This is the fourth and final installment of our June-July Chamonix 2015 trip. This one is shaping up to be a good one! Don't worry, though, you wont have to go long without a trip report from me - Rose and I are heading back to Chamonix for another week in August with family. So I'm sure there will be more great things done then that will need reporting.
Guides and Shadow Mentors
Europe is much more densely packed with highly skilled climbers of all sorts than any other place I've been. In fact, Chamonix may be more densely packed with human billy goats than the Yosemite valley. A quick search of "IFMGA Guides Chamonix" brought up no less than 15 individual guiding companies that work in Cham.
If/when you come to Chamonix, I highly recommend getting a guide for a day - your abilities will sprint forward immeasurably. Between Rose and I, we have spent a total of 4 days under the tutelage of a guide in Cham. Each day has been invaluable.
This volume of people climbing is only out numbered by the number of 4 star climbs available. That said, we still have rubbed shoulders with dozens of people whose years spent climbing number in the double digits. Rose and I have learned a lot talking to these people, observing them in action, and reading the books they recommend.
Before I get into what we did, please allow me to pass on some of what we are learning (if you are not a climber who is trying to expand what you are doing in the mountains, feel free to skip this section! It's long and very climbing related). Also, for most of what I talk about below, I am only in the process of learning. I ask hard questions that I find super challenging to answer myself.
There are 4 components that I think can work together to make you a better climber. They are:
For each of the points above, here are the ways I am working to improve:
#1 - Climb with someone who is better than you. If you don't have someone like that, just go climb. Maybe switch between bouldering and sport? Never top rope if you can avoid it. Top roping develops bad technique known as slop rope.
#2 - Read: Freedom of the Hills is a good resource. Alpine Climbing: Techniques to take you Higher is better. It's like Freedom of the Hills for people who already know how to belay and build an anchor.
Watch: This guy's entire youtube channel. He's a crusty old Canadian guide with dozens of videos from the basics to tips and tricks. And he's pretty funny.
Do: Get a guide! They aren't cheap, but every time I've gotten one, I've walked away a) inspired and b) knowing a lot more than I did when I started.
#3 - There's no replacement for conditioning. Theres also no replacement for not 'faffing about' (learned that one from the brits) at belay stations. Go light! Climb only with the gear you need, but make sure you carry enough so you don't get yourself screwed. Its a balance. We often leave the #4 BD Cam in the car. But for some reason we always bring every other cam. Do we need to each time? Do we always need 15 draws and 2 cordelette?
Tricks learned from #2 will help out a ton here!
Read: Beyond the Mountain by Steve House. More of a narrative than a How To, but it will get you so stoked on this mentality. And Steve House is a badass. And you'll have to periodically put the book down and go climb.
Do: Practice! When we climbed TC (Crimson Chrysalis in Red Rock, Nevada), Rose and I made a deal to not talk at belays unless it was important and we took no pictures. We didn't do it perfectly at all (some friends saw our first pitch LOL!!!), but it helped form a framework for the more intense days when we want to move quickly. We were still 13 hours car to car on that one.
#4 - This is a tough one. Alpine Climbing touches on the decision making aspect involved in climbing, but I think experience (time in the mountains) and observing others in action can help us out the best here. Getting a guide always helps with this.
If you have anything that helps out here, PLEASE share!!