JOINT SERVICE ALPINE MEET 08 by Ian Richardson The Joint Service Alpine Meet (JSAM) is an annual event, usually taking place in the last 2 weeks of July, for members of RAFMA, the AMA and the RN&RMCC. Unlike UK meets, those attending JSAM must meet certain requirements1 and, as alpine novices, undergo training on their first meet and then climb with experienced or qualified personnel until they are deemed to be experienced themselves. In the past, this has been run very effectively by the individual clubs ensuring personnel that personnel adhere to the JSAM directive. However, in 2007 Air Command refused to authorise JSAM and the meet was unfortunately cancelled at short notice. JSAM 08 JSAM 08 was going to be a difficult event to get authorised following the previous year’s problems Breithorn-Traverse and it is fortunate that Lt Col Simon Hall RM was organising the event on behalf of the RN&RMCC. Simon is the head of JSMTC (Indefatigable) and had the advantage of being able to work from within the JS mountaineering environment to ensure JSAM 08 went ahead. Nevertheless, it was an uphill struggle and I believe the 3 clubs owe him a great deal of thanks for ensuring that JSAM continues in much the same vein as it has in the past. This JSAM was supported by JSMTC(I) and Bavaria. Under the auspices of the Senior Instructors from the 2 centres (WO2 Phil Maddox and FS Ian Nicholls), fast track Alpine Mountaineering Proficiency (AMP) and Alpine Mountaineering Leader (AML) courses were run throughout the meet. These courses allowed those with the appropriate experience to gain their qualifications in half the time it would take on the standard course from Sonthoffen and allowed the “students” to climb more challenging routes than they would on the normal course. A fast track Alpine Mountaineering Instructor course was run before JSAM started. Unlike JSAM 06, which also ran AMP and AML, personnel on courses were fully funded as they would be on a normal course – even their week’s campsite fees and food in the valley was paid for. The 2 centres also provided minibuses and drivers as well as an experienced duty instructor, negating the need for the 3 club leaders to stay in camp – a big win! Most importantly the traditional aspect of JSAM was maintained, allowing those experienced or qualified alpinists to climb as equals. looking at the Rimpfischorn from the Strahlhorn 1 Lead VD in big boots, competent snow and ice and experience of multi-pitch abseils. MEET REPORT This years’ Joint Service Alpine Meet (JSAM) was based at Saas Grund in the Valais Alps region of Switzerland, a fabulous area for both experienced and novice alpinists alike. Unfortunately, the RAFMA contingent was rather small – me (Ian Richardson) and Mandy Singleton for the first week only! Experienced alpinists were relatively thin on the ground throughout the meet (only 5 in week 1), but there were still over 50 personnel from the 3 Services at Saas Grund with the numbers taking advantage of the courses on offer. The weather was fairly mixed throughout the 2 weeks, with lots of fresh snow and fairly strong winds during week 2. This meant that some of the more interesting rock ridges were out of condition. Fortunately, there is plenty to do in the area and I only resorted to a snow plod for the first route. I teamed up with Surg Cdr Ade Mellor RN for about 10 days of the meet – a good pairing as we only ended up behind guidebook time once and that was wading through knee deep snow while breaking trail on the way up to the Strahlhorn (PD) from the Britannia Hut on our “acclimatisation” day! The next day we climbed the Allalinhorn from the Britannia Hut via the Hohlaubgrat (AD) a short but highly recommended route with only one short section of rock and ideal for an acclimatisation day if the conditions are suitable. With a dodgy weather forecast we descended to the valley and commenced one of our many “faffs” over what to do next – too many routes to choose from! We opted to drive over to Arolla as neither of us had been there before and went up to the Dix Hut, a charming little hut with very friendly guardians. We had planned to traverse the Mont Blanc de Cheilon, but it was chucking it down at 0400; at 0700 it had stopped raining, but visibility was about 10 feet; but at 0855 the cloud started to lift. Ten minutes later we had left the hut and that night we were back in Saas Grund enjoying a much deserved beer after having snatched one of the most enjoyable alpine routes I have done. The E Ridge (up) is a fabulous AD- rock ridge that goes on and on and the descent of the SW Ridge (PD) is pretty good in its upper part too. Following a day in the valley, Ade and I, along with Simon Hall and Dougie Allen (RN), did the short traverse of the Breithorn from the Klein Matterhorn cable car. This is a very enjoyable mixed AD ridge, which was ideal with the day’s weather forecast. Breithorn Traverse We were being buffeted by strong and very cold winds by the time we reached the end of the narrow ridge and were glad we had heeded the forecast and not attempted anything of more epic proportions. The next couple of days saw more poor weather in the valley and a lot of snow being dumped high up. The weather had improved for Tuesday of week 2, although the ridges were still out, so I opted to climb with another group from the RN and we walked into the Dom Hut to traverse the Dom via the Festigrat (PD+) and N Flank (PD). With 1600m of ascent from the hut and over 3000m of ascent back to the valley, this is a long day out! Mandy enjoyed her AMP course, which started with some techniques and a long walk into the Britannia Hut in horrible conditions, followed by an ascent of the Hohlaubgrat in the deep snow that I enjoyed on the way to the Strahlhorn. A “rest” day meant 8 hours of AD rock! close to the hut, with an ascent of the Strahlhorn the following day. Finally more techniques and a well deserved shower!!
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