/ Open Letter to the Scottish Mountain Guide, Tour Ronde 03/09/13

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simone.lombardi - on 07 Sep 2013
Dear Scottish Mountain Guide who totally ignored us on the SE ridge of Tour Ronde after the difficult on-sight ascent of its north face and an unscheduled bivouac just below the summit with no equipment, no water, rockfall and -5 degrees:

it's nice to see that you put your business interests and daily fee before solidarity and kindness towards other Alpinists.

For your information:

The German Guide who spotted us at 07:30 offered us full support, giving up food, water and lots of beta for the descent, a slightly different approach from yours.

We told you we had just been through a terrible bivouac and you said "us too": sleeping in a tent the day before with full comfort in the middle of the glacier is not an emergency bivuoac, it's Glamping.

You told us: "We saw you yesterday on the face, you started late and were slow". You have no right to criticise the style of our ascent, especially considering it was on-sight, while you probably have done it a million times. Also, the day after the descent, it was nice to observe how you followed our alternative line to the middle of the face and used our tracks and beta to get to the gulley.. what an hypocrite.

When, completely exhausted, we asked you if you could follow you across the crux section of the descent, you replied: "Have you not got a guide book?" and then overtook us. I wonder if Walter Bonatti replied the same to Pierre Mazeaud on the Center Pillar of Freney.

If you think this behaviour helps ring-fencing your business, I sincerely hope you won't need the help of other people when you find yourself in trouble.

Let's see if you have the guts to reply with your name and surname.

Yours sincerely,

Simone Lombardi

Aly - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: Sorry to hear you had a bad experience on the route but I can't help feeling there might be more constructive ways to try and get in touch with the guide (rather than complaining on here) if you really think he was dangerous or unprofessional. If the chap was just a bit rude and unhelpful it might help to consider that perhaps he was just having a bad day (we all have them!) - guides often take a lot of crap from people on the hill and at the end of the day they're out there working for a living rather than having a holiday. Are you writing this immediately after a mini-epic when you are still quite emotional as well?

It's hard to tell from your post but to play devil's advocate it sounds like you could see it as a case of having a bit of a f*ck up on the route, leaving too late and having to bivi out - something most people do on their first alpine routes at some point! Unless you specifically said to the guide that you were in trouble and needed assistance to get off/borrow his phone to call a rescue he's not really compelled to help you. Maybe he thought you looked reasonably competent and able to get off yourselves. I can kind of understand why he wasn't too keen to let you follow him - he probably hates people doing the old 'follow the guide for free' trick and didn't want to be responsible for more people than he had to. And to be fair, the descent is about as straightforward as it gets and by the sounds of it had tracks in. I can't think of anywhere near the summit that has any risk of rockfall - where were you sleeping?

I'm not sure what your problem with him following your tracks is. I'm afraid in the alps it's usual to follow tracks rather than put your own in as it's much quicker, even if they aren't going the best route. I suspect he would have known where he was going without the tracks.

You never know, in a while you might look back on this and decide that he had a point, and start earlier and climb quicker on your next route and have a really good time. Hope you enjoyed the route, even if only in retrospect!

simone.lombardi - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Aly:

Hi Aly,

thanks for your reply, yes I am obviously a bit emotional about the experience, as it was just few days ago.

We undoubtedly made some mistakes, otherwise we wouldn't have had to sleep out: we started the route at 6:30am, but the reason we slowed down was mainly down to the fact that the 4 topos we had didn't describe the top section very well and it took us a very long time to get to the east snow ridge and descent. The main mistake was to abseil down the winter descent route, which in summer is a hell on heart of broken and loose rock, just as the sun was setting. We got stuck in a bad place at night time, I'm sure we are not the first nor the last (the Germand guide confirmed, it happened to him coming down from Aiguille Verte).

The issue here is not the pros and cons of our decisions (I happily admit we could have done some things better), but the spirit of solidarity that should exist among mountaineers. I can't help to notice the stark difference of behaviour between the German guide we met in the morning, to be honest with you without him we would have risked total exhaustion.

The SE Ridge is by no means an easy summer descent route, and involves a tricky traverse over a sharp ridge. This is where we needed some help, as my climbing partner was dehydrated and totally exhausted, and I didn't ask the aforementioned guide to rope up together but just some beta. Thank god the German Guide was just behind us and AGAIN offered his energy bars and plenty of beta to get us down.

German guide, THANK YOU!

I am sorry I had to bring the discussion here, but I felt it was the correct forum to discuss this issue with our fellow mountaineers.

A part from that the route was fantastic (400m of plastic ice), and we are ecstatic we got the tick!

Thanks,

Simone



Neil Pratt - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I think the problem may be cultural - starting late, a mini epic, and an unplanned bivvi just ticks most of the boxes for a good winter day up here in Scotland. All that was missing was an epic night in the boozer the previous evening, a stonking hangover and having to navigate back off the route in a whiteout accompanied by storm force winds. By Scottish winter standards, you were having an easy day :-)
Rick Graham on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

This looks too emotional to be a troll.

You are both down in one piece but with your tail between your legs.

You , to be frank, have obviously bitten off more than you can chew.

Try easier shorter routes, go on a course or just learn by the school of hard knocks. You have just passed lesson #1. The Alps are not Stanage or sport climbing.
lowersharpnose - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I am sure many here would have helped you.


you started late and were slow". You have no right to criticise the style of our ascent...

I think he does. A late start adds to to the risk, as does a slow rate of ascent.


Erstwhile on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Neil Pratt:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)
>
> I think the problem may be cultural - starting late, a mini epic, and an unplanned bivvi

Unplanned bivouacs in Scotland in winter are hardly normal and often fatal. I think that the signs of distress, exhaustion, and fear are universal and cross-cultural.

It sounds as if the guide failed to offer the minimum of support that ALL mountaineers (and especially guides) should be expected to provide for people in trouble irrespective of the cause of the problems. I was helped once, solo on Mont Blanc with terrible food poisoning (thanks again mate), and I have helped various folk over the years and possibly saved a couple.

However, before passing judgement the other party involved should have his say. There might be circumstances we are not aware of. Somebody must know who was involved ...
Rick Graham on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to lowersharpnose:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)
>
> I am sure many here would have helped you.
>
I am sure most on here would have helped.

As regards a late start, 6.30 is not necessarily too late.

I was talking (on Snells' field) about doing the Swiss Route on the Courtes in a few hours, perfect ice texture, no crowds.

jcw ( wise old dog ) of this parish was listening in, he knew exactly how we had achieved this ideal situation, 6 30 pm across the schrund.

dutybooty - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

> The German Guide who spotted us at 07:30 offered us full support, giving up food, water and lots of beta for the descent, a slightly different approach from yours.
>
Good, thats nice, and the guy deserves to be applauded.

> We told you we had just been through a terrible bivouac and you said "us too": sleeping in a tent the day before with full comfort in the middle of the glacier is not an emergency bivuoac, it's Glamping.
>

It's not "glamping", its being prepared. You have maps and can anticipate the walk in, you have guidebooks and can anticipate parts of the route, theres the internet and a million other avenues to gain beta, to roughly estimate what you shall require.

