earlier every year, this year it was 8th august, last year 13 august…
In Sweden we live as we would have 3,7 planets instead of the only one we have, so far at least.
The greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide is an escalating problem. Link to weather maps.
To absorb current levels of carbon dioxide emissions would need more or less twice as much forest as we have now, and we just keep on cutting.

  An other ”problem” is that people spend more and more time down in the valley, more tourists visit just as regular tourists, not as climbing ones. Rather taking the advantage of the comfort of using lifts for day trips and nice exclusive hotels and restaurangs in the evenings than spending a night in a remote refuge. Where you might have to share a table with some you don’t know and for sure have to share a converture from someone else, side by side and not even the smallest little shower in sight.
This is a growing problem for the huts around in the massif, refuges Tete Rousse and Gouter as an exceptial exception. Just counting on how long the new Gouter refuge will last, hovering on the rapidly melting permafrost…
But also the impact on a small valley area as Chamonix takes a huge effect. And the air quality is locally well know for being very poor. 
Every time I go up with the Brevent lift there is always someone in the bin that are getting stressed and almost upset about seeing people that are walking up the zig zags below the lift.
-Just think what will happen if they brake an ankle there??
Yea, just think!
So it says a lot about peoples mind of doing in their opinion ”rad stuff” if walking to Brevent is way over normal peoples average.
Ok I know, I am bragging a little or a lot, you tell me, but I am just trying to raise a thought…

  One more thing, that might be adding just as quick and for a more dangerous sake is caused of what the warmer weather might do to the access to many of the huts. Just as this summer the local Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix had to have an other new access up to ref. Charpoua, because of all the serac falls from the glacier above. Which has come to a bigger problem for each year. But how long will there actually be a glacier!?
It was quite an investment for the community for sure.
And at the same time they took the old access ladders away, for some stupid reason. Now any climber heading for Flammes du Pierre or le Dru has to cross the Charpoua glacier twice…!
The problem that the warmer summers makes is that there will be an escalating, as I see it at least, number of rock- and serac falls. 
At this point the hiking trail under the west face of Eiger is closed cause the high risk that the whole serac and glacier might be tumbling down the valley and over the trail and maybe even over the railway?!
Something that already has cost the Jungfrau Bahn some 375.000Chf.

  For me the last weeks heating temp with all the number of accidents that have been due to just mentioned causes has made me a bit more aware and holding me back from going out to do any climbing that involves high mountain risks, as climbing on rock that are getting heated up from the sun, everything exposed due to rockfall, moving over mixed terrain etc…

Aig. Grande Floria

  Instead I have focused more on taking the advantage of stabil air masses giving very good paraponte and 
speed-flying conditions. 
Still a climbers heart need some rock now and then and since it is most of the time just to warm to be climbing lower in the valley, best done between 20.00-08.00 hours.
If you want to avoid the head torch option the upper valley might be a better choice.
And if you like me like like to avoid glaciers as much as possible the  Flégèr and l´index areas is a most perfect destination.
Most of the routes are very easily accessed from the top chairlifts and the approaches are mostly straightforward. 
And, most important, the rock is high quality solid gnejs.
Well ok, it is not even close to the magic red granit to be found on the other side of the valley. But thats one of the reason you ended up on the Aiguille Rouge side, no?
Even though the magnificent friction found on the mont Blanc side is just brilliant, still the gnjes isn’t to bad and its always nice with variation right!?
And second, you will most likely end up surrounded by the average ”climbing Tourist” that think that screaming any unhearable ”command” or any information what so ever to the partner on the other side of the end of the rope is just as important or maybe even more important than the actually climbing…
Well since ignoring isn’t an alternative wearing earplugs is.
And to be honest, its not that many climbing T´s around…

Traversée les Rouges

Grande Floria traverse towards Croches and lac Blanc
  Grande Floria - via ”Soho” and Neige on Kili” via aig. des Croches - Tour des Croches  and lac Blanc.

”After a couple of espresso discussions with my self I decided to head for a Flegere tour, l´Index, and Grande Floria via the route ”Soho” A moderate 6b+ at the ”Sector Afrique”.
Soho gives a little steeper start to the classic, is it?, Les Neiges du Kilimanjaro. A total of 200mts climbing to the lower Bastion of Floria. Form there its possible to joins any of the final routes up to the summit of Grande Floria (2888mts) ”Fraise des Boâtchs” 5c (5a obligatory) gives a nice 3 pitch finish.

On the Roof Traverse on "Killi"

Well its not only a steeper start, the 6b crux sure comes hard!
a nice cake at ref. Blanc
From the Grandes views summit its an easy descend, not totally obvious thought down its east arete to col des Crouches. From here its even more easy to head back to the chair lift at l´Index. 
A much more interesting finish is to complete the full traverse of the Aiguilles over aig. Crochue all the way back down to Lac Blanc. 
Have a nice cooling swim in the lake and a beautiful Panache at the refuge. 
Stay the night or…do the modern average heading back to the lift for a nice dinner back in town… :-)

Refuge lac Blanc

40 or 50 mts rope
10 QD´s (for Soho and Neige on Kili)
Climbing shoes if yo uno any of the direct starts. Via col de Floria and ”Voie Normal” only boots or hikers.

For the complete traversée its something between 3-5hours, depending on how much you can move together. 

local climber at lac Blanc

/Simple cussing on a cowboys horse isn’t taken as a note in the lords notebook

after a nice day out...