In this feature from the British Mountain Guides, a qualified and experienced guide recommends a classic and favourite route for the current time of year.
With basic information, inspirational photos and a brief overview, if you're looking for an objective to tick this month - look no further!
February 2011 - Ric Potter takes us on the Supercouloir, Mont Blanc du Tacul, France.
Range: Mont Blanc Massif
Mountain: Mont Blanc du Tacul (4248m)
Route: Supercouloir (with Gervasutti Pillar start)
Length: 800m to the summit
Guidebook: Snow, Ice and Mixed Volume 1 - Francois Damilano
UKC Logbook Link: Supercouloir
It's a classic, it's uber-famous and it's a fantastic line. It has earned the reputation of being "one of the finest couloir climbs in the Alps", and rightly so. First climbed in 1975 by Patrick Gabarrou and Jean Marc Boivin it's now climbed regularly, mostly in winter and mostly thanks to a revolution in ice climbing equipment.
Best tactics for an ascent:
Take the first cable car from Chamonix to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, from where you can access the start of the route on skis. On the Gervasutti Pillar start you climb a number of pitches on rock (on the classic rock route Gervasutti Pillar) then gain the ice couloir itself by a traverse left. The rock grade is around HS/VS and the later start allows you to climb the rock in the sun on this East Face (the original direct start can be climbed at M6 or Scottish 7).
Once you hit the ice you have a number of pitches of around Scottish 5 – pure ice. At the end of the difficulties (about 12 pitches) you have the choice to either abseil back to your skis or to continue over the summit. You finish in the dark and then ski down for a beer and a cosy night in the Refuge du Requin which (helpfully) is usually open in February.
What makes it so special
To make an ascent in February you can use all your skills as a winter Alpinist in order to do the route in one long day, and avoid a cold winter bivouac. During an ascent you will ski, skin, rock climb and ice climb all in one day.
Ric Potter - BMG
More info on the British Mountain Guides
A British Mountain Guide is an International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) Guide, which put simply, means an internationally qualified guide with the knowledge and skills to lead parties in the world's most challenging mountain environments.
From first steps to the biggest objectives, a British Mountain Guide is an expert in techniques and safety, and a reliable companion for your adventures.
About Ric Potter:
RPM Guiding is a mountain guiding business based in Chamonix, in the heart of the European Alps. We offer personally guided rock climbing and Alpine mountaineering in the summer, and ice climbing and guided backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the winter. For an idea of the kind of things we get up to over the year, check out our website.
"Professional Mountain Guiding without losing the Amateur Spirit for Adventure."
- Ric Potter's Website - RPM Guiding