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Fall 2012
Volume 18, Issue 4

TOUR DU MONT BLANC

July 2012
Report by Heather Witt, Photos by Jose Witt

This past July, Jose and I explored the Tour du Mont Blanc, a trail that circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest peak. We hiked almost 90 miles in just under two weeks, exploring parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland.

We began our trek in the beautiful alpine village of Chamonix, France where we hopped on a bus to Les Houches. After a ride up the Bellevue Teleforique, we started on the trail to hike about 10 miles to Les Contamines, France. Unfortunately we were unable to see the spectacular views of the Bionnassay valley and glacier due to heavy fog most of the day. Crossing this Himalayan-style bridge was one of the highlights of our foggy day.

We stopped at the refuge, Auberge du Truc for a delicious lunch of smoked ham, bread, and cheese (and a hot cocoa for me), before continuing on to our hotel in Les Contamines.

Our second day on the trail was probably the most difficult. We gained 4320 ft of elevation and hiked just over 11 miles. Our hike took us through Les Contamines to the beautiful baroque chapel, Notre Dame de la Gorge, and then up a steep route that was used by ancient Romans. Rock slabs from the Roman route still remain today. It was a tough climb but we had some spectacular views along the trail. We stopped for a well-deserved lunch at a refuge just past the Col and then began a 3000 ft descent to Les Chapieux.



Roman Route

Hiking through some snow on the way to Col du Bonhomme

Jose & Heather near the Col du Bonhomme

Refuge de la Croix, our lunch stop

Spectacular views!

We stayed in the bustling Aberge de la Nova Inn in Les Chapieux. We had one of their private rooms, but the inn also has large dormitories that were full with fellow trekkers. The family style dinner was a welcome opportunity to converse with people from all over the world; this was our first encounter with a significant number of English speakers. The food and the beer were also delicious!

The next day, instead of taking the shuttle-bus up the valley, we opted to walk the hour and a half up the road instead. This was an extremely windy day! Our hats were blown off repeatedly, and we were slightly regretting not taking the shuttle.

After a quick snack (and wind) break at a lovely waterfall we continued our climb to the Col de la Seigne. Wind was roughly 35-40 mph with gusts up to 50 mph which made our stay at the Col very short. We crossed from France into Italy after leaving the Col, and arrived at the Rifugio Elisabetta cold and hungry.

We had some really impressive views of glaciers from Elisabetta.

After a nice hot lunch at Elisabetta we hiked down the Val Veny to the very tiny Italian village of Visaille. We almost missed the small bus stop here, that helped avoid 2 ½ hours of road walking into Courmayeur. Luckily, with some help from some locals, we found the bus stop and were on our way.

On our fourth day of the tour we were scheduled to stay in Courmayeur and climb Mont Chetif. We decided to give ourselves a rest day instead since we (mostly me) were tired and the weather looked iffy. At this point we had hiked around 33 miles and just over 9,200 ft of elevation. It was a nice break and we explored the town and took a cable car up to the Refugio Torino on the Italian side of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco as the Italians call it).

Leaving Courmayeur for the Rifugio Bonatti, we hiked through quaint little neighborhoods, then steep wooded switchbacks up to the Rifugio Bertone. We opted to climb the steep hill toward Mont de la Saxe before returning to the easier option along the Val Ferret. The views were stunning!

Staying at Bonatti, I had my first experience with coin-operated showers, which I apparently did not understand how to operate and thus ended the day with a freezing shower. The cup of thick hot chocolate while sitting outside of the Refugio in the warm sun did much to improve upon my frigid shower experience!

The Refugio Bonatti was our last night in Italy as we made our way into Switzerland, hiking 12 miles to the village of La Fouly. I hit the wall this day, hiking all the way down the valley only to hike back up, and dragged myself exhausted into our hotel, where I had the best night’s sleep!

Day eight was a nice easy 9 miles with little elevation gain to Champex du Lac, Switzerland, a small village on a beautiful little lake. I would like to move there some day, it was so beautiful! Our hike took us through several other Swiss villages with gardens all in bloom. We arrived early in the afternoon and walked to a café for lunch and strolled around the beautiful lake before returning to our hotel.

We left Champex with bad weather threatening, and did indeed get rained on for several hours on our way to La Forclaz, Switzerland. It was a good thing we had packed our rain gear and pack covers! Instead of the steep and strenuous 9 mile hike to the Trient Glacier, we opted to take the less challenging 8.5 mile Bovine route. We enjoyed a Swiss Fondue lunch at our hotel in La Forclaz, and did a little souvenir shopping as well.

