/ Solo-able around Chamonix

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KlaasW on 21 May 2014
I'm in Cham in a week or so on my own. Any suggestions to routes I could solo? Objectives I'm looking at are: Mt Blanc normal route, Dômes de Miage Arête Mettrier, Aiguille du Moine Face S, and Crochues traverse. Did I miss anything good?
Fredt on 21 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Mont Blanc du Tacul
Petit Charmoz Traverse
If you can do the Moine S Face you can do the Index. (Crux is the first move off the ground)
Alexandre Buisse - on 21 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Chapelle de Glière is good too, a bit harder than Index.

Too early for MB normal route, 3 monts is not a good solo in early season, so do gouter N ridge on skis if you really want to do MB.
KlaasW on 21 May 2014
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

Weather in Chamonix has been pretty rubbish past few weeks but it's getting warmer now, so was hoping that Gouter route would be possible. Don't have skis though. Will look into Petit Charmoz, Index, and Glière. Tacul? Solo, really? Anyway, thanks
Alexandre Buisse - on 22 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Goûter can avalanche after big snowfalls in the spring, especially if there has been wind accumulation (and there was, foehn is blowing out my window right now). Also, it's likely to be a terrible slog up untracked, unconsolidated snow. Some people do it in snowshoes sometimes, but it's quite rare.

Tacul NF would be even more exposed to avalanches, and I would never get on it unroped unless it's end of season and all the crevasses are well exposed.

Cosmiques ridge, Lachenal traverse are good options if you are comfortable soloing AD (though Lachenal needs you to cross the Midi plateau which is crevassed). Aiguille du Tour is also probably doable solo.
Fredt on 22 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Sorry, I missed the fact you were in Chamonix right now, which would indeed rule out the Tacul.
KlaasW on 24 May 2014
In reply to Fredt:

Thanks! Finally had time to look up some of those suggestions. Never thought of Cosmiques but seems really attractive. The rock routes (Petit Charmoz Traverse, Index) are probably not that hard but exposed and the thought of doing that alone freaks me out. Aiguille du Tour: isn't the glacier du Tour crevassed?
John Alcock - on 27 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Chere couloir and Contamien Mazaud on the Tacul are very pleasant.
Peter B Pearson - on 27 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Don.t do the Petit Charmoz alone.If you get over onto the right side of the ridge it.s loose as hell.I nearly went dow3n with hundreds of tons of rock a few years ago
Simon4 - on 27 May 2014
In reply to Peter B Pearson:

> Don.t do the Petit Charmoz alone.If you get over onto the right side of the ridge it.s loose as hell.I nearly went dow3n with hundreds of tons of rock a few years ago

Hard to see how being part of a pair would help in that situation, there will be nothing sound to take a belay off, so the rope will tend to :

1) snag in crud, possibly pulling you off when you are teetering
2) take both of you were only one might have fallen otherwise

I have before now taken off the rope on seriously loose ground, to avoid these very risks.
JimboWizbo - on 27 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Index P1 is polished as hell and exposed, I'd give the solo a miss personally!
KlaasW on 27 May 2014
In reply to Simon4:

I have been watching loads of videos on YouTube to see if routes look solo-able or not. First, I would like to say, GoPros with their wide angle make things look waaaaay more scary then they really are. And secondly, I have been looking at people doing routes roped up and realised that you would probably be much safer on your own in many cases. I mean, if your partner went down one side, would you really be able to run over a cornice and down the other side? Not really.
Alexandre Buisse - on 27 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

That's correct, but don't underestimate the psychological boost of being tied into a rope, even in cases where you know intellectually that it's more dangerous than without. Being ropeless on a big exposed face or ridge can be really nerve wracking.
Simon4 - on 27 May 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

In the circumstances of a ridge or snow crest, I would almost certainly stay roped. It is normally when crossing steep, broken, loose ground that I would propose taking the rope off, as it is hindering rather than helping and may be more of a source of danger than of safety.

