Took the usual crumbling old maps to Cham this year and wondered whether the French had organised themselves yet to provide GPS up to Swiss or UK maps standard. The bookshop had no fewer than ten books on GPS use, so I checked the current maps and found they'd at last got round to using a practical grid. Worth changing your maps if they're over 5-years old...
In reply to jon: That's exactly it Jon..not as precise as the Swiss grid. The earlier maps involved a feat of line-drawing (great in a gale) or imagining where the non-existent vertical and horizontal joined. Even now the Swiss Col de Balme 1:25000 sheet is preferable for the Aiguilles Rouges and the Refuge Albert end of the area.
Whilst on that note, I'm sure you're aware of the different contour intervals on the French and Swiss maps. If I'm in any area where the Swiss maps overlap the French - or certainly the Italian side of the border, I'll always take the Swiss.
Ah, now I understand your repeated statements about the difficulty in finding the Eccles in the Central Pillar of Freney thread! You were using a French map...! However there do seem to be a number of discrepancies between the French and Italian maps and the Vallot guidebook.
IGN (French) has the red hut shown NE of the Pic Eccles, whereas it's in fact SE. The height of 4041 appears to refer to the hut, but is in fact the height of Pic Eccles itself.
IGC (Italian) Shows the two huts on the correct side of the Pic Eccles but very 'loosely' positioned (and too low)... The lower one, in fact, appears on the Glacier du Brouillard! The heights are shown as 3837 (new) and 3852 (old). Just to add confusion here, this map shows a hut as a black square, accurately positioned (one would hope). To highlight it's existence a red hut symbol appears just next to it. Both Borelli and Craveri are shown like this. For the Eccles, the red highlight symbols appear in more or less the correct place as I said, but the only black square I can see is between Pic Eccles and Col Eccles - a little bit like the French map!
The Vallot guidebook gives the height at 3850 but says only the lower one is there and that the upper one (which it describes as being ON the Col Eccles) 'n'existe plus'! Well I can tell you it does exist, but that it is not on the col Eccles. Also I think the no. of places it gives for the lower one (6) is incorrect.
You did however state that when you approached the hut it was too early in the season, that there was far too much snow, and that you were equipped with a lightweight ice axe and a prusik loop - hardly textbook stuff! I can tell you honestly in good vis and correct conditions finding it from below without a map is very staightforward.
So to summarise, it would seem if you were searching with a French map you'd be looking far too high and on the Freney side of the Pic Eccles! With the Vallot book you'd find it but be surprised to find two! And to my surprise you'd stand the best chance with the Italian map once you worked out that huts are not usually built on glaciers.
> So to summarise, it would seem if you were searching with a French map you'd be looking far too high and on the Freney side of the Pic Eccles! With the Vallot book you'd find it but be surprised to find two! And to my surprise you'd stand the best chance with the Italian map once you worked out that huts are not usually built on glaciers.
Having been there the other day what you say is all true. Finding the huts in the mist would be tricky I think. Basically from the top of snow slope above Col du Freney traverse left and up only slightly, total distance about 200m I would think. Note at present the upper hut "floor" is a large patch of snow and ice. Room for nine in the lower hut and four in the upper hut. If both were full life would be a bit claustrophobic to say the least.
What a shame that the upper has snow in it... has someone left the door or little window open or has it just got in somehow? I thought I counted nine places in the lower. We slept in the upper. Both huts were full and you're right, it felt a bit crowded. I would think with misty conditions, once you'd located the Col du Freney, then gone up till you met rock, you could find the hut OK with a bit of a search as you described. As long as, of course, you weren't armed with a French map!
We were aiming at the Aig Blanche but nothing in the end. There was a storm the evening we were there that left the snow in a terrible state so we just came down. 4hrs up and 5 hrs to get back. Given a good freeze conditions will be excellent as there are no significant crevasse problems getting to the hut and we left a trail of 18" deep footprints! A few days before us a team had done the Innominata. We mentioned the state of huts (a lot of litter too) to warden at the Monzino who will apparently arrange a helicopter for a bit of a clean up.
In reply to jon: We didn't have that much trouble finding them, it was just that they weren't at all were we expected, I happened to look up and see them looking very inconspicuous on the slope. I was suggesting that they would be quite difficult and probably dangerous to find from the Col Eccles late in the day and/or in bad weather, though MG's comment is interesting from that point of view. From the slope above the Col Eccles, not from the col itself?
> You did however state that when you approached the hut it was too early in the season, that there was far too much snow, and that you were equipped with a lightweight ice axe and a prusik loop - hardly textbook stuff!
I was rather proud of my jammed-knot-with-a-prussic-loop piece of gear, though my partner was less impressed. The joke ice-axe worked quite well when I decided to go for a bit of a scrape on a luge-run lower down the glacier! Didn't do much for my legs though. Exciting, character-building stuff!
> I can tell you honestly in good vis and correct conditions finding it from below without a map is very staightforward.
