Alpine Striding Edge

After a brilliant day on Sharp Edge the day before we weren’t sure that we were going to be so lucky today. Thankfully when we were woken up we were treated to another crystal clear sky, although this did have the downside that it was -5 in the valley which had made the van a bit cold…

Beautiful view along Ullswater

Beautiful view along Ullswater

After we had thawed out we started the walk in a little bit later than planned, which was unfortunate as we had planned to set off early to try and avoid meeting any unprepared people on the route. The start of the walk was very cold, but the ascent up Myers Beck soon warmed us up. As we ascended the view along Ullswater just kept getting better with the combination of the frosty valleys, sunlit heather slopes and snowy mountains.

Amazing view east over Ullswater

Amazing view east over Ullswater

After the shady ascent up Myers Beck it was a relief to climb into the sun and see the first view of Helvellyn, and it just looked outstanding with it’s winter coat and the clear blue sky. We were soon on Striding Edge and decided to put our crampons on at the start, as it was likely that we were going to need them. While it would have been possible to do them without, it wouldn’t have been the best choice, as the party of 4 in front of us with no winter kit and three season boots were finding. We caught them up before the final scramble down, which was made a tad stressful due to being behind them as they looked very uncomfortable on the icy snow.

 

Happy to be out

Happy to be out

Amazing view of the day ahead

Amazing view of the day ahead

Walking up towards Striding Edge

Walking up towards Striding Edge

Approaching Striding Edge with High Street in the background

Approaching Striding Edge with High Street in the background

Unprepared people on Striding Edge

Unprepared people on Striding Edge

Becky on Striding Edge

Becky on Striding Edge

Striding Edge at it's best

Striding Edge at it’s best

Great exposure on Striding Edge

Great exposure on Striding Edge

On the final slopes up to Helvelyn

On the final slopes up to Helvelyn

After the final steep slope we were at the top of Helvellyn and in the crowds of people enjoying the fine November day, we did have to advise a team in trainers and shorts that descending striding edge may not be a very good idea… Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as good as the previous day as there was a strong, cold wind on the summit which meant that we didn’t hang around for too long. Looking down Swirrel Edge in the shade was fairly imposing and it was surprisingly icy given the temperature inversion which had been softening most of the snow up high.

Summit Panorama

Summit Panorama

Becky and me on the summit

Becky and me on the summit

Another Panorama

Another Panorama

Looking towards Raise and Keswick

Looking towards Raise and Keswick

Becky about to descent Swirrel Edge

Becky about to descent Swirrel Edge

After a quick descent down Swirrel Edge we decided to make the most of the day and finish it off by climbing Catstye Cam. After the quick ascent we bumped into some skiers who were having a very good day out and equally enjoying the start of their season. After a quick descent directly down to the main path we started the long descent, which always seems to have one more corner.

Striding Edge looking fine

Striding Edge looking fine

Becky on Catstye Cam

Becky on Catstye Cam

A team descending from Catstye Cam

A team descending from Catstye Cam

Alpine Sharp Edge

Last weekend and the start of this week was characterised by heavy rain and cold conditions in Bristol, which meant that in the Lake District the mountains were developing their first significant winter coat of the season. As the week continued a high pressure system started to build, so Becky and I decided to take a day off work and head up to the Lake District for a long weekend.

On Friday morning we left Bristol at 6am hoping for a clear run up the M5 and M6 in order to get to the Lake District in time to climb Blencathra via Sharp Edge and descent via Hall’s Fell ridge. Thankfully we made good time, and by 11am we were in a lay by near the start of the walk into Sharp Edge with cold and and crystal clear blue skies.

Walking into an alpine Sharp Edge

Walking into an alpine Sharp Edge

The walk in was beautiful leaving the green sunlit valley and climbing up in the warm sun, we soon arrived at the first col and left the sunlight behind and the temperature plummeted, but we were treated to a fantastic view of Sharp Edge being illuminated by the sun. We were thankful for the people who had gone before us and left a good set of footprints in the path, especially while ascending to Scales Tarn.

An alpine Sharp Edge

An alpine Sharp Edge

The ridge was in brilliant condition with a nice mixture of snow which wasn’t icy and rock. Due to the sun having melted the snow a bit we didn’t need to put crampons on, and we were able to make good time up the ridge. Unfortunately this meant that the fun was over far too soon, however it did mean we were treated with the spectacular views from the top!

Becky on Sharp Edge

Becky on Sharp Edge

Becky on Sharp Edge

Becky on Sharp Edge

Exposed on Sharp Edge

Exposed on Sharp Edge

Exposed on Sharp Edge

Exposed on Sharp Edge

A ridge of two halfs

A ridge of two halfs

A dark Scales Tarn

A dark Scales Tarn

Looking up towards the summit of Blencathra

Looking up towards the summit of Blencathra

It was so enjoyable being on the summit, with no wind, sun and brilliant views we were able to enjoy eating out lunch on the summit. We had excellent views of all of the Lake District summits, the northern Pennines and southern Scottish mountains. Due to it being early in the season the views were enhanced by the lush green valleys.

