Having finally climbed the Frendo Spur two weeks ago, I can now do the next best thing: creating a high resolution topo of the route. This is a giant image, stitched from several 12MP shots, taken two days before our successful ascent. It shows the entire route from the initial ramp at 2600m to the junction with the Arête du Midi at 3700m. It should be noted that this was taken after an unusually warm and dry spell, so there is virtually no snow on the rock buttress (we actually climbed it in rock boots). Most of the time, this is a mixed climb done in big boots.
Click here to access the full resolution topo (but please note it is a 5MB file, so it may take a while to load):
Some routefinding and climbing notes:
- Overall, the way is quite obvious and there is little chance of getting lost. Not that this stopped us, of course.
- The initial ramp is easy but very loose without any snow.
- Don’t miss the first left turn. It is a fairly obvious slanting ledge, but steeper than I expected.
- The lower crux (rateau de chèvre) is a deep diagonal crack in a giant block barring the way. I thought it was even harder than it looked, but it is well protected.
- Just after the rateau, go straight up the gully above you rather than downclimbing and traversing right, which might look tempting.
- When the long and easy section on the right of the ridge suddenly steepens, traverse left on a ledge for a dozen meters, on the other side of the ridgeline, and head up an easy double gully (marked on the topo).
- The sections with red rock are very loose and of poor quality, I’m pretty sure our gear wouldn’t have held anywhere. Thankfully they are quite short.
- After the exposed col, take the dihedral immediately left of the ridgeline, not the one ten meters further to the left. We did, the climbing was quite hard (at least V) and we had to do a tension traverse to get back on the right line.
- From there on, it stays quite sustained, between III and IV+ for several hundred meters. It is also very well protected and super fun.
- There is a new fallen block not mentioned in any topo. There is only one hard move to get above it but it is at least V+, if not harder. Pitons are in place and everybody (including us) pulled on them.
- Just before reaching the top of the rock buttress, there was a short cave/chimney with a high potential for getting stuck. Stay on the outside.
- Unless it’s icy, the snow arete is unprotectable until it steepens. We could then place a few (poor) screws.
- We went left of the Rognon which was straightforward and quite easy, even the 80º ice bit. Pro is on the rock on the side but it is fairly loose. Also be careful as falling rocks go scarily fast and could potentially bounce into people on top of the rock buttress.
The Frendo Spur is the buttress to the left of the one below the Aiguille du Midi cablecar.
Our rack consisted of one strand of 8.6mm 50m rope, four cams (Camalot .5, .75, 1 and 2), 8 nuts (the 5 DMM alloy offsets worked amazingly, we didn’t use the other three), 7 ice screws (nearly useless in those conditions), 6 quickdraws and a few single and double slings. We simulclimbed everything except for a couple of cruxes and managed to finish in under 10 hours (9.5 from the base, 11 from the hut).