Well, my first summer climbing season in France is in full swing, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m injured again. For once, it’s not a finger pulley injury but rather elbow tendonitis, which developed due to too much climbing this spring and early summer despite the fact that I had been actively working the opposition muscles to prevent it. Then it seemed to get worse after I crashed my bicycle and landed hard on my elbow and shoulder. So once again I am relegated to easier climbing terrain as part of my active recovery regimen. And while if I had my choice I’d be at Ceuse pulling on steep pockets and tiny crimpers, I’m stoked to bag some alpine peaks in my backyard in the Ecrins and around Chamonix!
This past weekend Eric and I drove about an hour out of the city up into the Ecrins Massif, and then hiked for about 2.5 hours up a beautiful glacial valley full of streams, wildflowers, and raspberries to reach the Refuge du Soreiller at the foot of the Aiguille Dibona. Refuges like the Soreiller that are peppered across the Alps add a ton of convenience to high mountain climbing. You don’t have to choose between 1) hauling up tons of extra food & camping gear and 2) climbing right after an exhausting hike then having to hike back down after an exhausting climb – you just carry up a silkweight sleeping sac and they provide bunks, blankets, and meals!
The Aiguille is a badass-looking rock formation, and as soon as I saw a photo of it, I knew I wanted to climb it. I had no idea that it was perfect quality, tight-grained granite to boot! We choose a route in the 6a (5.10-) range called Visite Obligitoire (with a name like that, why would we choose anything else?), and due to its popularity, awoke around 5am the next morning to try to be first one on the route. We succeeded, but after we got about one pitch up we could see another party starting below us and then a second queuing up. So, we climbed pretty much as fast as possible all day through 12 pitches of great climbing on techy slabs, steep corners, and even one amazing pitch of continuous overhanging juggy flakes! As you can see in photos, the formation really narrows at the top, and the last two pitches are basically a knifeblade arête.
What a climb! Back at home the next day, as the soreness in my quads from the hiking was starting to fade, I started searching the guidebooks to find our next alpine adventure!