Monday, 23 September 2013

Lightning Strikes

A good days bouldering today with Phil & Drew down at the cuttings, after climbing a fairly easy new line set by Ben stokes we headed to try Drew's project "Lightning Strikes" he came come close to sending it today but a picked up a slight finger injury so decided to call it, Phil had an awesome day sending Lightning Strikes V7, Relativity V6 and coming close to ticking the boulderfeilds classic Liqaud Sunshine, I can close to Relativity and had a little play on LS but didn't manage to get it, Il be back next weekend though for another play, a little more training and hopefully il get it ticked..

Drew on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Drew on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Phil on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Me on "relativity" V6

Phil Belcher


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lessons learnt

After a few months planning and hard training the Zmutt Matterhorn attempt was on this weekend, conditions seemed OK and fitness and morale of the team was good. It was an early start leaving Bournemouth at 2am on Thursday to get to Gatwick for the early flight to Geneva. I was going to meet my partner Matt for this climb there, we had spoken on the phone a few times and both had knowledge of each others abilities in the mountains but this was the first time we had met face to face. The flight over was good and we got to know about each others backgrounds a little. We arrived in Geneva safely and picked up the hire car, this being a tiny VW UP, not my ideal selection but good enough to carry out the task in hand, we made the 3hr drive to Tasch where we would set up camp for the weekend, on the drive in we received some info from a friend warning us of a snow storm coming in late Saturday, this was a big problem to us and needed to be thought about carefully, we talked about the possible other routes in the area, or even making a earlier attempt than first planned, we decided to continue and head into Zermatt to check the forecast and speak to the guides to check there thoughts on it and if things would improve. Both the weather charts and guides info concluded that we either needed to have a death wish or be insanely luckily to pull off an ascent of the ridge. We talked over a beer and looked through the guidebook, we contacted the Hornli hut to see what things were like on the mountain and there response was also that it can’t be climbed like this. After looking through the guidebook we decided to head up to the Breithorn and attempt the full ridge traverse of the mountain, this is only graded at AD but is quite long and made harder by no acclimatisation before hand.. We continued drinking and decided to head up first thing on the Friday morning. We set off from the Klein Matterhorn and made our way across the glacier to the base of the Roccia Nera face, we pushed up its slopes moving fairly quickly, all very straight forward and with the amount of snow we didn’t even need any front pointing, before long we reached the summit ridge which was pretty corniced up, we followed some older snow tracks and eventually reached the summit of Roccia Nera, after a few photos and refuel of food and drink we decided to push on and try make the full traverse, after a sustained snow arĂȘte we arrived at rock pinnacle, short sections of climbing see us reach its summit and the 2nd of the 4000 m summits, we pushed on, to get off the summit and on the ridge the other side required a couple of 20-25 metre abseils, after the second abseil the rope got jammed, after a long time trying the free it up we decided to cut the rope, we could have jumared back up the rope to sort it out but time was fading and we were both tired from altitude sickness. We also new we had a spare so we could tie into this, We continued across a very tricky section with big exposure, Matt started to take a turn for the worse feeling very unwell and struggling to see properly, is vision was blurring and he was experiencing allot of dizziness , we pushed on across the snow arĂȘte for a while longer before looking for an escape route, the slopes below were very steep and very crevassed, a fall into one would have been near impossible for the second to hold on and would have most certainly been the end,by this time Matt was feeling worse, I was also starting to feel unwell, with time fading and darkness approaching fast we made the decision to call Mountain rescue, this was a last option but we didn’t have any bivy gear and with a storm approaching our chances of survival were slim.. After around an hour we could see the chopper scouting the mountain, we made the signal and they moved in, they managed to lift us up one at a time on a cable, when the rescue chopper was above it was freezing the wind in which it generated was incredible, once in the chopper I seemed to take a turn for the worse, my head stared to feel like it was going to explode and lost and real knowledge of what was going on, I only remember few short sections of the rescue team checking my pressures and levels, they informed me I needed to go to hospital fast, we flew to Aosta in Italy, to be honest I didn't really remember much of it,it all happened pretty fast, we landed and they took tests again, by this time Matt seemed to have perked up where as I seemed to have got worse,we exited the chopper and I was advised to go to hospital. After a good few hours of tests, heart monitoring and a brain scan they decided I could leave. The problem was we now had a big problem on our hands, we were in Italy and our passports were safely in our car in Switzerland, after speaking to our insurance companies we were advised to make a trip to the embassy in Milan, however this wasn't open until Monday and would cost a fortune to have it open Sunday for us, we decided to try and chance it and persuaded a cab to take us back to Zermatt, 350 euros later we were back at our tent. We woke the next day and both felt fine, with a short weather window we decided to head up again and finish the rest of the traverse, other than slight headache we made good progress and completed the climb in good timing, the weather did then as predicted turn bad. With the weather bad Sunday we headed to a local rock area with a large overhanging wall, we spent most of the day working and making up new boulder problems..

Ive learnt allot this trip and how things can go from being good to bad in no time at all, There were mistakes made, lessons learnt but if the mountains were easy and didn't produce challenges for us we wouldn't want to climb them, other than this it was a good trip and we managed to get things climbed, Ive made a new friend and partner and we seem to climb well together, now to the drawing board to start planning the next trip...

Breithorn Travers

Climbers below on Glacier

Matt On the Summit of Breithorn

Me On the Summit of Breithorn

Matt On the Summit of Breithorn

On the Summit of Breithorn

Traversing the ridge

Much Needed Drink

Base Camp

Rest Day

Rest Day

High altitude tents not so good in the rain

Adventure is in us all...

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