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The Alpine Line: Trilogy in Ubaye (France)

Posted on March 29th, 2015

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After Argentera and the winter ascent at Corno Stella, Yo and Yann wanted to do something not too technically challenging, less physically demanding and to find its essence in the uniqueness of the alpine playground they were on. This is how they got the idea of linking some emblematic Ubaye mountains such as Brec, Chambeyron and Aiguille (Needle), as well as the famous Pierre Andree peak. The first summit is remarkable by its shape, the second, the Aiguille du Chambeyron (Chambeyron Needle), is the culminating point of the Ubaye range and has a nice edge, and finally the third is known for the quality, texture and color of its rock , a protogine red stick that has nothing to envy to the Grand Capucin (in Mont-Blanc range)

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Following the two big stages linking Isola 2000 to Larche, they arrive at the GTA Larche lodge, greeted by Bernadette Laurène and Nicolas. Then following a long morning of equipment preparation and reshuffling they go 1500 m up for a late arrival at the Chambeyron hut. This is a very nice shelter where they can enjoy a welcome day-off after the difficult journey from Isola and before attacking the “Brosserie Ubayenne”( Ubaye Brushware) !
Up at 3:45, not a cloud, no blowing wind for the moment, as it was from the arrival in the Southern Alps,! But Yoann, penalized by a sour knee, decides to play it safe by not taking his paraglider with him at the risk to carry it for nothing. They must spare energy as the road ahead is still long.

 

Brec de Chambeyron Northern Corridor

Brec de Chambeyron Northern Corridor

Under the waning moon and after leaving part of their gears at Long Lake, they go light to swallow the 500m vertical drop of the Northern Corridor, with the wish to watch the sunrise at the Brec top.

On this hard snow, the 2 friends get easily to the summit plateau which offers an ideal launching area! With the sun just up and a light east wind the take-off occurs just a little below, at the corridor exit.
1, 2, 3 … and the run is on… The paraglide rises steadily, everything is fine!

Bye Yo... he must now just...

Bye Yo… he must now just…

 

A few minutes later, Yann lands nearby the gears while Yoann backs down the corridor, now they are ready to attack the Gastaldi corridor.

Despite the early hour they plow on the soft snow up to the Nérot-Vernet breach, the starting point of the Chambeyron edges crossing.

Climbing the Chambeyron Needle in front of the Brec's North Face at the back

Climbing the Chambeyron Needle in front of the Brec’s North Face at the back

 

 

This classic route leads to the highest peak of Ubaye in a very aesthetic and technically affordable way. After tying their rope they proceed along a ridge becoming increasingly narrow to reach a chimney going to the first summit, another beautiful and fine ridge, and here they are at the summit cross.

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Top of  Chambeyron Needle. Anchor !

Top of Chambeyron Needle. Anchor !

 

 

After a short but nice sight view from the top, downhill they go for an uncomfortable and a bit erratic run … Back to the breach, filling bag packs again for the umpteenth time that day while eating snacks, skis back on, they slide down the corridor on very hard to ski crusted snow. Nevertheless they are happy to slide right under the beautiful Pierre-André Needle.

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Getting too low, yet it takes some effort on delicate slopes to finally see the day’s last goal with a good surprise: this time, climbing will be under the sun.P1020707-1024x769

Three is better than two

Three is better than two

So it is on a beautiful rock that they climb four 60m stretches before they can stand-up at the top under the sun.

 

Once at the foot of the Aiguille, after an easy descent, they must hike back-up to a small Pass under the Aiguille Large. From there, Yann takes off paragliding while Yo glides down on foot to the Maljasset CAF hut where they get a warm welcome by Stéphane Emilia and the young hut keepers… and the « Sauvage » (Savage); (the rightly-named local beer) is a great treat.

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A weather disturbance is announced, it will force them to wait for a few days before going to Viso. But this is rather welcome as Yo’s knee winces (forcing him to rest), luckily a cabinetmaker offers him to work at its workshop in Barcelonnette… Meanwhile Yann will use his free time to discover the area, ski touring with the hut’s friends.

As soon as the weather will permit, they will be on the road again…

 

(Written by BM: Based on the article published by Yoann and Yann)


A vertiginous tower project in the Swiss Alps

Posted on March 26th, 2015

A dream or nightmare project that shakes the Swiss mountains.
femme-de-valsOn Wednesday , March 25, in Zurich, Remo Stoffel a promoter of Graubünden (Eastern Switzerland) presented its program for its crazy Vals station where it already owns a spa. “The sky is the limit” is the slogan of the program centered on a 381m high hotel that would be the world’s highest and the highest building in Europe even eying the Eiffel Tower. A glass skyscraper with 107 suites, which some of them will occupy an entire floor. It is entitled “Woman of Vals” in honor of Alberto Giacometti. Not sure the famous Swiss sculptor would have appreciated. All this in a Heidi like postcard environment. The project is signed by the American iconoclastic architect Thom Mayne, as described by the New York Times. But it will have to be approved first by the municipal and cantonal authorities. Remo Stoffel hope that its achievement by 2019 will save the mountain tourism in the region which undergoes a severe crisis. He even predicts its death if no alternative is developed to mass tourism. He targets these customers who travels by helicopter and are ready to pay 1,000 to € 25,000 a night. “The premium segment is the only one that has a future,” insists the businessman who is to present his plan to the 1000 inhabitants of his village.