We were coming from below. It was not very obvious at all, even in good weather. Perhaps if you already know where they are ...
> Wonder what Mr Signorelli will add to that...!
The unfortunate thing was that both huts were in a pretty bad state. There was the ice in the upper hut that someone mentioned, also there was masses and masses of rubbish in the lower hut. Which is very sad, as it must have been brought in by mountaineers, who couldn't be bothered to take it out. I did email Luca at the time, suggesting that he might want to pass the information onto the Italian Alpine Club - not of course that it is their job to clear up after slobs who make a mess of high, remote bivi huts, but as the owners, they would probably want to know. I think Luca posted that 2 guides went up (on foot, not by chopper), and cleared the place up and packed all the rubbish out, which was very public spirited of them (there was no way that we were able to pack it all out when we were there).
In reply to Simon4:
though MG's comment is interesting from that point of view. From the slope above the Col Eccles, not from the col itself?
My directions were from Col du Freney (the one below the huts) not Col Eccles.
not of course that it is their job to clear up after slobs who make a mess of high, remote bivi huts, but as the owners, they would probably want to know.
On a point of detail the lower hut appears to belong to the Courmayeur Guides and CAI and the upper hut to the CAAI (is this completely distinct from the CAI?). The Monzino hut wardens seemed fairly certain the huts would be tidied. We would have removed a lot of the litter had the bags not been dripping a indeterminate yellow liquid...
No, you mis-read what MG said - he referred to the Col du Freney, not Eccles - or am I misunderstanding you? I didn't already know where they were, it was my first visit. I remember walking straight to them, knowing where they were... don't remember where I got that info, obviously I didn't get it from the French map!
So as MG said above, go to the Col du Freney, then carry on up the snow above until you come to broken rock, then head obliquely up left on the rock for about 200m and you'll find the huts.
It's a shame these selfish lazy bastards can't carry their trash with them.
In reply to MG: Ah, that was the way we approached in fact. What I had originally (in an earlier thread) said to Jon was that I thought finding the huts in retreat (descent), in difficult conditions might well be problematic, so your comment doesn't seem to change that much.
Pity to hear that rubbish has again been left, assuming it was indeed removed the first time.
Certainly if you were using the French map to find them from above you'd be stuffed! However, from Col Eccles, descend the snow slope on the Brouillard side a couple of rope lengths-ish and turn left onto the broken rocks and you should fall into one of them. The snow slope was OK to move together going up, but I think in descent it'd be a little steep. If it was icy you could follow the rocks themselves but would probably have to weave around a bit. I would imagine you'd find tat to get down. I didn't see any as I wasn't looking.
1) Maps for the Italian side of MB - use only "Monte Bianco - Courmayeur" 1:25k from l'Escursionista Editore (it's available from Cordeè, on Internet or in Chamonix / Courmayeur). Don't bother with anything else, as l'Escursionista series of maps for the NW Alps has the latest and most precise altitudes, and the best job in terms of trail indications etc etc. IGN does a fantastic job for the French side, but for copyright reasons uses outdated data for the Italian side. Avoid IGC / Tobacco etc it's cheap stuff made for hikers (and it's not even that good for them). Swiss maps are beautiful (much better in aestetical terms than anything produced in Italy or France), but - as usual - are good for Switzerland, not Italy or France.
2) Position of Crippa / Lampugnani bivy huts: "Marco Crippa" (the lower one, put there in 1980) is at 3850m, while "Giuseppe Lampugnani" (the higher and older of the two) is at 3860m. The position of the two is well visibile in this picture, courtesy of my friend Olivier
as you can see, they're near the border of the spur coming down from the Pic Eccles to the Brouillard glaciers, and if your're coming from Col du Freney and stray too much to the R, they're easy to miss.
3) Cleaning, maintenance etc of the bivy huts on the Italian side. Bit of a problem here. The majority are property of CAAI, the Italian Academic Alpine Club, an elite group with a glorious history, but basically not enough money to keep the maintenance of these structures. The Courmayeur/Aosta guides keep a yearly program of cleaning / small maintenance of the bivys, called "Mon Bivouac", I believe it's sponsored by the VdA administration, and I'm aware that few individual guides (Matteo Pellin among them) do now and then some "unscheduled" maintenance of the bivys that are property of the Courmayeur guides (Crippa + Jachia). But that's all. These structures are put there for free use from the climbing community, and it's up to the climbing community to keep them clean and in a workable state.
Personally, I believe Crippa/Lampugnani are a problem more than an asset, as they tend to attract a lot of people in an area that its remote, dangerous and easy overcrowded. They represent a safety belt for the Innominata crowd (all four of them), but may also lull some people in a false sense of security.
4) Brenva bivy hut - the most complex part of the loooooong approach is traversing the two torrents coming down from the Dar Deso' and Dar D'Amon plateaus. The passage may be impossible because of the water. There's an alternative passage higher up with a bolt. I'm not going to give the precise position anyway, as in case of high water volume can be dangerous event that way.