17 March 2011
Reading time: 3 mins
By Gary Brown and his friends of the “Geezers of Croydon” MC. No idea if any Brit/Irish has done this before. Maybe a first British/Irish winter ascent?
“We reached the crest of the ridge around the 2767m mark, just before the start of the rocky peaks, within 90 minutes of leaving the Poqueira Hut. In the interest of moving quickly we decided to proceed unroped, which was easy at first and mainly on snow, traversing the ridge avoiding the crests of some of the lower initial rock sections. Soon though we came upon the first awkward section, a rocky step down and across a gap with a steep drop on either side.
Then, from this point on, we enjoyed almost continuous scrambling on good featured rock although very loose in places, with the odd patch of snow. Because of the recent heavy snow fall we came across a mix of deep powder in places, a dusting of powder over loose rock in others and even some patches of excellent névé. The first major peak, we thought, appeared to be a considerable obstacle but as we neared it, and gained more height, found it to be an interesting mix of rock but mainly snow and ice all the way to the top. We reached the summit of this having been climbing for five hours so stopped for a snack.
We pressed on to the next large peak, all on interesting ground, both rock and snow, with the only obstacles being large gaps where abseils had to be set up as we couldn’t exactly determine the terrain because of the heavy snow covering. Although it looked like the ridge reached an end after the next lesser summit, we felt the logical conclusion was at a point where we found a little col, at grid reference 30S 046887 4100587, between a rock wall and a gendarme.
In reality we could have easily down climbed, or even walked down facing out, but did not do so as again we couldn’t determine the true scale or angle of the snow slope because of the flat light. Instead we made what was our seventh abseil of the day, running out the full 60m to the rope ends. We were back at the Poqueira Hut almost exactly two hours from the bottom of that slope.
The day had taken exactly twelve hours, from the hut and back again. We felt that the nearest comparison we could draw would be the Cosmiques Ridge, which is now graded II AD 4a, but we felt that because the Raspones Ridge offered considerably more uninterrupted, interesting climbing it should be given a slightly harder grade.
Therefore, we settled for AD+ overall but nothing harder that 4a on rock. It should be said though that because of the nature of the light on that day, the drop down either side appeared considerably greater when looking down rather than up from the valley basin and that illusion would certainly add to any perceived difficulty. So, a second ascent would certainly be ideal in determining an accurate grade.”
With thanks to Gary Brown (and Barry, Colin and Dave) of the “Geezers of Croydon” MC…………..More photos from them below