> You told us: "We saw you yesterday on the face, you started late and were slow". You have no right to criticise the style of our ascent
>

Being late to start and slow, whilst a style, is a bad one. Should you choose to continue this "style of ascent" then accept people shall criticise.

> while you probably have done it a million times. Also, the day after the descent, it was nice to observe how you followed our alternative line to the middle of the face and used our tracks and beta to get to the gulley.. what an hypocrite.
>

This required no extra effort on your part, did not slow you down or impact on your day in any possible way. So in no way is it hypocritical.


Its nice to receive help, but never expect it.

If nobody had decided to summit that day, what would you do then? Post an open letter criticizing the fact that nobody happened to be on the face to help you?

To me, and I'm sure many others, mountaineering is about pitting yourself against challenges in a self-sufficient manner and coping with hazards thrown your way, rather than literally expecting strangers to pull you out the bog.

By all means, ask for help if required, I have done so before. Accept help if offered. And offer help to others. But expecting it is frankly naive and selfish.


On the other hand, I can't see why the guide didn't give help from the account you have provided, but its possible there are factors you weren't aware of within his own group.


Mark020 - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Erstwhile:
> (In reply to Neil Pratt)

>
> It sounds as if the guide failed to offer the minimum of support that ALL mountaineers (and especially guides) should be expected to provide for people in trouble irrespective of the cause of the problems.

Curious - Why should a guide be expected to offer support more than Joe Public?

Cheers,
Mark
lowersharpnose - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Mark020:

Because they can?
adnix - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I think this reclamation is not really justified.

You sure bite too hard and you sure had a small epic but you seemed to take this ok. I think the guide knew you were a bit distressed but in no real danger. Also, if you had been in real danger I'm sure he would have called you the chopper.
Mark020 - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to lowersharpnose:

They can what?

Offer more help or be more expected to offer help?
Erstwhile on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to dutybooty:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)

>
> On the other hand, I can't see why the guide didn't give help from the account you have provided,

This is the only point worthy of discussion, all of the others are more or less irrelevant - I would have helped, you would have helped (I guess), all my guiding colleagues in Italy would certainly have helped. We might have criticized Simone and his mate, but we would have helped.

(People set off from Libya in rickety boats with pregnant women on board, they founder and we rescue them - of course they are stupid, they bring it on themselves, but that is another issue, we save them).

Either the guide acted in an unprofessional and unethical way, or there are things we do not know (which is quite possible).



Erstwhile on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Mark020:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
>
> Curious - Why should a guide be expected to offer support more than Joe Public?
>

Part of the professional code of conduct. (In some countries legally binding - Italy for example).
dutybooty - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Erstwhile:
> I would have helped, you would have helped (I guess), ... We might have criticized Simone and his mate, but we would have helped.

Definitely would of helped as much as I could. Its human nature.

> Either the guide acted in an unprofessional and unethical way, or there are things we do not know (which is quite possible).

Entirely possible, own clients struggling, short of water/food themselves etc.

To reinforce the meaning of my last post, it was not to support the guides actions, but merely to say that help should not be EXPECTED. You put yourself in these situations and you should expect to have to get yourself out again. From the tone of the OP you would think this mindset is a strange one.
dutybooty - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Erstwhile:
As a bit of an off-topic, doesn't France have a Good Samaritan law?

lowersharpnose - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Mark020:

Guides are generally more technically competent than Joe Public and are in the business of looking after less experienced/capable folk. Their skills make them more able to help effectively.

That's what I meant.

lowersharpnose - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to dutybooty:

I think it does. Wasn't there an incident on the Couturier Couloir a few years back where someone was prosecuted for not giving help?
Ben Briggs - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: I think you're over reacting a bit, the guide is right you were very slow and should think about starting earlier next time. His number one concern is his client and their safety and not helping you out of an epic of your own making. At the end of the day you were just tired, no injuries, not in a remote place and not in bad weather, if he thought you were in genuine danger he would have phoned the PGHM. Personally I would have given a little food and water if I had it to spare, pointed you in the right direction and let you get on with it. Its good to have a struggle when you start alpine climbing, it's character building and makes you self reliant in situations when help may not be available. Maybe it was tough love :)
ewar woowar on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Gosh, you really weren't having a good time, were you!

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=562472
Mark020 - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Erstwhile:

Fair enough - admititly i was trying to play devils advocate.

I was trying to get a across that a guide could potentially offer more help but anybody should/would be expected to offer some help if it was within their power and it was genuinely needed.

I certainly wouldnt be able to turn the other cheek. Even if all i could offer was a swig of water and a point in the right direction.

On the other hand i do agree that folks should be self sufficient and not expect help.

Cheers,
Mark

Erstwhile on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
> Dear Scottish Mountain Guide who totally ignored us on the SE ridge of Tour Ronde

Just a curiosity - how do you know it was a "Scottish Mountain Guide"?
Things might have changed but I only remember there being British Mountain Guides, as far as the international qualification goes ("Scottish Mountian Guides" is instead a company, run by an Englishman !).
Did he tell you he was Scottish or did you recognize his accent?
Erstwhile on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Mark020:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
>

> On the other hand i do agree that folks should be self sufficient and not expect help.
>

Couldn't agree more.
But "when the bough breaks..." somebody has to catch baby, if they can. (Shouldn't have been up there in the first place, so let him fall ...?).

However, I reserve judgement. The guide may have had other problems to deal with, or there may be other unstated details.
kevin stephens - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
> Dear Scottish Mountain Guide who totally ignored us on the SE ridge of Tour Ronde after the difficult on-sight ascent of its north face >

You're not helping your plea using terms like "difficult on sight" for an alpine D- (maybe you should have red pointed it??!!)


You cocked up, survived and learnt something - get over it
Howard J - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: An unplanned bivi and an uncomfortable night are not in themselves an emergency. Neither is having an epic. Both situations might turn into an emergency, but you don't appear to have needed rescuing. What help did you actually need, and did you ask for it? You may have communicated your situation differently to the other guide.

You criticise the guide for not offering help but then criticise him for offering advice on how you got into that situation.

From this guide's point of view, it could appear that you were simply trying to tag on and take advantage of his expertise without paying for it. His responsibility is to his client, and we don't know what other circumstances may have played a part. Why should he take additional responsibility for you? If this had been an emergency that would be different, but it wasn't an emergency.

Like everyone else, I don't know all the facts, I'm just offering an alternative explanation.

Dan_S - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to kevin stephens:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)
> [...]
>
> You're not helping your plea using terms like "difficult on sight" for an alpine D- (maybe you should have red pointed it??!!)
>
>
> You cocked up, survived and learnt something - get over it

The bit that concerns me is that assuming the OP was following the standard decent down the SE ridge, if they were having problems on that PD ground, what where they doing on D- terrain to start with? This does make the assumption that the OP was using the standard decent though.

Either way, as others have said, being self reliant in the hills is what it's all about, and assuming others are going to help if the proverbial interfaces with the air movement device isn't really on. It's nice if they do, but it shouldn't be expected.

