Rockfax Description
III, 850m, 6 - 8 hours. A varied and atmospheric route which doesn't see that much traffic but is well worth seeking out when in condition. Incredibly the route has been skied, which, when you're halfway up it will seem even more ridiculous than it does when looking at the face from a distance!
Approach - From the Refuge d'Argentière, descend back onto the Glacier d'Argentière and make straight for the face. The slope beneath the bergschrund steepens to around 30 degrees in places and the exact line taken will depend on the crevasses but generally there is a safe line around 100m right of where the routes begin.
1) Cross the bergschrund (usually not too much of a problem) and head up and left over 50 degree ice to reach a wide snowy runnel immediately right of the northeast spur (this was once a decent route itself but is now very rarely climbed due to increasingly loose rock).
2) Follow the runnel over some 55 degree sections and then drift back right towards the middle of the north face until beneath a rocky, mixed ramp.
3) Climb this to reach another wide runnel heading back towards the northeast spur.
4) At the top of the runnel, follow the exposed gully out right onto the final snowfield.
5) Climb the snowfield to the summit. The angle is consistently between 50 and 55 degrees and there is not much protection - keep concentrating! It is possible to break out rightwards near the top if you are descending into the Talèfre Basin and are pushed for time.
Descent - If descending back to the Glacier d'Argentière, traverse the summit ridge south over roughly alpine AD ground (Traverse of Les Courtes) to the top of the wide snow slope that is Les Courtes' Northeast Face. It is roughly 50 degrees at the top but eases off gradually throughout its 700m length until it is a shade under 40 degrees at the end. Downclimbing it is a long, tiring and repetitive exercise (plus it is all but impossible to protect) so make sure you keep concentrating all the way down. It can be climbed as a route in its own right but is something of a slog!
If descending into the Talèfre Basin, follow the summit ridge north (exposed but technically straightforward) to reach the broad Col des Droites. Either downclimb the first 40m or abseil it and then descend on foot or ski from where the slope widens. The slope is steep (40 degrees) and requires excellent skiing skills. Head gradually rightwards to avoid the cliff band (page §) and join the Talèfre Glacier below the South Face of Les Droites. From here, continue down past the Refuge du Couvercle and descend the gully which leads back onto the Mer de Glace. Follow this down to the Montenvers train and on to Chamonix.
If skiing, it is possible to go from the summit of Les Courtes to Chamonix in a couple of hours. If on foot, in winter, you will need to have firm conditions underfoot or it is a tough slog! © Rockfax

UKC Logbook Description
A companion North Face climb to the Swiss Route

Ticklists: Mark's Alpine Aspirations.

Hidden 18/Mar/16 Solo
jcw ??/2013 -
Hidden ?/Jul/96 AltLd
frost ?/Jul/94 Solo

dinner plating all the way

Hidden ?/Jul/88 Solo
Hidden ?/Aug/82 Solo
Mike C 29/Jul/80 Solo

Unroped ascent by full moon in 2 hrs 45 mins.

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