(BM)


Winter Ascent of Corno Stella

Posted on March 16th, 2015

The Lourousa couloir at the center and the Stella Corno on the right

The Lourousa couloir at the center and the Stella Corno on the right

 

After enjoying the sweetness of Nice’s hinterland, we planned a little trip to Italy to meet the austerity of walls that do not see the sun. Going along with Christophe Dumarest, we switched over the Italian side to rub the famous north face of Corno Stella. One of the last walls climbed by Patrick Berhault during his crossing, and our first big goal! We had promised not to make a winter ascent again after a bad experience in Vanoise. Well, we put it aside, but for a route that influenced a whole generation of climbers… In 1962 Ughetto and Ruggieri opened the Red Dihedral with revolutionary wood wedges. Definitely a feat, and we consider it a little more this way at every climbed meter. Just as the Berhault ascent of the same way in a winter solo! A really off the scale kind of man!

Lightly plastered ...

Lightly plastered …

 
After a tiring approach from Saint-Martin-Vésubie fortunately made easier thanks to Antoine Rolle and Olivier Vigouroux coming to help us carry our bags, we meet with Christophe at Valdieri Termes then we go up to the Varonne bivouac. It only slightly emerges from the thick snowpack. A few shovel strokes later we find ourselves in a little haven of comfort in this cold and barren world. Above us, the 900m of the Lourousa couloir and especially the impressive north face of Corno Stella!

The Varonne bivouac

The Varonne bivouac

 

 

 

We plan to climb the face in two stages. The first day will be devoted to the ascent of the pedestal pitches which give access to the dihedral itself. We will climb these first four pitches by means of modern techniques for mixed climbing, armed with ice axes and crampons. Yoann will take care of the first two, and Yann of the following two! Then we will head-up to the bivouac to rest a little before the big next day!

 

Christophe going after the large dihedral

Christophe going after the large dihedral

Wake-up: 3:30. As usual these wake-ups bite are a little bit harsh, but the day will be a long one, and every minute of the day counts. So we want to get to the highest point reached yesterday at dawn. Through an auto-handle system, we climb the ropes left the day before. After having reached the dihedral, Christophe embarks on the first length. Immediately the crack is  very wide, and he choses a half free/half artificial climbing strategy. In the summer, we’d climbed with rock climbing shoes, and we would have progressed quickly. But in winter, low temperatures are pushing us to keep our big “Phantom 6000″ boots on. These have thermal slippers, specially designed for this kind of ascents.

 

Yoann in the first pitch of the pedestal

Yoann in the first pitch of the pedestal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As seconds, we try to be as efficient as possible, progressing mostly with ascenders. At one point, while Yann is hanging on an existing anchor a piton snatches carrying with it a large block of rock. Fortunately Yoann who sits just below, is protected by a small roof.
In its stride, Christophe goes to the next length: a canted horizontal crack, which becomes vertical, and even wider than the preceding ones. The postures are awkward!

 

 

It's freezing at the Anchor

It’s freezing at the Anchor

 

Yann takes over in a still large crack, where the largest of our friends (# 6 Camalot) is much too small. Only an antique wooden wedge allows us to rise somehow. With an indescribable creep, he manages to climb the few inches that were missing to reach, at arm length, a tightening of the crack, and there inserts our largest friends. It is in this “old style”climbing that the bonding between the climber and the rock is the strongest. Indeed, the whole body is called upon to jam and progress in these very large cracks.

 

 

 

The void is widening...

The void is widening…

 

The next pitch is the free climbing “crux”, it is a large roof crossed by a crack, again very wide! Rated at 7a + by Patrick Berhault, we aid climb it. Unlike the previous pitches, the equipment is rather serious. This is again the famous wooden wedges designed and manufactured especially by the Ruggieri Ughetto roped party to open this route. Two wooden cubes connected by a threaded rod, this is the first time we meet this kind of protection! While most are genuine, two of them have been replaced! After clipping the first two wedges, Yann poses a very doubtful, because very open, # 5 Camalot,!

 

 

 

From wooden wedges to nuts ...

From wooden wedges to nuts …

 

 

In a split second, he finds himself hanging on the rope a few meters down, hanging on the first wooden wedge. The friend had slipped, and the last clipped wooden wedge had shattered, lost in the slowly growing abyss! What a fear but no harm!
We meet at the Anchor, this time it’s Yo who gets going. Despite the cold, he will climb with rock climbing shoes; on frozen strips it still better than big boots! Alternating cracks and dihedral, sometimes snowy, we progress to the top.

 

 

 

In summer, it must be a real treat!

In summer, it must be a real treat!

Focused, we are completely absorbed in the effort, nothing else exists except the 3 square meters of rocks around us. So when suddenly the sun hits on our faces is like a rude awakening, the return to reality, in front of a magnificent landscape that opens your eyes.

 

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An intense moment as we meet at the cross, in a raging wind. Quickly, we must descend before dark, and gusts redouble their intensity.

 

Waooh the night will be so good!

Waooh the night will be so good!

