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Pyramide Raiders

Pyramide Raiders

journal
Mark Thomas
October 2017 | Read
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Over the Easter period Mark Thomas – accompanied variously by Dave Almond, Si Frost and Tom Coney – has achieved two first ascents on Mt Blanc’s Pyramide Du Tacul.  Both routes, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Resurrection’ have been given proposed Scottish grades of VII,7.

ECLIPSE

Dave Almond and Simon Frost are in town.  I’ve got a day off work, the weather forecast is kinda ok and we hatch a quick plan. The Pyramide Du Tacul, North East face.

It’s the usual Midi circus at 7.30am as we’re herded into the bin along with all the other commuters, all of whom with an individual adventure in mind, some with the same adventure in mind, some focused on being the first to have that particular adventure, before the person next to them. It’s a funny atmosphere, of excitement and of competitiveness.

No one seems to want an adventure on the Pyramide Du Tacul today, woop, woop!

With the easiest approach in the world, five minutes downhill skiing and with 300m of totally amazing mixed climbing, the climbing on this north east facing wall makes for a very cool day out.

After the initial levitation over a rather fragile rimaye, the first sequence of corners offer cracks, with dimples for feet.  Moving left to an open ramp and up to a headwall on pitch three, the steep cracks on the right feel airy and out there.  Move up the continuing groove and onto the snowy ramp.  Pitch four follows this snow ramp left then heads straight up and through an off width bulge which leads to a snowy gully and the final corner pitch, up and through the window above.  Awesome!

We ski our way back down to Cham in the dark.  It’s moments like these with my friends in the mountains that define why I climb. Totally magical!

Pitch 1- Scottish Grade 6, 40m.

Pitch 2- Scottish Grade 5, 60m

Pitch 3- Scottish Grade 7, 50m

Pitch 4- Scottish Grade 6, 60m

Pitch 5- Scottish Grade 3, 60m

Pitch 6- Scottish Grade 6, 30m

RESURRECTION

It’s Easter weekend, the weather has given us an 8 hour window of opportunity, the Midi lift is delayed in opening, but the skies are blue.  Tom Coney and I race down to the base of the Pyramide Du Tacul, for another possible 1st ascent. All around the slopes are loaded with all the snow of the past week, but access to the Pyramide is relatively safe and straightforward.  I spied the line a couple of weeks ago when climbing ‘Eclipse’ with Dave Almond and Si Frost and it looks mega!

Tom gets on the 1st pitch; nice polystyrene ice followed by a tricky corner and up to the base of the main corner.  I take over on pitch 2, totally amazing, steady M4 climbing for 60 metres, a beautiful pitch.  I continue up pitch 3, the first 20 metres requiring a somewhat bold approach! Then up an amazing hanging ice groove, before pulling over an airy roof, just as the clouds begin to boil over from the south.

Soon, we are engulfed in what can only be described as quite ‘Scottish’ conditions! The snow and spindrift avalanches add to the difficulties of the route, whilst we pull up into yet another classic mixed corner.  The cracks are choked with ice and it’s a real pleasure to turn and torque the axes, whilst all around us is a whirling confusion of whiteness.

Our route ‘Resurrection’, a combination of beautiful steady climbing and, in places, a steady approach.  The line takes a direct path up the centre of the North East face, a really ‘nice’ route!

At the base of the wall, we fumble our kit together and make the long skin back up to the Midi station in total white out. Two hours of trail breaking later, we stumble into the ice tunnel as darkness falls all around us, with a warm feeling of success, against the odds.

Pitch 1 – 40m, M4+, Scottish 5. Follow the polystyrene gully to a short, pumpy corner, climb this and the corner on the right above to a spike belay on the left of the next groove.

Pitch 2 – 60m, M4+, Scottish 5. Follow the groove and corners above drifting right at the top beneath the overhangs, to arrive at a huge spike belay, awesome!

Pitch 3 – 60m, M6+, Scottish 7. Climb the sweeping, thin, icy crack on the right of the steep slab above. Enter the icy corner and climb the roof above, then the icy cracks above to arrive at a polystyrene snow patch on the right (belay) – a totally absorbing pitch!

Pitch 4 – 30m, M3, Scottish 4. Climb the icy crack above and onto the snowy slab, beneath the obvious corner above, capped by a huge protruding, square block.

Pitch 5 – 60m, M4, Scottish 5. Climb the corner and belay above the block.

Pitch 6  - 50m. Climb the corner and snow ramp above to join the final pitch of ‘Eclipse’.

Pitch 7 – 30m, M5, Scottish 6. Climb the groove above towards the window as for ‘Eclipse’

Red Line – ‘Mastabas’, 250m, M7.

Green Line – ‘Resurrection’, 330m, VII,7, M6+.

Yellow Line – ‘Eclipse’, 300m, VII,7, M6+.

Thanks to Mark Thomas for the words and to Si Frost, Dave Almond and Tom Coney for the images.  Mark is a founder of Elite Mountain Guides and a member of Jöttnar’s Pro Team.

Written By
Mark Thomas

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