Friday, 4 September 2009

A Tiny Alpine Epic

During the Alpine Raid trip myself, Julian and Nick decided to attempt the midi plan traverse. We managed to book ourselves into the cosmiques hut for the night so we could get an early start the following morning.

Once all packed and ready to go we left the camp site in Chamonix to catch the last cable car up to the midi station. There were not many people on the lift as most people were coming down at this point. The weather wasn't looking to good and it wasn't long before we were in complete whiteout conditions with the cable car blowing all over the place. We finally arrived at the midi station where is was now very cold with lots of fresh snow being blown around. At this point I was a little concerned as I knew how bad the Auguille de Midi ridge could be with fresh snow sitting on top.

After little discussion we decided to just go for it as we knew the journey around to the Hut wasn't that far and would only take around an hour. after getting ourselves geared up we made our way out of the ice tunnel into the unknown.

We decided that Nick Should lead because he was the lightest and if for some reason the ground was unstable and he did fall we would be able to hold him.
Descending this ridge is bad on a good day but we were finding it quite hard today, We were in complete whiteout and the snow was very powdery causing our crampons to not bite as well as they should do, I also had a problem with my Glasses steaming up but I was unable to take them off due to all the spindrift flying around. Around halfway down the Ridge All of a sudden I heard a loud cracking noise, My first thoughts were that the ridge was collapsing and I was about to be taken down the mountain in an avalanche, I stood still waiting for it, and nothing, I looked down at Nick in front of me and noticed he was crouching down, I could still here the cracking noise and it seemed to be coming from his direction, I walked down to him and noticed to my amazement that he was getting some sort of charge through the ridge and up through his ice axe and the cracking noise was him, He couldn't let go of his axe and seemed to be shaking a little, finally he managed to let go of his ice axe then "bang" a loud roar of thunder and lightning. he turned towards us and shouted"Run". I didn't need asking twice and started to run,scrape and drag myself back up the ridge, I could barely breathe and the altitude was killing me, I was pulling on the rope from Julian to get him to pull me a little but he was just as out of breath has me, I stopped for a matter of seconds to catch a breath, then nick was shouting behind me"don't stop..just run", eventually we made it back up to the top of the midi station and into the snow cave. after getting our breath back we were quite shocked at what had just happened, We decided that maybe we should'nt head round to the hut and maybe we should wait until the morning. We have been back up since and managed to do our intended climb, we have also given Nick a new nickname of "Buzz".

A message to all " stay off the ridges in a thunder storm"

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Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are
naught without prudence, and that a momentary negliance may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; Look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end