Great views approaching the summit of Blencathra

Great views approaching the summit of Blencathra

Stunning panorama from the summit

Stunning panorama from the summit

Looking south from the summit

Looking south from the summit

Summit shot

Summit shot

We descended via Hall’s Fell ridge, which is normally an enjoyable scramble. Unfortunately it had a slightly annoying amount of snow on it, as there wasn’t enough snow to warrant crampons which meant that the snow just slowed progress. We descended as the sun was setting which produced a beautiful end to the day as the setting sun lit up the snow covered mountains.

Becky descending Hall's Fell ridge

Becky descending Hall’s Fell ridge

Late afternoon sunlight

Late afternoon sunlight

Soleil Trompeur, Sagnette

Having decided not to head over to Chamonix due to the weather we were keen to get to another summit and have another big mountain day out before the end of our holiday. Unfortunately due to the weather this was put back until the day we were leaving.

Despite the plan to leave we were both drawn to an amazing looking route at the head of the Ailefroide valley which climbed the Sagnette. The route was 15 pitches long, well bolted and involved about 10 abseils to get back.

Due to our desire not to finish in the dark, and to finish early enough to make a good indent into the journey that night we had a very early start. After a hideous alarm call we drove up the valley in the dark and discovered that even if you turn up before dawn you still have to pay the park entry fee!

A hasty walk in enabled us to overtake two other parties and arrive at the route without anyone in front of us. The first few pitches were very cold in the shade, however the climbing was excellent. It was just a bit of a shame about the hot aches!

The first pitch off the first ledge was surprisingly hard, but the climbing was excellent with plenty of friction, good bolting and enjoyable climbing. There was still a long way to the top, and the rest of the climb was a mix of brilliant & exposed climbing with a couple of exposed chossy pitches thrown in to remind us that we were climbing a mountain.

As time was getting on by the time we got to the aid pitch, all thoughts about trying to free it went out the window and I just used the bolt ladder to make my way across the traverse. After this it was one long pitch to the end of the climbing and then a scramble to the top.

After a very quick bite to eat on the summit, we started to make a hasty descent as it was far later than anticipated. Thankfully after 2 weeks of abseiling down routes we had become very efficient and by the bottom of the many abseils had caught up the team who started 6 abseils ahead of us.

A short walk lead of back down the the car as the evening light was fading to provide an excellent, full on last day in the Ecrins. After a final pizza in Ailefroide, we made our way out of the park and finally arrived at our overnight spot in Grenoble at 1am.

Near the start of the second section

Near the start of the second section

Becky leading up sunkissed rock

Becky leading up sunkissed rock

Brilliant exposure

Brilliant exposure

Views of Pelvoux and Ailefroide

Views of Pelvoux and Ailefroide

Stunning view down the valley

Stunning view down the valley

Becky scrambling on the summit ridge

Becky scrambling on the summit ridge

Becky at the top

Becky at the top

Summit Selfie

Summit Selfie

Fissure d’Ailefroide

You can take a British climber out of Britain, but evidently you cannot take the British ethic out of a British Climber. While staying in Ailefroide over the summer we were surrounded by hundreds of immaculate, sunkissed granite slabs which were well bolted, after a few days on these slabs we decided to return to our routes and climb a very traditional route which was staring down on us from above the campsite.

The route we headed for was the Fissure d’Ailefride and was an eight pitch chimney on a north facing wall which only briefly receives the sun in the evening. It was mostly traditionally protected, however there were bolted belays and there was the odd bolt at some of the harder sections. It had been recommended to us not to take a bag, which turned out to be very worthwhile advice!

Fissure d'Ailefroide in the Evening Light

Fissure d’Ailefroide in the Evening Light

The Fissure can be seen in the above photo splitting the crag up the middle. While walking into the crag we were feeling very British, and were slightly bemused to find a French couple just starting the route ahead of us! It wasn’t long before you had to get involved with the chimney, it was in fact on the first pitch and it then continued until the top.

The start of the chimney

The start of the chimney

The start was pretty straightforward, but it was a sign of what was to come. The next pitch had some entertaining moves out from the back of the chimney, before having to pull around the lip. Which lead to some unexpected exposure given that we were in a chimney.

For the next pitches, I took the challenge to heart and refused to leave the chimney. This created some excellent climbing which was great fun and was surprisingly well protected. The penultimate pitch was by far the technical crux as it actually had some normal climbing on and some strenuous undercut fist jamming, but was perfectly climbable in approach shoes. Given the amount of tat on this section, I think most people aid it.

Getting invovled with the chimney

Getting invovled with the chimney

Emerging into the light

Emerging into the light

Emerging from the dark, into the shade

Emerging from the dark, into the shade

From the penultimate belay the description was for an ungraded pitch, which was a tad misleading given that the pitch was unprotected and involved full on chimney climbing! After we had finished the route we could see that bad weather was coming in, and after some deliberation we elected to abseil down, rather than walk as we thought it might be quicker.

By this point in the trip we had done a lot of abseiling and we were starting to get pretty slick. We made excellent time getting down and two minutes after we got back to the van the heavens opened.

At the top with the rain incoming

At the top with the rain incoming