What do Kathy and Mark do when they are not guiding? • Summer, 2006

OK, perhaps you don't really care, and I certainly don't blame you if you want to skip this whole page. But maybe you don't mind humoring us a bit, or are feeling a tad voyeuristic.

This page includes a bunch of photos from various adventures from the summer of 2006, none of which were guiding. We went to the Chamonix Saturday market, spent time with friends, and even went climbing a time or two.

Other Recent Trips

We'll start with something truly important, food. Every Saturday morning Chamonix gets filled with vendors of all sorts of things, the most beautiful of which are often the fruits and vegetables. Look at those artichokes!


Lots of strawberries for everyone.


Early in the summer we had a day off–drizzly in the Chamonix valley but, as is often the case, sunny in Italy. So, through the tunnel, past Aosta and up through the vineyards to Arnad Bard (more or less).

Here, Kathy starts up the first pitch of Dr. Jimmy.


Looking down Dr. Jimmy. This is a fun route, generally easy with some very nice rock.


In the last couple years, we have blocked out a few days in the middle of the season with the hope of enjoying a climb or two of our own. In 2005, our time off coincided with about 5 days of solid rain, and we spent much of it driving around the Alps looking for the driest weather. (In the end we never were able to escape it.)

This summer, however, things were looking a bit better. The forecast called for some afternoon buildup and a possibility of late afternoon showers or thunderstorms. We have always wanted to try the Walker Spur, and decided to go have a look. The hut keeper said the route was perhaps still a bit snowy, but probably doable.

We decided to catch an early Montenvers train and climb the lower part of the Spur, bivy then try to get up and over the following day. Here, Kathy hikes up the Mer de Glace on the approach.


This is the rightward just traverse after the Rebuffat Crack. My hat is off to Gaston. The pitch bearing his name is quite hard, a bit devious and on great rock, the best we encountered.

You can see the clouds building behind.


We continued up for a ways, starting up the first couple pitches of the 75-meter dihedral. But there are precious few bivy ledges, and, unfortunately, we were catching up with another party. Building gray clouds suggested that we would be better off finding a spot to sleep before too long lest we get stuck mid-pitch in a downpour.

We fixed one of our two ropes in the dihedral and rappelled down to this roomy ledge. The weather was looking worse than forecast. No sooner had we laid out our meager bivy kit, it would start raining and we would have to partly pack up, stand up and huddle under our Ortovox sack. It would stop, we would lie down again, start and we would stand up, and on and on. It got rather tedious.

We decided we had better call our friend Howie in Chamonix and see what France Meteo was prognosticating for the following day. (How odd is is to make phone calls from a high alpine wall.) The news was not encouraging–good in the morning, but stormy in the afternoon, somewhat worse tomorrow than today. Fearing getting stuck on a hard pitch just shy of the summit, we decided not to risk it and to go down the following morning. In spitting rain, I prussiked back up the fixed rope, cleaned the gear, and rappelled down to our ledge.

In this photo, Kathy checks out the route description just before the first rain starts. Our cozy bivy ledge.


And the next morning was indeed good. Here, Kathy finishes one of the many rappels on the descent.


Looking back up at the Spur on our descent. It is always hard to make these retreat decisions. So long as the weather stays good, one has a tendency to second-guess choices, and for much of our walk down the glacier we wondered...

But that afternoon, safe and sound down in the valley, the storms did arrive, engulfing the summits, and by about 2 or 3 pm brought rain and lightening to the high peaks. Who knows if we would have been fast enough to get up and over before it hit? In the end, I think it would have been a gamble I would prefer to avoid. We'll be back.


The Office de Haute Montagne, Chamonix.


On evening, driving back to Les Houches from Chamonix the sunset on the peaks was too beautiful to miss. This photo was taken from Les Gaillands.


The same sunset as above.


We had heard for years that climbing from the Wiwanni hut was not to be missed. With an extra day on our hands, and conveniently returning from Zermatt to France, we decided to check it out. It is a bit of an outing to hike up, do a route, and walk back down again in one day, but the weather was perfect and, well, so what!

Wiwannihorn is the peak and the sign points to the hut, almost on the skyline.


Guardian goats of the Wiwanni. The Rhone valley below.


The Wiwannihorn and hut. Rumor had it that the route to do was the Steinadlerroute, one of the longest on the peak, but not too hard.


Here, Kathy climbs perhaps the best pitch on the route. Unfortunately, the next pitch has quite recently increased in difficulty significantly, as a large piece of it fell off. Lucky for us, new bolts had just been placed (we could still see the little piles of rock dust from their drilling) to protect the "new" section, which goes at about 5c or 6a. It is too bad, as this more difficult bit disrupts the homogeneity of the previous version of the climb.


On the easy final summit ridge, very scenic.


Hiking down in the afternoon. Behind is the Michabel group between the Mattertal on the right and the Saastal on the left.


Spending the day in Annecy with our friends Heather, Ramsay and Jasper.


Kathy (looking skeptical) and Ramsay.




Our search for something new and different occasionally takes us into the Aravis. Here, we visit for the first time a fine climbing area called La Rosiere. Fun, nicely bolted limestone slabs.


The last pitch of Solstice d'Èté.


And another new area for us, the Pilier de Boderan. This route we did with our friend Ramsay. The climb more or less follows the buttress facing us in about five pitches.


Ramsay climbing on one of the middle pitches.


Hiking down from the Borderan, Mont Blanc in the background.


On the descent from the Borderan.


And another adventure, this one in Switzerland. On our way to IKEA (shopping for a new armoire) we stopped in Yvorne for a bit of sport climbing.

The climbing itself was not so photogenic, but the vineyards and the town certainly were. "Do you mind if I stop to get a couple photos?"


Vineyards near Yvorne.


We had made a date with our friends Jasper (in the buggy), Ramsay (pulling it) and Heather (out front). What to do? Kathy had a great idea of riding bikes up the Val Ferret, just on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.


Mark experiments with the macro functions of his camera.


Larch needles turning golden in the autumn weather.


Larch and granite.


On a day off Kathy hiked up to La Jonction, the prow of rock that splits the Glacier de Bossons and the Glacier de Taconnaz on the north side of Mont Blanc.


Looking up the Bossons Glacier towards Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit.


And on another day off, Kathy takes another solo hike, this one on the other side of the valley, up to the Tête de Bel Lachat. Here, we are looking across the valley to the Chamonix Aiguilles.


Meadows near the Col de Bel Lachat.


And more views across to Mont Blanc and the Bossons and Taconnaz glaciers.


Back down in the woods below the Aiguillette des Houches.

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