Poème à Lou & the UTMB


I have no idea why, but we always seem to be in Chamonix on the weekend of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Of course this is never a bad thing as the atmosphere in Chamonix while the event is on is electric. Anyway this year was no exception, but it was a little more interesting than usual as one of our friends, Zac, was competing in the CCC event. We watched his Tweets roll in through Friday evening as he made his way from Courmayer, through Champex, on his way to Chamonix. What a great effort – awesome job Zac! Laetitia, Ian, Anna, and I met up with Zac on Saturday evening, after he’d grabbed some sleep and recovered from the journey a little. Here’s a shot of Zac enjoying a beer…

Zac enjoying a little rehydration!
Zac, in his smart red finisher’s gilet, enjoying a little rehydration!

Poème à Lou

IMG_8113During the day, Ian and Anna went off for a run from Brévent to the Col des Montets, while Laetitia and I went to climb Poème à Lou.

We’ve tried Poème à Lou before but failed due – mostly – to a lack of finger strength. It is a brilliant fingery five pitch route straight up the vertical face of the Brévent as seen from down-town Chamonix. It gets TD+ with the hardest sections being 6b+. However, it is also pretty much non-stop sustained action, at around 6a+ standard, every centimetre of the way.

We’d left the hot and sunny Chamonix town centre wearing just shorts and t-shirts. Yet, up on the Brévent it was cloudy! 🙁 It seems from the view we had of the Chamonix valley that we were the only ones in the shade. :freeze: Luckily we each had a light weight fleece and windproof top with us.

The highlight of the route comes on the fourth pitch where the line crosses a couloir. It’s possible to climb across the couloir at a far higher standard. But most mortals, us included, use the in-situ rope to tyrolean across the chasm and swing on to the opposite rock wall. 😎

Great training and fantastic fun! ❓ I wonder if the UTMB support music beating out of Place de l’Église was helpful, keeping me moving upwards in some kind of motivational rhythm…

Pete setting off up 2nd pitch of Poeme a Lou, a lovely steep wall with an encouraging series of helpful holds!
Pete setting off up the 2nd pitch of Poème à Lou, a lovely steep wall with an encouraging series of helpful holds!
We were unlucky enough to be on the only cliff in the Chamonix valley not bathed in summer sun.  :-(
We were unlucky enough to be on the only cliff in the Chamonix valley not bathed in sun. 🙁
Looking down on Laetitia following the 4th pitch of Poeme a Lou, another steep pitch but with even more helpful holds.  :razz:
Looking down on Laetitia following the 4th pitch of Poème à Lou, another steep pitch but with even more helpful holds. 😛
Laetitia getting ready to scramble up the final slopes after the climb to the Brevent lift station.
Laetitia getting ready to scramble up the final slopes after the climb to the top Brévent lift station.


Well, it seemed that everyone had had a successful day, so the only sensible way to celebrate was to have a cake! :yum: :yum: (Plus of course this has the added benefit of helping satisfy Colin’s needs too.)

Four yummy French cakes to celebrate another great day of adventure in Chamonix!
Four yummy French cakes to celebrate another great day of adventure in Chamonix!

Letterboxes, Birthdays, Climbing Wall & eBay star

Awful Weather

The weather this past week (month!) has been utterly awful! June was twice as wet as any June in (at least) the past seven years – this table shows just how wet…

Rain Database (mm)
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2006 200.6 74.0 124.8 61.2 106.8 101.0 101.8 160.0 165.6 276.8 1372.6
2007 244.2 106.2 121.6 75.0 82.6 137.8 139.2 99.4 79.2 76.6 99.2 176.4 1437.4
2008 256.2 135.0 138.8 94.0 45.0 116.2 116.4 199.8 150.4 311.2 123.2 128.0 1814.3
2009 194.2 21.4 106.8 60.0 136.0 75.6 185.8 212.6 72.8 139.4 334.8 131.8 1671.3
2010 72.6 53.4 110.6 49.2 19.6 47.6 253.2 94.2 182.2 106.8 128.2 37.2 1154.7
2011 146.6 203.6 81.6 92.2 147.8 58.4 104.8 164.2 205.2 192.0 1396.5
2012 124.2 89.2 42.8 47.8 90.4 210.4 9.4 614.2
Database Summary
Min 72.6 21.4 42.8 47.8 19.6 47.6 9.4 94.2 72.8 76.6 99.2 37.2 1154.7
Max 256.2 203.6 200.6 94.0 147.8 210.4 253.2 212.6 205.2 311.2 334.8 276.8 1814.3
Avg 173.0 101.5 114.7 70.3 92.3 101.0 130.8 145.2 131.9 158.8 170.2 157.0 1519.4

This incredible weather has led to many things, some being: flooding all over Cumbria, a series of almost adventure-less weekends, my having to rescue Laetitia from Carnforth when the West Coast Mainline train system was brought to a halt by a rain-induced landslide near Tebay, and Rachel getting national exposure on BBC television for her knowledge and research in to sustainable drainage!


Anyhow, Saturday was only moderately wet, too wet to climb, but not too wet to get out for walk and a little letterbox hunting, or as Paul amusingly phrased it, “it’s a bit like cunning running in’it”.

Newby Bridge
Laetitia tunnelling through a dry-stone wall!
The weather turned out nicer than we’d expected as the day went on… In fact the evening was clear with a wonderful moon. Why is it that the fine wether never seems to coincide with the daytime?
Finsthwaite Tower stamp Finsthwaite High Dam stamp

Sorry the stamp impression for Finsthwaite Tower is so poor – it isn’t actually a stamp, it’s a B&W picture from the cover of the letterbox log-book. The stamp had been taken away and the book itself was water logged.