The guide could have handled it better perhaps, so chalk it up to experience and move on. Having had a 21 hr "mini-adventure" in the Alps a few years ago, I saw it as a learning experience and it certainly acted as a very good reality check to the sort of routes I should have been undertaking at the time.
In reply to Erstwhile:

> (People set off from Libya in rickety boats with pregnant women on board, they founder and we rescue them - of course they are stupid, they bring it on themselves, but that is another issue, we save them).

It is another issue but I also think that your description is hugely unfair to many people. Most migrants who take the risks of people smugglers are utterly desperate, maybe for safety, or maybe just for a better life like most of us in the north have. And it's our laws that force many of them onto the boats in the first place.

Now back to the mountain guides...
m dunn - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to dutybooty: Bill Murray condemns a French climber more interested in his evening dinner appointment than in helping out in a real emergency situation; Undiscovered Scotland perhaps?? No Good Samaritan there ...
brunoschull - on 07 Sep 2013
Hi,

Seems like the OP probably got the message so far from all the comments above, so I'll take an somewhat alternative point of view.

I've climbed the Tour Ronde twice, once by the North Face, and once by the Gervasuti couloir. Both times, I rapped from the SE ridge to the glacier--I did not follow the SE ridge all the way down. There are a number of different gullies dropping from the SE ridge to the glacier, and if you don't know where the usual rappells start, and you get sucked down into one of the wrong gullies, you can get into really ugly loose dangerous terrain. Also, judging by the rock up there, and from what I have heard and read, I imagine that the SE ridge is relatively straightforward in terms of technical difficulty, but is longer than rappelling, and may definitely have some steep and loose sections that could be awkward. In any case, both descent options (rappelling or ridge) make for longish day, and sleeping on the glacier and starting earlier than 6:30 is probably well advised, especially in summer. When we climbed the Gervasutti in July we were over the summit and starting down before 9:00 AM. By the time we reached the glacier, the first big rock falls were starting to come down the gullies from the SE ridge.

So, I understand that the OP might have been in relatively steep and loose terrain during the night, and was understandably tired and scared (we've all been there!). I also understand his hesitancy to tackle the descent, either by the SE ridge or the rappells. There have been plenty of accidents on or near that ridge, including the fatal fall of an Italian guide, so it may not be a straightforward as people assume.

So how should a guide act? As a starting point, I would say that a guide should act like everybody else, with common courtesy and respect, and certainly with a readiness to offer any reasonable assistance if possible or necessary. Further, I would say that we can and should hold guides to a higher standard of conduct in the mountains--after all, it's their job. Yes, of course, a guide's primary responsibility is to their client's safety. However, when I say, "It's their job," I mean in a larger sense--the mountains, living in them, moving through them, and so on, are their job. For example, the primary responsibility of a police officer is to keep the peace, see that laws are enforced, catch the bad guys, and so on, but I think that we can expect that police officers are polite and courteous dealing with everyday things, like people asking for directions. Strictly speaking, providing directions falls outside their job description, but I think we can all agree that police should reflect a certain standard of conduct. I believe that guides should be held to such a standard as well.

As other have pointed out, there's no way to tell what happened in this case. It certainly sounds like the one guide was very friendly and professional, while the other acted like an asshole (for lack of a better word), but who knows? For every arrogant, rude, awful guide I meet in Chamonix, I meet another who is generous, warm, decent, friendly, and so on. That's life, I guess.

I do think than buried in this story are some interesting questions about conduct, guides, and helping others in the mountains. I've taken one view, but I'm certainly open to arguments.

Anyway, I'm glad the OP got down safely, and I would chalk this up to experience, and move on.



simone.lombardi - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Thanks to all the people who replied, I posted here on purpose as I feel strongly about what happened on Tour Ronde. In response to your comments:

Erstwhile is spot on, the discussion is about the ethical behaviour experienced in a situation of distress, all the other details and criticism are carefully noted but largely irrelevant.

I might be naive but I feel that not offering support to people who are on the verge of exhaustion is not excusable. Our situation could have turned into an emergency in minutes, as my climbing partner was seriously dehydrated and tired and I specifically asked him for a bit of support.

Of course he was not obliged to help us and I can assure we did not plan to rely on anyone else but ourselves. In the city, we already ignore each other everyday: apologies if I thought that at least up in the mountains we could be good human beings and offer some help in the face of adversity.

To reinforce my argument I can tell you that on the very last part of the icy descent, I asked him for some brief beta as my partner was almost passing out and I didn't want to take any more chances to get him down. He totally ignored me again while his client clearly understood the situation and replied to me. It wouldn't have costed him anything to say "left" or "right", he just chose to not to answer.

To clarify some other, less important details:

1 - You all assume we are beginners.. Both me and my partner have several years of climbing behind us, we might not be Ueli Steck but we both have done lots of courses and ascents. Being slow doesn't always mean being crap, everyone has their own pace and we were just being careful. Making mistakes on the descent happens to everyone: we have had lots of OK ascents, this one went wrong.

2 - I wouldn't call 4am breakfast a late start and we had tons of beta (the route was repeated the day before): we were caught by unplanned conditions on the route and had to protect all of it (definitely not a D-!). Easy to say "you guys were crap" in front of a beer, but the proverbial hits the fan for everyone at some point.

3 - AD terrain is easy with a good night sleep and breakfast, it can still be deadly if you haven't drank for 24 hours and are exhausted. Overtaking a struggling party without helping them is not criminal but hardly virtuous.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and discussion,

Happy and trouble free climbing to everyone!

S.
Dr.S at work - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
"When, completely exhausted, we asked you if you could follow you across the crux section of the descent, you replied: "Have you not got a guide book?" and then overtook us. "

was not overtaking essential for you to follow?
Rick Graham on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

<lots of courses and ascents. Being slow doesn't always mean being crap, everyone has their own pace and we were just being careful.

In Alpine terrain if you are not fast ( or at least guidebook speed ) you are doing something wrong. Too hard a route, misjudged conditions, unfit, poor route finding or timing, as in position on the hill at certain time of day.

I do not think you have quite got it yet.
jon on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to LakesWinter:

Come on, that maybe true, but it's a very elitist attitude to adopt. If someone bites off more than they can chew or for any other reason finds themselves in difficulty, does that mean we should spit on them as we walk past them?
LakesWinter on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to jon: Not at all, and maybe my post came across harshly, so I have now deleted it - hard to get it right in writing sometimes - I didn't mean offence and I wasn't commenting on the original incident, more on what I took from the OP's last post, where they equated taking lots of care and being slow with being safe, I was was meaning that that in itself is quite an unsafe attitude in larger mountains.
LakesWinter on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to LakesWinter: Anyhow, I've bitten off more than I could chew more than once so I'm not passing judgement on the OP or saying I'm better than them.
IainRUK - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to Mark020:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> Curious - Why should a guide be expected to offer support more than Joe Public?
>
> Cheers,
> Mark

You have a duty of care to your clients and all around you through experience and your qualifications.
jon on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to LakesWinter:

Fair enough.
Mark020 - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to IainRUK:

You are right - I stand corrected.

According to the "IFMGA Charter for British Mountain Guides" which members of the BMG are supposed to adhere to:

"The Guide offers loyalty to the contract with the client, aid to any climber in distress, the adoption of the highest safety standards, trust and a spirit of good fellowship toward all peoples, mountain regions and countries."

