With our trip to Grindelwald and the Eiger called off due to weather, the three of us talked over our options for the second part of our trip. We all decided to focus the remainder of the trip on those skills that would be necessary if we decided to come back for the Eiger another time. Specifically, rock climbing.
Jon picked a rock climb traverse known as the Perrons de Vallorcine. The Eiger required a 1:1 guide to client ratio and Mike Brownlow, from Scotland, was our second guide who was going to join us there. With that trip wiped out, Mike joined us this morning with Jon. This traverse, and the rest of the climbs Jon had planned, would require a 1:1 ratio.
This traverse consists of three connected but separate spires and requires all the skills necessary for the Eiger. There is route finding, rock climbing, belaying and rappelling (also known as abseiling).
The route starts out at a parking lot near a dam. We parked on one side and then walked across the dam to the trailhead.
The trail goes up some grassy hills then you climb up to the Grand Perron.
On the back side of the Grand Perron are three rappels, the first being 10 m (33ft), then 25 m (82ft) then 20 m (65ft). This drops you down to a col at the base of Pointe Vouilloz.
Pointe Vouilloz is slightly higher than Grand Perron and the high point of the climb is on the far side this feature. To get down one makes two more rappels of 10 – 15 m and 25 m.
Finally, the third spire is Pain de Sucre. This section isn’t has high and there were no rappels on it. After you down climb the far side of Pain de Sucre, you have quite a long walk out back to the dam and your car. Shelley (blue helmet) was roped to Jon and I (orange helmet) was roped to Mike. There was no snow on the traverse so we did not have to use crampons. Jon and Mike would climb up ahead and set a belay before we followed. Neither of us ever slipped or fell needing the belay, but it was comforting to know it was there. Here are some various pictures of the traverse.
This last picture is looking back at the three features that make up this traverse. The Grand Perron in the background, Pointe Vouilloz in the middle and Pain de Sucre in the foreground.
Neither Shelley nor I had ever done this sort of rock climbing. We’ve climbed boulder fields and features similar to the Grand Couloir on Mont Blanc, but nothing as big as the Grand Couloir or as technical as this traverse. There were places were you really had to be on your game as the exposure was extreme. It was common to be standing on a ledge the size of a bar stool with a 1,000 foot drop next to you. Or narrow cracks and ledges just a few inches wide with 1,000 foot drops. This made for some spectacular views and some exciting locations. According to Jon, this traverse is similar in many ways to what we would have found on the Eiger. However, the Eiger is much more technical is some areas than this traverse. This made a good skill and confidence builder if we ever decided to return to the Alps for a shot at the Eiger.