/ Acclimatising for routes on the Tacul

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rockstoned on 26 Apr 2013
I'm trying to organise our acclimatisation & climb of either the Goulotte Chere of one of the Contamine-something routes on Mt Blanc du Tacul (and heading to the summit after) for some time in the next 2-3 weeks. We have 3 days.

For acclimatisation I was thinking of sleeping at 2700-3100m for the first night, climbing Arete des Cosmiques which ends up on the at Midi 3800m+ the next day and sleeping the Cosmiques hut, and waking up early the next morning for the Tacul route.

We have access to snowshoes but would prefer the easiest approach, and since most lifts aren't running, this rules out Albert 1er and the Tete Rousse huts, which would've been perfect.

So that leaves sleeping at the Grand Mulets hut (3057m, 2km walk over crevassed glacier, from the halfway station of the midi) the first night, going up the midi the next morning to climb the Cosmiques arete, then sleeping at the Cosmiques hut and climbing to the top of the Tacul the next morning.

Is this the best I can do in spring with huts & acclimatisation? I'd really appreciate some input on this.

Thanks in advance!
Petarghh - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned: Is the winter bivi room next to the cosmiques open ? or you could "miss" the last lift from the midi and crash in the lift station for free.

In 3 days you wont acclimatise and you'd probably be best just getting up doing it then coming back down to the valley.
Bruce Hooker - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

If you will just be coming up from sea level that sounds a bit short, but it depends so much on the individual. Apart from that you'd be lucky to get 3 days good weather, although in May I had a good weekend like that once, but didn't get so high, only up to the Albert 1er hut, on foot, winter refuge, then a col behind at about 3200m... I found it knackering but you are probably fitter.
rockstoned on 26 Apr 2013
Yeah, I'm also worried that 3 days won't be good acclimatisation. I know that many people do these climbs in one day, but having experienced it I don't fancy it if I can avoid it!

I'm also looking at bivvying at Grand Montets or hitting the toilets! Anyone with experience of this?
pawelx - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned: I climbed 3 routes on Tacul Triangle (Chere, Contamine-Grisolle, Contamine-Mazeaud), each time with no acclimatization, starting in the valley, first lift up, climbing by 10 in the morning or so. Once we ran back to catch the last lift down, twice we slept at the Cosmiques Hut. Worked fine for me, although I normally got headache 6-7 hours into the climb. By that time I'm usually descending already, so no probs.
CurlyStevo - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:
I've read for most climbs in the Alps you need at least 1 or 2 days of acclimatization before the routes, and for the bigger routes on the highest peaks you should have 3-4 days. Therefore any acclimatisation before hand is likely beneficial over none!
Minneconjou Sioux - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

I don't think you'll need to acclimatise tbh. Just go an do the climb. You might have a thick head but drink lots and take some headache tablets.
David Rose - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned: These are quite short routes, so you should be fine. And they have easy descents, too: abseils from the Chere.

Don't sleep in the Montets toilets. They stink. But you could just as easily go up to the Argentiere hut and do (say) Petit Viking and the Dolent N face goulotte - also abseil descents, not very hard and a little bit lower. Very nice they are, too.

Another worthwhile project would be the Malloyr- Porter or something harder on the Midi, or maybe Fil a Plomb on the Plan or the Cold du Midi couloir. Accessible, good, lowish.
Alexandre Buisse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to davidoldfart:
> Another worthwhile project would be the Malloyr- Porter or something harder on the Midi, or maybe Fil a Plomb on the Plan or the Cold du Midi couloir. Accessible, good, lowish.

And out of condition, unfortunately.
Big Lee - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

I slept in the Grand Montets station last year. Seriously, why would you sleep in the toilets? The toilets are tiny and night staff use them as well. We slept on the planking next to where the cable car docks. There's some great sunset views from the station if the weather is good:

http://leeharrisonclimbing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/grands-montets-telepherique-station.html

The only down side was that twice in the night the staff needed to start the machinery, presumably to prevent freeze, which was impossible to sleep through. Bring the best earplugs you have.

Re Tacul, I've done about three trips where I have kicked off proceedings with a route on the Triangle so I would just go for it. Particularly if you have only three days. I've never slept in the Midi Station but would bare in mind it is around 300m higher than the snow plateau below (ie you might want to consider camping lower if you are happy to break official rules). Chere in particular is easy to do with poor acclimatisation as the route isn't that long if making the abseil descent from the top of the main couloir.
GridNorth - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned: Lets get this altitude and acclimatisation issue into perspective bearing in mind that the OP wants to go to the summit of the Tacul which many of you seem to have not taken on board. The bottom line is that you just can't tell how it will affect you. I went for many years, more than 20 in fact, going high without acclimatising, and suffered nothing worse than a mild headache and general weariness. One year however I was so ill that I had to descend without climbing anything. A friend of mine, despite trying several times, simply can't climb above 3500 metres it's like he is walking into a brick wall. Acclimatising will most likely make any ascent above 3000 metres a more pleasant experience on the other hand you may be one of those fortunate people who are hardly affected. Drinking a LOT helps but in all honesty it seems to be a bit of a lottery.
Robert Durran - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
> (In reply to rockstoned)
>
> I don't think you'll need to acclimatise tbh. Just go and do the climb.

