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Mont Blanc solo

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 Scottmiles78 08 Jan 2021

Hi all, 

I’m hoping to climb Mont Blanc in July/August via the Gouter route solo. I’ve completed it before with a friend but never solo. I just wanted to see if anyone has every done this but come back down the Maudit route.  Would this be advisable solo or would I be better coming down the same way?

 1philjones1 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

It’s been done but I wouldn’t fancy the descent solo with all the crevasse/serac risk, particularly on the Mont Blanc du Tacul face, but also above there. 
Back in Sept 2012, I went through the well trodden path, into a crevasse, up to my chest on the final loooong drag up to the summit after Mont Maudit. There was no indication of a crevasse and I’d never been aware of crevasses being an issue on that section. 

 Rob Parsons 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

> I’m hoping to climb Mont Blanc in July/August via the Gouter route solo. I’ve completed it before with a friend but never solo. I just wanted to see if anyone has every done this but come back down the Maudit route.  Would this be advisable solo or would I be better coming down the same way?

I've done that by myself, and enjoyed the outing.

But the principal risk will be crevasses - there no guarantees.

 mcawle 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

I'd also be mindful of the descent from the Col du Mont Maudit if you won't have a rope. I descended this way with a partner in July 2019 and this way was icy and steep, and the fixed rope was frozen in and not accessible - my partner lowered me and then abseiled whilst I tied into a screw.

I don't think it would have been a fun unroped downclimb in those conditions, especially with a single axe. The crevasse shortly after this was also pretty open, and the descent down the Tacul flank was pretty sketchy due to crevasse and serac (as already mentioned).

 Mark Haward 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

I fully agree with the previous posts / replies. Also, add in the fact that your descent will be later in the day so softer snow, less secure snow bridges likely.

In reply to mcawle:

I did the Tacul in 2016 and we crossed the crevasse roped up....I've seen a YouTube clip and they are using a ladder to cross this now....do you know when this was put in place?

Post edited at 17:58
 mcawle 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Shaun mcmurrough:

I don't think it was there in 2019, but there was a fixed free hanging knotted rope to descend... wouldn't have fancied trying to get up that; my shimmying is questionable at best!

Whether there was another ladder we passed or not I don't know; we were pushing for the last lift after completing the Royal Traverse and I was knackered.

 Scottmiles78 08 Jan 2021
In reply to 1philjones1:

Thanks for the advice. I think I’ll come down the same route. 

 Rob Parsons 08 Jan 2021
In reply to mcawle:

> I'd also be mindful of the descent from the Col du Mont Maudit if you won't have a rope.

I recall that, for my late-season solo effort (with no rope (*), a single axe, and hard ice) that bit required some steadiness.

(* There were in fact in-situ stake anchors at the top, presumably left over from the Summer season - but they were no use to me.)

Post edited at 18:12
 Rob Parsons 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

> Thanks for the advice. I think I’ll come down the same route. 


Just bear in mind that there are also crevasse risks on the Gouter route itself - and the fact that you didn't fall down one early in the morning doesn't mean that you won't fall down one in the same spot later that same day!

(I'm not trying to be a smart arse: provided you're aware of the dangers in general, we're all in good shape.)

Post edited at 18:17
In reply to mcawle:

Cheers,just had to text my mate to confirm it wasn't there,old age......I would definitely agree with the general consensus,roped up.....

 mcawle 08 Jan 2021
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Yes exactly. 

 Mark Haward 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Shaun mcmurrough:

A ladder is put into place some years ( usually later in the season ) depending on the condition of the bergschrund. I believe that guides place it to facilitate an easier crossing for clients and other parties. 

    A few years ago I was heading up the Tacul and a ladder was placed across the bergschrund as the snow bridge had collapsed. However, the 'schrund had opened up and the bottom of the ladder hung in the air attached via slings to ice screws and only one side at the top was on the ice / snow. We watched someone on it. The ladder first twisted sideways and then almost upside down with the hapless climber holding on desperately. 

   We retreated to a different route and let the guardian at the Cosmique hut know. Apparently a new and longer ladder was put in the next day.

 JStearn 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Does anyone know if there is usually something to ab off on the Col du Maudit? I've been up it and there was no fixed rope but hoping to do the Royal Traverse and come down via the Midi. I know there is a load of tat halfway down.

 mcawle 10 Jan 2021
In reply to JStearn:

There was something in 2019 because we used it to ab/lower. I think a stake but I don't 100% remember now. We definitely didn't have to build our own though.

 crayefish 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Out of interest, are there any interesting mountains/routes in the Alps that don't require crevasse considerations (i.e. avoiding glaciers etc), so could be done solo?  Obviously at a level that does not requiring any pitching for a reasonable climber either.

Never climbed in the Alps so I don't know much about them except for skiing.  Just curious.

