About about a traverse of the Meije?
Right at the start of the summer we were told as newly qualified Aspirant Guides that it was a good idea to get as much variety of work as possible. In as many different alpine areas and a variety of grades. This last two weeks has all been about making that happen. I have to thank Martin Moran for offering me the chance to do some of the best work I've had all season.
He really believes in creating good opportunities for Aspirants who work for him and is an excellent and inspiring Guide himself. Earlier in the summer I had the chance to work alongside him on the Lenspitze and Nadelhorn traverse, and now he offered me the chance to work with another really excellent Guide Anthony Franklin on the Arete du Promontoire and a traverse of the Meije. Initially there were two clients and we would have both been working 1:1, but in the end one client was ill and it was just Anthony, Bill and myself. I have to again thank Anthony for letting me lead a lot of the route- this was a brilliant chance for on sight guiding on a complicated and long AD route.
The ascent to the Promontoire hut is an adventurous day in itself, a PD rocky ridge the Enfechoires leads up to a small but crevassed glacier perched high on the Meije before a snowy and fairly loose col allows access to the Berard Basin and the Promontoire hut itself.
The atmosphere of the three days I spent with the team down in the Ecrins was excellent. Anthony is very charming company, a half Brazilian, half English French trained Guide who is based in Villars D'Arene and is highly recommended for any of your Ecrins adventures! Bill Shaw proved to be practically the ideal client... and really fun to hang on a belay with. At 67 he is imensely fit and a really skilled climber. Martin assured me that I would have a great time down there with the team and he was totally right!
The second day we climbed most of a great rock route on the West Face of the Meije, 'Nous Partirons dans L'Ivresse' before a creeping tiredness suggested that retreat would be the better part of valour in order to conserve energy for the main event the next day.
A four am breakfast and 4.30 start and the climbing begins immediately. Anthony let me run the day from the start to the Mur de Castennau and then from that point on we took it in turns for sections. This meant short roping and short pitching and finding the best route in the dark... brilliant! The day went very smoothly and it quickly became evident that our team was totally capably of a fast traverse since the Meije was in excellent condition. This is quite simply a fantastic route and a real pleasure to Guide. In terms of ability as a client you need to be very sure of yourself on easy climbing terrain and be pretty fit.
The ascent to the Grand Pic is about 5-6hrs and the traverse another 4 on top of that. We were fortunate to arrive at the Refuge D'Aigle at 2pm... allowing plenty of time for a slap up pasta feast for lunch and some fine reflection on a day well spent.
Thank you Martin for arranging this, Anthony for encouraging me to come along and allowing me to Guide scetion of it... and Bill for quite simply being great fun to climb with and spend time with. I really hope I see you all again very soon.
The only thing that was left for me was to make the 1800m descent to the valley and drive home to Chamonix... and make sure that I was there ready for my next adventure which was due to start the next day at 4am..... No rest for the wicked!