I'm heading out to the Pyrenees next week and thinking about doing the classic North Face on the Vignemale. I've seen a few You Tube videos and everyone seems to be carrying climbing 2 axes for the approach.
Does anyone who's done it recently know if that's really necessary?
I'll be taking a walking axe for the odd section of snow/ice/glacier we might have to cross but would rather not take 2 climbing axes as well just for what appears to be about 50 feet on the glacier snout.
Also, I realise the red schist section is choss but is it 'death on a stick' choss or is that bit easy enough for it to not really matter and can you place any worthwhile gear on it?
Well, I fail on the "recently", but it's memorable so this may be of some use:
Took one axe only. The crevasses are generally quite clear; we kept to the right. Glacier shrinkage has left a scrappy additional first pitch to the guidebook we used.
The upper 1/3rd is quite shitty to be honest. You come off ?3 pitches of a narrow rib of lovely green rock (serpentine I think) and the next belay was pretty dubious... and then it gets worse. I tried to place a peg and twice it simply sheared off a block. It's quite short though, and there's a double 12mm bolt belay over on the right that you'll be quite pleased to see. After that it eases quickly.
The descent is long although the glacier is pretty easy to navigate. You need a little in reserve because the climb back up to the col is just when you're tired.
It's a wonderful route though and should be straightforward for your grades.
The guide said 5-8 hours. We took almost 12 and thought we were fit!
Thanks for the info, so getting on to the glacier should be ok with axe.
Just to clarify, what do you mean where you said " You come off?"
So is the top bit easy enough that you don't ned to worry too much about gear and is it ok if handled carefully or is it pulling chunks of rock off no matter how careful you are terrain?
Am I right in imagining that it eases off once you get on to the Gaube ridge or is that just psychological because you can see the end in sight?
I went up the descent route last year so I know that and scrambled round the rim of the cirque on the red schist from the Vignemale to the neighbouring peaks and whilst the rock was a bit crap I was happy enough soloing it but then there was nothing harder than the odd move of diff or so.
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