/ Ice axe(s) for Kuffner

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Jonny on 20 Jun 2017

So I'm off up the Kuffner arête this week, packing light, and wondering about which axes to take. My current thoughts are one all-around axe that happens to be great on the icy stuff, and a light'n'tiny skimo-style axe for brief steeps. Conditions are going to be unusually warm for this time of year, probably above freezing during the nights until above 4500m (and therefore well above the Kuffner's difficulties).

Anyone with knowledge of the route at this time of year have any opinions on what's needed? Could I get away with just the one axe, or, on the contrary, will I need two sturdy tools?
Post edited at 00:12
nb - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

One all-round axe usually does the job, although I suppose a second might give you extra confidence in places (eg traverse from demi-lune under the Pointe de l'Androsace can be steep).

Wouldn't do it unless I had reasonable temps though! Might be better staying on rock...
Jonny on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to nb:
So perhaps a bit too warm for it you say? Even with a midnight start?

It's certainly unseasonably warm for late June, but perhaps not for typical July/August temps (when lots of people do it, although perhaps ill-advisedly). I'm not sure what kind of objective temperature metric to use to judge these things. Perhaps the fact that it'll never go below freezing in the crux areas?
Post edited at 18:47
Tim Davies - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

I took one all round axe and a quasar type technical tool. Mostly moving together with little or no gear-I'd go for decent tools rather than super lightweight.

Also the access couloir was a bit rotten and cruddy (warm) and two decent tools were useful.

nb - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

O° isotherm at 4500m, nights at their shortest (so not much time for snow to freeze), route gets the sun first thing in the morning = not a great combo. You might get away with a 1 or 2 of these, but all 3 is pushing it!
Jonny on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

Thanks all for your advice - I would agree in retrospect that two solid tools is similarly solid advice. One plus a super light one could also work.

In case anyone's interested, the route is doable despite the heat, although tremendously unstable even in regions that are already completely dry.
nb - on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

> In case anyone's interested, the route is doable despite the heat, although tremendously unstable even in regions that are already completely dry.


Nice one Jonny. Don't want to sound patronising but don't let it lull you into a false sense of security. Most people get away with dodginess a few times before it bites back. Probability always wins if you stick your neck out often enough.

On the other hand, temps have cooled down massively over the past few days and a fair bit of snow is forecast at altitude. There could be a nice little window when it all settles



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Jonny on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to nb:
> Nice one Jonny. Don't want to sound patronising but don't let it lull you into a false sense of security. Most people get away with dodginess a few times before it bites back. Probability always wins if you stick your neck out often enough.

Absolutely. I remember a nice anecdote about Papa New Guineans who were astonished that westerners that visited them were prepared to sleep in the forest, beneath the trees. They'd seen trees fall enough to know that although you'd probably get away with weeks or months of sleeping under them, you wouldn't for a lifetime. Ergo, they reasoned, don't sleep under them even once. Polished logic, if you ask me!

So as not to give a false impression, I retreated from the route high up after two nights in an empty Fourche bivouac and spending the intervening day watching and listening to rocks raining down from all sides in the Brenva and Maudit cirques, including two huge falls from the Androsace area. Perhaps it was reckless to do even half of the ridge, but we certainly had danger in mind when we turned back. We caught the cold night on Saturday (and got struck by lightning, but that's a story for another day) - and snow conditions all over were vastly improved. Another attempt might have to wait for September now.
Post edited at 15:50
jon on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

Good that you came clean and admitted your retreat. Once routes like the Kuffner are out of condition they become death traps. Finding the Fourche empty is a pretty good warning sign in itself. However, I'm afraid that I find posting this - even with the qualification you gave it afterwards - is completely irresponsible:

> In case anyone's interested, the route is doable despite the heat

Clearly it's not. That said, I'm glad you're OK and had the sense to turn around when you could. I'd just add that Neil's advice on stuff like this is always spot on and shouldn't be ignored.





davkeo - on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to Jonny:

I did it last year simul solo with 1 x quark & I would have enjoyed it more with 2 good tools. The slope approach to the ridge is around 150m and there may be parties ahead of u which was the case with me. With this in mind you will have ice falling down on u & with one tool it just feels unnecessarily insecure. I did it in August & conditions were superb. If I were to do it again I'd take 2 quarks or similar.
Jonny on 27 Jun 2017
In reply to jon:

>I'm afraid that I find posting this - even with the qualification you gave it afterwards - is completely irresponsible

Fair enough. I suppose I have high opinions of the abilities and risk tolerance of others with respect to my own, although it's surely the latter of these two 'qualities' which will let you do such a climb in such conditions. I very much appreciate the advice, in any case.

So yes, if any of you insist on a 95% chance that you'll live to tell the tale of your Kuffner exploits, don't try it just yet!

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