The Trient Basin is located on the eastern side of the Mont Blanc range in Switzerland. It can be accessed from France but is more commonly approached from Champex, a little village nestled high on hill by a beautiful summer lake.
I have spent much time in the Trient area and had never guided there, although it’s the perfect place to guide. There are two huts to base out of —Orny and Trient—and they both offer unlimited amount of routes of all sorts: bolted and trad rock alpine climbing, knife-edge ridges, snow couloirs, etc. With the weather being what it is in the Alps this year—very unstable—it’s THE destination to go to because no matter what the weather, you’ll always be able to do something. This weather has enabled me to really put all my gear to the test between rain, strong winds, and sunshine. It’s all come in handy.
My client was Floriane. By now, you must all have seen numerous pictures of her and wonder who she is. I met Floriane in law school and have been close friends since. We traveled to Nepal together, and Flo was my guinea pig for most of my guiding training before becoming my amazing client. She is willing to follow me up anything, and I trust in her to do her best and persevere through rough sections on climbs. But she is not only a client, she is also a very close friend, who is there for me for better or for worse. I am very lucky to have her in my life. With the weather being very iffy these days in the Alps, I’ve changed plans for our weekend about 10 times. We went from plans for the Badile, to Italy, to 4,000-meter peaks, to staying close by and exploring the Trient area, where we could do something big or small depending on what the weather decided to do.
I have climbed a lot in this area. The joke used to be that we would go up there because the Trient hut-keeper was cute. Now, that he is no longer tending to that hut, the weather and beauty of the place were the next best excuse. We hiked from the top of the Champex chairlift, passed the Orny hut (nope, not horny hut!), and made our way to the base of a beautiful 900-foot route called “La Moquette.” It’s a very moderate route that we climbed in big boots. We reached the summit in heavy rain but were shortly thereafter rewarded by a gorgeous rainbow. I had recommended this route to fellow FA team member Erik Leidecker and saw him at the base of the climb and later that night at the Trient hut, where we were both staying.
I was very successful that night thanks to my Light Berry-colored MicroTherm Down Shirt, which local women wanted to rip off my back and take home with them. It’s hard to keep the crowds away with such beautiful and technical products. ;-)
We woke up the following day to heavy rain and no visibility. Flo and I had thought of doing the classic, yet long and committing traverse of des Aiguilles Dorees (Golden Needles), but the weather wasn’t anywhere close to being good enough for that. So we opted for a less committing climb, one that we could rap off of if the weather turned on us again. Flo went back to bed for two hours while I sat having breakfast and chatting with Erik in the dining room. Huts are always a great place to chat, reconnect, and share experiences with other fellow guides.
We left around 8 a.m. and headed to the south side of the Aiguilles Dorees, which offers some of the best orange granite in the whole range: 1,300-foot, golden, steep faces that shine in the sun and offer line after line of perfect crack and slab climbing. To get to our climb, we crossed over to the Fenetre de Saleinaz then the Fenetre Suzanne to reach the base of the “Promontoire de l’Aiguille Sans Nom” (read: a sub-peak of the Nameless Tower). We geared up at the base of the climb, transitioning from boots and crampons to rock shoes while still standing on the glacier and headed up our climb. The climb is called “Tajabone” and is a 300-meter climb, which ranges from 5.9 to 5,10b. It’s the most beautiful climb of this grade I have ever done. Each pitch surprised me by its beauty. The second pitch looked like a totally blank wall, and I wondered how it could be rated only 5.9. All the holds were incut, making them invisible from below, but perfect hand holds. The only drawback on the climb was how overly bolted it was. One of the pitch climbed up a perfect hand crack that was fully bolted, something you would never seen in the U.S. At the end of the climb, we rapped down the route and headed down the Saleinaz Glacier to stay at the Saleinaz hut. That hut doesn’t give access to much interesting climbing, so we were pretty much alone in this beautiful hut.
When I returned home, I looked up “Tajabone” to find out the meaning of this word I had never heard before. Tajabone is the Muslim equivalent to our Halloween. Along with the definition, I found this beautiful song by Senegal singer Ismael Lo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUWyUE6kqoU. Goes to show, you can find all sorts of beautiful surprises by going into the mountains!
Originally published at www.intothemountains.com
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