What a week. Despite the indifferent weather forecast for the entire week, Dave and I managed to get a varied set of climbs done on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif.
With stormy weather due almost every day we had to adapt our original plans slightly, and picked routes that we could complete before any afternoon thunder storms. First up was an acclimatisation session from the Helbronner lift, to breathe some thin air and check conditions.
Up and across the Aiguille Toule, via some steep snow and then we walked across to the Marbrees where Dave lead me across the ridge after the summit. We were then set for a bigger route, and decided to get straight onto the North Face of the Tour Ronde. An absolute classic, and a prominent mountain that stands out above the Valley Blanche.
Conditions were pretty good, with plenty of snow on the lower face where we moved together, squeaky ice in the narrows and then reasonable snow cover on the upper face, leading to hard ice. We pitched the entire upper section, taking just over three hours from the bergshrund to the summit.
The main route had gone pretty quickly, and we then took our time on the descent, going all the way along the Arete Freshfield so as to avoid the soggy snow on the flanks of the mountain. It has certainly been hot this past week, and the snow by mid morning was pretty wet.
We need a little rest after that effort, so spent the following morning clipping bolts at the Servoz crag in Chamonix before heading back up the Helbronner lift to spend the night at the Torino refuge. We wanted a longer route, and therefore an early start.
Unfortunately it had snowed a little during the night, and the next morning we woke to find snow and rime ice plastering the rock, putting our Dent du Geant plans to rest. Instead we continued on past the “tooth”, and along the Rochefort Arete, which was in pretty good condition, with a half-buried track along the narrow ridge. It felt quite an adventure in the thick cloud with no one else around.
We turned around just at the base of the final rock buttress, as it was again plastered in rime ice and snow. We didn’t want to push it too much….
All that was left on the final Friday was to enjoy some warm rock again, and Dave lead me up the fine multi-pitch route of Cacao Girls (fr6+) at the Barberine crag just on the border with Switzerland. It’s a miss-conception that guides drag clients up routes, and Dave and I had switched leads on various sections of the climbs during the week.
A fine varied trip, in good early season conditions.
Meanwhile, our mountaineering course had been out enjoying the routes around the Helbronner lift as well, with ascents of the Marbrees, Entreves, Toule amongst others. It’s a fine time of year to be climbing in the high alps, and whilst not every type of route is in condition yet, many of the classic snow routes are great and the August crowds aren’t yet on holiday.
Next week it’s our second Mont Blanc trip of the season, and we’ll update on conditions here and on the usual social media channels.