Be careful though (unless experience suggests you will be ok). My experience suggests I might absolutely literally die if I tried to climb the Tacul* with no acclimatisiation (though I am particularly bad at altitude).

*From the Midi that is - if I tried to go to that height from the valley I would just grind to a halt at about 3500m or so and turn round.
rockstoned on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned: thank you for all the replies - very useful!

Personally I've never felt symptom-less above 3000m.

Just a question about bivvying around or below the Grand Montets hut - does anyone know if there's a suitable place for pitching a 2 person tent below the telepherique station? It seems like this is the best option, and if the weather is crap to utilise the smelly/noisy toilets :)

Another thing we're thinking of is bivvying between between Plan de l'Aiguille and les Grands Mulets hut, not too fond of the seracs at la Jonction!

Cheers
rockstoned on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Alexandre Buisse: one of the nice pics you've taken for Petzl is hanging on my wall :)
Minneconjou Sioux - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Minneconjou Sioux)
> [...]
>
> Be careful though (unless experience suggests you will be ok). My experience suggests I might absolutely literally die if I tried to climb the Tacul* with no acclimatisiation (though I am particularly bad at altitude).
>
> *From the Midi that is - if I tried to go to that height from the valley I would just grind to a halt at about 3500m or so and turn round.

I've actually used the Tacul as an acclimitisation route from the valley in a day.

But the point is that the OP is going to climb routes on the Tacul which will take a while so ascent will be slow.

As you say, everyone will have a different experience but, for the most part, I'd say he'd be ok.
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> As you say, everyone will have a different experience but, for the most part, I'd say he'd be ok.

What you mean is that most people would be ok. For a minority it would not be ok, probably very unpleasant and possibly very dangerous. The OP might be in that minority, which is why he should be cautious if he does not have previous experience suggesting he would be ok (The fact that he asked for advice suggests he does not). The most ill I have ever been from altitude in the Alps was after climbing the Chere Couloir from the Midi, abandoning going to ther summit. I had already slept at 3000m+ (Grands Montets) and been to 3500m. I struggled to make it back to the Midi; without the telepherique I migt have been in serious trouble.

Christheclimber - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

I really don't think you need to acclimatise for a route on the Tacul
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Christheclimber:
> (In reply to rockstoned)
>
> I really don't think you need to acclimatise for a route on the Tacul

Do you know him? Do you know how easily he acclimatises? If not, your post is irresponsible. Sorry, this sort of thing annoys me!

CurlyStevo - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
Last year all three of us felt the altitude doing Petite Aiguille Verte that took us to around 3500 (with zero acclimatisation), my fitness was a bit sub par but I remember wishing I'd done something either a bit lower down or a bit easier going (ie a glacier walk), or perhaps slept at altitude first. It was the first time I'd ever climbed at altitude though.
GridNorth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Christheclimber)
> [...]
>
> Do you know him? Do you know how easily he acclimatises? If not, your post is irresponsible. Sorry, this sort of thing annoys me!

I'm with you on this. The summit of the Tacul is somewhere in the region of 4300 metres I believe, not a lot lower than MB itself.
John Cuthbert - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

You do have quite a few other options.

You could stay in the Cosmiques Refuge?
You could snow-hole (below Cosmiques hut or Pointe Lachenal are good spots).
You could put a sneaky tent up..?

I wouldl not advise you cross the Grands Mulet glacier in snow shoes given current conditions howver..

JPC
CurlyStevo - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
I believe you don't have to go to the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul for all the routes though.
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> I'm with you on this. The summit of the Tacul is somewhere in the region of 4300 metres I believe, not a lot lower than MB itself.

4200m actually. Even so....
You only have to see how many tourists suffer at the Midi to realise that a minority but significant proportion of people suffer below 4000m. I have climbed with 2 people about as poor as me at altitude and a friend who went straight to the Cosmiques hut a couple of years ago had a completely wasted trip. I know of at least two instances of trekkers dieing at 3500m in the Nepal (and they didn't arrive there by telepherique!).

GridNorth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: Read the thread, the OP clearly stated he wished to go to the summit.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Christheclimber)
> [...]
>
> Do you know him? Do you know how easily he acclimatises? If not, your post is irresponsible. Sorry, this sort of thing annoys me.