It does not happen often however.
KlaasW on 27 May 2014
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

I fully understand the psychological boost. We were doing some unroped approaches in the highlands this winter and it's pretty interesting how, when you suddenly realise how high up you are and how steep it is, you can suddenly freak and your legs go to jelly. Then you tell yourself it's no big deal and it's all fine again. Anyway, the weather in Chamonix looks rubbish, so maybe mostly academic
Peter B Pearson - on 28 May 2014
In reply to Simon4 you,re right of course about the Petit Charmoz - it's not as if there were'nt enough good routes in the Cham valley.
KlaasW on 31 May 2014
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:

I noticed on the Midi webcam that there were tracks up the Tacul and a bit later on Mt Maudit. Doesn't look like skies but I could be wrong
Alexandre Buisse - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

Not surprised, there's been a few days of relatively high pressure and 3 monts gets tracked early. But it's most likely skis for flat sections, crampons for the steep bits, as there's still a ton of snow up high.

Though I am just guessing from hearing what my friends report and what the conditions usually look like, as I am recovering from ACL surgery and unlikely to get first hand knowledge for quite a while...

kenr - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:
> Goûter can avalanche after big snowfalls in the spring, especially if there has been wind accumulation (and there was, foehn is blowing out my window right now). Also, it's likely to be a terrible slog up untracked, unconsolidated snow.

I soloed the Gouter N ridge in April in a big snow year, using skis for much of it, kicked my own steps for the steeper section. I was disappointed that the other (group) parties ascended the glacier (exposed to serac fall). I thought climbing the ridge was great. Did it another time with partners (unroped) again April with big snowpack to cover crevasses. In non-wind-blasted snow conditions, I've also descended it on skis.

Avalanche is surely a concern for Gouter N ridge, but I don't see it as having much to do with a decision whether to do it solo or with partners -- because if a wind-slab big enough to bury someone released, it would likely catch multiple climbers, or otherwise carry a victim so far down the (very open exposed) slope that it seems unlikely that a partner could find them in time for digging and resuscitation.

> Aiguille du Tour is also probably doable solo.
I did it as a daytrip in April approaching on skis from the Grands Montets lift crossing Col du Passon, then descending to le Tour. It was a big snow year, so crevasses where well-covered. Wonderful outing. First time I did went up and back over Col Superieure du Tour. Another time I did an anti-clockwise ski circuit around the Aig du Tour with the obvious descent South then West to le Tour. (next time I would do that obvious circuit clockwise, or I've heard there's a less obvious finish to anti-clockwise finishing more West, or finish at Trient Switzerland).

Ken
kenr - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to KlaasW:
> I'm looking at ... Crochues traverse.

I thought the Crochues traverse was very fun. I found that it was also possible to continue on past the Aig Crochues to Col Dards and on toward Aig Belvedere. I felt that the quality of the moves and features was sustained pretty well at least to Col Dards, so I would gladly to that again.

The guidebooks say that a rope is needed to abseil to the East somewhere around Col Dards, but I found that I could down-climb on the West side (see description of difficulty on CampToCamp), then rejoin the ridge to continue north. A guided roped party continued their ridge traverse beyond Aig Crochues as far as the abseil, then hiked on the snow to Aig Belvedere before descending to Lac Blanc.

It is recommended to leave the ridge before reaching the Aig Belvedere, so I followed an obvious track around the SE face, then climbed to the summit from somewhere around the E side. At that point it would have been better to descend E or SE toward Refuge Lac Blanc. But I decided to try down-climbing the north side of the Aig Belvedere. I found myself going down roughly NNE, and found there was lots of climbing to be done before it felt like merely steep hiking.

Ken
Alexandre Buisse - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to kenr:

> I soloed the Gouter N ridge in April in a big snow year, using skis for much of it, kicked my own steps for the steeper section. I was disappointed that the other (group) parties ascended the glacier (exposed to serac fall). I thought climbing the ridge was great. Did it another time with partners (unroped) again April with big snowpack to cover crevasses. In non-wind-blasted snow conditions, I've also descended it on skis.