There is a rappel line anchored in the north face. But after a hundred yards downhill, the cord gets stuck … just above compact slabs. Going back up would take too much time, we continue our descent the best we can. But the anchors are now hidden by snow patches and we need to put pitons to cross over to the Red Dihedral line. It’s dark when we step in the Lourousa couloir, exhausted we are. It becomes difficult to keep our balance in the wind, and Yann let a boot-shell fall! We quickly descend the couloir hoping to find it, but the snow purges are too abundant and it is quickly covered. This is the “Borgnette” too much, which drain Yann’s morale to the extreme. Meanwhile the two slightly calmer companions find the bivouac buried under the snow. And when we close the old door behind us, everything stops, and suddenly the calm returns! We leave the storm, letting out there this so hostile world to man. What happened today was quite an adventure in itself, part of the broadest adventure. We enjoy a piece of foie gras brought by Christophe, thinking of the boldness of the veterans who have gone there before us, with the means of the time … Respect.

 

 

Corno-41-1024x769After a restful night we descend to Valdieri, sandwiched between gear bags and a crusted snow. Christophe hits the road and we feel somewhat strange watching our friend going away to his family, to meet the human life down there… For both of us it’s the reverse, we go in the opposite direction, upwards. The journey continues and we snap-on our skis for a big bonding step towards France. After all the accumulated emotions and fatigue of the recent days, we feel truly detached. In addition, we are going through wild landscapes with no one around for kilometers… We are moving ahead somehow out of the real world, legs moving by themselves and spirit wandering. At dusk we reach the Druos pass marking the border. A bright orange lights-up the horizon to the west! Bad weather will be here tomorrow. At the bottom of the slope on the French side, Isola 2000 lights glitter. We stay at the pass for a moment, in the open wind, to enjoy our freedom. We do not even know where we will sleep tonight, it’s improvisation adventure.
But as always, we are welcomed with open arms; this time by the ski school. The encounters follow one another; Another essential component of the trip.

The roped party is growing …

(Written en French by Yoann and Yann, translated and posted by Bernard M.)

French Original on the Alpine Line Project web site


Mass tourism siege on Mont-Blanc

Posted on March 14th, 2015

MB Italien rognéWith more visitors than the Grand Canyon, the Mont Blanc does not really need to be introduced as a high flying international natural site for tourists (6 million/year), many of them (about 1 in 5) moving around its slopes by means of impressive mechanical installations. While news of its valleys spread over the media front pages with peaks of pollution equaling or exceeding those of large cities, a quiet revolution is under way on its flanks.
The French side of the mountain is served by two main facilities: the “Montenvers” train which provides access to the “Mer de Glace”, and the “Aiguille du Midi” cable car, a direct entry point to the high mountains. On the Italian side, the Aosta Valley has suffered for decades from the obsolescence of its infrastructure that prevents it from capturing the envied tourism windfall of the Chamonix Valley. A light wire sustains the “Vallée Blanche gondola” linking the “Aiguille du Midi” to “Helbronner”. During 2015 all these facilities will be provided, at various levels, with new gimmicks to attract customers.
Global warming, the erosion of a traditional customer base, necessary upgrades to new safety standards, unbridled competition between mountain resorts to keep existing clients and capture new visitors, especially international ones, are pushing operators to renovate their mechanical infrastructure to make them more attractive. We see the operators evolving toward a new status of “solutions providers” featuring more and more fancy entertainment structures. In this way, the Italians want to completely revamp the cable way installations linking Entrèves / Courmayeur to “Punta Helbronner”.

The World’s most expensive cable way

Helbronner from Torino

Helbronner from Torino

Between € 105 and € 110 million (four times the “Vanoise Express” that links “La Plagne” to “Les Arcs”, according to the French Newspaper “Dauphiné Libéré”) were invested in the development of this off the scale project commonly presented as the world’s biggest cable-car work site. Four years of colossal work, above 3000 meters, were required for a targeted opening in May 2015, during the International Fair of Milan.
Since 1947, an obsolete facility carries, in three stages, less than one hundred thousand passengers per annum (tourists, mountaineers and off-piste skiers) from Courmayeur to the Torino hut, a gate to the high flanks of Mont Blanc.
The cable-car that replaces it, one of the most modern in the world with its large ovoid and rotating gondolas will allow the passengers to enjoy 360 ° sightseeing throughout the journey before reaching the glacier area of the “Vallée Blanche” (White Valley) at 3452 m above sea level. In two sections, The new cable-car will take up to 500,000 visitors each year to the high mountain, despite a capacity of 600 passengers/hour, limited to 3000/day, over 3 times the current capacity. But with a € 27 million cost the transport system it is only a fraction of the total investment.

Helbronner Upper Station (Cordée Mont Blanc)

Helbronner, Upper Station (Cordée Mont-Blanc)

At the top of Helbronner, which was significantly re-shaped, a 80 meter vertical hole long has been drilled into the granite to receive a reinforced concrete tube with the purpose of stabilizing the platform receiving the new cable-car station. A real wound inflicted on the mountain. In this tube, a lift will transport the visitors wanting to go to the Torino hut thanks to a 150 m tunnel appended at its lower end.

