Friday, October 20, 2023

Aiguille du Midi Ridge: Beware it's not always straight forward.


The entry into the Vallée Blanche.

Despite having lived in Geneva for the past fifteen years and despite having climbed Mt Blanc with me in 2016, plus numerous ski mountaineering excusions Catherine had never actually set foot in the Vallée Blanche.

Last week that was all about to change as we entered out of the Aiguille du Midi  ice cave and onto the ridge which leads onto the glacier and then the Vallée Blanche.

There is always a wow factor at this point- It is one of the wonders of the world, yet today there was an unexpected frisson of excitement:  No one had been down the ridge since the previous storm and it was knife edge like and corniced.   Fifty meters further all the snow had been scoured by the wind and we were left with smooth boiler plate ice which just laughed at our crampons attempt to grip it.  We really, really had to concentrate and work very hard to avoid a slip which would't have stopped until Chamonix high street.

The arete du Aiguille du Midi

It was a salient reminder that climbing up and down this ridge hundreds and hundreds of times over 40 years, counts for nothing.  But knowing your clients and the clients knowing the Guide does count for something.

Of course it was worth it - we had the whole place to our selves.  We headed over to the Point Lachaneal.  At first the wind-blown snow supported our weight and we could just skip along.  Yet inevitably the snow changed- it no longer supported our weight and each step meant I crashed through the crust past my knee.

Clearly the solitude is marvellous- but having no one-else around to forge a track is the price you pay.

The summit is a great view point.  To the east you can see the Matterhorn. To the south , the Grand Paradiso.  Behind you have the mighty face of Mt Blanc du Tacul. To the north the Aguille du Midi from which we came.

Aguille du Midi

Point Lachaneal.

We returned the way we had come.  Still we saw no one.  It was odd to retrace our steps and still see our earlier foot prints.  Fourtunatley the ridge had no new surprises.  We seemingly delighted some tourists who were waiting for us at the top. We were the only Alpinists that day.  We had a novelty value.  One of them even "air-dropped" a photo of Catherine and me :

Catherine&Me heading over to point Lachanel 

The next day again  we did something else Catherine had never done before we went rock climbing.  At this time of year Les Chéserys above Argentiere is perfect because it is bathed in Autumn sunshine.

We started with the Voie Jaune 4b. A classic climb and the perfect introuduction to multi pitch climbing.

Followed by a multiple rappel

Next we headed over to the famous Aiguillette d'Argentiere 4b 

This climb is the classic of the area.  Not difficult but clearly quite exposed...

If there is a better place to start your rockclimbing - show me it!