Given the opportunity to tag along on an alps trip I couldn’t refuse…
We set off (driving) from home on the 20th July to catch a ferry to Calais. We headed to Chamonix via Luxemburg (cheap fuel) and Switzerland in order to save on the French road tolls – a little stop off in Lille helped to break the journey up.
There were no set plans, so we could make the most of the weather. We set up camp at the Mer de Glace campsite and on our first full day in Chamonix we got supplies, cable car pass and then stretched the legs with an afternoon run up the mountain side just off the Route Des Montets having driven through Argentiere to get there.
Our first alpine warm up route of the trip was the Cosmiques Arete (23rd July) in fantastic sunny conditions.
Kev on the crux wall section of Cosmiques Arete
The next day we caught the first lift up and bagged the Chere Couloir on the Mont Blanc du Tacul in not so sunny conditions and with a few teams already en-route. I led the crux ice pitch and we decided not to top out once we’d led the main ice pitches so we could abseil down and find time to do route two of the day.
Teams on Chere Couloir
Route 2: The Traverse of Pointe Lachenal - a nice steady route until you get to the chossy, loose (must wear a helmet) chimney. Which as the guidebook suggests must be a lot easier when iced up and holding it all together. The weather did improve and we topped out to blue skies, able to then head back in time for the lift to Chamonix.
The 25th became a rest day and an opportunity to get some fresh supplies. My legs were feeling it not having been in the mountains for a couple of months. We did find time for a short boulder near the campsite in the evening before packing for the next day. Planned agenda was day 1: Dent du Geant (4013m) followed by a bivvi and then on the second day the North Face of the Tour Ronde.
So on the 26th we caught the lift up from Chamonix to the Hellbronner cable car so we were in a better position to start the trek to the Dent du Geant. Conditions again were good if not a little too warm. I felt tired on the walk (slog) in to this route and couldn’t wait to start the climbing sections. Once we were actually climbing we ignored the fixed ropes and decided to claim the route in a more traditional way – keeping the big boots on. The final slab section was fantastic and a crux corner would certainly have been easier in climbing shoes or by using the fixed rope. I have to admit I didn’t use the fixed rope but may have used two fixing points for my feet! It’s hard to smear in B3s.
Climbers on the top section of Dent du Geant
On the summit
It was great to have summited a 4000′er – just a shame the view from the top was a little cloudy! We then did two abseils (60m ropes) to the bottom of the climbing section before gathering our packs and heading down the choss towards the glacier and back to the Hellbronner station stairwell for the night.
My first bivvi in the alps – we set our alarm for 4am. Fully clothed I climbed into my sleeping bag and bivvi bag (using my new Neoair thermarest – love it by the way) and tried to get some sleep under the clear starry skies.
Looking at the Dent du Geant from our bivvi spot
Waking up at 4am we decided that it hadn’t got cold enough over night to try the North Face of the Tour Ronde (we’d also heard reports the previous day that a pair had backed off it due to it not being in condition) and re-set the alarm for 6am, to make sure we were out of the way for when the lifts re-opened. When we did finally crawl out of our bags everything around us was wet with condensation so we had to wait for the sun to make its way round in order to dry everything before packing up for our Plan B route.
Plan B was the South West Ridge from the Col d’Entreves which turned out to be a fantastic and exposed route. Kev took the lead as we roped up Alpine style, working on a short rope basis when tackling the short crux sections – one being a fun short corner crack. The weather that day was clear blue skies so we were able to take in the beautiful surrounding views.
Kev on the exposed South West Ridge from the Col d’Entreves
As it was a short route we were able to headback to the Hellbronner lift in plenty of time to make our way back down to Chamonix. At the time we didn’t realise that the Hellbronner only runs a ‘climbers’ lift at the start and end of the day – as during the day it runs as a circular tourist lift without stopping. Luckily there were about 3 pairs of climbers waiting so the lift attendant let us jump on earlier than he should have done when there was space.
28th July – Originally we had planned on this being a rest day but the weather looked like it was coming in the day after so we got up early to catch the lift to climb the Rebuffat route on the Aiguille du Midi south face. Alas we only got up to the mid point station (Plan Des Aiguilles) due to high winds and the top station being closed. We waited a couple of hours in case the situation might change but it didn’t. So heading back down Plan B became some bolt clipping at Le Foron – the crag is made up of a number of steep walls that look deceptively small from the road.
Climbers on Le Foron
The next day – my last full day of the holiday – it rained lots and lots – so we spent the day in Chamonix town centre, eating, shopping, drinking coffee and trying the posh cakes.
The posh cake shop
A bit of tourism to cap off what had been a fantastic trip – missed climbs now on my future hit list…
Visit my Flickr account to view more photos from this trip.
A nice guide book I bought whilst out there was: Mont Blanc classic & plaisir by Marco Romelli
Filed under: Climbing | Tagged: Alpine Climbing, Alps, Chamonix, Climbing, Cosmiques Arete, Dent du Geant, Ice climbing | Leave a comment »