There is no shortage of inspiring mountains in Chamonix, but if you spend some time here, and especially if you take the Montenvers cog train, one needle stands out among all: Aiguille de la République. The reason is simple. It is very, very pointy. As in, this pointy (on the left, shot from last winter):
Two weeks ago, I tried to climb it with Claire. We had planned to bivy on a big ledge one third of the way up, because the weather forecast was perfect and bivying is fun. But of course, you should never trust a mountain forecast, and we got drenched in a thunder/hail/rain-storm for most of the night, with little shelter. Cold and wet the next morning, and with still unsettled weather, we decided to retreat.
Ten days later, I was back on Envers des Aiguilles, this time with Hulya and Olivier. We hoped to climb the SE ridge of Bec d’Oiseau, but a mediocre forecast and an impassable bergschrund made us reconsider, and back to République we went. The first part, well known, went quickly, but then we discovered the real difficulty of the route: not getting lost. In broken, low angle ground and with precious few visual landmarks, we made several routefinding mistakes before managing to reach the saddle between Grands Charmoz and République. All day, the skies had looked threatening, but we agreed not to bail until it actually started raining… The last few pitches to the summit, though fairly easy on paper, were surprisingly difficult and very exposed, taking us even longer than expected. Finally, at 6:30pm, in a near whiteout, all three of us stood on the much coveted summit, 20cm wide and dropping hundreds of meters on all side. Pointy indeed!
It was time for an orderly retreat. We took bets on how many abseils we would eventually need, but even my high estimate of 17 came short, as the final tally came to a round 20. Most of them happened by night, on mostly unknown and/or sketchy anchors. At midnight exactly, we finally set foot on the glacier. The choice between a 4 to 5 hours walk back down to Chamonix or a 15 minutes one to the nearby hut was easy, a wise decision as concerned hut wardens had even left us some food!
In the end, we all agreed on one thing: it’s a beautiful summit, but you have to earn it!