I personally still believe that the same expectation should be on everyone though - In my opinion it goes against human nature to walk by someone in genuine need of help.(The definition of "in genuine need of help" may vary though...)

If an old granny couldn't get her Cornflakes off the top shelf in ASDA i'd automatically reach up and get them, even if i didn't work in ASDA. In a perfect world i would expect everyone that is able to reach the Cornflakes to help her out. I guess many would keep their head down and carry on shopping though...

Cheers,
Mark
chamdog - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I ve lost count of the number of times I've been guided where the guide (usually french in my case) has taken the time to help someone in need. And when I ask them why they explain the responsibility they feel to provide a hand. Ive noticed that the brit guides in their matching bmg arcteryx seem a helpful bunch in general.
I'm sorry you didn't get that hand when you clearly needed it. It does seem at odds with the general guide ethic that i see. I'm glad you are still here to let rip on UKC :). Good luck with your next alpine ventures.
gavinj - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I don't quite get this. You started the route at 06.30, 400 m perfect plastic ice you say, and started the descent near nightfall. That's min12 hrs for the route. That is not taking your time, that is incomprehensible. To say the guide had no right criticise the style of ascent indicates a profound lack of awareness of the importance of keeping to or close to guidebook times. spending a whole day on the face is very dangerous. You were caught up by 2 parties starting a day later, or am I misunderstanding? You must have been on the correct descent for 2 guided parties to overtake you. The first guide hassled you for having no route description of the descent (this seems fair enough), you asked to follow, so he overtook you and sped off. You presumably followed for a bit, and then lost sight of the party? Then another guide came along, and did the same, but nicely.

What is your gripe? Did you ask for rescue? Did you ask for medication or water? Did you request a chopper? Did you say you we're in trouble? What's this "beta" for descent? You had a guided party to follow who presumably you could keep up with for at least a little while? If it was me or any of my friends who were in that situation I would hope a guide would call a chopper if needed, but I wouldn't expect sympathy, food, drinks or hugs!
adnix - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

it's a fine line between being in a slight distress and in a real trouble. the tour ronde is an hours walk from the torino hut and the cable car! it's not remote by any standards. it's not like you would die of exhaustion after one night out.
Goucho on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
> Dear Scottish Mountain Guide who totally ignored us on the SE ridge of Tour Ronde after the difficult on-sight ascent of its north face and an unscheduled bivouac just below the summit with no equipment, no water, rockfall and -5 degrees:

Unscheduled bivi's are commonplace in the alps, so got to ask - why no emergency supplies for 'just in case' - pretty standard practice even on Snowdon!
>
> it's nice to see that you put your business interests and daily fee before solidarity and kindness towards other Alpinists.
>
> For your information:
>
> The German Guide who spotted us at 07:30 offered us full support, giving up food, water and lots of beta for the descent, a slightly different approach from yours.
>
> We told you we had just been through a terrible bivouac and you said "us too": sleeping in a tent the day before with full comfort in the middle of the glacier is not an emergency bivuoac, it's Glamping.

Starting to sound like you maybe taking your frustration on being obviously out of your depth out on the wrong person?
>
> You told us: "We saw you yesterday on the face, you started late and were slow". You have no right to criticise the style of our ascent, especially considering it was on-sight, while you probably have done it a million times. Also, the day after the descent, it was nice to observe how you followed our alternative line to the middle of the face and used our tracks and beta to get to the gulley.. what an hypocrite.

I doubt the guide needed you beta in all honesty.
>
> When, completely exhausted, we asked you if you could follow you across the crux section of the descent, you replied: "Have you not got a guide book?" and then overtook us. I wonder if Walter Bonatti replied the same to Pierre Mazeaud on the Center Pillar of Freney.

Read your history, it's hardly the same context.
>
> If you think this behaviour helps ring-fencing your business, I sincerely hope you won't need the help of other people when you find yourself in trouble.
>
> Let's see if you have the guts to reply with your name and surname.
>
> Yours sincerely,
>
> Simone Lombardi

You need to realise that in the Alps, shit often happens, and if you want to develop as an alpinist, you have to learn to deal with that shit.

Having said that, we all need to look out for each other on the mountains, and if we meet someone in trouble, it is the unwritten code to help (guide or not), but then again, so far, we only have your side of the story?


Albert Tatlock - on 07 Sep 2013
Sir /Madam,
What you describe is a standard day out for most climbers in the Alps, “we finished exhausted and dehydrated, not sure of the descent”.
You ended up having an unplanned bivy, happens hundreds of times every summer in the Alps especially Chamonix. You soon learn by your mistakes, cold/uncomfortable /scary nights, you realise they are best avoided, through better fitness and planning.
You relied too much on lots of beta, 4 pages? It’s a straight forward climb and descent, I did the TR NF in late 09/1980, 2nd ice climb after the Frendo, I had 4 lines of beta and a time of 4 hrs, as per old AC guides, in 1980 ish.
You were overtaken by a guide on the descent, who stated the obvious; you were too late in starting and too slow on the climb? The clue is following him on the way down. You were still making progress downwards.
Out of interest, did you specifically ask the guide for help or rescue?
You will have learnt a great deal from the TR NF.
The most important being the first pint in the valley will never be better.

Albert.


Solaris - on 07 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I think Rick Graham probably got it right in his original post. We've all had times when we've bitten off more than we can chew, but - thankfully - we've lived and accumulated mountain sense and judgement.

Someone quoted the IFMGA Charter: "The Guide offers loyalty to the contract with the client, aid to any climber in distress, the adoption of the highest safety standards..." I'm not a guide but I think there's plenty of scope for reasonable differences of interpretation in those clauses. I know from an early experience in winter mountaineering that I wasn't the best to judge what was real distress and that my way more experienced mates were.

Oh and btw, I don't think many people would say that "AD terrain is easy with a good night's sleep". And I'm not sure what you mean by "unplanned conditions" either; aren't they one of the challenges of safe and successful alpine climbing?
dutybooty - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: Just wanted to say Simone good on you for replying to so much flak with a mature, logical response, many wouldn't.

On the subject of the thread, I think maybe you received such a negative reaction from the way your first post was written. But most people tend to agree anyone in the mountains should help as much as possible to people that ask for it, but without a full review from the other party involved its unfair to critique his actions on here.
moonman10 - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Does this route not get skied on a regular basis?
simone.lombardi - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to dutybooty:

Thanks dutybooty, I stand by my decision to criticise the mountain guide's behaviour in a public forum: why does everything need to end up with Tea, Scones and a handshake? I feel strongly about his failure to show any kind of solidarity towards a struggling climber, regardless of the reasons that lead to the situation.

To all the better, faster and more experienced members that posted in this thread: this discussion is not about what we could have done better as climbers: we are all humans, sometimes everything goes according to plan, sometimes we make mistakes, but I believe in the universal concept of solidarity, which is what we are discussing here.

I know we were slow and cocked up the descent, it's obvious otherwise we would have been drinking at the bar instead of sleeping under granite missiles. It's irrelevant to explain why we were late, you would all just say "you should have done this or that".

It makes me wonder, maybe there are more people that I thought would have ignored us and stepped on our heads..