What are you - some sort of advice police? If we all gave advice on the basis of worst case scenario then the advice here would be "don't go, its too dangerous".

My advice to the OP is get up there and go and find out for yourself. There are a lot of other things that might kill you long before altitude sickness kicks in.


"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore"
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)

> What are you - some sort of advice police?

If pointing out your ignorant and potentially dangerous advice make me that then so be it. I can live with that.

> If we all gave advice on the basis of worst case scenario then the advice here would be "don't go, its too dangerous".

Urging caution in acclimatising is perfectly reasonable. It might at least save a wasted trip to the Midi (and possibly much worse). It is a matter of being aware of the risks. Just like being aware of the risks of passing under seracs. The OP was seeking advice; he deserves better than yours.

> My advice to the OP is get up there and go and find out for yourself.

I am sure he can choose sensibly whose advice to take (bearing in mind his previous experiences with altitude).

> "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore"

FFS..... He is more likely to discover "new oceans" without a splitting headache or worse.

Minneconjou Sioux - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Minneconjou Sioux)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> If pointing out your ignorant and potentially dangerous advice make me that then so be it. I can live with that.
>

If you say so.

> [...]
>
> Urging caution in acclimatising is perfectly reasonable. It might at least save a wasted trip to the Midi (and possibly much worse). It is a matter of being aware of the risks. Just like being aware of the risks of passing under seracs. The OP was seeking advice; he deserves better than yours.
>

And it might mean that he completely fails to meet any of his objectives due to an overcautious approach. I'm sure you feel that your advice carries the moral high ground but the truth is that you are being overly dramatic. While it is true that he might succumb to a dangerous bout of altitude sickness he also might not and the latter is more likely.

> [...]
>
> I am sure he can choose sensibly whose advice to take (bearing in mind his previous experiences with altitude).

And I'm sure he will.

>
> [...]
>
> FFS..... He is more likely to discover "new oceans" without a splitting headache or worse.

Not in 3 days he won't. So he might have to live with a headache. You keep going on about the "or worse" so perhaps you can expand? I'm sure that you will be able to trawl the net looking for examples of people who have died at these altitudes but I'm betting there were other factors involved.
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> If you say so.
>
> And it might mean that he completely fails to meet any of his objectives due to an overcautious approach.

And your bad advice might means he fails to meet any of his objectives because he is ill and then, afterwards, wiped out by it.

> I'm sure you feel that your advice carries the moral high ground but the truth is that you are being overly dramatic.

Nothing to do with moral high ground; just sensible advice.

> While it is true that he might succumb to a dangerous bout of altitude sickness he also might not and the latter is more likely.

True. But I really don't know what your point is; if you play Russian roulette you are more likely to live than die. And yes, I know no-one achieves anything in mountaineering without taking some risks, but that does not mean there is no point in sound judgement.

> Not in three days he won't.

He could choose to sacrifice one day for acclimatising to improve his chances of making more of the most of the other two days. (Judging by his OP, he actually realises this anyway).

> So he might have to live with a headache. You keep going on about the "or worse" so perhaps you can expand?

And you keep on making light of it - I bet that if he had the sort of splitting headache common at such altitudes he would more likely (and if he has any common sense) to be heading for the valley rather than for a route.

I expanded in an earlier post - and my personal experience at the Midi left me struggling to make it to the telepherique with horribly debilitating nausea and headache; without the telepherique it could have been pretty serious.

> I'm sure that you will be able to trawl the net looking for examples of people who have died at these altitudes.

I havn't and I won't.

Yes, your sort of attitude does wind me up; in my long experience a lot of people who don't suffer much from altitude simply don't get it - perhaps they are simply in no position to offer sound advice.

dutybooty - on 01 May 2013
In reply to rockstoned: This thread is worrying me. I'm planning on camping on the Col Du Midi and been told its normal to fire straight up there, stay the night, and go climb the next day.

I'm judging from this that is a bad idea?
Robert Durran - on 01 May 2013
In reply to dutybooty:
> (In reply to rockstoned) This thread is worrying me. I'm planning on camping on the Col Du Midi and been told its normal to fire straight up there, stay the night, and go climb the next day.
>
> I'm judging from this that is a bad idea?

Unless you have previous experience which suggests you will be ok with the altitude (many are, a fair number aren't), I think it is a bad idea. You might well be ok, but you might have a wasted trip or worse. Why not do something lower (or at least sleeping lower) first if in doubt?

MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to dutybooty:

> I'm judging from this that is a bad idea?

Most likely you will feel rather ill and not up to much. Trying something lower first is good advice. There are plenty of options.
smithaldo - on 01 May 2013
In reply to rockstoned: Brilliant, UKC at it's best:

It's fine, no it's not, yes it is, no it's not.

