WRITTEN by CHRIS & ANNE ENSOLL
Thank you, Enid Blyton, for the inspiration for our title.
This year I rounded of my short Alpine guiding season with something different. My brother Rich (university lecturer and Winter Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor) travelled out to Chamonix with his son Ben and our son Sam for a short week of Alpine adventures.
Day One: Sunday 21st July
We started with a rest day to allow the travellers to recover from the long drive out.
Day Two: Monday 22nd July
We got up early to avoid the afternoon heat and took the train to Montenvers. We followed the ladders down to the Mer de Glace - it is the largest glacier in France, but it is retreating at an alarming rate. We walked around on the ice and practised using crampons and placing ice screws - a gentle intro to the high mountains with very dramatic scenery all around.
Day Three: Tuesday 23rd July
Again the forecast was for a hot afternoon, so we got up early to catch the first lift on the Aiguille du Midi cable car, to take us up to 3842m. We came out of the cable car station on to the very exposed ridge which we followed down to the top of the Vallee Blanche. We walked across to Pointe Lachenal (named after climber/mountain guide Louis Lachenal who died after skiing into a crevasse). We put our crampon skills into practice, going up to the col half way along to avoid rock fall from the central summit. The col led us to a gulley in two short pitches, and from there we scrambled to the top - a great summit with a dramatic position. We retraced our steps back up to the cable car station, and descended to the valley for an afternoon siesta.
Day Four: Wednesday 24th July
Another early start paid off, giving us the Arête des Cosmiques all to ourselves. This excellent if short route is often busy as it is so accessible from the Aiguille du Midi cable car, but we enjoyed the great rock scenery and fantastic views in solitude. A snowy start flowed into a rocky scramble, which was followed by abseils and more rock scrambling with a few tricky moves, finishing by climbing on to the viewing platform at the cable car station.
Day Five: Thursday 26th July
There was a storm forecast in the afternoon, so we went to Barberine for some cragging. The guide book says, ‘Welcome to the world of planet friction.’ It’s a perfect place to practice the theory of slab climbing: find something small, pretend it’s big, and stand on it. Barberine has everything - a beautiful little mountain village, perfect rock, hot sun, and a mountain stream for a dip to cool off.
Days Six & Seven: Friday 27th & Saturday 28th July
Rich and Ben travelled to join the rest of their family elsewhere in France, and Sam & I drove to Calais for the ferry, and then up to the Lake District after a night in the van at Canterbury.