Nick was coming out to Chamonix on a 3 day whistle stop tour. With several recent Scottish winter trips under his belt he had done some pretty technical climbing and was already very capable in the British Hills. This was to be his first alpine visit except for some distant holidays with his Dad’s school groups, so the brief was for an alpine intro and to pack in the action. Pure rock routes were not on the agenda; he wanted to experience some alpine snow, ice and mixed. There was significant snow left from the recent heavy falls. I’d done the Dufourspitze on Friday with Andy W because there was still a lot of snow left on the Matterhorn, his primary objective. We’d had a massive day starting at 2.30am from the Monte Rosa Hut, topping out on the Dufourspitze at 8.30am via the Silbersattel in very snowy conditions, and arriving back in Zermatt around 4pm and Chamonix 7.30pm.
All these factors meant that the Cosmiques Ridge was an ideal choice for day 1, a hugely enjoyable, relatively technical and very easily accessible route where we could get straight on with some action and into magnificent scenery. We experienced a variety of alpine terrain, starting with the famous Aiguille du Midi ice arête, then a short glacier crossing and finally moving together on the mixed Cosmiques Ridge that includes short technical sections and rope manoeuvres.
Next up was the Traverse of the Aiguille d’Entreves the following day and a night in the Torino Hut, where the wine is very good value! The Entreves has a longer glacier approach than the Cosmiques, has some very exposed work on a sharp rock crest and a harder crux move of 5b. It’s predominantly rock and less varied climbing than the Cosmiques, but the similarity is it’s a relatively technical and very easily accessible ridge route in a magnificent mountain setting, and it fitted our requirements perfectly.
Our final route, starting from the Torino at 6.30am on Monday, was a mega classic route that somehow I’ve not done in absolutely ages. (1992 was the last time!) I wanted to do the Rochefort Ridge with Nick because it is a longer route requiring an earlier start from the hut, it is very different in character to our other climbs, being primarily a very sharp snow crest with a mixed approach and also some rock climbing to and abseils from the summit of the Aiguille du Rochefort. And it had the aesthetic appeal of heading off in the opposite direction from the hut from the previous day so we didn’t need to go over any of the same ground. There’s a glacier crossing and easy mixed scramble to the Salle a Manger at the base of the Dent du Geant. From there you follow sharp snow crests to the foot of the Aiguille de Rochefort. The recent snow had consolidated nicely and conditions were pretty good really, with just one section near the start a bit icy. The rock to the summit of the Aiguille was verglassed on the way up but this had cleared for the descent. It was a fantastic 8 hour mountain day and a very beautiful route to enjoy just as the season was drawing to a close. If you do it make sure to take a camera!
The best guidebook is Snow, Ice and Mixed. More photos here.