The upper station, all steel and glass, is equipped with a multi-media room and a viewing platform 14 meters in diameter. Two museums are also planned. In case of bad weather conditions, visitors will not have gone-up for nothing…
With these cable car and new facilities the Valley of Aosta is convinced it will finally enter the big pond of large Alpine resorts and thus be able to compete more fiercely with the likes of the Chamonix Valley. In fact, it has already begun a large marketing campaign, renting advertising spaces in many European airports. A practice strongly criticized by Italian environmental organizations following a RAI TV show touting the touristic glamour of the site but ignoring its negative environmental aspects. (Note -no kidding- the “Funivie Monte Bianco” company claims to have taken important environmental measures while in reality the route of the installations have been ravaged)

At Aiguille du Midi: more of the same

Aiguille du Midi (Mont-Blanc Company)

Aiguille du Midi (Mont-Blanc Company)

They are not idle on the French side either, but with € 3.5-4 M, it is nothing like the level of the Helbronner investment. Here the objective is to refine and optimize an already well developed offer. To meet the challenge posed by the new Italian facilities and believing that the current natural setting is “no longer sufficient by itself” (sic), the Mont-Blanc Company is gearing-up its defense. It began a face-lift of the facilities surrounding the central peak by providing exciting new products targeting the upper class of international tourists, pushing comfort and an augmented reality, to offer an “approach to the site allowing its exceptional nature to always remain accessible “(sic) … a reality movie in some ways
The main transformations are:
A comfortable glass viewing platform for resting and contemplation.
A covered gallery around the Central Piton accessible to visitors with disabilities
A panoramic glass area on the top terrace reachable in all weather conditions
The “Step in the Void.” A glass box suspended above the abyss.
A reorganization of corridors to make them more attractive and to help educate visitor on aspects of the high mountains.
With 500,000-800,000 passengers carried each year (depending on sources), the Aiguille du Midi is the star of the mechanical installations on the Mont-Blanc and its operating company (The Mont-Blanc Company) intends to keep it that way. Through a partnership with its Italian counterpart it can be expected that resources will be optimized across the mountain. This leads to scrutinize what is happening to the cable car of the Vallée Blanche, the link between the two sides.

The “Vallée Blanche” Gondola

Helbronner French Side

Helbronner French Side

A renovation project at the Pointe Helbronner arrival station, which shows obvious signs of decay and strongly contrasts, in its current state, with the gigantic “Funivie Monte Bianco” facilities, is planned. At the same time the safety of the French station will be enhanced to higher standards while keeping passenger capacity at current levels.
The project mainly consists of reconditioning the existing building by harmonizing its various disparate elements while respecting its current structure, and in the dismantling of a snow-cat shelter and a ski lift pylon used during the heyday of summer skiing. Its ground surface will remain unchanged, hence little direct impact on the environment, other than the maintenance of the current state and an option to increase traffic later.
For many years, the gondola was considered by Mountain Wilderness as a wart denaturing this unique high mountain environment by its incongruous presence. It is the subject of an ongoing controversy since the creation of the association. Other environmental organizations consider that this facility offers an ecological alternative to commercial flights for those tourists who want an oversight of the range. The tough reality is that commercial flights continue to flourish.

Infrastructures and Mont-Blanc’s future strategy

The impact of the installation is not neutral in terms of traffic on the range’s glaciers. One might think that many candidates for a ski run down the Vallée Blanche, currently hampered by the delicate descent of the Aiguille du Midi ridge, will be tempted by the easier access option of the Italian side and a more glamorous and brand new means of transport, but all will meet at the Montenvers level.
While the passenger traffic at the Aiguille du Midi is expected to stay at least at current levels, in the coming years the contribution of Helbronner will lead to additional discharge of hundreds of skiers on the “Vallée Blanche” in the dangerous because crevassed “Plateau de la Vierge”, therefore a large potential security problem may be expected on French glaciers. What do the Mountain Guides and the PGHM think of that? To our knowledge there has been no consultation between French and Italian guides?
Furthermore, the installed capacity is well above the rates that are deliberately limited by the operators. Are we sure that, over time, the temptation to push for more revenue will not be stronger than current limits set by self-regulation?
In fact we are faced with 2 large tubes supporting heavy flows running together with, in between, a thin drip (the gondola of the Vallée Blanche). Is this a permanent solution? Should the ultimate solution not be to cut-out the link affecting the very heart of this exceptional site?
As the “enhancements” of the Aiguille du Midi are intended to attract a new customers, it is reasonable to think that these tourists will remain confined in the immediate vicinity of the central peak so having relatively little impact on the environment but it is definitely not the direction taken by the facilities of Helbronner.
The “Espace Mont Blanc” (an organization grouping the various municipalities of the 3 countries around Mont-Blanc for common actions) is defining a future strategy for the territory that involves multiple committees working on issues such as access routes to Mont Blanc, accesses to shelters/huts of the massif, outdoor activities, biodiversity, energy transition, motorized flyovers etc… . However, to date none of the major infrastructure development projects have been debated in this context, even though associations such as Mountain Wilderness have requested it several times. It seems surprising that in this mountain range, a protected area, where overcrowding is an acute problem, where tourism is a major economical component, that no public debate is taking place with the key players.

