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 and it quite obviously would be ill advised to climb under them and try to pass. 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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