Rockfax Description
IV, 800m, 6 - 8 hours. A true alpine classic which is many climbers first foray into icy grandes courses. In anything other than icy conditions, protection is limited for most of the route, although it is usually possible to place ice screws on the crux pitch.
Approach - From the Refuge d'Argentière, descend back onto the Glacier d'Argentière and make straight for the face. The slope beneath the bergschrund steepens to around 30 degrees in places and the exact line taken will depend on the crevasses but generally there is a safe line around 100m right of where the routes begin.
1) Cross the bergschrund and climb a series of runnels, heading directly towards the crux. Generally the line drifts continually rightwards and the exact line taken will depend on conditions but there will always be some short steps which kick up to 65/70 degrees. Belay on the right at the bottom of the distinctive runnel.
2) Although it can be split, the crux runnel is better (and faster) climbed in one long 55m pitch. It is briefly around 80-85 degrees and usually takes ice screws and the odd bit of rock protection in cracks on the right.
3) Once above crux, climb the snowfield straight up the middle, heading for some slightly steeper ground which can be mixed in thin conditions.
4) Follow the mixed ground (Scottish 3) for 70m to reach the top snowfield.
5) Follow the snowfield directly to the summit.
Descent - If descending back to the Glacier d'Argentière, traverse the summit ridge south over roughly alpine AD ground (Traverse of Les Courtes) to the top of the wide snow slope that is Les Courtes' Northeast Face. It is roughly 50 degrees at the top but eases off gradually throughout its 700m length until it is a shade under 40 degrees at the end. Downclimbing it is a long, tiring and repetitive exercise (plus it is all but impossible to protect) so make sure you keep concentrating all the way down. It can be climbed as a route in its own right but is something of a slog!
If descending into the Talèfre Basin, follow the summit ridge north (exposed but technically straightforward) to reach the broad Col des Droites. Either downclimb the first 40m or abseil it and then descend on foot or ski from where the slope widens. The slope is steep (40 degrees) and requires excellent skiing skills. Head gradually rightwards to avoid the cliff band (page §) and join the Talèfre Glacier below the South Face of Les Droites. From here, continue down past the Refuge du Couvercle and descend the gully which leads back onto the Mer de Glace. Follow this down to the Montenvers train and on to Chamonix.
If skiing, it is possible to go from the summit of Les Courtes to Chamonix in a couple of hours. If on foot, in winter, you will need to have firm conditions underfoot or it is a tough slog! © Rockfax

Ticklists: Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes in the Mont Blanc Massif, Batoux's 100 finest routes in the Mont Blanc massif, ROCKFAX Chamonix: Top 50.

Richard Kendrick 19/Apr Lead O/S
with Tim Johnston
Hidden 18/Mar AltLd O/S
DaveThexton 18/Mar AltLd
with Tom, josh
Hidden 18/Mar AltLd
C Mclean 24/Apr/15 AltLd O/S

Nice day out after a big week, 2nd lift from Grand Montets, 3.10hrs to climb the route great conditions back in time for the lift back down to Cham.

with Harry Mcghie
cmars89 14/Apr/15 AltLd dnf

Abbed off at the crux. I was moving far too slow, gnarly route in great condition. My first true alpine ice route

with Ryan Weber
James W 12/Apr/15 2nd
with Mark Thomas
Timothy Miller 09/Apr/15 AltLd O/S
Uisdean hawthorn 09/Apr/15 AltLd O/S
benclimbing 09/Apr/15 AltLd O/S

First Alpine North face! 6 hours shrund to summit moving together for the majority of it. Probably only belayed 4 or 5 times. Felt like a long way after a 6 day ski tour!

with guy steven
jimmatthews 20/Mar/15 AltLd O/S

Solar eclipse occurred on the same day, but didn't see it as the clouds came in. Visibility was 40m most of the day. Climbed from first lift. Down-climbing was a bore.

