Hilton Davies and Andy Court have been trying hard in very unusual Spring conditions in the European Alps.
The Alps had an exceptionally dry (little snow) winter and then it came in abundance in May and June. The Spring snow has been soft and uncompacted, and the big alpine objectives of the pair have been impossible, extremely difficult or very dangerous.
On the advice of the High Mountain Office in Chamonix they tried to climb the Whymper Couloir on the Aiguille Verte. After doing a very hard and big approach on snowshoes they retreated early in the Couloir due to super-soft snow conditions.
Next they went up on the Italian side and tried to climb the North Face of Tour Ronde. As they were about to enter the iced-up couloir that joins the lower and upper snowfields, a big avalanche came through. They had a very difficult descent out of the line of fire.
Then they caught a break. In fine weather they climbed the ultra-classic, high alpine rock climb the Rebuffat Route on the South Face of the Midi. Without tools they used their bare hands in the hanging snow patches.
Next they tried to climb the Chere Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul. They were forced to retreat from halfway up due to the ice being in bad condition. The pair scampered out up the easy but super classic Cosmiques Arete to catch the last cable car down the Aiguille du Midi.
With 10 days of rain and snow predicted, Hilton and Andy headed to Valle Del’Orco in Italy, where they climbed classic granite routes in the rain for two days, including the Crack of Desperation, which they found very easy.
Needing a break from bad weather. The guys drove to the Verdon Gorge for big wall limestone climbing.
On Day 1 they climbed the ultra-classic, 300m, 10 pitch sport route Serie Limite, on the advice of Verdon local and Boven regular, Alan Carne. Andy solidly onsighted the crux grade 24 Pitch 9.
Day 2 they climbed the ultra-ultra-classic Ula, a 300m, 10 pitch trad route that climbs the main wall via a 220m crack after three slab pitches. They reckon the route is incredible and is like Touch and Go/Roulette cruxes all the time for 300m. They had a tough middle of the night descent.
Day 3 was a rest day.
Day 4 they climbed a new 300m sport route where the gorge opens into Lac St Croix. Again Andy pulled off a fantastic onsight of the crux grade 24 Pitch 9.
There’s more to come, but Hilton reckons his days of big, hard approaches and big, hard climbs are seriously numbered. He reckons Andy has a big future.