Aiguilles Marbrees, PD

With the Tour Ronde and Dent d’Geant both out of condition Laura and I didn’t want to waste our an early morning rise at the Torino Refuge by heading straight back to Chamonix

We decided the Aiguilles Marbrees would be a nice relaxing half day objective, allowing us to rest/sunbathe at the midi station later in the day.

It was worth hanging off for the sun to begin rising before getting going. The approach is short and didn’t pass under any potential rock fall.

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Dent d’Geant at first light. Love how the glacier is snapping off.

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the Marbrees, taken on the way back

Due to rockfall on the east ridge which had apparently stripped the abseil bolts we approached from the Col du Geant and turned into the Col de Rochfort. This gave an amazing panorama across the Geant glacier, the approach is only about 1 hour from the Torino. img_0327

The ridge leading the summit consists of big blocks which can be easily climbed in dry conditions. We did end up turning a few of them but this led to very chossy ground, it would be better to stick to the crest all the way to the summit.

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summit before breakfast

Again due to the dry conditions we reversed the route rather than making the more popular traverse. A ver y enjoyable way to spend some early morning hours. All the while sneaking in some acclimatisation.

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coming off the ridge

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snow desert 

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Aiguille d’Entreves Traverse, AD- 5b

The traverse of the Aiguille d’Entreves is often referred to as Italy’s Cosmique ridge equivalent. Sitting on the French Italian border it offers an excellent half day route from the Torino refuge.

We left Chamonix on the first lift and before long we were passing over the glacier on the Helbronner cable car.

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shot from the cable car

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on route

The approach is straightforward and only about 1 hour from the Torino refuge. The glacier is crevassed in places but they are easy to avoid or step across. One of the few benefits of the later season conditions. We witnessed some serious rockfall on the Tour Ronde, the bergschrund  was big and a few teams were struggling. Disappointing as I was planning this for the following day. Suppose you would rather see it in daylight than in the dark the next morning though.

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traversing from right to left

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gearing up

Despite  being the “Italian Cosmique” the route was quiet with the few teams well spaced out. It wasn’t going to be a rushed stressful climb. The rock is good quality and we moved together for until the first awkward down climb. This leads to a col and two very impressive rock spires. img_0270

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getting exposed 

The ridge narrows at this point and has you moving across an awkward tower before reaching the crux wall. The wall can be seen in the above picture, the climber in the orange trousers standing at the foot of it. There is one move of 5b which is difficult on an AD- route however it is well protected and can be aided if necessary. The two climbers at the wall in this picture, a guide and her client, actually backed off at this point. The client wasn’t able to make the move so they decided the reverse the ridge. Not the easiest place to pass people!

I didn’t find the wall too tricky, my long reach and a big rockover helped to get up in a few moves. After this it’s an easy scramble to the summit. An exposed traverse and an abseil down a polished chimney and all the difficulties are behind you.

A scramble down the wider north east ridge leads to an abseil back to the glacier and a nice enjoyable route in the bag.

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abseil back to the glacier

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Geant from the Torino Refuge

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home for the night 

Being so late in a warm season our plans to do a route on the Tour Ronde the following day were now not possible. A sadly fatal accident on the Geant a few weeks earlier put me off that as well. The approach slopes were visibly dry and I didn’t want to do battle with the loose rock. The Torino Refuge was a comfortable place to sit with a beer and think of an alternative.

Petits Charmoz Traverse – AD 4b

On our first day in Chamonix this August Laura and I were looking for an alpine route with a bit of rock climbing, height gain, great views and the ability to return to the valley. After a lot of deliberation we settled on the traverse of the Petits Charmoz.

From what I could tell the route is less popular than it used to be but still offers a challenge and promised fantastic views across to the Dru and the Mer de Glace.

We queued for the first telepherique and before I finished my coffee we were at the Plan de l’Aiguille station. The approach to the route takes a few twists and turns and is a bit more time consuming that it looks. Firstly crossing the Glacier de Blaitiere before reaching the head wall of the Nantillons glacier.

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The Chamonix Aiguilles from the station.

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Approaching the Nantillons glacier. The Verte overshadowing the route from behind.

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The traverse runs from right to left.

I’d read that the Nantillons can be quite active late in the season. Despite an overnight freeze there was a lot of vocal rockfall. We decided not to follow the tracks straight across higher up. Opting to descend and cross at the snout and walking up the moraine below the end point of the route. This proved to be a wise decisions as quite a few boulders were spat down during the crossing.

A short climb led us to the Couloir de l’Etala and an easy scramble to the foot of the Etala chimneys.

The climbing in the chimneys was tricky for the grade, the rock is quite polished and it’s a really tight squeeze with a big rucksack. Great fun though.

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First pitch

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Trying to find the best way through a tight squeeze.

The chimneys lead to the Col de l’Etala and a fantastic view across the Mer De Glace.

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A fantastically exposed traverse and some easier ground then lead to the summit which only has room for two at a push. This was some of the most exposed easier ground I’ve been on and it was great. You can look between your legs and the next stop is the glacier.

Unfortunately I was too busy concentrating on foot placements to get the camera out.

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Laura approaching the summit. It was at that point I realised the chance of us getting the last lift down was unlikely.

The guidebook was quite vague about the best abseil route to take but it was clear we had a few options. Three 30m rappels later and we were on easier ground. There are no bolts on this route and some of the abseil tat is very weathered looking.

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The scariest part of the day for me was the via ferrata back to the glacier. This is accessed by down climbing the Couloir de Buche on a good path. You then meet a series of ladders that lead back to the foot of the glacier. These are mega exposed and very difficult to protect.

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Laura dealing with the fixed ladders.

Throughout the descent we were watching two climbers coming down the Nantillons dodging some serious rockfall. Thankfully they made it off safely but being anywhere in that area late in the season appears to be a gamble these days.

The consequence of going slow on the first day was missing the last lift to the valley. The plus side was a great sunset and a bit of fitness on the long walk back to Chamonix.

All in a great alpine route with plenty of variation for the grade.

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