(Written by B. Marclay, reviewed by Duncan Wilson)

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Alpine Line: Corsican stage

Posted on February 22nd, 2015

The full story of the Corsican stage of the Alpine Line by Yann and Yoann

(Translated and edited by BM)

On Top of the Cinto

On Top of the Cinto

02/12/2015 : Island immersion
Just after landing on the Ferry at Île Rousse, we head toward Casamaccioli, next to Albertacce, where Philippe Pierangeli and Jeff are expecting us. A “gîte” has been made available to us by the Corsican Tourism Agency. There we meet Jean-François Luciani, the house manager and mid mountain guide, who knows the surrounding mountains like his own pocket. We discover the Paglia Orba, this beautiful mountain whose name refers to its slender shape leading to the stars, and decide to take advantage of the short weather window of the next day to have a look!

02/13/2015: Paglia Orba, first summit!

Sunrise on the Paglia Orba, from our house

Sunrise on the Paglia Orba, from our house

First day of the journey. From now on, we will use no more motorized vehicles! So we start cycling in the cold morning to rally the small village of Calasima, about ten kilometers from Casamaccioli (pronounced “Casamacciol”). From there, we leave the bikes and we start the long approach from the east side of the Pagia Orba. It is not that much the length that slows us down, but the deep snow that we stir! We want to climb the Finch route, one of the first rock climbs of the island, whose first ascent, in 1909, was made by a pretender to Everest, which gave it a good try. This is a symbolic climb for us who are attacking our ” Alpin Everest”! In addition, there is not a more logical path than this one, which cleverly crosses the face from one side to the other in an aesthetic climb! Finch and his companions also located the ascent line thanks to the remaining snow deposited early in the season. Guided by instinct, a simple glimpse at the general route will be enough to climb that line. The difficulty is moderate, but it reserves some beautiful climbing sections! (At his time Fynch only had a hemp rope … ) the weather turning unfortunately bad, we do not see much from the top! We have the luck to immediately locate the right path of the descent and we reach the hut at dusk. There, Pascal, Jeff, Philippe and Anne have carried up our skis and boots, saving us a lot of time on the way down!

 

The long but beautiful approach to Paglia!

The long but beautiful approach to Paglia!

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P100020002/14/2015: Encounters
It is a rest day! The whether is average, and we had planned to meet Jean-Yves, an organic chestnut flour producer, and Jean-François, a young shepherd who found his vocation at a young age. The first one explained us the problem of a Chinese parasite that is currently destroying the island chestnut production, then we are witnessing with the second guy the “fate” of a lamb, caused by an order of someone in the village … We finish the day around a good Pietra, listening to Corsican songs! A great “cultural” day , which allows us to better understand these mountain territories!

 

 

 

As good competitors, we identify the route!

As good competitors, we identify the route!

02/15/2015: Winter at Col de Vergio
We are lucky, this week-end is held the winter season “event” in the valley. This happens at the Vergio Col, 25km from Casamaccioli. We cannot miss it for any reason. However, as we have begun the crossing, our ethics requires us to rally the pass on bike! So here we are pedaling on Sunday morning to reach the gathering place. Many cars pass us, some folks encourage us when others offer us a lift! Up there, we decide to register for one of the two ski mountaineering races of the island the first one in 2015. The ski touring is booming here, and a number of participants are new to the discipline! The route is a nice walk in the Corsican mountains and as an extra gift, we got half an inch of powder freshly snowed during the night! Despite some “pebbles surprise” we enjoy ! This is also an opportunity to meet and talk with locals who live in and by the mountain: guides, rescuers … they are all in Vergio this weekend!

02/16/2015 : Up to the Tighiettu hut
This morning, it’s not a dream weather: it’s pouring! At the same time, it does not leave us much time to climb the Cinto, our main objective, a symbolic point of our journey. As we do not have housing for, tonight, we decided to climb to the shelter for sleeping, as there is a possibility for the weather to improve on the next day. So we start cycling then skiing under this pouring rain. The time is not most pleasant, but it spices up the adventure, and he will undoubtedly leave us good memories. These unleashed mountain environments are always special and remain engraved for long! As we approach the hut, the wind picks up, and gusts cause us losing our balance! We reach our shelter at dusk! We must now cope with wet wood, but the stubbornness of Pascal and Yo ends up paying off, and we spend the evening with a good fire! The dish pasta with “trumpets of death” mushrooms is a real comfort!

02/17/2015 : Giving up..…
The wind raged the whole night and the shelter continuously trembled under the gusts. In the morning, after weighing pros and cons, we decided unanimously to waive give-up, given the high avalanche risk on some slopes. We do not want to take unnecessary risks on such a long project, even if it means missing out on the summit, which is important to us. We go down! An epic ski descent before a wet downhill ride on bike … you really have to like it! Arrived in Corte, on the advice of our guide friend Cedric Specia we decide to leave towards the Asco station to join the boat in Calvi by the mountains. And 4 hiking hours later, here we are, greeted by the headlights of Anne and Pascal for a good meal of local products!

Corsican products to boost our energy level!

Corsican products to boost our energy level!

On the slopes of the Cinto

On the slopes of the Cinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02/18/2015 : Monte Cinto !
The weather is sunny and the Cinto is just there, inviting. It was a phone call from our guide friend Didier Angeloz, which wanted to go skiing nearby the Cinto, that we decide to attempt the summit.
4 hours later, Pascal and two of us are at the top, with the sea in the background. Happy, we begin to climb the ridge leading to an express downhill slope on powder, then through a narrow canyon. But the day is far from over and we still need to go back to the top of the Muvrella by its long edge before tipping down to the sea. As usual, we arrived at night after a long day. Christian, the captain of Tirosa the sailboat, is waiting for us for the cocktail!