S.
Damo on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
> (In reply to dutybooty)
>
> Thanks dutybooty, I stand by my decision to criticise the mountain guide's behaviour in a public forum:


Then you should cop the criticisms of others in this public forum, but actually I think you've been treated quite well by people on this forum, better than others in the past, and by that last post, maybe better than you deserve. Most of the replies here have been both sensitive and informative, whether you realise it or not. Your first post had you coming across as a self-entitled, ignorant prat looking to have a whine about not getting your hand held after suffering your own incompetence. I think people replied to that very well, above.

"on-sight" and "beta" are linguistic hallmarks of sport-climbing and will instantly have many mark your comments as those of the inexperienced, casting the rest of your post in the same light and thus causing it to be judged accordingly.

Of course that would be a harsh and insensitive judgement given that we don't really know most of the facts, just your emotional venting, we were not there, we don't know you, and have had not a word from the other side. But hey Simone, you stand by your right to slag off a stranger for not being how you wanted him to be. Of course some guides are nice and some guides are d!kheads, because they are people and people are like that. I've not found nationality any indicator of niceness.

How do you know what he knew? What he was thinking? Maybe he kept an eye on you without your knowing? (I have done that to slow or struggling parties in the mountains). Maybe he mentioned to someone lower down that you were up there, doing it tough, but should be alright, but just in case... You don't know any of this. If you were in such a state of distress that you claim then you were in no state to judge what issues he or his client may have been dealing with on the inside.

We all have bad days in the mountains. Your day seems worse than his on this occasion, but again, you don't know what he was thinking. One of the posters above was a complete w#nker to me in the Alps 20 years ago, but I have seen over the years he is a reasonable, personable and helpful guy, as our mutual friends reassured me back then. He misunderstood a situation, jumped to a conclusion and was a rude smart-ass who spoiled an enjoyable afternoon. I didn't write a letter to the magazines about it. Nor should I have.

You should copy-paste this thread, print it out and keep it tucked away. If you're still climbing in 10 years have a read and see what you think.

needvert on 08 Sep 2013
This sorta thing is mostly outside my sphere of experience, but interesting none the less.

Calling someone slow and late is blunt advice. Asking if you had a guidebook, is a similar sort of blunt advice.

Despite his unhelpfulness...You made it down safe. Sorta hard to argue with the outcome.


Would have been a more pleasant trip if he'd helped, I like to think most would in that situation. Congrats on the climb :)
Trangia - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Some interesting responses to this thread, but the one that strikes me is that when someone is in distress and asking for help, critisisng them for getting themselves into that situation should not be the immediate response and failing to give assistence is inexcusable. Maybe the guide involved needs to take a leaf out of the MR or RNLI ethos in that they render assistance regardless of the reason why the victims find themselves needing it.

The OP's distress was evident enough for the German guide to understand and assist, so why did the Scottish guide fail to understand this?

It would be interesting to hear the Scottish guide's response, even if they are not a reader of UKC, someone who is is almost bound to know who this individual is and tell them.

simone.lombardi - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

I'd like to thank again all the contributors of this thread, it makes a very interesting read. I'm not surprised for the strong answers as the tone of the original post was written exactly to generate a debate. I'd like to stress I haven't taken any offence, everyone is entitled to voice their opinion and I have duly noted all of them.

So thanks for taking the time to read and reply.

What's really missing is the point of view of the other party, which is the reason I posted in the first place. I was hoping to hear how the (in my opinion) poor decision not to help us is defended by the mountain guide.

If anyone has info please PM.

Thanks,

Simone

ccmm on 08 Sep 2013 - host86-161-11-116.range86-161.btcentralplus.com
In reply to simone.lombardi: http://www.bmg.org.uk/index.php/eng/Contact-Us

Try here if you have a official complaint. Otherwise put it down to experience and move on.
bullwinkle - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Can I ask how you asked for help as this could shed some light on the debate?

For instance, and I will ham this up a bit for clarity of what I'm trying to get at, if the guide had seen a couple who while making noises of being in distress but actually appeared to be fine and were on the standard descent route not far from the glacier. And if they were 'demanding' help (e.g. "we need your water and food") as if it was their right the guide might well ignore the request for help but probably should point out the correct route down perhaps with a word of advice about how not to end up in that situation in the first place.

However if the request was more polite (e.g. "we've had a bit of a nightmare would you mind helping us?") perhaps acknowledging that the person helping would be going a bit out of their way, potentially spoiling their day out a bit, I'm sure most would respond in a much more helpful way.

Either way, as has been alluded to I think it is very important that you think long and hard about why you ended up where you did so you can avoid this kind of situation again - your post and replies don't appear to acknowledge this. Good advice would appear to be to move faster, start earlier, get better at reading routes (the route to and from the summit on the TR north face really isn't that tricky), get fitter or be prepared to turn around if it is evident that conditions are going to lead you to an epic, or combinations of these. But whatever led to your mini epic I also would like to think that 99% of us would provide some kind of assistance however it was requested.
galpinos - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to bullwinkle:

Agree with all of that.

(I'm pretty sure we picked a duff way down though didn't we? Also, didn't we end up helping a french pair down the abseils as they only had a 30m rope between them? It seemed a long day....)
GridNorth - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to galpinos: I don't recall an abseil on the descent from the Tour Ronde. I'm sure I just walked down the normal route and then hung a left down a snow gully a short distance down from the summit and then back to the hut. The only hazard I'm aware of is that the gully is prone to avalanches later in the day but then aren't they all?
Howard J - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
I do agree that communication may have played a part in this, especially if the attitude you show in the original post was evident on the day.

Right at the outset, when he sympathised that it had been a bad night you seem to have immediately taken offence at the suggestion that his night in a tent could in any way compare with your experience. Perhaps you communicated this, if not verbally through your body language. You then took offence at his reasonable advice that you had started too late and been too slow (this is not a 'style of ascent', by the way, but a fundamental mistake in alpinism which commonly results in the situation in which you found yourselves).

Some Scottish accents can come across as brusque, even agressive. Perhaps his enquiry whether you had a guidebook was not a put-down but a simple question.

Perhaps you communicated your situation differently to the second guide, or perhaps he was just more empathetic and read the situation differently. Even so, the help he offered (directions) was different from what you were asking from the first guide (in effect, to be helped over the crux of the descent).

Benightments are not uncommon, especially in the circumstances you describe, and you were understandably feeling rough and distressed, but that too is commonplace. That doesn't make it an emergency. If you were communicating a sense of entitlement and grievance, perhaps this pissed off the guide and made him less inclined to offer help. He may even have taken the view that you were not in danger and would learn more from the experience if you were left to get yourselves out of it, rather than spoiling his client's day. Or perhaps he was just an arse who failed to offer help when it was needed.

