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Grands Montets Ridge, one of the finest routes to one of the finest summits

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As Gaston Rébuffat famously said, it is on the summit of Aiguille Verte that one truly becomes a montagnard. Very prominent on the East end of the Mont Blanc range, next to the smaller but arguably more impressive Drus, the Verte is one of the most beautiful summits anywhere. It also doesn’t have any easy route to the top, the two least difficult ones being the Whymper couloir and the Moine Ridge, both long AD+ routes.

Despite a couple of half hearted attempts at the Sans Nom Ridge earlier this summer, I couldn’t claim the title yet. Then Hulya came back to Chamonix, and after a change of plans from the original Innominata idea, we settled on the Grands Montets ridge. It is very, very, very long, requiring most parties to bivy halfway through, and is also one of the most complete routes in the Alps, featuring everything from moderate rock climbing to scrambling, mixed climbing, glacier terrain, and even a small ice gully in the middle, for no apparent reason. But most importantly of all, it has a deliciously short approach, as the cablecar drops us right at the start of the route.

So over the next two days, accompanied by two guided parties of Americans, we climbed this amazing mountain. Things went pretty well, though an unclear guidebook description and iced up rock slabs did give us some difficulties at the end of the first day, climbing the final rock tower, Pointe Ségogne. We settled in an amazingly located bivy spot on Col du Nant Blanc, napped for a few hours then climbed the Calotte to find ourselves, finally montagnards, on the summit just as dawn was poking out.

It’s for magic moments like that one that I climb!

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