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Kandersteg and Chamonix Summer 2007 - David Toon

The contrast between days is amazing... Maybe I should start somewhere different. Like saying we started in Kandersteg then moved over to Chamonix in search of some long granite routes in the summer! Although Kandersteg is not bad - 7 pitch routes on Limestone some sections are slabby, which for the UK connoisseur is a little weird because most of it is steep and fingery not balancy!!! This slabby climbing was at Ueschenen which is a beautiful Limestone crag situated above some cows (surprise, surprise) and in a gorgeous Swiss valley above Kandersteg. Managing to get 3 routes in 2 days of climbing there was just the build up for the Chamonix routes we had lined up!!!

However, doing 13 pitches in a day with some 6c thrown in for good measure doesn't lead to a very good dinner in Kandersteg!!! It was time for another Toon trademark - late off the hill and blasting some Rolling Stones (any 70s or 80s collection we have will do ;)) off as you drive down the valley at about quarter to ten in the evening in hunt for some dinner... We tried the good pizza place and got turned down either because we smelled or they had genuinely stopped serving.

Alas there is a pub near the Scout kanderjam so I duly stumbled in and asked if they were still serving food. A weird conversation started where I was talking to the owner through a scout!!! In the end he said she could speak perfectly good English!!! So some strange goings on. The bar man staggers over and basically tells us its hamburger and chips, that is all they are serving... The advantageous Mr Bond asks for an Egg... In which reply the bar man exclaims "EGG!" obviously not in this bar Mr Bond!!! Alas this bar had some memorably around of a ski jumper and sure fire thing he had become this bar man who declined to cook eggs, maybe because he was too cooked to cook them.

Chamonix is just a wonderful place, the mountains, the vibe, the climbing... Apart from the tourists obviously, but these honey pots do draw them. Alas I've discovered it doesn't take a lot to get away from them... Just start walking to the Envers or Requin or abseil off the back of the Midi at silly o'clock in the morning - they soon disappear!!!

We chose the walk to the Requin and a climb on the Pierre Alain. I'd chosen a route before when I was in Chamonix in 2003 but never got chance to get up to do it. It's weird how as time goes on you choose different routes. So I'd chosen something to test myself on Jamais La Mer a 6c ED - which Johnboy had done and rated... My first ED in the Alps after only previously doing TD's, but with the confidence we'd do it. The crux pitch is a beautiful slabby section where there is just enough to keep you moving up the slab. You clip the bolt which has had some nice swings on and just keep padding. The movement of your feet is so intricate as you use all the granite you can spot. The route has some really contrasting pitches slabs, corners and cracks - just like granite should be. Johnboy and paps did Congo Star next to us (my original 2003 aim!!). Both parties summitted and it was one of those great days.

A walk down to the Envers after this success. My eye was drawn to 2 things: first Dracula (ED 6c) which I've heard rave reviews about during my previous trip and then Chloe (ED 6b+) which I'd just seen a picture of the 2nd pitch and thought I've got to climb that!!! We chose Chloe just because we did! Dracula is next on my list... But Chloe is a superb route this really does pack everything in - an exciting scramble down over the bergshrund. An amazing chimney on the 2nd pitch from which you can get so much joy! Slabby long reach moves on the 4 pitch - although for lanky Martin its easy. Then following the crack and corner system to the top is just awesome. The climbing is so varied yet so rewarding, the pitches are long as well. A real must do for granite connoisseurs.

Oh then add a run down to the valley... But you will have to ask me about that!!!

For the final day in Chamonix we'd decided to go on the South face of the Midi. I've been and done this before when I'd done the Rebuffat route. As 2 pairs we decided to abseil separately. By the 3rd abseil Martin and I had lost my paps and Johnboy - obviously there ropes had stuck somewhere!!!

Alas we'd chosen to La Dame Du Lac (ED 6b). Well we spent most of the day off route or climbing slippery pieces of rock. Martin led the first pitch which was rather nice actually, but worse was to come!!! I then got lost and went out far to right only to traverse back in and realise I was above the belay stance - a quick pendulum was in order!!! This was then followed by a running wet crack in a corner. The next pitch was probably the highlight, although Martin stumbled off route again!!! I proceeded to have the determination to continue on the original line so traversed back left in under a dripping wet overhang and then hauled myself out to the left of it and find some chains. Worse was to come when on the next pitch (I was totally lost by now) I dabbed my foot on some damp and made all the smears on a horrendous thin move all wet. I kept slipping and thinking this is bloody hard for 6b!!! Anyhow, the bolt came to my rescue and I managed to find my way to the next set of chains. I think we eventually finished on the original finish of the Rebuffat route. Shuttling down with all the tourists in the Midi lift realising we'd spent quite some time on the route!!!

What a contrast from 2 other great days we had in Chamonix. At the time some of them are not fun, but always it seems they are when you look back at them!!!