From the Cairn Ban Archives...
Billy's Romp in the Swiss Alps
Brian Fish, 15 June 2005
We started off rock climbing in Leysin on the stunning limestone tors (2300m approx), with a local practising the (alpen?)horn and yodelling - fantastic.
Second day we headed around to Moiry Glacier and did some brief ice climbing and glacier rope work. Stayed up at the Moiry Hut approx 2800m, great accommodation, dinner, breakfast and wine! Two early 6am starts included.
The first climb was Pigne de la Lé (3396m), rocky ridge up to a stunning view over to the Matterhorn among others. We descended and did some work on digging snow belays with the ice etc - pretty tough going in glorious weather.
The next day we traverse a bigger portion of the glacier and ascended the Pointes de Mourti (3563m). A superb small top looking over to Dent Blanche which has got to be a future target, absolutely stunning with near perfect north, west and east pointing ridges. We then made a quick descent down to the hut and travelled around to the Saas valley staying in fantastic accommodation in Saas Grund before we headed up to the Saashous hut at 3200m.
The afternoon was spent practising some crevasse rescues, i.e. dangling in a crevasse whilst the guy at the other end of the rope tries to make a snow belay under huge pressure. The aim was to see if the person in the crevasse could attach prussiks and climb out quicker than the guy making the belay. I kinda made it hard when the snow bridge below me gave way and I fell about 5m into the crevasse... pretty surreal place to be... cold and all you can hear is the snow and ice melting: helpful when I think I could see the bottom!
The following morning a 4.45 am start was made to head over the still frozen snow bridges/glacier to the foot of the Weissmies (4023m). We made the ascent in great solid snow and ice conditions to reach the summit at approx 7.30 am... I did have a few moments to think back to you guys travelling/awaking for work as I stared out over Italy, stunning scenery and beyond... an amazing sight, photos never do it justice and I know I’ll long for a view/experience like that everyday!!
A tremendous introduction to the Alps and the course (holiday) has provided me with some valuable tools (ropework for ridge, glacier travel, early starts, sensible acclimatisation etc) to make more 4000m peak ascents possible without the need of the guides. The guides did after all say that that was the main point of the instruction – to make the ascent of our 4000 m peak.
A great group of guys on the course and good contacts for any future trips, although there was (as there always is) one who had ‘been ice/rock climbing for 15 years all over Scotland’, he had no head for heights on the rock, arsed up my prussik knot as he reckoned I tied it wrong... I then started to slip down the rope... feckin’ about with my original knot which was right in the first place - a very quick way to lose any trust straight away. He also took a tumble on the abseiling and could not climb on the ice at all. Trembled on the ice with the crampons on... a pain in the arse... the rest of us all realised this along with the guides! A well read boffin who built himself up so much on the first night only to fall down all week... tosser!
An incredible trip and great experience... will be back very soon... who else????
Billy the Fish.