Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Making the Most of a Free Lunch - Alpendurst

There is no such thing as a free lunch so the saying goes; well that's not quite true, I can normally induce people to feed me by looking wistfully at kitchen cupboards but generally you don't get something for nothing. It's equally true that any alpine trip especially one to the traditional Brit base of Chamonix is alway hobbled by the exorbitant cost of the bins up the mountains; a trip up the Midi normally knocks a considerable dent in the finances of any would be alpinist.

True we could do it the old fashioned way and WALK into the climbs but really the reason Cham is so popular with Brits is that is has such a brilliant lift network, the thought of having to slog 1500m up to the start of the real climbing is enough to bring many of us out in cold sweat " You want me to climb Ben Nevis to get to the route?!"

The Jägihorn looking rather small from the top of the Hohass cable car;
 the route runs up the left third of the face.

So when a rumour that the the Swiss of all people; famous for living in one of the most expensive countries on earth were giving away free lift passes in Saas Valley this summers alpine destination was pretty much nailed on.

For every night you stay in the Saas Valley you get a Burgerpass which gives you free use of all the lifts and buses but sadly not any free burgers. For the aspiring alpinist the Sass is also surrounded by fourteen 4000m peaks may at the easy end of the difficulty scale and with uplift to 3000m or higher; decision made were going somewhere new.

My the Swiss are efficient!

In preparation for going high later in the week James, Andy, and I decided to get a big rock route done on one of the lower peaks. The route we had selected was Alpendurst on the Jägihorn which is fourteen pitches and approximately 350m long topping out at about 3200m. More importantly it's graded about F4 and really well bolted with traditional Swiss efficiency giving the route a really nice non threatening feel and removing the possibility of us sandbagging ourselves at the start of the trip.

Catching the first bin up out of Sass Grund leaves a shortish if steep walk in to the base of the crag which launches upward in a mass of golden yellow brown slabs. Once on the route the climbing is never hard but the moves are really enjoyable and the line appears to flow naturally between the bolts which are easy to follow.

Looking down the route from about pitch 9.

The climbing is mostly slabby but there is some chimney work and a bit of monkeying around with flakes. In order to minimise the amount of faff climbing as a three we block lead four pitch sections of the route giving each a good section of the climb to get our teeth in to. 

The rock feels really compact and solid and radiate a lovely warmth in the sun; were soon flying up the route enjoying every pitch and the ever increasing exposure. Lunch is taken about pitch 9 on a huge belay ledge with fantastic views out over the white dome of the Weissmies which looks amazing and the Lagginhorn which looks like a tottering pile of choss! A this point Sundays objective pretty much selects itself.

Weissmeis

The last few pitches run through slightly steeper territory and leads to a rather stressful switch of leads on a painfully small belay for three; the climb also become a bit of an exercise in suffering as we have all brought excessively tight climbing (and now very smelly) shoes for the grade and look enviously on a a German pair who move past us in their stealth rubber trainers, the way forward on this kind of jaunt. 

A hugh pile of choss aka the Lagginhorn

The summit of the Jägihorn is a terrific viewpoint especially across to the high peaks of the Michabel chain on the far side of the valley including tomorrows target the Allinhorn, but conscious of a rocky decent and the looming cut off time of the last bin back to the valley the summit moment is a little rushed.

The decent is very much a scramble down steep bouldery terrain and worth the weight of bringing a pair of trainers on the climb for. We get in about 45 min before the last car departs from the valley before inflicting eau du climber on two unfortunate tourists who must have regretted jumping into the same car as us!

The Michabel chain taken from Hohass rather than the Jägihorn. 

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