Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mary Poppins: Solo attempt

Yes, I tried to solo a route called Mary Poppins. Yes, I failed. And yes, this is hilarious.
Mary Poppins is an AI4 serac route in between the Col du Plan and the Aguille Du Midi. I was originally hoping to solo Fil a Plomb, but another party beat me to it. With the wind slab problem from the past night I decided to do a quick lap up and down a simple ice route. I had a rope and a screw to v-thread with.
The Aguille Du Midi from Brevent.
plan du l'aguille

 Soloing is normally the best way to minimize exposure on something like a serac, but electing to descend the same way, while usually quicker than climbing, sortof defeats the purpose.
The ice of the serac had a beautiful wood-grain texture.

I ended up soloing through some 80+ degree sections of neve in a nice runnel leading up to the left edge of the serac. It was very cold, and I was moving quickly but still wearing nearly all my clothes. I felt confident in the sticky, aerated ice, pulling through a thin, vert section on shallow but carefully tested placements. At this point I had climbed something like 3 pitches. The climbing got easier next to the serac, allowing me to relax as the difficulty let off and I reached a point mostly out of the way of the calving hazard.

I climbed an increasingly steep snow pitch, getting very wet. I tunneled in for security, something I wouldn't have done as aggressively had I not been unroped. This got me soaked. At the top of the snow bulge I pulled into a small ice cave. All around me was a strange, broken series of ice roofs. I pulled off my wet shell and put on a down jacket.  I didnt want to solo brittle, overhanging serac ice in my shivering state, even if it was only 15 or so feet of hard climbing. Not spotting an easier way, I decided to start descending on v-threads. 

nice patterns on the serac.

Mary poppins climbs the left edge of the serac, while Fil a plomb follows ice smears on the left wall.
The serac made some groaning sounds as I was rapping down. I nearly shat my pants.  I did some downclimbing in the easier sections, which may have been faster.

The broken ice roof where I turned around.
rappeling from the cave.
This was the first V-thread, which I dug inside a strange cave under the ice roof.

An older wind-slab avelanche scar on the way down.

saw some crazy scando mo-fos who built snowlerblade approach skis. Its been joked about many a time by climbers and skiers alike, but I never thought I'd see it.  I guess its fitting that I saw it here.

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