I’m just back from three weeks in climbing in the Alps. The first two weeks the weather was pretty stable, the last week bad weather hit the mountains so we escaped to the Calanque just near Marseille for sunny sport climbing next to the Mediterranean.
The highlights of the trip were the South Face of the Amedeo, the North Face of the Piz Palu, and the North-East face of Piz Bernina, as well as several brilliant rock climbs in the Mello Valley.
The South Face of the Amedeo is a 400m high VIII+ and I climbed it on my birthday, a great present! Unfortunately the first crux pitch was wet so we ended up using several points of aid, and used a couple more higher up. The face itself overhangs the whole way but the route followed a series of chimneys and corners meaning the climbing was reasonable straightforward and not actually too steep. At half height there is a large band of overhangs which once climbed made retreat from the route almost impossible, so it felt quite committing. We reached the top in about 10 hours which we felt was rather slow but were please to have climbed such a high quality route.
The North Face of Piz Palu and the North East Face of the Piz Bernina were of a quite different style – being icy mixed climbs. We climbed the Central spur on the North Face of Piz Palu it was 750m long and took us 15 hours from our snowhole. The first third of the route was a pretty straightforward snow slope with one ice pitch through a Serac; the second third was the meat of the route involving climbing up to about Scottish IV and quite snowy HS/VS type climbing. The top of the route is capped by a large Serac which is outflanked by a quite intricate traverse around leading to the summit snow slope. The descent seemed to go on for ever, and was slightly confusing as it was a white out by this point. We climbed the North East face on the Piz Bernina a couple of days later. The Piz Bernina is the highest mountain in the central Alps and the North East face is pretty much the biggest face (1200m) in the central Alps; however the climbing on it is pretty straight forward, and we simlu climbed the whole route. The main difficulty was just keeping going for the 14 hour round trip. Altogether it was a great trip.