The Aiguille Verte is top of Chris’s hit list, but we heard that the bergschrund is now too big to ascend the Whymper Couloir, and the alternative normal ascent route by the Moine Ridge was snowed up last week. We therefore turned our attention to Mont Dolent by the Gallet Ridge (AD+, III). A friend of mine, Tim Whitaker, recommended it to me years and years ago, and I’ve always fancied doing it sometime. I mentionned it to Chris and it had been high on his hit list for ages too. Mont Dolent is a true mountaineers peak; remote, serious and accessed using bivi huts. We saw nobody else at all on the mountain, and only 2 couples out walking in Val Ferret on the return hike.
We picked our day carefully, and although the overnight freeze was poor because of partial cloud cover, the morning was clear and cold with conditions improving higher up and the snow staying reasonable late into the day.
We ascended right up the Dolent Glacier to the final access point onto the ridge, and this was a good move. The glacier work and ‘schrund were interesting, but more appealing than joining the ridge lower down. A bit of rock on the ridge preceded the ascent of the hanging glacier, and then a much steeper and icier slope than we’d bargained for led to the summit ridge.
The best guidebook is Snow, Ice and Mixed, which shows both ascent options and the descent with excellent photo diagrams. Herman Biner’s Valais Alps guidebook has descriptions and very good photos of the ascent and descent, but only describes the ascent via the lower attack point to the ridge. The AC guidebook descriptions are very good, but not the photos.
For this route we took just glacier gear (including 4 screws and a 45m Joker) and this worked out fine for us.
The descent by the Normal Route (AD, II) involves snow slopes that you want to be off before they deteriorate too badly in the sun (but see note re descent options on this diagram), and a biggish bergschrund that we abbed from a snow bollard.
More photos and info here.
On the descent we were shocked to hear of the tragic accident on Mont Maudit that had occurred a few hours earlier.