Waiting in line at the incredibly promising looking start of the Frison-Roche
The first pitch had a briefly tricky slab, I lunged and over-extended through it in a display of dangling incompetence, then easier terrain led to a belay below the crux 6a(+) pitch. Every team I saw in front of us dogged it rather spectacularly, so I was somewhat apprehensive approaching what, from our stance, looked like a blank wall with bolts randomly drilled into it. But imagine my delight when I rounded a rib to find a proper hand-jamming corner crack awaiting me. I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck right in.
It was awesome climbing. Bridging, arm wedging, a fingerlock, laybacking, everything you could possibly want. I climbed quickly and soon found myself at the anchor and bringing Staples up. He led through a pitch of scrambling to the base of a perfect open book corner that led to the summit of the mountain. Once more the climbing was spectacular, delicate and sustained, with a proper foot smearing layback sequence at the crux. A guy in front managed to lob off and there was blood everywhere, but a bit of claret just added to the atmosphere. Visibility had dropped, it was now snowing, and I was panicking we'd wasted so much time queuing we'd miss the last bin. Still, fantastic route. We legged it back to Planpraz with 20mins or so to spare.
Somewhere near the top of Le Brevent
After that we rested and sorted all the gear out, got hammered on Staples' last night, then saw him off in a fog of hungover self pity. For an alpine first-timer he'd done amazingly well. Cam and I didn't expect to stay much longer, but I still wanted to get into the mountains one last time. So on a cloudy but dry morning I got the bin up to the Midi and stomped across the Vallee Blanche towards the three summits of Pointes Lachenal. A route traversed them at about AD standard, one scrambly bit up a chimney to the last peak, and feeling good I jollied across in an hour or so.
Warmed up and confident, I walked over to the start of the Cosmiques Ridge of the Midi. It was harder than Pointes Lachenal and I felt somewhat apprehensive - but I knew I'd be annoyed with myself if I pussied out, so on I went, spinelessly giving in to my own peer pressure...
The Cosmiques Arete is the obvious left-hand ridge
The first half was piss easy, then I got stuck behind a slow guided party on a section that required abseiling. I waited, helped out when I could, then nipped past them at the base of the second abseil. From there on I managed to overtake everyone else no worries. The climbing was straightforward snow and mixed, occasional steps over blocks, but I knew the crux was waiting for me.
It was a steep slab with a flaky crack down the middle, and it might've been quite tough if someone hadn't drilled a series of perfect frontpoint slots all the way up it. I teetered my way up in seconds, vaguely amused by the whole thing. Finally the route swung round onto the north side of the peak, onto more exposed terrain above a disconcerting void, traversing narrow ledges past a short chimney that was the last real obstacle. A quick shimmy onto the crest of the ridge and I reached a wobbly ladder leading up to a viewing platform full of gawking tourists.
Aware of just how awesome I (probably) looked, I gibbered up the rickety bloody thing with all the nonchalance I could muster, saying something witty and understated like 'That was worse than the damn climb!" as I swung over the railing to the platform. Both routes combined had taken me a little over 3 hours. I suddenly saw an unnerving potential in my alpine soloing prospects, but that will be for another time. I made my way back down to Chamonix and told Cam I was happy to leave as soon as we could get ready. His accident aside it had been a fantastic and hugely successful trip.