There are plenty of possible interpretations, including your own. It's just that the tone of your OP suggests a lack of self-awareness and dare I say an unrealistic expectation of what alpinism can involve.
jon on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to GridNorth:

That's the way I first ever descended from the Tour Ronde. I saw someone get killed by rockfall that day just behind us. Nowadays that wide couloir is usually out of condition - dry rubble - most of the time and so it's more normal now to carry on along the ridge almost to its end and THEN hang a left down onto the glacier. This last bit can be climbed down when conditions are OK but from above comments it would seem folk prefer to abseil. It may of course have changed again since I was last there and that abseiling is the best solution.
dutybooty - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to needvert:
> This sorta thing is mostly outside my sphere of experience, but interesting none the less.
>
> Calling someone slow and late is blunt advice. Asking if you had a guidebook, is a similar sort of blunt advice.
>

Its not really blunt advice. When I started climbing in the alps I assumed going up the first lift every day would get me anywhere. Afterall, its the first lift.

You soon learn that many huts start breakfast at 1am and its not strange for alpinists to skip that!

Its a similar story with slow, a scottish 5 pitch route with walk in can be all day. In the alps I'd expect to be back in the valley for lunch. (depending on route etc etc)

So whilst it seems blunt, its such an obvious thing many new people would ignore it.

Thats one off topic done.

Another for any of you just joining, a few posts ago I was misquoted, and did not support the OPs decision to post this here, merely his much more sensible reply.

Gael Force - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: I think he recognised you as snowboarder and correctly refused to assist.
shirleynot on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

You should have offered to pay him,the jock would have got you down in no time.
KlaasW on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to shirleynot:

That's an awfull thing to say!
galpinos - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to galpinos) I don't recall an abseil on the descent from the Tour Ronde. I'm sure I just walked down the normal route and then hung a left down a snow gully a short distance down from the summit and then back to the hut. The only hazard I'm aware of is that the gully is prone to avalanches later in the day but then aren't they all?

The best/sensible descent is as described by Jon. The gully we decended was an option in the guide we had read (naively we thought thus would be quick, it's only a couple of abseils....) but it was very dry and loose. In retrospect, a poor décision but it was only my second alpine route. The french pair had followed us, the dangers of following the barely competent!
don macb on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to KlaasW:

well- you know what they say, after all: copper wire was invented by two scotsmen fighting over a penny...
Pyreneenemec - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

The guide had a legal obligation to offer assistance :


http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-assistance_à_personne_en_danger


I'm reminded of an incident that occurred some years ago on the Aiguille Verte. Three climbers got together by way of the exercise book at the Maison de la Montagne in Chamonix ( something I have done myself on many occasions) to climb La Verte via the Whymper Couloir. During the acension one of the climbers lost a crampon. The other two climbers wanted to continue and untied the third who was left on his own to descend. Tragically, this climber fell to his death. Despite the very informal relationship between the three climbers, the two climbers that abandoned the third to his fate were held responsible. I've been unable to find further information about the incident or the sentence imposed by the court.
shirleynot on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to KlaasW:

My mate Frankie Boyle told me to write it...
walts4 - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:
>
>
> We told you we had just been through a terrible bivouac and you said "us too": sleeping in a tent the day before with full comfort in the middle of the glacier is not an emergency bivuoac, it's Glamping.


Still struggling to come to terms that a guide with a client would choose to sleep in a tent in the middle of the glacier when the Torino hut is one hour away via the motorway track.

This is difficult to comprehend as the client would be paying, food would be cooked for them & the guide would not have to talk to the client for the whole of the afternoon prior to the climb whilst he pretended to sleep.

How fluent are you in jockanese, are you sure some of the conversation was not lost in translation?
Howard J - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Pyreneenemec:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)
>
> The guide had a legal obligation to offer assistance :
>
>
> http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-assistance_à_personne_en_danger
>
>
But were they in "serious and immediate danger"? Unless there were other circumstances which the OP didn't mention, they were feeling sorry for themselves after an unpleasant bivvy and short of food and water, but they don't appear to have been in actual danger.
Trangia - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Howard J:

All speculation of course and admittedly different conditions, but being short of water is a potentially fatal condition, something which was highlighted earlier this year by the deaths of 3 SAS soldiers in the Brecon Beacons. It's a difficult call for anyone to make but their condition was obviously evident enough to the other guide, and it seems strange that the Scottish guide didn't err on the side of caution instead administering a lecture on their foolhardiness and deserting them.

jon on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Pyreneenemec:

The non-assistance à personne en danger law applies to everyone, not just a guide. However, in the event of any incident the mountains a guide whether working or not is deemed to be (rightly or wrongly) the most experienced person on the scene and therefore has an extra responsibility. The only real circumstances where he/she is absolved of the non assistance law to a degree is if going to someone's aid puts his client's (and probably his) life in danger - leaving his client stranded somewhere... on a glacier, for instance? However, I think in this instance there's a very good case to argue that in fact Simone was not really a 'personne en danger'. So I think it's is a bit of a red herring in this case, though sure, he could have been a lot more sympathetic.

I'm thinking along the lines of what Walts4 said. I can't think of any guide who would react in this way - but even stranger, I can't think of any guide who would spend a night in a tent on the glacier within a half hour walk of the Torino. Simone - are you sure this person was a guide?

I should just add that my comments about the non assistance law obviously apply to France, though according to Luca Signorelli, a similar law exists in Italy.
davidoldfart - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: There are some very strange things about this post, which make me wonder whether it's all the work of a troll. Indeed, it would be very odd for a guide to be camping in the Vallee Blanche, which is actually illegal: every so often the cops scoop the tents up. I also find it incredible that anyone could take 12 hours plus for what, even if pitched, is an easy 50 - 55 degree, non-technical bimble. It wouldn't be more than 12 50m pitches, though you should probably move together on most of it. Even if you pitched it, it's hard to see how that could take more than 6 hours. And there is a contradiction: at one point the OP says it was good, plastic ice, in another, that there were "unexpected" poor conditions.

Anyway, here are some points.
1. If you don't hire a guide, you are making an implicit decision to be responsible for yourself.
2. Almost every time you do an Alpine route it will be "onsight". I've done over 100, and never repeated any. There are too many to do!
3. As many have pointed out, unplanned bivis are just part of the game. Inescapable. If you find them that traumatic, stick to sport climbs. And carry a lot more water, or a stove.
4. I've known many guides. I've never hired one for climbing, but I have for off-piste skiing, canyoning with kids, and other activities where I feel I need their expertise. I have always found mountain guides of all nationalities to be good company, extremely safety conscious, excellent people in every way. And I detest the way you seem to be suggesting that all they care about is money. Most guides are highly intelligent people who could have chosen much more lucrative employment. They're doing what they do because they love being in the mountains, and introducing others to the great experiences they provide.
5. Basically, if this is real, you've had an epic. Look in the mirror and learn from it. That is all.
simone.lombardi - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

in response to the claims it's a troll: full report and pictures as a public post on my FB page.

https://www.facebook.com/simone.lombardi.54
Pyreneenemec - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Pyreneenemec)
>
>. However, I think in this instance there's a very good case to argue that in fact Simone was not really a 'personne en danger'. So I think it's is a bit of a red herring in this case, though sure, he could have been a lot more sympathetic.
>
>

In absolute terms, you are probably correct; but in a mountain situation, I would like to believe that most people would have at least offered a helping-hand, be it be food or drink or assistance on descending safely.

A good example of this is the occasion when I over-took a couple of Spanish climbers on the North Face of the Vignemale in the Pyrénées. They had started the climb the day before, were very slow and consequently spent the night on the route. Without hesitation I offered them some bars, fruit and water, which were greatfully accepted.