 

02/19/2015 : Bye bye Corsica!

Pascal Joly, Yann, Yoann, Christian Le Texier and Corsica moving away…

Pascal Joly, Yann, Yoann, Christian Le Texier and Corsica moving away…


March for Silence

Posted on February 17th, 2015

IMG_4562Mountain Wilderness Switzerland organizes near Blatten in the Valais (Switzerland), during the weekend of February 28/March 1, a march for the respect of silence in the mountains.

Blatten is a village in Lötschental in the Bernese Alps, having a large part of its territory lying in the protected site of Jungfrau-Aletsch, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Blatten should not be confused with the ski resort Blatten near Naters located about 15 km southeast in a straight line.

The proposed program is as follows:
Saturday: starting in Blatten a hike on snowshoes or cross country skis, via Fafleralp along the river Lonza will lead the participants to a reasonably flat area north of “Gandere” (about 7 km, vertical drop +450m, ~ 2 hours).

In the afternoon, igloo building / snow caves, and dinner.
At dusk “March for Silence” with the help of torches, the word “Silence” will be written in the snow to protest against the increasing noise problem in the mountains. The torches will be provided by Mountain Wilderness.

Sunday, ski touring or snowshoeing with two high mountain guides: Alexander and Walter.

Back: Sunday afternoon, departure every hour by public transport .28 from Blatten.

 

Additional infos:

March for Silence flyer

March Detail infos

Contact: info@mountainwilderness.ch


Crossed Footsteps

Posted on February 5th, 2015

Photo: Alain Pourret.

Photo: Alain Pourret.

Winter sports practices and mountain species. Despite of a growing awareness of the fauna fragility during the cold season our impact on wildlife is still considerable. For many species, the winter is a real purgatory, while, some times, a little and simple effort on our part would allow them to get quietly through this naturally difficult season. Not making noise, sparing forests and forest edges, avoiding slopes cleared of snow and respecting the protected areas. Yes to outdoor sports but with reason and restraint, in order to still enjoy the benefits and pleasures offered by this natural environment.

Repeated flights in the snow cause such a loss of energy to wildlife that it can lead to death by exhaustion and hypothermia. Therefore, above all, always think of the disturbances caused to the species that we are delighted to admire. The most active wildlife zones are generally those crossed at the beginning and at the end of the day, these times are when we really need to make sure to stay as discreet as possible. The “rule of the funnel” simply summarizes what to do in terms of mountain paths. Above the treeline, in open snow slopes, the route can be free and will have little negative impact. At the edge of the woods and into the forest, it is essential to converge footsteps as this area is the vital habitat of many wild animals.

This is a theme that Mountain Wilderness is not much focusing on, however Mountain Wilderness Switzerland got interested in responsible behaviors towards wildlife during the winter sports season. For this purpose, they published a booklet entitled “Wild Snow” inspired from the campaign “respect to protect - in French”. Problematics at stake, advices on behavior, elements of knowledge about wildlife, there are much information to learn on how to practice and have fun while “respecting to protect.”

Curious and interested in the subject, volunteer to relay these important messages, do not hesitate to contact MW so that we can send you the paper documents. Our primary objective is to inform as much as possible on these issues, given that negative impacts are more often caused by simple ignorance than by bad will.

(VN, BM)

Links:

Educational Game (in german) for students (6th to 9th degree) on Wildlife and Snow: http://mountainwilderness.ch/projekte/bergsport-winter/lehrmittel-wild-im-schnee/

Respect Campaign: http://www.respect-to-protect.ch/ (English, French, German Italian)

Campaign for freeriders: http://www.respect-wildlife.ch/en/


The Alpine Line project ready to take-off

Posted on February 5th, 2015

Yoann Joly and Yann Borgnet

Yoann Joly and Yann Borgnet

As time of departure is getting close the team has put together its tentative itinerary (see below). Our two guys are hot to get started while a wave of cold wheather is hitting Europe. Their sailboat is waiting for them in Nice where they will embark for Corsica the real start of the journey. Let’s hope their first stretch will not be a too shaky hop to Monte Cinto.

 

Here is their manifesto.

About 1500km as the crow flies, should lead us from Monte Cinto, the highest summit of Corsica, to Triglav, the highest point of Slovenia and a true symbol for all Slovenians. It will also be a strong symbol as this summit will end for us a long journey based on our adaptation to the environment. Indeed, we are committed to get immersed in the best possible way into the elements that we will face while practicing various physical activities: on land, we will be climbers, hikers, skiers and mountain bikers; in the air, we will be paragliders. Finally, on water, we will be sailors, kayakers and rowers! Moreover, this imaginary line will be knitted around key points: emblematic summits, majestic walls, symbolic ranges, where we want to express our mountaineering creativity through original link-ups, ascents of historic routes, or the openings of new paths.

We aspire at rediscovering the Alps by drawing an imaginary line that will make sense as we go through encounters. The human dimension is indeed a prerequisite for the success of such a journey. Aleatory encounters, meetings initiated through the website, which is our main connection to all those who wish to join us, whether for sharing a stretch of the journey or for stay in a hut in the evening. But also, meetings held with the French Alpine Club youth teams or with people with disabilities. We want to form a Large ROPED PARTY of enthusiasts, whose physical or technical level are not barriers!

