/ First Mixed climbing lead in Chamonix (October)

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sam_cash - on 12 Sep 2016
Dear UKCers,

Me and a mate heading out to Cham 2nd week of October for, hopefully, some decent mixed climbing.

I've lead a fair bit of UK trad and have followed on some mixed routes up to M6. Thus on this trip I want to lead some easy (M3/M4) mixed routes around Chamonix. I've put a list together of routes that generally are M3/M4, relatively low commitment, well protected and have good options to bail/exit.

I'm wondering what your collective views are on decent routes in and around Chamonix. It's worth bearing in mind that many of the lift systems are closed. So far I have as options:

- Mont Blanc du Tacul: Chere Couloire
- Tour Ronde: North Face (more of an ice route)
- Aiguille du Midi: Eperon des Jumeaux
- Petite Aiguille: Pepite (Grand Montets lift closed)
- Grand Capucin: Laratoune
- Tour Ronde: Goulotte Saadi
- Mont Blanc du Tacul - Goulotte Bodin Afanasieff
Niblet on 12 Sep 2016
In reply to sam_cash:

When i did Chere it was all ice, but maybe you can go on the side of the ice, or there's not much left of it in october?
JR - on 12 Sep 2016
In reply to Niblet:

The serac is pretty threatening on chere at the moment. That said it'll probably be sorted (gone) by October.
tjoliver - on 12 Sep 2016
In reply to sam_cash:
Nice list of routes. A few more you might want to check out:

- Aiguille du Midi, Burnier-Vogler... nice, low-commitment route with a crux that goes at around M4 (I say low commitment, but bear in mind once you rap in you've got to get out!)
- Aiguille du Chardonnet, Escara... cool route, cool summit. Crux goes at around grade 4. Can be a bit harder in lean years
- Les Courtes, Swiss Route.... if you're feeling fit, confident and the schrund is good, go for it. It's awesome. Crux is not so hard, but it's a bigger/more serious route than the other things you've listed
- Aiguille du Midi, Carli-Chassange... a quality route that's much under-rated. Goes at around grade 3+ ice, M4 mixed. Really should see more traffic. It's excellent

The Afanasieff Bodin is well worth doing. Pepite isn't if the Grands Montets lift is closed. Tour Ronde and Chere are both classics that are worth doing so long as the crowds aren't too bad. Can't speak for the others, though Jumeaux Spur has been on my list of routes to do for a while.

If it's of any interest, here's a couple of links to blogs I wrote on Pepite and the Afanasieff-Bodin.

https://timoliver.me/2015/06/29/afanasieff-bodin/
https://timoliver.me/2015/03/20/some-climbing-ravanel-frendo-pepite-and-modica-noury/
Post edited at 15:21
sam_cash - on 13 Sep 2016
In reply to tjoliver:

Thanks, that's super helpful.

I actually had Afanasieff Bodin on my list as a moderate route, wanted to at least warm up on something a bit better protected.

I'm ideally looking to do routes around the Midi or Hellbronner just for ease of access. Likely to do a night in a refuge so that we can get out early - think the Midi lift runs a touch later in October.

Any particular tips on leading bigger mixed/Alpine routes would be appreciated also!
Misha - on 13 Sep 2016
In reply to sam_cash:
The main tip is to climb fast, especially with the short days in autumn.
tjoliver - on 13 Sep 2016
In reply to sam_cash:
Yea, the Afanasieff-Bodin is probably a good warm up. Nothing too hard on that if I remember correctly. A crux that goes at around 3+ ice and some very easy mixed. Good test of your ability to move efficiently. If you want to do it in a reasonable time, you're going to have to move together for the vast majority of it. Bear in mind it is quite committing. A retreat of this would be time consuming and a bit of a pain. It's reasonably long (600m or so) and there's next to nothing in the way of in-situ gear.