Jim Walton on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: Something is being lost in translation hereor we have a TROLL;

"I wouldn't call 4am breakfast a late start" Were you staying at the Torino hut or were you biviing. I'll have to assume that you were going from the Hut as you had an unplanned Bivi. A 4am breakfast for a face Route in the Alps WOULD be considered by many to be a Late Start.

"We saw you yesterday on the face, you started late and were slow" - If you climbed/struggled up the route on say Monday and the Guide climbed it on Tuesday then I suspect it's unlikely that the Guide would have seen you start at 06:30. He may have seen you later on when he was making his way to the Hut.

"unscheduled bivouac just below the summit with no equipment, no water, rockfall and -5 degrees" When did you top out? Rockfall from where? If you were just below the summit and topped out in daylight then it would be quite obvious that you would not get down that night. What little daylight you had left you could have found somewhere away from rockfall. -5 is a little fresh but hardly falls into the serious territory - did you have a temperature app on your iPhone?

"sleeping in a tent the day before" - No Guide that I know would force his Paying client to spend the night in a Tent when there is a hut close y

Jim Walton on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: Something is being lost in translation hereor we have a TROLL;

"I wouldn't call 4am breakfast a late start" Were you staying at the Torino hut or were you biviing. I'll have to assume that you were going from the Hut as you had an unplanned Bivi. A 4am breakfast for a face Route in the Alps WOULD be considered by many to be a Late Start.

"We saw you yesterday on the face, you started late and were slow" - If you climbed/struggled up the route on say Monday and the Guide climbed it on Tuesday then I suspect it's unlikely that the Guide would have seen you start at 06:30. He may have seen you later on when he was making his way to the Hut.

"unscheduled bivouac just below the summit with no equipment, no water, rockfall and -5 degrees" When did you top out? Rockfall from where? If you were just below the summit and topped out in daylight then it would be quite obvious that you would not get down that night. What little daylight you had left you could have found somewhere away from rockfall. -5 is a little fresh but hardly falls into the serious territory - did you have a temperature app on your iPhone?

"sleeping in a tent the day before" - No Guide that I know would force his Paying client to spend the night in a Tent when there is a hut close by, even a Scottish one!

"When, completely exhausted, we asked you if you could follow you across the crux section of the descent, you replied: "Have you not got a guide book?" and then overtook us" How the hell were you going to follow him and his client if they were not in front?

"on-sight ascent of its north face" - It would have to be one hell of a long rope to set up a Top Rope.

I suspect this is what actually happened - if anything happened at all;

You read Gaston Rebuffats "One Hundred Ques in the Alps" and saw the line about this being a good introduction to Alpine North Faces and you wants a "North Face" under you belt so that you could brag to your mates in the pub. You quest over to the Torino hut. Take no advice from the Guardian about what time you should awake and decide that 0400am is an Alpine start. You have a proper faff getting to the base of the route (probably got lost leaving the hut) and finally got to the base at about 0900.

The suns nicely out and you realise that you can't see the first insitu ice screw. Taking a big risk, because we know how sports climbers like a risk, you tie in and tackle the first pitch - iPhone at the ready for those all important photo's - helmet cam switched on. After 4m you try to place your first ice screw but soon realise that you havn't taken the end cap off or the threads protector. You have a bit of a laugh with your mate but sort it in the end.

As you have no concept of moving together over mildly technical terrain you pitch the entire face from bottom to top. You've used up soo much energy that by the time you get to the narrows you have drunk all your water and eaten all your food. Calf muscles screaming by now. You carry on because you haven't the skill set to realise the suns been on the face for hours now, you should have been off it by the time you started it and you have no idea how to abseil down. Probably go a bit of rockfall when climbing up the narrow bit.

Finally Top out at ~18:00?? Think that you still have the energy to get down that evening you set off for the descent route. Pulling up the photo of the topo from your iPhone is not that clear where to go. You manage to get yourselves lost, on a ridge.

After a few tears you realise that you are going to get benighted. Instead of finding a decent sheltered spot and 'digging in'. You sit down on a rock and probably cry somemore. You don't think to lie on your rope as an insulator or to tuck your feet into your pack as an added bit of insulation. You make it through the night, more by luck than judgement.

At 0700 you are met by a competent Guide and his client who have just come up the face in a respectable time. The Guide is keen to get his client down off the ridge and across the Glacier before the sun gets too high, so is moving fast. The Guide sums you up in 2mins as incompetent but alive and capable of getting down. You whinge at him that you have spent an unpleasant night on the mountain and he says it would have been better if you had had a tent. You ask him for no other help and he offers none.

Unbeknown to you he has assessed your equipment, your capabilities and your state of mind. He has realised that you should be capable of getting down this ridge if you have just come up the North face. To be sure, he lets you go first so that he can watch how you progress along the ridge to assess you climbing competence.

At the 'Crux' you are unsure where to go and faff about. the Guide asks if you have a guidebook. You both look sheepish and look at the ground. The Guide takes over and shows the way. With the hard bit done but time pressing, the Guide shots off so that he can get his Client safely across the Glacier.

This sound about right?
Ross McGibbon - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply:
I'm a bit puzzled how someone climbing hundreds of metres of ice could have to go 24 hours without drinking.
Was it that ice that doesn't melt in your mouth / bottle?

johncoxmysteriously - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Jim Walton:

>Take no advice from the Guardian about what time you should awake

You want the Mail for that sort of thing.

jcm
Carolyn - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> You want the Mail for that sort of thing.

I'd recommend the Express....

banchester - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Your blog doesn't help your cause much....
"took the cable car and slept at the Torino Hut, ordering a 6am wake up call, destination the North Face of Tour Ronde."

A 6am wake up call???
Jim Walton on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to banchester: Hadn't seen that there was a blog. I might have to revise my post.
Jim Walton on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Jim Walton: Nope, I don't.
a lakeland climber on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to banchester:

URL? a quick Google doesn't show anything.

ALC
banchester - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to a lakeland climber:


https://www.facebook.com/simone.lombardi.54

It's the post titled MONT BLANC EXPEDITION DAY 4-5: "Prisoners Of Madam Tour Ronde"
Robert Durran - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to banchester:
> (In reply to simone.lombardi)

> A 6am wake up call???

Topping out at 6am would be a better plan.

lowersharpnose - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to banchester:

MONT BLANC EXPEDITION DAY 4-5: "Prisoners Of Madam Tour Ronde"

Courmayeur is a bizzarre place: within the space of 2 hours you can go from alpine glacial hell to Michelin star steak and a glass of fine Italian wine.

Our Sunday was the latter. Recharged from a night of proper sleep, we spent the day sorting out our gear and discussing our next objective. Mark suggested Aiguille de Rochefort, a classic 4000m snow ascent but I couldn’t stop thinking about the North Face of Tour Ronde, a route that had already rejected me once in 2011.

For the previous two days her white dressed silhouette had been luring us.. Walking up and down the glacier we kept staring back, a beautiful straight line up a snow field, then a narrow ice gully into a second snow field leading to the top.. a prestigious alpinist dream!