Our final day on the tour had us returning to France. We hiked along an aqueduct for quite some time and then hiked up very close to two beautiful glaciers, picking blueberries along the trail as we went. There was a lot of scrambling up and over rocks on the trail near the Col de Balme. Because the weather was beginning to get very foggy and windy we decided to shorten our day by taking the chairlift and gondola down to le Tour, where we hopped on a bus back to Chamonix. Visibility was so low that it was a rather surreal ride down the lift- we could not even see the chair in front of us, only our feet!

We spent an extra day in Chamonix at the end of our tour, and because we just hadn’t hiked enough, we hiked up to Lac Blanc. It was a steep, short hike, and we had gorgeous weather with stunning views of Mont Blanc. We said our goodbyes to the TMB at a creperie near our hotel, where we feasted on crepes (savory & sweet), as the sun set behind Mont Blanc.

Our trek along the Tour du Mont Blanc was an amazing one! We fell in love with the Alps and hope to return someday soon! For a more detailed trip report and LOTS more pictures, come to the club meeting at REI in January.


PEAKBAGGING IN THE SALT LAKE CITY AREA

August 16-19, 2012
Report by Ed Forkos, Photos by Ed Forkos and Joel Brewster

From August 16 through 19, Joel Brewster led a small but stalwart group, Luba Leef and myself (Ed Forkos) on a pleasant mini-tour of some exceptional crags in this area. Unfortunately, all the other participants had dropped out. What follows are some highlights of this trip. As is true generally in mountaineering, the information necessary to be successful is in reality a moving target. Check out several sources. Once “on the ground” keep your eyes open for changes. We had planned to do Flat Top Mountain, but the access issue proved unresolvable, with small amounts of private land to cross, known hostile landowners, and intransigence on the part of the landowner to multiple inquiries by the group leader.

1. Mt. Nebo, 11928’. The standard route appears to be the northern approach. Once you get to the proper trailhead, there is only ONE trail, easy to follow, to the top. However, confusion seems to surround how to get to the trailhead. In Nephi, take exit 225 East, following Hwy 132 for 4.6 miles to the Nebo Loop Road. Go North 3.2 miles, take the right fork in the road, continue another 9.8 miles to the signed Monument Trailhead. Don’t enter this large parking area but rather bend right onto the Mona Pole Road. After 0.4 miles of good dirt, park and head up. Though the route is mostly Class 1 with some limited Class 2, its rather steep, loose, and exposed requiring focus. Don’t be tempted to go OVER North Peak unless you have time and energy to kill; go around its west flank on the trail. Near the top is a talus ramp heading around to the east side, then up, making it a bit easier. The summit ridge traverse is dramatic, if not a bit intimidating to look at. Though the net ascent is 2677’, there is a fair amount of up and down, so the estimate of 3400’ total up would be a reasonable minimum. Put this on your “to do” list. Anticipate about 7 hours of hiking, half on the ascent. P.S. You will not see the Jordan River or Israel from the top.

Mount Nebo looks dramatic as we approach.

Ed and Luba negotiating the rocky ridge en route to Mt. Nebo


2. Mt. Timpanogos. At a mere 11749’ in stature, this is the true 800 lb. gorilla of the Wasatch range. Since the Timpooneke Trailhead was closed, we were forced to access via Aspen Grove, which did not lead to scenery-deprivation. The majesty of its soaring, serpiginous cliffs, broad, flower-studded verdant meadows and glacial basins make this a must-do item for any mountain person with an aesthetic sense. That said, the price is nearly 5000’ of ascent on rough trail with lots of short Class 2 issues, and considerable exposure near the top. Though the trail is relatively easy to follow, it suffers from lots of shortcutting and braiding, sometimes leading to uncertainty. This place suffers from an excess of love from the locals. Don’t even consider to venture forth on a weekend. This is not a route that can be easily followed in the dark. Expect about 5 hours up and 4 hours down. Enjoy.



The impressive Mt. Timpanogos

One of many spectacular waterfalls along the Aspen Grove Trail

These mountain goats paid us no attention

Joel, Ed, and Luba celebrate summitting the magnificent Mt. Timpanogos.

Ed and Luba descend the trail with the Provo area far below


3. American Fork Twin Peaks (11489’ for the higher west twin.) This proved to be an unexpectedly cool loop route! First go online and print up a copy of both the Snowbird Ski Trail map and the hiking trail map. From the highway take Entry #2 and go east in the large parking lot to where you can spot a small concrete bridge. Park here, cross the bridge, and pick up the Dick Bass Highway (now labeled only the Gad Valley Trail) and work your way up to the top of the Gad II lift via the trail system. This whole area was closed for construction but we somehow “figured it out.” Cross southward on a small ridge through the trees to the prominent north ridge of Red Top Mtn. Ascend this ridge on steep Class 2 boulder field and slope at a least steep point, then cruise on up the pleasant Class 2 ridge to the flat-topped, nondescript Red Top Mtn. Pausing to absorb the unexpected scene of the extremely rocky and dramatic high country of the Wasatch, proceed to your destination, the Twins on Class 1 terrain. Next comes the first of two surprises, namely a very neat Class 3 (with small snippets of Class 4) ridge traverse on secure knife-edge rock to Hidden Peak. The second surprise is a free and dizzying ride on the Aerial Tram down from Hidden Peak to the Snowbird Center to reunite with teeming and chic civilization (watch the prices.) Plan 5-6 hours to get to Hidden Peak.

Looking down at the "knife-edge" we would traverse

Luba with Snowbird Resort in the background

Ed and Luba picking their way along the class 3 ridgeline from American Fork Twin Peaks to Hidden Peak


4. Deseret Peak, 11031’. This is in a somewhat generic Great Basin range (Stansbury), but it does have its charm. The trailhead is small with limited parking; come early and avoid weekends, though I don’t believe this is a very popular place for hiking. Camping is another story. There are two distinct ways to reach the summit which can be connected at the top. After about ¾ miles of hiking, a trail junction is signed to the peak to the left, and to Willow Lake to the right. The former is a pleasant meander up a long, broad canyon on a simple Class 1 trail. The latter is a somewhat longer, somewhat inefficient trail with more exposure, some steepness, and rare Class 2 interludes, very scenic however if taken in the northward direction. So, a clockwise loop is advised. The total price: 5-6 hours, 3600’, and about 8 miles. Views from the top are said to be spectacular, but were obscured from us by smoke in the air. It’s too bad that more people didn’t avail themselves of Joel’s efforts. He did a great job and we enjoyed every minute.

View from Deseret Peak

Ed and Luba at a trail junction at the ridgeline

Summit photo on Deseret Peak


CLIMBER'S CORNER

10 ROCK CLIMBING TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Beginners and experts alike can use these tips to improve their climbing as well as impress the onlookers. These tips should improve your climbing as much as a least a letter grade.

1. Picture yourself on a ladder when you climb, move from one hold to the next as relaxed as if you were ascending the rungs or steps of a ladder.

2. Avoid over gripping holds with your hands. You will quickly tire your arms out.

3. Use your feet like you would your hands.

4. Trust your feet. You can stand on your legs all day. You don’t hang with your arms all day. Too often people hang on their arms and then fall off, sailing right past a monster ledge they could have had their feet on.

5. Trust your belayer, and focus on climbing. If you are worried your belayer doesn’t have you, find a new belayer you can trust.

6. Concentrate on what is within reach. Sometimes you can use an intermediate hold (a smaller hold between secure holds) to get to a better hold.

7. Climb from the bottom up, not top down. Of course, if you can see the top of the route, look to see if there is a pattern working from the goal down to where you are, but when you start to climb, focus on the climbing at the bottom of the route as you climb up.

8. Climb in an X shape with your hips being the middle of the X. Hang with your arm straight. Your skeleton can take much more of a load than your muscles can. If the heel of your foot is hanging too far down you may notice your leg start to shake like a “sewing machine”. This is very common occurrence; simply apply more weight to your toes so your calf muscle spasm can stop.

9. Fear of heights is normal. Climbing is all about conquering those fears. Time will cure the fear of heights. A good trick is to look down no further than your feet to correctly place them on the best part of the hold.

10. Take your time. Climb like a cat does—quiet, deliberate, and precise. Picture the move, and then execute it. Use all of your limbs, not just two. The lower the angle of the climb, the more time you have, so use it. Make each move as fluid as possible.


Congratulations to our newest outing coordinators: Brett Sapowith, Debbie Wood, and Michelle Napoli. We look forward to many great outings from you in the future. Having a good variety of outings and coordinators is crucial to our club. Thanks so much for your service!


LVMC MONTHLY BIO FEATURE
Anji Cerney

 

Where were you born?
San Diego, CA

How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
I moved to Vegas in September of 1989.

What is your occupation?
Product Manager at a large e-commerce company

How long have you been an LVMC member?
I joined LVMC in October 2011.

What is your favorite hike/climb?
One of my favorite hike’s with the club was Toiyabe Dome. The view from the summit is quite the reward.

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
The most challenging hike with LVMC was Kingston Peak as it is bushwhacking at a whole different level; outside of the club it was the 2011 Jansport 8000 Meter Challenge.

How did you get into hiking/climbing?
I always had the desire to hike but never any friends that were interested (boo). LVMC has given me the opportunity to finally fulfill the dream (yay!).

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
I like to workout and counterbalance it by watching a lot of T.V. haha :) I also love food and surfing the net.


 

LAS VEGAS MOUNTAINEERS CLUB
BOARD OF DIRECTORS


President: Dan Young
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Sue Schager
Treasurer: Lynda Gallia
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Jose Witt
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: Al Bennett
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Heather Witt
Communty Outreach Director: Michelle Napoli

The Ascender is the quarterly online newsletter of the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club. All content is property of LVMC and may be used only by the original submitters. All others must obtain written consent from the Board of Directors.
All Club members are invited to submit trip reports, photos, trip listings, recipes, classified ads and other related information. January 15th is the deadline for the next issue.

SUBMIT ARTICLES TO:
Joel Brewster
E-mail: web@lvmc.org

Hikers

CLUB MEMBERSHIP

RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP ONLINE

Please send any address, phone number and e-mail changes to Eric Kassan, membership director. LVMC currently has approximately 130 paid members or families.


If you wish to send a check instead of using PayPal online, please make your check payable to the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club and mail to: P.O. Box 36026, Las Vegas, NV 89133-6026.
Single membership is $30 per year, $85 for three years. Family annual membership is $40, $110 for three years.

To the following members, please note that your membership will expire in the next three months, unless you have recently renewed it:

Josh, Kim, & Nicolas Owen
Mary Marlow
Alan Bennett
Kenna James
Mark Palladino
Anji Cerney
Jose & Heather Witt
Mike Pierce
Jeffrey & Laurel Casey
Erik Stone
Rick Goulding
Frank Toddre II
Richard Biegel
Jason Shaffer & Lisa Duncan
Sterling Ross
Sherri Camperchioli
Loren Klein & Jennifer Daniels
Collin Kamholz
Danny Chiang
Bart Stephens
Minas Mike Mkhitarian
Meiko Powers
Sandie Miskill
Jeff Jones
Colin Okada
William Siegal
Eric & Angela Kassan
Jennifer Levine

CLUB GEAR

This club gear is available at no charge to members (a refundable deposit of the gear's approximate value may be required):


4-season tent
Helmets
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Snowshoes
Strap-on Crampons*
Hiking Boots
Climbing Shoes
Carabiners
Quickdraw

Quantity
1
8
3
5
8
7
2
2
18
1


Grigris
Harnesses
Slings
Cordalette
Belay Devices

Belay Plate
Ice Tool
Ice Screws

Deadman Anchors
Quantity
4
5
15
1
4
1
3
8
4

*Will require a signed waiver.

Non-members are not eligible to borrow club gear. Deposits taken on gear must be in the form of cash or check and will be returned upon return of equipment. Gear is also available to members for courses with no deposit required. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about club gear, please contact Dan Young.

Classified Ads
Members: Free
Non-members: $5

Business Ads
1/8 page (business card): $5
1/4 page: $10
1/2 page: $15
Full page: $20
All rates are per issue and will be discontinued automatically unless renewed. Ads must be prepaid and sent by e-mail or submitted on CD. Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Mountaineers Club.

Gear

CLICK HERE FOR LVMC EVENT CALENDAR

GENERAL MEETINGS

The Las Vegas Mountaineers meet on the 4th WEDNESDAY of the month at 7 pm at REI in Summerlin.

NOVEMBER

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ruby Crest Trail
Jose Witt

DECEMBER

NO GENERAL MEETING THIS MONTH

Friday, December 7, 2012

LVMC Christmas Party
(sign up on our Meetup)

JANUARY

Wednesday, January 23, 2012

Trekking around Mt. Blanc
Jose & Heather Witt


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