Ahhh. Snell's Field. All you needed to do to find a partner was to walk into the sea of cheap tents and scream,
"I need someone to do the Croz Spur with tomorrow!!!"
The same went for beta. A decent guidebook wasn't easy to find. In fact we never found one, although there is a terrific climbing library in town.
Snell's field was even better than Camp 4. Camp 4 is kind of quiet. The climbers in the next campsite might never become drinking buddies. Camp 4 takes a while to integrate into.
OK. Here are some Snell's photos. Take particular note of "The Construction" (Christened that by the Germans), which was battened down tight on rainy days, hence becoming a sort of underground Bar Nash. You either spent all day in your little tent doing unholy things with your unit, or you hung out where it was dry. Alas, the photos of now famous climbers smoking hash through ice screws were all stolen from my collection.
Walt Shipley in his mid twenties or so. These were Americans, meaning that they didn't climb much.
Occasionally the gendarmes would make a visit to Snell's. Lord knows that many petty crimes were prevented here including public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Never saw a single fight, though.
A baby Duane Raleigh and some climber from Germany or Switzerland.
Walt later in the season. He sort of de-evolved into some sort of ape. All he ate was beer.
I got whacked in the arm by icefall. This is before it turned black.
Here is Duane freezing his ass off on the Argentiere Glacier waiting for midnight to blast off on one of the big ice climbs. A warm hut was a few hundred yards away, but cost money. Which we didn't have.
Duane in a small portion of The Construction on a non rainy day. Our building venture was huge and covered many tents.
I hitched all the way over to the Eiger and spent a week in this tiny shepherd's hut with a 3 foot ceiling while it stormed the entire time. Does anyone remember this little dirt floored hovel? I never even saw the North Face.
I remember two shepherd huts by the Eiger. The first one was by the Kleine Scheidig train stop, near the West face, and the other was off the path down to Grindelwald. The one in the picture seems to be the second one. In 1981, John Shervais and two german climbers considered staying in it, but decided to bivy at the base of the North face instead. We were lucky as the weather held for the two days it took to go up the face. The hut is a real temptation as it often drizzles at night (with terrible verglas on the face), and it is better to get cramped in the hut than being all wet even before the climb. I hope the hut is still there!
Never climbed in Chamonix, but here are some things that could help in general.
1. Take up solo aid climbing. You learn tons, you get to climb places you might never get to climb, it shows commitment. People are eager to talk with you if you look like you are having fun. Even if no one invites you to climb with them - in solo aid climbing EVERYONE is always having fun.
2. Climb with 50-somethings and older. They are survivors and they may like climbing with younger people. You might get more leads. You can learn tons from them. They could introduce you to people your own age after they get to know you.
3. Join a climbing club or a search and rescue team.
Wondering if you're still in the valley. I'm currently based in Geneva but come through to Cham often. I am always looking for a new climbing/skiing partner. I'm heading through this weekend to climb if you want to meet up, let me know. I would be interested to climb some ice if the conditions are good. Are you into that? Either way we could meet or get in touch about getting on the rock this Spring.
All the best,
I'll be in Cham later this month- anyone up for the ride? I've been going there since the 80s when the Biollay was the place to camp. That was turned into a bus park and there was the forest. Now it's all illegal. I'm planning to stay up high in any case to avoid the valley. I may have to check up on that one French gal from several years ago though..
I lived in Italy for 3 years and was always able to find partners up in the Cham area. Many Euros use summitpost to find partners and that is where I normally went - aside from the local forums that were around the mtns I lived near.
The suggestions above to join the French Alpine Club are solid - they usually have offices where you can hang out and find partners.
In town, there is also the tourism building as well as the head of the Alpine Club where there are bulletin boards.