“But beware Simone, it’s one way only.. if you start, you have to finish..”. Geared up for ice and snow we took the cable car and slept at the Torino Hut, ordering a 6am wake up call, destination the North Face of Tour Ronde.

In the morning, a quick look from the distance confirmed that she was not going to give up her prize easily. Mark, more experienced on this type of terrain, started to lead, making slow but constant progress up the first section. The conditions were icy so we had to protect the whole climb and couldn’t move together, so we arrived at the crux an hour and a half late. Mark was exhausted after nailing 4 pitches and asked me to lead on.. a very fast learning curve I can tell you!

Kick! Punch! Kick! Punch! Axes and crampons biting into the ice, Mark led the pitch of his life up the steep section, then we had to alternate as he physically couldn’t do all the work. The guide book said 400m but we counted 14 pitches x 50m ropes=700m of never ending ice and towers of rock, in the constant repulsive shade of the North Face.

We topped out at 18:30pm and, after a scream of joy, we quickly realized we were only half way.. Tour Ronde was about to present a very expensive bill.

With 2 hours of light left, we rushed down to find the descent route, but this proved tricky and we lost quite a lot of time overcoming the last difficulties. We got to the shoulder and saw a stone man: I walked few meters down and found an abseil point: “Quick Mark! Let’s throw the ropes this way!”.

When we landed 50m down on a tiny terrace, we realized we had wrongly entered the winter descent route, an inferno of rock fall and debris during the summer (literally the butthole of the mountain).. Within the space of 2 minutes night fell upon us as if someone had flicked a switch, we couldn’t go up nor down, we struggled even see each other..

After opening her legs and letting us in, Madam Tour Ronde had trapped us on her curvy sides!

Simone: “I’ll Call the hut!”.
Mountain Rescue Service: “It’s too dark, the helicopter can’t fly, stay put, we’ll call you in the morning..”.
Marky: “We’re fecked!”.

-3 degrees, no bivouac equipment, no water, half salami, completely shagged sitting on a stone ledge at 3700m.. What a situation!

We kept it together, secured ourselves to the ropes against a tall boulder and got ready for the longest night of our lives.. We hugged each other like two lovers on their first dates, shivering non-stop in our tiny emergency blanket. Hours passed slowly, the twinkling Milky Way and lots of falling stars looked down at us with pity.

We greeted the first rays of light like our best present ever, Marky was exhausted after his monumental effort so I took initiative and climbed up the rope back to the col.

Voices.. a mountain guide with his clients.. “We’re in trouble!”.. “Can you come here?” Water! Food! The descent route! We’re safe!

To the question “Why did you do it?” I could answer with Mallory’s strapline “Because it’s there” or Hillary’s “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves”.

Instead, I’ll scream:

Rock n’ fecking roll Marky! We got Tour Ronde!
kingjam - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

having had my fair share of "episodes " in the Alps have some sympathy for your emotions here, but personally think they are better spent in self reflection and learning how your own actions influenced the days events rather than other peoples. That will help your improve and stay safe.

But looking at the whole of this thread makes for some very ugly reading, and I am not talking about the action of the guide.
Skyfall - on 09 Sep 2013
I think this is summed up quite easily really.

1. Relatively inexperienced alpinists start way too late, too slow etc etc. We've all been there (probably several times) but probably did it on easier/shorter routes.

2. Apparently unsympathetic guide. We have no idea of his side of the story, how serious it seemed, what was asked for etc. Maybe there was an issue, maybe not.

Regardless, the OP should get some humility, chalk it up to experience and learn some lessons.

I think the tone of the OP was unfortunate, ill-considered, and probably got the reaction it deserved in all honesty.
planetmarshall on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to lowersharpnose: Glad the OP and his partners got home safe, but I wouldn't be anticipating a Boardman-Tasker prize any time soon...
Howard J - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> being short of water is a potentially fatal condition,

Of course, and it's possible their situation was more serious than I've assumed. And I agree the 'guide' could have been more sympathetic.

However their situation is not at all unusual. I've been lucky to avoid it myself (touch wood), but it's happened to several friends of mine on different occasions. I wouldn't be surprised if they were not another party somewhere in the Alps who also had a forced bivvy that night. All I'm saying is that it goes with the territory, especially if you make the succession of poor choices they seem to have made, on his own admission (although he seems reluctant to recognise them as such).

lowersharpnose - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to planetmarshall:

Yes. They set off far too late and climbed slowly - just as the Scottish chap told them (from the OP).

They got down OK, a lesson learnt I hope.
In reply to Jim Walton: That's one of the more mean-spirited post I've read Jim. Maybe the OP f***ed up; he won't be the first, or last I guess. Perhaps you've made a mistake in the past, or might make one in the future - everyone's human y'know.
mockerkin on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Simone, Do you not see that most of the responses to your post
suggest that you have been naïve in your complaints? Your idea of hill help i.e. the help that you expected, is relevant only to hill walking, not alpine, or as showing an old lady across the road. The big hills are so different. There are people here who come to the small Lakes hills and who get simply tired, lost in the clouds with having hiked too far uphill, and that can be only 500 feet, so then call the MRT, ask to be led down because "We have a dinner date at eight" You don't want to be like that.

Jim Walton on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to TobyA: Yes Toby, I have re read my post and taken the same opinion. I don't seem to be able to delete it though.
kingieman on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi: Only my tuppence worth, but the fact that you COULD write this 'letter' speaks volumes. Sounds like you've had a real adventure ... and are able to tell the tale. Nice one.
a lakeland climber on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to lowersharpnose:

Is that the Farcebook content? Just as well when I clicked the link it said the content wasn't available or some such.

Here's a classic mistake: "The guide book said 400m but we counted 14 pitches x 50m ropes=700m" - alpine guides give vertical interval not route length

ALC
lowersharpnose - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to a lakeland climber:

Yes, lifted from his FB page.

Carolyn - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to a lakeland climber:

Yes, it's a cut and paste of the FB thing - you need to be logged in to FB to see it, if you're not, you get that error message.
simone.lombardi - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to simone.lombardi:

Dear all,

I have decided to write individually to each reply, the topic
understandably generated loads of contrasting opinions and strong answers, hard to address with one general post.

As acknowledged in one of my previous replies, it is obvious made some crucial mistakes correctly pointed out by other members and I can assure you we will tackle our next ascent with all the humility learnt on Tour Ronde.

However I still don't think the behaviour of the guide is excusable,
regardless of the reasons we put ourselves into that situation (the main
point of discussion of the thread) and defend my right to tell the story here on UKC.

To sum up, it has definitely been the most useful mountaineering lesson we've ever learnt, as much as all the advice and criticism received in this thread (I posted also for this reason), of which I'm thankful for.

Regarding the FB post, it was obviously written to be read by my non-mountaineering friends and is perhaps "overly" colorful. I hope you can enjoy our experience and pictures, regardless of the fact you would have done things differenltly (as we will as well next time!).

Thanks again,

Simone
In reply to ALL:

We are now locking this thread, as the OP has made his point, and we don't want it to go any further.

If any one has any complaints to make about any British Mountain Guides please do so directly to either the guide themselves or to the BMG.


Jack

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