Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Solo on Dolent

Mont Dolent at left. Its summit is the triple border between France, Italy, and Switzerland. I soloed the Left Gully Variations (AI4+) to the top of the large snowfield.

The left of the three corner systems.
While Erik and John were busy on Les Droites, I figured I would use the good weather to solo an ice route in the upper Argentiere. I planned to try the 1200ft Little Viking (AI4), but when I arrived there were already 3 parties en-route. This would mean more falling debris than I could deal with, since, when youre alone, you can deal with essentially none.
I tried to be flexible, since I was in a cirque with literally hundreds of climbs and ski descents. My next go-to was the Left Gulley Variations (AI4+, 1500ft) on Mont Dolent. This is probably the most fun I've ever had soloing: conditions were perfect, and I was confidently pulling through vertical sections on one-swing sticks, all in ski boots. 

The sunny weather was following a minor storm, so the spindrift was intense for a few hours in the morning. Quickly realizing it wouldn't knock me off my tools, I learned to pause and look down, keeping the hood up. A party started up the route behind me, pitching the whole thing out. I pulled out of the crux pitches and into easier terrain, finishing my climb on a large snowfield. I could have traversed left on 45 degree snow to reach the ridge bordering Switzerland, but instead I opted to descend with the warming afternoon temps, which might bring more than just spindrift.

On the way down I used a 60m length of 5.5mm tech cord that Colin Haley gave me. With a combination of rappells and lots of downclimbing, I made it back to the base and jumped over the bergschrund. A few nice powder turns took me back down the Argentiere and into the valley.

Backing up a bad in-situ v-thread with my own. Tech cord works well, especially when all the pulls are on ice.

The party behind me bailed, maybe I was showering them with too much snow/ice or maybe they didnt like the spindrift. I was surprised to booty an ice screw while soloing. doesnt happen much.
 This was the last good weather we had: a wet Foehn wind set in hard and in the last 10 days the powder was stripped away, visibility was low every day, 120km winds strafed ridges, and a layer of red dust from the Sahara coated everything. 
looking back up the route after rappelling

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