Finally, if the adaptation to the environment will be our engine during these four months, we are committed to contributing to the preservation of the last natural areas that make up our continent. This philosophy shared with Mountain Wilderness, will be put into practice by the choice of proximity.
First proximity: the Alps, the cradle of our passion, and a huge playing field. We believe that it is not always necessary to leave to the edges of the world to find adventure, but it can be found, just by looking around, two steps from home by exercising a bit of imagination.
Proximity of design and manufacture of our equipment: ice axes, crampons, goggles, head lamps, sticks, paragliders, shoes, ropes, skis, ski bindings, climbing skins, avalanche transceiver and gourds are all “Made in Alps Countries”. This informal label we created for adding value to a local and sustainable economy that tends to disappear!
Finally, we want to make a movie of this adventure. While it seems to us too simplistic to only focus it on the account of the journey, we want this film to ask and answer questions that we all ask.
The approach change we will try to put into practice by fitting to the environment can be seen as foreshadowing a novel model for interacting with natural areas.
We want to meet the people who live in and by the mountains and leave a trail that can help to raise awareness …

(YJ, YB, BM)

AlpineLine Forecast map Français


Free advertising for the Helbronner cable car

Posted on February 4th, 2015

IMG_2810Since the very beginning, Mountain Wilderness has struggled against the use of the Pointe Helbronner, in the Mont Blanc range, as a belvedere for wealthy tourists. One of the first actions undertaken by MW was the occupancy of the cable-car of the Glacier du Géant, in 1988.

In 2011, new works began on the Pointe Helbronner, in order to build the world’s most expensive cable-car (a 110 millions Euros project), linking Entreves, in Italy, to the Pointe (in France), with the aim to get a four-fold increase of the number of tourist, to an annual figure of 300,000. MW has condemned this new attack against high altitude environment and the transformation of the range into a Luna-Park, notably attacking the project, in 2013, before the Italian justice.

After a program presenting the project on the RAI Uno TV channel, a letter to the President of the RAI has been sent by environmental groups, among which Mountain Wilderness Italy, to protest against the unilateral presentation of the present works.

Rome, 20 January 2015

Dr. Anna Maria Tarantola

President of RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana

Dear President,

We followed with incredulity the episode of January 10, 2015 of “The White Line”, telecast aired on Rai Uno, and in particular the broadcast on the construction of the new cable car intended to reach the summit of Entreves’ Pointe Helbronner (Aosta Valley), where a gigantic building is being built with belvedere restaurant, in total disregard of the cultural and environmental values of the Mont Blanc and more generally of the high mountains.

It is well understood that those responsible for this attack will defend the macroscopic opportunities; less acceptable is that the public service will follow all the way passively these positions, without feeling the need to seek other opinions, thus respecting a complex, serious and neutral information. The company responsible for those violations would have the right to sing the praises of what is been done, but only by buying precise and explicit advertising space. It is not acceptable that such advertisements are imposed to users as information, as is clearly happening in “The white Line”.

Our associations, which are fighting since years in all sorts of ways to keep intact the natural heritage of the country, are requesting that the RAI opens an open and clear debate on these hot topics. It will be up to the audience to decide which side is right.

 Confident in your attention and your equilibrated intervention, we send you our best regards.

 Marco Parini, Our Italy (Italia Nostra) National President

Carlo Alberto Pinelli, President of Mountain Wilderness Italy

Vittorio Cogliati Dezza, National President of Legambiente

Dante the dossier, President of the Blue Movement (Movimiento Azzurro)

Mauro Furlani, President of the Natianal Federation Pro Natura

Franco Iseppi, Chairman of the Italian Touring Club

Fulco Pratesi, Honorary President of WWF

Original letter in Italian

(HT)


Iran Wild mountains: a cleaning action at Mount Damavand

Posted on February 1st, 2015

Mountains of Iran

Iran is one of the world’s most mountainous countries, its landscape is dominated by rugged mountain ranges separating various basins from one another. The main ranges are the Zagros and Alborz Mountains.

Alborz mountains (also Alburz, Elburz or Elborz) in northern Iran stretch from the border of Azerbaijan along the western and entire southern coast of the Caspian Sea and finally run northeast and merge into the Aladagh Mountains. The Central Alborz (the Alborz Mountains in the strictest sense with many peaks exceeding 3000 meters (9,843 ft) or even 4000 m 13,123 ft) runs from west to east along the entire southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The Central Alborz contains Iran’s highest point, Mount Damavand at 5,670 m (18,602 ft), which is also the highest mountain in the Middle East and on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.

You will find in Iran a great variety of wild landscapes and mountains allover the country.

Damavand – a volcano

Mount Damāvand (35 °North, 52 ° East), a potentially active volcano (dormant volcano), is a stratovolcano and the highest volcano in Asia. Located only 60 kilometres from Caspian Sea (and 66 kilometres from the capital Teheran, with 8.3 million inhabitants and 14 million in the wider metropolitan area), it is one of the highest freestanding mountains in the world and is characterized by an outstanding beauty.

