On September 2nd and 3rd 2010, Nic Mullin and myself attempted a full traverse of the Aiguilles de Chamonix, from Midi to Grépon. We left early in the morning of the 3rd, but lack of acclimatisation, route finding mistakes and general slowness made us reach the summit of Aiguille du Plan in 8 hours instead of the guidebook 4. Since the traverse is a committing route and since we were starting to really feel the altitude, we decided to bail and returned to the cablecar station in 5 grueling hours.
Here is a photo essay of a wonderful climb. Enjoy!
Despite the appearances, we were actually sorting the gear…
Part of the Aiguilles and our intended traverse. From left to right, Blaitière, Ciseaux, Fou, Dent du Caïman, Dent du Crocodile, Plan and Rognon du Plan.
As we had the end of the afternoon free on the first day, we decided to scout the first part of the ridge. We cached the bags at the end of the Arête des Cosmiques so that we could move fast and unencumbered.
A solo climber ascends to the cable car station from the Col du Midi, with the Glacier du Géant and Italy in the background.
A team tops out on the south face of Aiguille du Midi, probably via the Rebuffat route. I was keen to try it out on the last day but Nic’s fingers were too damaged for granite jamming after ice climbing without gloves.
A glorious sunset awaited us from the same spot.
One year after my Mont Blanc climb, a nearly identical sunset on the Dôme du Goûter and the Glacier des Bossons.
We started at first light, and our first obstacle was the easy but exposed snow ridge. Overall, conditions were acceptable though there was a fair bit of ice on the latter portions of the ridge.
Nic on the knife-edge ridge, in front of a rising sun. A magic moment.
We overtook a guided team which had come from the Cosmiques hut, but they went in front again later on when we made a routefinding error which costed us a couple of hours. They decided to abandon their climb shortly before the summit of the Aiguille du Plan due to tiredness.
Nic in front of the bergshrund which then led to significant rock difficulties. We realized later that there was a much, much easier way.
Nic abseiling back on the normal route. We lost 1h30 to 2h to this routefinding mistake (but gained some fun rock and snow pitches).
Nic on one of the intermediary ridges. The route then goes into the wide gully in the shade, littered with horribly loose rock, before reaching the Rognon du Plan.
After abseiling and downclimbing the Rognon, we had to traverse an icy slope on the Col Supérieur du Plan.
A wide panorama of the col supérieur du plan. The summit of the Plan is on the left edge, and the Rognon on the right. The return route involved climbing the steep pillar on the right edge of the picture. Click on the image for a higher resolution version.
Mont Blanc from the summit of Aiguille du Plan. The rock sheet on the left is the rognon du plan, and the whole ridge is visible, up to Aiguille du Midi on the right side.
A sea of granite, the rest of the Aiguilles traverse, which we had to give up. This time.
Nic descending the Rognon du plan, in front of a wonderful Chamonix landscape.
The easy way through the first rock formations, which we had missed in the morning.
The ridge and the Aiguille du Peigne seen from close to Aiguille du Midi as the sun was setting. In the background, the Aiguille Verte.
Nic on the last part of the ridge before well deserved rest at the Aiguille du Midi.