Zack Whitley in Chamonix • August 22 - 24, 2014

Zack Whitley visited the Alps for some alpine climbing instruction, to enhance his lifelong love of hiking and backpacking in the mountains. He spent three days with Kathy learning and practicing new skills.

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We began with ice climbing school on the Mer de Glace, preceded by the obligatory ladder approach.


A bit of a hike to get to the ice these days, but a lovely one.


The weather was perfect, sunny and mild. We hiked to a melt-water carved ice canyon where we found walls of varying steepness and length.


A good introduction to steep ice climbing, Zack's technique is good from the start.


We found a steeper wall above deep blue melt pools. What an impressive playground.


The next day we wanted to do some snow climbing and glacier travel work. We rode up to the Aiguille du Midi, and then across on the Panoramic to Point Helbronner on the Italian border. We caught glimpses of climbers descending the Aiguille du Midi ridge in the in-and-out mists.


The sun was shining on the higher peaks, but persistent clouds hid the glacier.


We did some snow climbing and self-arrest practice, before heading back across the Vallée Blanche. As we walked through the crevasse of the Géant glacier, the views were more mysterious than expansive.


Still, rather beautiful and impressive.


As we re-gained elevation below the Pointes Lachenal, we broke back out into bright sunshine.


It was still quite early, so we allowed ourselves to be tempted into a traverse of the "Arete Laurence", shown here, en route to a cup of coffee at the Cosmiques hut (on right).


Enjoying the play of cloud shadows on the glacier, as we begin our traverse.


Another party approaches as we climb higher.


Our goal (the hut) comes into view.


But that only means we've reached the harder and more exposed climbing. Zack keeps his eye on the next step.


Looking back at another party just beginning a tricky traverse.


After a break at the hut, we climbed the un-nerving snow ridge back to the lift station, in a freezing mist. What we can't see won't hurt us, right? Zack drawing a breath as the going gets easier again near the end. That's not premature grey, that's rime ice in his hair.


On our last day, we put it all together on a climb of the Petite Aiguille Verte. The weather looks perfect, but a freezing stiff breeze kept the crowds down (relatively speaking).


Snow and ice encrusted rock makes things spicy! But not a major obstacle.


The ice quickly melted from the rock wherever the sun touched it.


Chamonix far below.


Near the summit, a view down the steep north face and other climbers below.


On the narrow summit block, even two is a crowd. Zack poses for a photo before we beat a hasty retreat.


A long steep rappel on the descent, sped things along.


For Zack it's au revoir to Chamonix for now, but we hope to see him back in the Alps again.

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