In reply to crayefish:

Lagginhorn from Saas is a straightforward solo: glacier is long gone and the west ridge is little more than a path to the summit. There’s a couple of scrambley sections and you can go looking for interest either side of the track if you like.

 mysterion 10 Jan 2021
In reply to crayefish:

Two soloable PDs easily linked together are Lagginhorn from Weissmies hut and Weissmies from Almageller hut.

 Mark Haward 10 Jan 2021
In reply to crayefish:

Yes, loads. Obviously depends on your comfortable solo level. There are even one or two routes on 4,000 metre peaks such as the Lagginhorn and Weissmeiss. Consider areas such as the Vanoise, Ecrins, Aiguilles Rouges by Chamonix. Also lots in the Dolomites and Pyrenees. Many of the ski areas have well marked summer trails too. I'm sure others will chip in with options too.

 mcawle 10 Jan 2021
In reply to mysterion:

I agree with the choice of routes routes but how do you mean they can be linked together? I can't see how one might enchain them solo. Or do you just mean that they are in the same area and could be easily tackled consecutively as separate climbs?

 Mark Haward 10 Jan 2021
In reply to JStearn:

It varies, certainly nothing permanently in situ at the top. Retrievable ice screw anchors can usually be placed. If you can do the Royal Traverse then lowering your partner to an anchor point and then down climbing to them with two axes is likely to be ok. The steep section is quite short, maybe 50-75 metres, before a track skirts off more easily. Although with the caveat that this changes regularly. Check in with the OHM who will be able to give you up to date information.

 mysterion 10 Jan 2021
In reply to mcawle:

> Or do you just mean that they are in the same area and could be easily tackled consecutively as separate climbs?

Yes, by walking the balcony path between the two huts.

 1philjones1 10 Jan 2021
In reply to crayefish:

Aiguille de la Berangere is another, above the Conscrits refuge. A good one for acclimatisation as you walk in from Les Contamines to the hut (5 hrs ish) without an uplift. Think it’s about 3400m from memory. 

 JStearn 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Mark Haward:

Thanks for the info. I soloed up it with one axe but felt it was a bit sketchy as it was icy and wouldn't want to descend it like that when knackered. Also I thought the Royal Traverse would be doable with a mountaineering axe or better to take a pair? From videos I thought all the technical difficulties were on the rocky section beneath the Bionnassay?

 Enty 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Scottmiles78:

Go on your own. I'm trying to think of anywhere on the Gouter Route where I'd actaully feel safer tied on to another human by a piece of rope and there isn't anywhere.

Book a night at the Tete Rousse, pray for good weather and have the time of your life without any stress from a partner who might be crapper than you at climbing and put it off until next year, and the next and the next and the next.

That's what I did.

E

 crayefish 10 Jan 2021
In reply to Mark Haward:

Thanks everyone for the suggestions.  I'll make a note of them and look them up if I ever actually get round to heading to the alps.  I really should some time as its only a (long) day's drive away.

I'm not so fussed about climbing something particularly over 4000m, but more keen on finding interesting routes that are quiet and aren't crowded (empty even better).  I've discovered that solitude on a mountain, or anywhere else, is simply unbeatable.

 mcawle 10 Jan 2021
In reply to mysterion:

I didn't know that was a thing. Thanks for the tip!

 Rob Parsons 11 Jan 2021
In reply to crayefish:

> I'm not so fussed about climbing something particularly over 4000m, but more keen on finding interesting routes that are quiet and aren't crowded (empty even better).  I've discovered that solitude on a mountain, or anywhere else, is simply unbeatable.

I agree.

And you can find solitude even on popular routes. When I traversed Mont Blanc via the route mentioned in this thread, it was early October (many years ago) - and I saw nobody else on the route until close to the Midi. So it's possible to avoid the crowds - even on the most popular trips - if you simply pick your time.

 Mark Haward 11 Jan 2021
In reply to JStearn:

Yes, it is often icy. Previously I have abseiled it, solo down climbed with one axe, solo down climbed with two axes and down climbed with two axes whilst roped up. It all depends on the current conditions and my skill / confidence / tiredness levels on each particular occasion. We are all different.

You are right about the main difficulties on the Royal Traverse, although I found the scariest section being the narrow ridge that follows - icy when I did it and quite trouser filling! On that occasion my partner and I opted for moving together on opposite sides of the ridge for much of that section.

Assuming you are not soloing the Royal Traverse ( not something I would do or recommend ) I suggest that if there are stakes at the Maudit shoulder you could abseil, you could rig a retrievable ice screw anchor or, possibly the most efficient, lower one person down leaving their ice axe behind ( they could place an ice screw or two if required ) and then the second person down climbs on belay using both axes for that section. You could take a lightweight third axe between the two of you as another option. It really all depends on your skill / comfort level and the conditions.


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