This May I wasn’t working, Simon had a surplus of free time and we thought that it would be nice, really nice even, to go for a climb in the mountains.

WRONG!!

Our beautiful country swapped its rainfall statistics for those of Vietnam during monsoon season and the windows of opportunity for getting into the mountains became so small as to be almost hypothetical.

So braving the cold and the snow we decided to have a go at Schooby, which was equipped last year at Croix des Tetes, to start the multi-pitch season with a bang.

Never missing an opportunity for a half-baked plan, and in view of the difficulties of this particular beast, we opted for accessing the route from above. Abseiling down allowed us to mark the key holds and put the quickdraws in on the two harder pitches. With our inelegant strategy accomplished I threw myself into the first pitch, a 7b+ sprinkled with festive icicles. As insignificant as they were in terms of size, they were proof at least that we were having a pretty spring.

After 45 minutes and a bit of a battle to link ¾ of the pitch, faced with this terrible horde of ice monsters I admitted defeat and lay down my sword. (A quick aside on my current bodily status: it has been barely a month since all this happened and yet I am drenched; as I write these words beads of sweat are running down my arms and my t-shirt is plastered to my shoulder blades). So we found ourselves relieved of two sets of shiny quickdraws, and had to wait for another indifferent weather window.

At the end of the week we got one and could properly appreciate just how special Sylvain’s new route was: an amazing route on perfect limestone. Physically demanding yet with a fantastic line.

I’ll stop here to explain that Schooby was not my original goal. So with regards to the last paragraph, I should add that it was only when descending from this gem that the apparition took place.

The Bec de l’Aigle (Eagle’s Beak) is fondly known for being, how can I put it? Unappealing? Rotten? Dangerous? I prefer ‘hostile’, which encompasses all these terms and replaces the pejorative connotations with something more mysterious, more human. So it was this ‘hostile’ section of the south face, whose black schist overhangs for 400m, which had stopped me from seeing the full potential of its fantastic east face.

Simon with his objective mind, the result of having a more enlightened past than your average knackered Maurienne-er, made me tell him about it and planned our new route. After two days of work, interspersed by 15 of rain, we found ourselves happily climbing on this beautiful and unlikely limestone wall of a certain character!

Dimitri Messina

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