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TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter
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LizDee


Mar 25, 2014, 9:28 AM
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TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter
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When the weather finally clears in Chamonix after a long two months of shredding powder and storm riding I am so stoked to get out in the mountains on my splitboard and ride some big lines. Usually with a forecast like we saw, high pressure for the foreseeable future, the snow stays good unless we get high winds or really rapid warming. Whelp, it stayed good for a couple days then it all went to shizah. Conditions were only getting worse, wind scoured, gray ice on the north faces and rotten or frozen snow on the south faces.

I had some friends in town who were trying to ride big lines in dicey conditions. Itís like when you have friends visiting and you feel pressure to show them a good time, like taking them to your favorite restaurant or bar or showing them a cool local historic landmark, except in Chamonix your friends are expecting you to show them a life changing, adrenaline filled day of riding steeps, experiencing what Cham is all about. Itís pressure to show them a massive line that could most likely kill you or them or everyone. Itís funny how in Chamonix people who visit have this tick list of lines they must ski within a given window in their time here.

For me, I like to ride big lines when theyíre in good to great condition when you can actually ride them in good style and enjoy the descent. I spend three months in Chamonix every year to give myself a big window for conditions to be right. Ideally, Iíd have five months here. I hate being scared shitless on top of a line, having to sink both tools in and scrape my way down a massive icy, you fall you die descent. For this reason I only really accomplish a couple big descents a season, but thatís ok with me. Iíd rather ride something in great condition, have fun and feel good about the way I rode it than to struggle my way down something just to tick it off the list. Thatís no fun and itís fucking dangerous. I feel thereís only a certain amount of times you can get away with these kinds of descents before something goes wrong, you hit some grey ice or a rock, you slip out and canít recover (because everyone knows there is no self-arresting in this terrain), you have a binding malfunction, a rock hits you in the head... whatever it is, and you fall to your death. I donít know, maybe Iím just not that good of a snowboarder or Iím just a pussy, but I value my life and I think others do too and I want to be snowboarding and climbing for a long time to come, like many of us say...

So, enough of my rant... Feeling the pressure to do something stupid in the mountains in poor conditions, Marq and I quickly vacated Cham and headed to the beach to climb some sunny splitter

We headed to Les Calanques, a national park bordering Marseilles with tons of epic sport climbing from single to multi-pitch to traverses right above the water. Itís absolute paradise, climber or not. Weíre still not sure if youíre allowed to bivy here but we did anyway. We watched the sun set from this vista atop Castelviel.

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07115_zps27d055e7.jpg.html]

That morning we rapped down the route, Le Muet Qui Rit a 4 pitch 6b climb. I rapped the final pitch and thought I was headed straight into the water. Had to saddlebag both ropes to keep them dry.
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07163_zps75827b68.jpg.html]

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07180_zps741bb3df.jpg.html]

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07185_zpsa0a94d1a.jpg.html]

Then off we went to watch another spectacular sunset from Cap Canaille, above the small fishing town, Cassis.

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07211_zpsbeefd872.jpg.html]

The next day we climbed Never mind the Bollocks, on Cap Canaille, 6 pitches, 6c. Cap Canaille is pretty special. Iíve never climbed rock like this anywhere else. Itís a mixture of bulbous conglomerate sandstone and super sticky, featured limestone right above the ocean!
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07238_zps9e6f0510.jpg.html]

#Gunshow

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07232_zps63dbf3a4.jpg.html]

Marq sending the 6c, overhanging pitch. It was pretty difficult since my leg and butt muscles havenít migrated north yet for the season.

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07240_zpsd64c1e64.jpg.html]

Me, leading the final, spectacular pitch, 6a+. After this we whetted ourselves in the ocean and sunbathed on the crowed beach in Cassis with groups of middle aged french women with their sunburnt tits out drinking wine, eating cheese, telling stories and laughing in the sun.
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07255_zpsb4ceb1e6.jpg.html]

Returning home to Chamonix my buddies from out of town were trying to pressure me into riding a icy, gnarly death line. With temps in the high 60ís and 70ís in Chamonix, to me, this is clearly climbing weather and with a taste of my first sunny rock for the season, this was an easy call to make. Dave Searle and I headed up the Argentiere Basin to climb Versant Satanique on the Minaret.

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/url-1_zps231054b7.jpeg.html]

[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07301_zps7b8247bc.jpg.html]

Weíre so happy! Look thereís even a rainbow!
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07322_zps9841a2a7.jpg.html]

Dave sending the 4th pitch, the awesome dihedral pitch. Super sticky, beautifully orange, sparkly granite cracks waiting to be penetrated.
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07302_zps5a3e787d.jpg.html]

Dave giving me an attentive belay on the fifth pitch, super splitter off-width which finished in a beautiful, steep and pretty difficult 6b+ hand crack. I got Elvis leg bad.
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07307_zps17324c9a.jpg.html]

As we finished the 5th pitch we talked about who was going to lead the final 6c crux pitch. We were scared. Just as I had decided to send it (I swear!) I checked the time. It was after 5pm and the sun was going off the route... SHIT! There was no time. We decided to bail, but Iíll definitely come back to finish the route, the final pitch looked of the highest quality splitter imaginable.
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07320_zps974e5dd1.jpg.html]

Then we rode down some refrozen mank which was difficult, by the time we made it to the Grandes Montets pistes half of them had been groomed and we shredded fresh roy then tit high slushy mogís down to the parking lot. Epic day and stoked to make the most out of terrible skiing conditions in the Alps right now. I almost donít want the snow to come back!
[URL=http://s1124.photobucket.com/user/lizdee/media/DSC07325_zps4c74c489.jpg.html]


sonso45


Mar 26, 2014, 10:04 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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I've only climbed there once and I would love to return after reading this. Way to go. Nice photos and a great TR!


dagibbs


Mar 27, 2014, 8:38 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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Sounds awesome!


satch


May 6, 2014, 9:49 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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Another beautiful trip report. Thanks LizDee. Are the routes around the Versant Satanique on the Minaret in an English-version guidebook?

We planned a climbing trip to Cham just yesterday - best use of frequent flyer miles ever. After reading your report, it's going to be hard to wait.


LizDee


May 6, 2014, 9:52 AM
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Re: [satch] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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Hey Satch! It has to be in one of the guidebooks in the main bookstore in the center of town. I mostly use camptocamp.org Have fun! Wish I was still thre!


satch


May 6, 2014, 10:19 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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Found it. Excellent resource. Thanks LizDee.

Do you know Roger Fleming at Guide Source?


LizDee


May 6, 2014, 11:02 AM
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Yes, I do know Roger. I used to work for him, great guy. I'd also recommend Danny Uhlmann at First Light Mountain Guides.


satch


May 6, 2014, 11:13 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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Right. Roger is from Nashville, so we go back a long ways. Thought you might know him. We usually hire him for ice/mixed routes. Safer and we don't have to transport all that gear.

We plan to do some alpine rock routes out of the Envers and Cosmiques huts. Will certainly add the Argentiere hut to the list now, thanks to your report.

Keep 'em coming. You're writing the best TRs on Chamonix. Regardless of what others say, they are cray cray!


winabago


May 9, 2014, 1:48 AM
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Re: [LizDee] TR: Beaches to Alpine: Les Calanques to Chamonix Splitter [In reply to]
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I have already back from Les Calanques. It's a nice place for climbing. However, the time when I climbed was a bit windy so we did not climb much. With your encouraging photos, I would like to go back again!
Thanks for sharing!
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