Basically don't listen to any advice you get on here, just crack on with what you feel is right for you, you might be fine, you might be not, you are highly highly unlikely to die, but you might.
Robert Durran - on 01 May 2013
In reply to smithaldo:
> (In reply to rockstoned) Brilliant, UKC at it's best:
>
> It's fine, no it's not, yes it is, no it's not.
>
> Basically don't listen to any advice you get on here, just crack on with what you feel is right for you.

You are missing the point. If he does not have previous experience to go on, he will have no chance to "feel" what is right for him going straight up the Midi by telepherique and staying the night up there (the unpleasant/dangerous affecys of altitude take time to kick in). If he was walking up somewhere it would be a different matter; if he started to "feel" crap, he could turn round and go down.

Anyway, he did asked for advice and has been given both good (by the likes of me) and bad (by the likes of you).
Ron Walker - on 01 May 2013
In reply to rockstoned:

While a few lucky individuals may be able to go straight up and climb a technical route on Mt Blanc du Tacul without experiencing the effects of altitude, most will feel the altitude.
The problem with altitude is that unless you've done a lot of stuff in the past you really can't tell how you will react.
Even if you've coped OK in the past, it doesn't necessary mean you'll always be OK in the future. Unfortunately the normal rules of fitness don't apply either, often the opposite!
Unless you know you're OK and live in the Alps, I'd forget doing anything technical and just get up high and see how you feel, walking with snowshoes, if OK then maybe try something more technical.
If you feel even slightly iffy or spaced, it'll be much worse when you try anything more strenuous or remotely technical.
You will not only feel under par or fluey but more importantly, your judgement, awareness and perception will be badly affected. The knock on effect will be that you are more likely to make mistakes and endanger yourself and more importantly others.
When well acclimatised I've often been with experienced but less well acclimatised folk in huts or on the hill. Chatty folk have suddenly become very quiet and they've had problems with simple tasks, such as finding and putting on harnesses and crampons and tieing simple knots or even trying to put on the right boots or do up their hoods. Unfortunately they're often not aware of their clumsiness, until I tell them and I certainly don't want them too near me when I'm climbing or setting up the belay!
If you've ever been out with a fit and active climber who's suddenly taken ill then airlifted off the Matterhorn ending up on a heart lung machine or seen fit experienced climbers killed by rocks from clumsy folk above, you'll treat altitude and acclimatisation with respect, I certainly do.
With regard to 'Chere' most folk only do the first few pitches and then ab off knocking ice onto irate folk below, so the Alpine grade doesn't really apply but boxing rules might!
If you climb Chere fully or the various Contamine routes and continue on up to Mont Blanc du Tacul, it's a lot longer and more committing. Serious in poor snow or weather conditions and much much longer. Due to the height gain you'll also feel the altitude more, which likely won't be helped by deep snow and snowshoes.
As for huts, forget the Grande Mulet's maybe think about the Torino or an alternative...

Just my thoughts

Cheers Ron
smithaldo - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Robert Durran: Apologies Robert, that wasn't meant as a personal attack on anyone, it's just that if you ask for advice on here that is the pattern of what you will always get, it's just the nature of the internet.

Also, if you ask for advice on something that affects people differently it's a bit daft in the first place as you will inevitably get the fine/not fine thing from people who the thing you are asking about affects differently.

So conversely if you give advice on something that affects people differently in can neither be good or bad, as for some people it will be good, and for some bad.

You are probably right though overall in that a softly softly approach is wise given the OP has no experience of how minging it can be going high straight away.


Minneconjou Sioux - on 01 May 2013
In reply to dutybooty:
> (In reply to rockstoned) This thread is worrying me. I'm planning on camping on the Col Du Midi and been told its normal to fire straight up there, stay the night, and go climb the next day.
>
> I'm judging from this that is a bad idea?

This thread has possibly reached the end of usefulness for either the OP or anyone else reading it. The effects of altitude are individual and also unique to the day. I am of the camp that suggests going stright up onto the Col will be fine. I do not suggest that you won't feel anything but I do suggest that it is unlikely to be debilitating.

Others are suggesting that it could be debilitating (which it could) so why take the risk and there is no doubt that, given time, a more steady acclimatisation will be better. They are correct but the OP only has 3 days.

My thinking says go up and if you feel really crap come down. You will still have time to climb lower down.

Ron Walker has made possibly the most relevant point which was missed which is that routes on the Tacul are quite a bit longer and more committing than people realise. So perhaps the other advice should be to reduce the target climbs and possibly not aim to top out on the Tacul.

While Robert feels that advice to go straight up is bad I simply can't agree although, on reflection, I do feel that the climbs might need to be a little less ambitious.
Bruce Hooker - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Christheclimber:
> (In reply to rockstoned)
>
> I really don't think you need to acclimatise for a route on the Tacul

It's easier when you're Christ.


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