Fiona & Richard’s joint Birthday Party

As their birthdays are either side of summer in the damp and miserable winter months, Fiona and Richard decided to hold a joint birthday party in June to take advantage of damp and miserable summer weather instead! 😯 They’d chosen Consiton as there’s a great little hall there, the Coniston Institute. Plus it is really close to the MAM hut for those people travelling to join the revelry.

We all had to bring an offering of food to help create a very impressive spread that ranged from chicken curry to baked potatoes, from quiche to prawn salad, and from rhubarb pie to chocolate torte! :yum: In exchange – as well as the amazing company – we got treated to a brilliant band, and far too much Coniston Blue Bird bitter! Richard had bought a barrel from the Coniston micro-brewery and far too much of it found it’s way in to my glass… 😳

A party – beer, music, and climbers – a recipe for a hang over the next day!
(Sorry the photo quality is so poor 🙁 )

Climbing Wall & eBay Stars

On Sunday, with a very heavy head (due to too much consumption of Coniston Blue Bird), we dragged ourselves out of bed, managed to eat a couple of slices of toast, drink a few mugs of tea, pop a couple of paracetamol, and eventually – as the weather was yet again raining – get ourselves to Kendal climbing wall. Not much to say about that really – I find pulling on plastic quite dull to be honest, I’m not very good at it as I lack the stamina, and I don’t go often enough for it to make any difference to my rock climbing ability.

Ah well, there were two much more fun events when we got home: 1) Sarah was calling round for dinner and to chat about a forthcoming trip to Chamonix she and Zac are planning, and 2) those nice people at eBay gave me my 100th star.

A Visit to Dracula Land

Since work brought me to Romania for a year I use my weekends to travel around the country whenever the weather permits. Last weekend was my first longer trip and my destination was Brasov / Brassó / Kronstadt, a beautiful old city on the Southern border of Transylvania. It was a city founded by Transylvanian Saxons who were invited by the Hungarian king in the 12th century to establish crafts and trade in Transylvania and build towns.

Brasov has a wonderful location surrounded by the Carpathian mountains, some of them exceeding the height of 2500m. The very own mountain of the city is called Mount Tampa, which, with its height of 960m seems like a small hill compared to the surrounding peaks.

The Black church, mount Tampa in the background

The Black church is the symbol of the city, it is one of the most beautiful monuments in Transylvania. It was built for 100 years! It received it name after the Austrian soldiers burnt down part of the city in the 17th century. In the flames part of the church were ruined as well and its walls gained their black colour. It was renovated in the 18th century when it received some Baroque elements to its main Gothic style.

The Black church
Medieval feeling

After walking around for hours I got thirsty so I had a “small” beer and one of the most delicious dinners of my life. I could taste the very origins of Hungarian cuisine, it was better than home! I’m sure I will be back!

The city greeted me with fireworks in the evening which I could enjoy from my hotel window.

The next day I went to visit two famous castles nearby. One of them is Rasnov (Bárcarozsnyó in Hungarian) where the medieval castle is built on the top of a hill and watches over the small village. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics from the village!

Rasnov castle

My next destination was Bran (Törcsvár) which is home for the famous Dracula castle. The castle itself was built by the city of Brasov to protect the important pass through the Carpathian mountains from invaders. But why is this the castle of Dracula? Behind the well-known vampire of this name there is a real historical person, called Vlad Tepes, an exceprionally brutal squire who used to impale his enemies, hence his name, Tepes, which means Impaler. But his original name is Dracula, son of Dracul, which means son of the dragon. His father got the name of Dracul because he was member of the order of the Dragon.

The Dracula castle from its park

The castle was given to the Romanian “mother king” Regina Maria (King Mary, who was English, by the way) for her loyalty to the country (for her efforts to unite the country after WWI – the same reason Hungary lost Transylvania to Romania). It was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ilieana who was chased away by the communist regime. Later her descendants (living in Austria) got it back from the state and they run the museum today.

On my way home I took a beautiful, panoramic road through the mountains so I had to stop several time to take pictures. I offer a prize to the first person who guesses what make the car is on the side of the road!

Oh, and before I forget: the inevitable cat picture!

Dracula cat

As you can imagine, there are some excellent climbing areas around as well as hiking routes so it’s only natural that I will be back (and not only for the food and the beer)!!!

Bowfell Snowiness

Wintry weather was forecast, and that’s exactly what we were served up on Bowfell today.

Dave and Fiona stayed with us Saturday night – which provided a great opportunity to drink more wine than we should have and to catch up on the past year’s adventures etc. But this meant we were a little sluggish getting out of bed in time to meet Helen at the YHA in Ambleside, but we made it as planned and went on to meet Dave (and his two dogs Millie and Pippa) at the ODG in Langdale…

Pete and Dave practicing their micro-navigation on the way up to Bowfell
Dave, Dave, Fiona, Helen, and Laetitia grab a lunch stop behind a convenient rocky outcrop to provide a little shelter from the wind, hail, and snow.
Wintry conditions on the climber's traverse towards Bowfell Buttress
Hooray, Bowfell summit, Helen and Laetitia celebrate!
Catalogue poses!
Back in the warmth of the bar at the ODG ... where we used beer and hot chocolate (plain, or spiked with rum or brandy) to rewarm.