A great ascent of this Chamonix classic with Pat and Phoebe. The Frendo spur is a fantastic aesthetic route and very visible from the centre of Chamonix and especially on the way up to the Aiguille du Midi in the cable car. The route stands out with its rocky lower buttress into the elegant snow arete higher up. There’s not many alpinists who have been in that lift that haven’t stared at the route and imagined climbing it.
Frendo Spur tactics
It’s super hot here in Chamonix at the moment, and as we were climbing as a three and Pat and Phoebe were keen to learn/practice some bivouac skills, we decided to split the ascent into two days with a camp just before the upper snow arete. This meant that with a early start we could hopefully climb the snow when it had had an overnight freeze rather than the soggy mush that it would turn into pretty quickly. This would mean a slower climb with heavy rucksacks, but as we would be climbing as a three we would end up pitching more anyway. It was my first time guiding this route and I was quite happy with a less committing approach rather than trying to do it in a day.
Alpine climbing techniques on the lower spur
We made our way from the mid station (Plan d’Aiguille) of the midi lift over to the start of the climb in an hour where we put crampons on for the initial snow to get to the start of the rock. The lower buttress went pretty smoothly, with a mix of short roping, moving together and the odd short pitch. The rock soon steepens and we started pitching more. Just before the first real test of the route, the 5b corner, we got the second rope out so Pat and Phoebe could second independently and move at their own pace.
From here we did a lot of pitching, sometimes just twenty meters but often running almost the full fifty meters of rope out to the next belay. From the lift to our Bivouac spot it took us around nine hours, which for a group of three with heavy overnight rucksacks was alright.
Bivouac time on the Frendo
There are lots of good bivouac spots near the start of the snow arete, and we spent a while exploring a few possibilities until we found that the classic table top spot right on the arete was clear of snow and in the sunshine. We were there early enough to sit in the sunshine in baselayers whilst melting snow for brews and dinner. Just perfect. Dinner felt well deserved, and we all had our fill before climbing into down jackets and sleeping bags for the night.
It was super warm, and I had to take my down jacket off as I was over heating! As predicted, the sunset and then the stars were pretty amazing from this panoramic bivvy spot.
The upper snow and ice of the Frendo Spur
The next morning we had a quick cuppa and flapjack before getting on with the job in hand and heading up the snow. It had been so warm during the night that only the top layer of snow had refrozen, so we abandoned our planned tactic of moving together and pitched the snow instead, using buried axe belays as anchors. In three (or four?) pitches we were at the ice and from there made steady progress around the upper buttress. All pitching, as the ice and group size made moving together an unattractive option. The day was heating up fast and before the crux pitch we were down to baselayers and could here the water running from all the snow melt.
Topping out at the base of the midi arete was a great feeling and we slogged our way into the cool interior of the lift station fifteen minutes later. What a great adventurous couple of days, and we had the whole route to ourselves.