Alpine introduction of good friends in scottish winter conditions

First weekend in September our good old friends was visiting our Chamonix hood. The weather decided to go very bad during their visit with heavy rain in the valley and scottish winter conditions high up.

The guys were very eager to try out real alpine experience – get on harness and crampons and all the cool alpine gear.

Worsening weather

We went out a day where the weather forecast was fair – not too good but fair, so we went down the Midi Ridge to Col Midi.  . For the ones not familiar to the place, just going down the Midi ridge have often resulted in that grown up men have been shitting their pants due to the extreme exposure on the narrow ridge. Our two rookies did the ridge in great style.

We started out in fair weather and soon we found our selves in total white out and zero visibility on our way to Pointe Lachenal.

At  a point I decided to go on the Laurence ridge to have a landmark to follow back to the Cosmique hut. Getting to the ridge showed to be tricky as the hot summer had opened huge crevasses at the bergschrund. We managed to get on the ridge where path finding was difficult due to new, lose snow on the rocks covering  hand holds and the crampon scratches to follow.

Eventually, we got to the hut via a few de-tours and had a well deserved lunch.

The weather was further detoriating and all tracks were covered within few minutes making our way back to the Midi ridge slow and difficult. Normally, it´s just a short stroll along the Cosmique ridge, but in the complete white-out finding the way was a mess.

Here we got a lesson on mountaineering essential No 1 – Navigation !

I have been up and down the Midi ridge soo many times, but on our way down I did not start my GPS until far below the ridge to redo roping. No problem to find the way on our descent. On the return the the new snow did cover the tricky passage of the last bergschrund towards the ridge and lack of visibility did not reveal any other safe passage.

Bottomless abyss

A long de-route forced us into a heavily cravassed area towards the Mer du Glace and Aiguille du Plan traverse with thin snow bridges and large bottomless abysses.The others looked at me and asked: do you know the way back ? – and i said: uh, year, sort of (meaning: not really, but we will find it).

Finally, we got back up the ridge finding the steel door into the Midi station shut, clearly indicating that the top station was closing down. Running like …. with crampons on and still roped up we just managed to crash the cue for the very last lift down 2 minutes later. For you not to make same mistake remember to apply mountaineering essential rules and start your GPS first thing for track back when going out in unstable weather – even in known territory.

although quite tough conditions we had a great day out and I am sure the “war” stories get better over time.

Proud to share such moments with my tough friends not complaining or whining when it got real rough….


Key take aways

  • If the weather forecast says it will get worse – it will get worse !
  • Start your GPS tracking at start – so you can trackback safely.
  • Take off your crampons inside Midi station – or accept the scolding

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