> Avalanche is surely a concern for Gouter N ridge, but I don't see it as having much to do with a decision whether to do it solo or with partners -- because if a wind-slab big enough to bury someone released, it would likely catch multiple climbers, or otherwise carry a victim so far down the (very open exposed) slope that it seems unlikely that a partner could find them in time for digging and resuscitation.

Just to be clear, by "Goûter", I meant the normal summer route from Tête Rousse and Aiguille du Goûter, not the N ridge which is indeed the best option for spring ascents on skis, and on which avalanche risk is much lower.
kenr - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to Alexandre Buisse:
Thanks for the clarification.
As you can guess from details of my posts, I like springtime (in a big snow year) for solos which require a glacier approach. Another one is the Tour Ronde. (have not tried the ridge traverse of Aig d'Entreves, heard it has a tricky move which might deter me)

Skis provide more surface area, so less likely to punch through a snow bridge. Also if gliding fast on descent, possibility of making it to the other side even if the bridge starts to collapse.

And as the glaciers break up more with the modern Euro warming, for some approaches sprintime in a big snow year might be the only time to easily get to some routes (without elaborate weaving and aid engineering).

Ken
KlaasW on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to kenr:

I tried the Crochues traverse yesterday but failed. First of all, I was knackered from carrying up my gear 1500m as no lifts. And then the couloir that gives access to the ridge was blocked by a huge cornice.
jon on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to KlaasW:

> I tried the Crochues traverse yesterday but failed. First of all, I was knackered from carrying up my gear 1500m as no lifts. And then the couloir that gives access to the ridge was blocked by a huge cornice.

It's normal early in the season for the couloir to be steep and even have a cornice (and for the lifts to be closed, of course!). In that case you should try the little east face route to access the ridge, it's really good. Even better though much harder is the newer Piola route, Lux.

A great extension to the rather too short Crochues traverse, as has been mentioned above is the ordinary route on the Belvedere. If you continue the Crochues traverse as far as the col des Dards you'll need to abseil off - there are anchors - or at least do some tricky down-climbing. Easier/better to take the regular exit from the Crochues ridge down easy snow and walk around.
kenr - on 10 Jun 2014
Good suggestion for an alternate continuation / extension of the Crochues traverse, Yes normally easier.
"better" ?
is a matter of taste. If you paid the price of hiking up the approach to the Crochues because you wanted to enjoy making lots of rock moves on a ridge, then continuing on the ridge to Col Dards offers more of that of similar quality (though in a somewhat downward direction). If after a while you find that you're not enjoying the downward ridge climbing, or you get near the abseil point and don't like the looks of the down-climbing toward the W side, can just climb back up the same way to return to the Crochues -- and you will have enjoyed even more rock moves on the ridge.

Myself I really enjoy down-climbing, so it's natural for me to choose my "better" to continue toward Col Dards (though perhaps next time come to think of it I will then return back up to Aig Crochues and follow Jon's suggestion of taking the snow route to Aig Belvedere -- so get both more ridge rock _and_ more alpine snow).

Yet another direction-reversal idea I might try would be to hike up from Lac Blanc then climb the N (or NNE) side of Aig Belvedere, then find a safe way to get around to its S ridge and take that to near Col Dards, etc.

Ken
kenr - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to jon:
> It's normal early in the season for the couloir to be steep and even have a cornice (and for the lifts to be closed, of course!). In that case you should try the little east face route to access the ridge, it's really good. Even better though much harder is the newer Piola route, Lux.

My first time starting Crochues I ran into a local Chamonix guide who had just finished soloing Lux. But he was hauling rope-solo kit. I assume that Lux was well within his solo climbing capability. He explained that on some of the pitches he was concerned about danger of loose or breaking rock, so he was using the rope for self-belay.

Ken
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jon on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to kenr:
He needn't have worried, the rock is as good as it gets. The only thing that detracts from it is that it is a rock climb rather than a mountaineering route like its neighbour and as such requires more equipment (just quickdraws) and of course rock shoes. Not that that is a problem, of course. I might just post a photo of it.

Here are a couple of pics of one of the locals on the Belvedere:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=150208
http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=150075
Post edited at 15:01

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