It’s probably not overly exaggerated when I say that I probably never put as much effort into climbing a route than into this one. Or two, to be precise. The first and almost most difficult effort was to wait in Chamonix. Wait for stable weather, which was rare, this summer. Wait and look at the topos. All those topos! All those routes! All this perfect granite! And us, stuck in the valley, condemned to do some sport climbing. Bah! What an effort. But then, finally, our new favourite site meteocham preached no rain, for three days! Off we go. Quite slow actually, because as it happened, we had to carry our massive bags containing topes, trad gear, tent, sleeping bag, mats, food for three days, cloths, but no beer. Still heavy. Seb was dubbed ‘the walking barrel‘ as the sheer size of his haulie almost exceeded his body size.
And what a pain it was. Frankly, the walk up to Refuge de l’Envers des Aiguilles (2700m) is breathtaking by itself, surfing the mer the glace, but with that damn haulie on your back … different story. Well, a few hundred curses later we arrived up there and found the snow retreated just enough to give way to a few flat square meters, setting up basecamp! Then, the route we planned to do that day didn’t quite happen; just as we roped up, it started to rain. And my stomach got bad. Seriously? After all that hauling? Mpf. Back to tent. More rain. One thought: La misere. Eyes close.
Only to open up the next day to, yes yes yes: blue sky! Finally we’re in granite-heaven, we decide for an easier introduction and an intriguing route name: L’Opium du Peuple (300m, 6a). Getting to the actual climb proved to be an adventure for its own sake, there are some cravasses to pass and then, the infamous bergschrund: depending on the season, route length can vary up to a pitch or so. Some routes are simply impossible because you can’t get to the rock at all. Climbing at altitude is a different game. But L’opium we got, a magnificent climb situated in a unparalleled and isolated scenery. And to watch avalanches play right beside you is interesting, too. Also, our decision to extend the route and to climb the second tower as well made for an adventurous abseiling action: through snow. Wet climbing shoes guaranteed. Back to base camp to witness a one-of-a-kind sunset, großes kino without an entrance fee.
Our big project is scheduled for the next day, Tour Va Mal (600m, 6c+) on the Auguille du Roc. And what a climb this one is. Starting out as a bolted slap route, it quickly steepens and the bolts make way to perfekt orange-coloured Chamonix granite cracks, occasionally streaked by 40m long quartz veins. Each pitch a beauty (as dirty as it may sound), each friend a bummer, each nut bomb-proof. But 600m are a long way to go, and the last pitch makes you pay your tolls. And cold, cold it get, at almost fourthousand, as soon as the sun disappears. Finally, what comes up has to come down again: All the way. Not too pleasant, considering that the entire route is named after a malheur while repelling after the first ascent. The cracks eat ropes. Ours too, but just once. Anyway, exhausted and no earlier than by sunset we arrive back at base. What. A. Climb. I won’t go into length about our cursings the next day when the clouds moved back in, and we had to haul all our stuff back to Chamonix. So were the efforts worth it? Judge yourself: