Cocher Cochon

This route has been on our bucket list for quite some time.

The Pinnacle, of which the last 4 pitches lead to the top of, stands proud amongst the Aiguille Rouges facing Mont Blanc.

We felt quietly capable of taking on another classic, and had decided that today would be the day. The weather had stayed dry and warm for a few days and only having three people to serve at breakfast I knew I would be finished early enough to make the most of the day.

After heading up the Plan Praz lift, we started on the half an hour approach to the bottom of the climb and as a group of three appeared below us, we hoped that we would be ready in time to make a start before they caught us up.

Getting ready, the group appeared next to us, and asked if we were fast, which normally we are.

Unsure as to whether we had walked above the first pitch, I started climbing because if we were on the 4b this would mean Olly would have the most challenging pitch. Chivalrous again, I know, but this was the first time I had climbed outside after my near panic attack on Cacao Girls.

Half way up, I realised I had made a mistake. This was surely not the 4b, and the same old fear started to close in on me. Normally, I wouldn’t bat an eye at a 5c but my moves became tense and shaky as I eased up the slab (seriously Greenwood… again!?) and my breathing became panicked as poor foot placements in the will to reach the top lead me to slip twice.

Getting to the next bolt I quickly clipped, grabbing onto the quick draw for the sake of something safe to cling onto and asked Olly to take. I tried my best to calm down searching for a reason and easy climb was escaping me, but hearing the familiar thoughts circling my mind, and having 3 experienced climbers hoping to do the route at some point this week, I accepted my fate and Olly lowered me to the ground.

With shaking hands I untied from the rope, and as we pulled it through, I was exhausted.

The group of three made their way up (with the chap who lead this route shouting down to confirm we had all started on the 5c) and Olly got ready to lead. As usual, he skipped up the route and I followed for the next 2 pitches with my tail between my legs.

The final pitch on the first half was a 5a, and we decided that I should at least try to lead it. After getting to the top, we discussed an escape route and quickly realised it wasn’t really feasible. So, whilst we were there and he was happy to lead, we concluded we may as well keep on climbing. I felt rather guilty at my continued complaining and friable excuses due to a bruised ego, and realised I obviously can’t hinder his chance of making it, and was very happy to second the entire route.

Demoting myself to belay-bitch, we abseiled down (keeping my phone securely in my bag) and scrambled past the 3b connection to find somewhere to have our sandwiches. Whilst examining the next pitch we could hear the shouts of someone above us struggling on the 6a.

A few fleeting threats of rain passed us by, and with the clouds coming in a little, I was very happy for my newly purchased Black Diamond hoodie to be at the bottom of my bag.

“Might give me a little mojo if I put it on!” I told Olly as he put an extra layer on, and we started on the final section.

Following up the climb, with a mildly difficult start, I started feeling a bit happier and decided to lead the next pitch whilst I had a good groove going for me, and belayed Olly up to the base of the 6a.

The last of group of 3, who were experienced Cypriote climbers, was still making his way up the pitch and as a few small, yet threatening, rain drops fell we started to debate the possibility of ending up being tied to the side of the pinnacle in a possible Chamonix thunder storm.

Not a chance.

Storms in Chamonix are amazing. And ferocious.

After stifling heat that consumes the valley floor, weather systems that close in during a matter of minutes makes you realise why previous civilisations used to think the Gods were angry.

After some deliberation we decided that a safe retreat was worth failing to make the last pitch.

As it turned out, the weather held. However, the news report of two local climbers becoming human sacrifices to the Gods of Thunder, was not something I particularly wanted my parents to read.

Did someone say beer o’clock?

Cocher Clochon…. We shall meet again.

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