Though I doubt most people will be as idiotic as we were, I thought it'd be worth a post to stop anyone else walking in to the Conscrits hut for the first time learning the hard way.
Above the Tre-la-Tete refuge, the new high path to the hut is not signposted at all. If you take the main path from the hut, in about five minutes you'll come to a signpost for the Tre-la-Tete Glacier and the Conscrits hut, at a sharp right switchback along a short slabby bit of rock. Do not take this path but instead continue straight ahead along the unsigned path, following spray-painted blue dots on rocks and cairns. Alternatively immediately above the Tre-la-Tete theres a faint path breaking off left, which also takes you in the correct direction and rejoins the main path a bit higher.
The signed path is the old path via the glacier, and is infeasible. It's also relatively easy in poor visibility and a blasé attitude to nav to convince yourself you're going the right way due to the frequent cairns. The path ends at an improbable but possible-looking gully with some signs of footfall. If you have gone wrong and find yourself here, backtrack and take the correct path. Do not be tempted to take the gully - it is loose beyond belief and incredibly dangerous. The only positive to it that it does eventually intersect the path and doesn't end in an impasse - but you'd be lucky to make it up without having a serious accident.
Just a friendly warning for any fellow idiots
Please edit your first paragraph to remove offensive language.
My apologies; I've clearly been hanging out with too many serving and ex-serving people recently. I can't edit it though, so I suppose it'll have to stay as it is.
I've edited it. Cheers.
> with some signs of footfall.
Much like in caving, dead ends and wrong turns get walked again in retreat and can often look more worn than the correct choice.
Experienced this last year, so you aren't alone in being an idiot ;)
Although the custodian of the hut advising us on this path did not help!
Although having done it before in less clear conditions, we recently took the wrong, lower, well travelled, "Eastern Traverse" line on Tower Ridge. Whilst scoping it out and almost getting in to serious ground and difficulties, another party appeared having made the same route finding error. The following day in clear weather, we watched from NE Buttress as a succession of parties made the same mistake. In retrospect, the true Eastern Traverse, described in the guide as a 1m wide level path, is unmistakable. It did occur to us, that some form of communication on the ground or reference in the guidebook could save considerable anxiety or worse. Do these worn " wrong paths" constitute heuristic traps ? Isn't there one by the Pinnacles on the Aonach Eagach? As well as wasting time on that one, we later on the same traverse, stupidly followed some footsteps down a scree slope, eventually being benighted. We were lucky, the footsteps we originally followed resulted in a fatal accident. I am aware and accept that a certain pattern here, could be interpreted as a reflection of my navigational or guide book reading skills !
Isn't this joy of mountaineering where you can have a thousand metres of route described in a single paragraph. "Follow the general ridge line", "traverse the tower to it's left" "descend the obvious gully line".
I understand what you are saying and basically agree. It's just that with increasing demands on our hard-pressed, largely volunteer MRTs, any reasonable device to reduce potential incidents on known "black-spots" is in my opinion worth considering. I was curious as to how we made such a basic error on Tower Ridge. We were following the guide book and obviously mistook a definite steepening with a path to the left as the Great Tower and Eastern Traverse. Since my initial response, I have searched some of the archived forum threads and seen that the error we made has been previously discussed on a number of occasions. I realise these are emotive and divisive issues in the context of mountaineering but I simply mention them in good faith.
We were lucky. We ended up on the new path, despite having the out-of-date notes from Moran's AC book. We went wrong the right way! We guessed it must be a new path but it was a while before we caught anyone up and could confirm that we were indeed on a new path to the Conscrits.
I understand the context of your post, accident hotspots.. some struggle more at tower gap, others in just naving off the top and descending. That is the nature of longer winter routes, they require a range of diverse skills, but also provide the greater rewards.
I think if a route changes markedly(that increases risk and or difficulty) then guidebook amendments should be issued, article in the climbing press. Perhaps a sign on a gate or stile as you approach that crag etc.
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