/ Tower Ridge vs Mittellegi Ridge

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IvanLi - on 20 Apr 2019

Hello! How the two routes compare? On paper and on the photo they seem really similar: both around 600 vertical meters, both on rock, the grade is around AD+/D? The only difference seems to be the absolute elevation asl. 

Does anybody have any first hand experience with both?

thanks in advance.

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David Bennett - on 20 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:  I'm assuming you mean summer ascent of TR, in which case it is nowhere near AD+, PD+ at the very best. Haven't done the Mittegelli but I wouldn't put them in the same bracket.

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Pero - on 20 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

Getting to the CIC hut is a bit easier than getting to the Mittelegi hut.  And, the descent of the Ben is a little easier as well.

In general I don't think UK routes in summer, even the Cuillin or TR, really compare with Alpine routes.  Of course, you can get high grade technical climbing, but there's nothing that you have to do in big boots, where you can be on semi-technical terrain for hour after hour. 

I haven't done the Eiger, but if you take a big AD route like the Lenzspitze-Nadelhorn traverse, that would be 10-14 hours, with perhaps 8-10 hours of scrambling/easy climbing.  

TR is brilliant, but by contrast it's about an hour's scrambling for a competent AD climber like me.

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IvanLi - on 21 Apr 2019
In reply to Pero:

Thanks for the answers.

Pero, in the summer how does the character of the climb on the TR compare to a typical AD route in the Alps? Is it just the length that makes the difference?

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LakesWinter on 21 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

TR is way less exposed, less sustained, shorter and has better rock than a lot of AD routes - I'd say PD+ tops for Tower Ridge in the summer. 

Routes like the Cosmiques Arete, Pointe Lachenal traverse, Petite Verte etc, don't count as Alpine routes - they are climbing routes in the Alps but not Alpine climbs. Alpine climbs are things with some level of commitment, probably with a different or difficult descent and are way longer days than any UK scrambles. E.g. Zinal Rothorn, Mont Pelvoux Traverse, Bluemlisalp Traverse

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GridNorth - on 21 Apr 2019
In reply to LakesWinter:

> Routes like the Cosmiques Arete, Pointe Lachenal traverse, Petite Verte etc, don't count as Alpine routes - they are climbing routes in the Alps but not Alpine climbs.

I appreciate where you are coming from but to say they are NOT alpine routes is taking matters a little too far.  They are short, unserious alpine routes with a low level of objective danger. Ascents of these would count towards qualification for membership of the Alpine Club. One could argue that they are more alpine, at least in character, than some rock routes that do not have a glacier approach as a full complement of alpine skills is required for a successful ascent. So as someone who has done all of these routes and the 6 Grande Courses I respectfully disagree.

Al

Post edited at 15:45
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Mark Bannan - on 21 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

I've not done the Mitellegi, but I have led a lot of AD routes in the Alps.

IMHO, Tower Ridge is F+ at the most - I did it soon after the normal route on the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, which was given F+ at the time and is easier.

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Pero - on 21 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

> Thanks for the answers.

> Pero, in the summer how does the character of the climb on the TR compare to a typical AD route in the Alps? Is it just the length that makes the difference?

Let's take a less serious route like the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn. 

1) You have the altitude, which depending on how acclimatised you are can make a big difference.  You don't need a particularly early start.  

2) You have a simple glacier to cross.  But, you'll still need crampons and ice axe, even if there are no crevasses.

3) It's only about 1-1.5 hours to the col where the climbing starts. 

4) In good, dry conditions you won't need your crampons, but at 4,000m any time after snow you might find some ice or verglas.

5) The climbing is perhaps not much harder than Tower Ridge, although there's much more scope to go wrong.  The main difference is that you are climbing for 5-6 hours, as opposed to 1-2 hours on TR.  Perhaps the Cuillin Ridge from Banachdich to Gillean would be roughly the same mental and physical effort.

6) Some sections you can walk, some you can scramble, quite a lot you'll probably be better with slings and running belays as you move together; and you might want do the odd pitch or a couple of abseils. 

7) From the summit it's a straightforward but long way back to the hut (about 3 hours).

That's the low end of AD and a good introduction to the grade IMO.

Tower Ridge in summer would be physically and mentally much less demanding.

PS The thing that seems to catch out a lot of British climbers in the Alps is the time.  The distances and height gains are often modest by UK standards, but Alpine terrain can eat up the time.  Why 5-6 hours on the Lagginhorn S Ridge?  It's difficult afterwards to work out where all the time goes.  But it does go for sure.

Post edited at 20:30
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IvanLi - on 21 Apr 2019

Thanks for the detailed answers, guys!

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Mark Bannan - on 24 Apr 2019
In reply to Mark Bannan:

Sorry, I meant Tower Ridge felt easier than the Pic du Midi!

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Solaris on 24 Apr 2019
In reply to Mark Bannan:

Are you sure you weren't off route on one of them?! VN on Pic du Midi has one sequence of mildly exposed (and aided) grade 3 scrambling, hasn't it?

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Alan Bates on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

Having done both routes in summer as well as TR in winter, there is a huge difference in the two outings.

If you are on TR in dry windless conditions it is IMO the equivalent of PD+ at best.

There is both technical climbing and route finding challenges just getting to the Mittellegi hut, as a glacier to cross (having abbed out of the tunnel exit).  Sections of climbing on the Mittellegi are more physical (steep even if you use the fixed ropes) than anything on TR and the route back via the south ridge is again pretty full on at the grade.

Still, both are great outings in their own rights.  FYI we did the Mittellegi over an August BH weekend, leaving the UK Friday night and returning Monday afternoon.  

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LakesWinter on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to GridNorth:

Well that's fair enough🙂

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Mark Bannan - on 25 Apr 2019
In reply to Solaris:

Definitely not off-route. I have heard some folk say that TR is really only an exposed moderate, perhaps with one Diff move down into the Gap. Voie normale on Pic du Midi does have a number of iron fixtures, but there is a 1-2 pitch section of genuine Diff climbing (UIAA II) on the Pic du Midi (even allowing for the occasional fixed gear). I suppose one factor making the Pic du Midi harder than TR is having to go back down the same way. I guess since I did the PdM first, as my first approximate mountain Diff, it could naturally have felt harder. I also felt the PdM was a better, more profoundly moving experience for me as a novice climber at the time - I absolutely loved it! It helped that I was with some more experienced mates - they would have had no problem keeping on-route. As for TR, I did it twice, managed to find correct route each time.

Post edited at 22:14
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Solaris on 26 Apr 2019
In reply to Mark Bannan:

Each to their own. PdM is a lovely mountain and I am glad you enjoyed it. I have unforgettable memories of some Basques, complete with Basque caps, harmonising their way off the hill.

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IvanLi - on 27 Apr 2019

This discussion brings up another interesting question: how consistent the alpine grades are? The route mentioned as F+ (PdM voice normale) is currently listed as PD on the camptocamp. Also I noticed there are some routes (e.g. 12 Apostelgrat on Sauling) that are given trekking ratings while they have climbing up to UIAS II and thus should be rated at PD. That's really confusing sometimes...

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teh_mark on 27 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

I don't speak from the position of experience that many other posters on this site do, but I always treat alpine/winter/anything-other-than-rock grades as a vague guide at best as they are so conditions-dependent.

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Mark Bannan - on 27 Apr 2019
In reply to IvanLi:

To be fair, in hindsight, PdM probably does deserve PD. As it was my first ever Alpine graded route, I had nothing to previously compare it with.

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