Hidden 20/Mar/15 -
QuentinSu 19/Mar/15 AltLd O/S
Sam Simpson 19/Mar/15 AltLd O/S

Simul climbed the whole thing

Hidden 19/Mar/15 AltLd O/S
Hidden 18/Mar/15 Lead O/S
Hidden 18/Mar/15 AltLd
jonnie3430 18/Mar/15 AltLd
Hidden 09/Mar/15 AltLd
Hidden ??/2015 -
wi11 04/Oct/14 AltLd O/S

Moved together. Good condition

with Simon
frost ?/Oct/14 -
with will hardy
Hidden 14/Sep/14 Solo O/S
Hidden ??/2014 -
GraMc 03/Dec/13 Solo O/S

skinned up from argentiere at 6pm and started climbing about 12am. Route was in good condition apart from the summit ice field which was a nightmare of black ice! couldn't count the number of meteors i saw and i topped out just before a fantastic sunrise.... will remember this one for a long time!

w-watson 02/Dec/13 AltLd
Hidden 28/Jun/13 -
Steve Wakeford 25/Apr/13 Lead β

Soloed all of the route apart from 1st crux where we put in two rope lengths. Went too far right after snow field post 1st crux, therefore doing another good 100m of 60 deg ice and rock plus an awesome mixed traverse on thin ice on rock. 1st Alpine North Face. Very happy.

with Julian Lösche
Steve Wakeford 23/Apr/13 Solo dnf

Soloed up to top of 1st crux. Abseiled back due to lack of time.

tebs 04/Jan/13 2nd dnf

Hit on the arm by a block of ice on the crux, much pain, lots of swelling, bailed from the snowfield between the cruxes. Skiied out. Disappointing.

with Duncan R
Dave Searle ??/2013 Solo

With lots of spindrift, 120m of rope and a pair of freeride skis.. in 4h36.

BorisVBlade 01/Apr/12 AltLd O/S
with Sam Thompson
Heike 28/Feb/12 AltLd
Neil Adams 28/Feb/12 AltLd O/S
with Heike
thebigeasy ?/Feb/12 -
Alexandre Buisse 13/Jan/12 AltLd

Too slow on the way up, had to bivy on top (frostbite...) and then abseil the route the next day. Awesome route, though.

Hidden 13/Oct/11 -
Luke Brooks 12/Oct/11 AltLd

Moved together on all of it after the bergshrund. Went down south side.

with Francis
Hidden 12/Oct/11 -
Hidden 27/Apr/11 Lead O/S
Limestone-Lad 23/Mar/11 AltLd O/S

With R.K. Four hours from Hut to base snowshoeing, plus one hour to cross B'schurnd. Smashing good first half. Upper half very thin. Benighted. Unprepared bivi. Shallow frost bite. Next time: more water and do an acclimatisation route !! Great memories !!

Si 11/Mar/11 AltLd
Hidden 22/Apr/10 -
hamish2016 16/Apr/10 Lead O/S
with chris burn
Guy Wilson ??/2010 -
Hidden 06/Apr/09 Lead O/S
Hidden 30/Jul/08 Solo
mike.moss ??/2008 AltLd O/S
Hidden ?/Feb/07 AltLd
zero six ?/Jan/04 AltLd dnf

bit epic, partner got frostbite.

Hidden ?/Jan/04 AltLd dnf
nickdonohue 19/Apr/03 AltLd

great route, descended the NE face of Les Courtes to return to the Argentiere basin

with Mark McCarthy
peterbeaumont ??/1997 AltLd
Hidden ??/1997 AltLd
crossleysm 02/Apr/95 AltLd
with Ric Marhcant
Hidden ?/Feb/95 -
Hidden ?/Feb/93 AltLd O/S
Hidden ??/1987 -
Hidden ?/Jun/84 AltLd
mark-abz ?/Aug/81 AltLd
with Mick D
Nevil ?/Jul/81 -
with Nick
Hidden 23/Jul/80 AltLd
Hidden ?/Aug/78 AltLd
Steve Bell ??/1977 -
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