Damavand from Goosfand Sara

Damavand from Goosfand Sara

Mount Damavand first erupted in the Pleistocene almost 1.78 million years ago. After several known eruptions around 600,000 and 280,000 years ago, it finally erupted about 7300 years ago in the Holocene. Its steep cone is formed of ash and lava flows that are mainly made of trachyte, andesite and basalt. The volcano is crowned by a small crater with sulfuric deposits. There are also fumaroles, hot springs, and mineral deposits of travertine. Large fumaroles near the summit crater emitting sulfur demonstrate the ongoing volcanic activity.

Damavand – a holy mountain

Damavand has a special place in Persian mythology. In Zoroastrian texts and mythology, the three-headed dragon Aži Dahāka was chained in Mount Damāvand, there to remain until the end of the world. In a later version of the same legend, the tyrant Zahhāk was also chained in a cave somewhere in Mount Damāvand after being defeated.
Being Iran’s pinnacle and landmark, it is the symbol of Iranian resistance against despotism and foreign rule in Persian poetry and literature. Therefore Damavand is registered as a national natural heritage and there are discussions to registered it as a UNESCO international natural heritage.

Damavand – a destination for climbers

 Top of Damavand

Top of Damavand

Because of his beauty, height, interesting geology and wildlife Damavand is a fine destination for climbers from Iran and from allover the world. There are at least 16 known routes to the summit of various difficulties. Some of them are very dangerous and require rock climbing. The most popular route is the Southern Route which has steep ramps and a midway camp called Bargah Sevom Camp/Shelter at 4220 m (about 13,845 ft). With good weather conditions this route is more or less easy, but needs a good adaptation to height. A risk is also the big sulfur cloud coming up near to the top; breathing can be difficult.
Tourism is increasing in the region and provides some income (for example to the guides, to the horse owners, because horses carry the baggage, etc.). Unfortunately – as in other fascinating sites – people don’t care about nature, they throw their empty plastic bottles away and leave also other garbage behind, even though there are clear signage calling to keep clean the nature .

 

duffel bag on a mule

duffel bag on a mule

Damavand Mountain Protectors Society since 2009

It was expected to be ever present for generations. Regrettably, Damavand Mountain has long experienced negligence, abuse, over utilization, intentional and unintentional destruction, some of them non-restorable.
Worried mountaineers and Damavand Mountain friends found it necessary to form the Damavand Mountain Protectors Society as a non-profit non-governmental organization. This society has the mission to help bring Damavand Mountain’s natural environment to the international standards level and to upgrade this society to “Damavand Mountain National Foundation” with the help and cooperation provided by all Damavand friends. The celebration of a “National Damavand Day” advocates for its protection.

Many efforts have gone into achieving these objectives. A search through internet for “Damavand National Day” introduces interested users to past activities. Iranian Mountaineers Society has been involved in and has been on the forefront of many activities including working on the initial idea, making a proposal, and following up for selecting a Friday close to 13th of Tir (4th of July) as “Damavand National Day” from 1384-88 (2005-2009). Other activities include: organizing meetings with conferences, safeguarding the famous Poppy Fields at the bottom of Damavand, correspondence and following up on legal aspects of national registration of Damavand Mountain, promoting its protection, and continual mass media publicity. The formation of Damavand Mountain Protectors Society in Aban 1388 (November 2009) was the result of those efforts and opened a new chapter.

A cleaning action in September 2014

Gotlind Blechschmidt from MW International had the opportunity to visit Iran and to climb Damavand in September 2014. On the way up she met a group collecting rubbish along the whole Southern Route. The Amol Damavand protectors group (another name: Nisha, which means “bud”), coming from a city north of Damavand, Amol, is working for free in this field every summer. Their work is not limited to mountains, but they are active also in the woods next to the roads. The Amol Climbing Federation was the sponsor. About 100 volunteers (and not all of them were mountaineers!) collected the tourists garbage and brought them down in big plastic bags … In 2014 they hold their 16th action!

100 Cleaning action

There are other groups too gathering rubbish at Damavand, but most of them do it in conjunction with climbing while Nisha’s main action is the yearly cleaning work and not climbing.
Gotlind said: “I met a clean mountain with its great beauty and its wide overview of Iran … Only ten plastic bottles were left over and I collected them.” And she repeats the slogan written in the hut: “Less litter, live better.” Let’s keep the mountains clean!

 

 

 

 

 

“PROTECTION OF MOUNTAINS GUARANTEES THE SURVIVAL OF HUMAN RACE”
Come to Iran, come to Damavand, enjoy the mountains and the people of Iran!

193 no litter und MW

Sources and useful links
Wikipedia

Department of Environment, Islamic Republic of Iran: Atlas of Protected Areas of Iran, Teheran 2006

www.ngdir.ir/Default.asp

https://fa-ir.facebook.com/pages/Mountaineering-Sport-climbing-Federation-of-Iran/150762821630712

Damavand Mountain Protectors Society:
http://damavandkooh.com/_English-Pages_100.aspx
Email: info@damavandkooh.com
damavandkoohngo@yahoo.com

Alpine Club of Iran:
www.mtnforum.org/content/alpine-club-iran
http://www.alpineclub.ir/

Some agencies (sustainable tourism)
http://mountainguide.ir/
http://damavandmt.blogspot.de/
http://koh-e-damavand.blogfa.com/post/7
www.damawand.com
http://www.damawand.de/Tour/Permit.html
http://www.kouhyaran.com/en/

(GB)


© Mountain Wilderness International