A few other ideas for routes around the Midi/Helbronner that could appeal:

- Tour Ronde, Rebuffat Gully... it's a quality route. It's not in Battoux's 100 Finest for nothing. Crux goes at around 4 ice or M4 mixed, though conditions can vary a lot
- Mont Blanc du Tacul, Gabarrou-Albinoni... the uber classic of its grade in that area. Pretty much all ice. Crux is 4+, though do it later in the season and it'll be hacked out, making it feel easier. Go to the summit of the Tacul (rather than rap off) and it's a great, long day out
- Pointe Lachenal, Pellissier Gully... might be a bit on the tricky end for what you're looking for. Crux goes at M5, but the gear is solid and everything before that is a lot easier. You could easily rap off and bail if you didn't like the look of it
- Aiguille du Midi, Profit-Perroux... a quality line off the midi bridge. Bit committing. Crux is about M4+. Again, this one is well protected. Make sure its in condition though. Will be a lot more tricky and sketchy if it's dry
- Triangle du Tacul, Germany Gully... another short but quality line. When it's in condition, it goes at around grade 4 ice / M4 mixed. When out of condition, it still goes but is a good deal harder

Not sure where you'd start for tips on leading bigger alpine routes. You could write a whole book on that subject (and people have!). As was said above, the absolute number 1 priority is to move fast. You can't be climbing at the sort of pace you'd do in Scotland or you'll quickly find yourself benighted, which isn't so fun in autumn at 4000m. I'm sure if you look through past UKC articles, you'll find a load of tips for being quick and efficient
Post edited at 15:29
NottsRich on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to JR:
Hi JR. What serac do you mean? Are you talking about Couloir Chere on the Triangle?
Post edited at 13:38
JR - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to NottsRich:
The left edge of the tacul seracs threaten the approach/gear up to the Chere on the triangle. A big chunk came off on Sunday and there's an even larger chunk ready to go. Having nearly been killed by them descending off that route in the past, it's definitely something to watch out for.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=32059
Post edited at 14:12
Simon4 - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to JR:
Disconcerting what you say, as the Chere has long been considered a pretty objectively safe route.

Those Tacul seracs are continually a source of worry though.
Post edited at 14:47
tjoliver - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to Simon4:

For what it's worth, based on what I saw yesterday I wouldn't be that concerned about it. As long as your conscious of where the serac fall zone lies, you can easily get to and from the Chere without being remotely threatened. Equally though, it does require being conscious of it. Gear up/spend time hanging around too far to the right and you could potentially get caught up if a large release went.
NottsRich on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to tjoliver:

Just to be clear, if you look at the Triangle as you're walking towards it from the Midi, are you talking about the seracs just to the right of it? And if so, they are only a threat when you're around the base of the route? If so, then surely that's nothing new? There's been quite a lot of debris in that area when I've been there before. Or perhaps I'm missing something new, which is why I'm trying to clarify it!Thanks.
JR - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to tjoliver:
> As long as your conscious of where the serac fall zone lies, you can easily get to and from the Chere without being remotely threatened.

It is generally objectively safe, but being conscious of it is in essence my point. Most teams, in general, don't take that line, certainly not based on what came down on Sunday, and what looked like was due to in future (it might have already)

IRT NottsRich

Yes at the base of the route, nothing new, other than they were particularly threatening. As per original message.
Post edited at 16:22
tjoliver - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to JR:

Completely get what you're saying. It's staggering how unobservant some people can be and easy to fall into the trap of just following the established path.
Misha - on 14 Sep 2016
In reply to tjoliver:
Although most of the seracs on the face seemed to be ok this summer, or at least the path seemed relatively safe when I came down it a few weeks back. Last year Alex and I had just abbed down the Chere after doing one of the Contamines and walked away from the base asap, as you do, when a serac went. It didn't hit the base of the Chere but it did wipe out a large section of the path. There were several people descending just above, if they had been several minutes earlier it would have been curtains for them...
alexm198 - on 15 Sep 2016
In reply to Misha:

Can confirm this was terrifying.
tscoobydoo - on 15 Sep 2016
In reply to sam_cash:

If you don't mind a little walk the Pelissier Route is nice and nothing too hard, not sure what its like this time of year though..

Pelissier Gully (TD- 5)
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L mark_in_MN on 03:34 Wed
In reply to sam_cash:

I would avoid Profit Perroux if you are new to leading. I followed a guide up that route and the protection was hard to place. If the ice is too thin for screws the cam placements can be hard to dig clear. Not a good place to practice. I see it listed as M5 and it was that in the conditions we had.

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