Rockfax Description
III, 600m, 4 - 5 hours. A long route with plenty of varied climbing.There is not much technical ground but covering a lot of terrain in one day presents a specific type of challenge and will test your skills of moving together and route finding. There are numerous appealing looking options in the upper part of the route and a lot of old gear around, so sticking to the right line both on the way up and down is challenging for any team, even when you've already done the route a few times!
Approach - From the Plan de l'Aiguille, follow the path south towards the Glacier des Pélerins, signposted for the Refuge des Grands Mulets. The path splits; go right to end up on a moraine ridge with the glacier on the right and the west face of the Aiguille du Peigne on the left. Follow the path up the moraine ridge to reach the bottom left end of the Peigne snowfield.
1) Scramble up slabby, broken rocks at the bottom left of the snowfield for 15m (or climb the snowfield itself if conditions allow or if you have crampons) to a good path which leads leftwards for 50m (via an exposed section of short, easy downclimbing) to the foot of the Papillons Couloir.
2) Continue up the path (which becomes increasingly vague) on the right-hand side of the couloir, passing numerous cairns. As the couloir narrows and steepens, the path moves left and the going becomes more scrambling than walking but it is still fairly straightforward and it should be possible to keep motoring until you reach the foot of a wide, 10m corner-crack.
3) 4b. Thrutch up the corner (4b) to a bolt and scramble up for 15m to a well-polished ramp-line leading out left. Follow this easily enough (4a) to a double bolt belay 10m below a notch in the ridge crest above.
4) 4b. Continue for 5m towards the ridge and then go right up a flake and a slab (4b) to hit the crest. Follow it over excellent, blocky ground to a long, exposed ledge overlooking the Peigne slabs on the left.
5) Walk along the ledge for 50m to where it ends and then cut right up low-angled scrambling ground to rejoin the Papillons Couloir roughly 100m above where you left it. Climb this easily for 50m, exit it leftwards and then walk rightwards up ledges to a notch beneath Gendarme Pointe 3009m.
6) 4a. Go rightwards around the gendarme and scramble up to a notch on the right. Traverse rightwards across some loose but almost flat ground, and then climb a short and steep 10m step (4a) to reach a final, short traverse to Brèche 3043m.
7) 4b. Follow the Southwest Ridge for 20m (4b) and then step down and right to a ledge. Climb a short corner on the right and then make a descending traverse rightwards to another short corner. Climb this to reach a ledge system.
8) 4c. Go along the ledge system rightwards to reach a large area of light-coloured rock - this is the 'Salle à Manger'. Cross this, still going right, to the foot of a right-leaning chimney at the same altitude as the Col du Peigne. Climb the chimney for two pitches (4c) to belay on some slightly disconcerting and loose looking blocks, beneath a steep flake-crack.
9) 4c. Climb the flake-crack (4c) to reach the extremely exposed summit ridge. Follow this, turning any difficulties on the right, to reach the pinnacle, after which the ridge drops away steeply. Make a 5m abseil onto a ledge on the right and from here, squirm (and it is a squirm) under the summit block and onto the top.
Descent - Make a 25m abseil from a double bolt anchor on the summit block, down the Lépiney Crack, which is on the northwest face of the summit tower. Pull the rope and scramble leftwards (when facing out) for 10m to reach another bolt belay which is just out of sight from the foot of the Lépiney Crack, but which is at the top of a long series of slabs, high above the couloir leading down from the Col du Peigne. Make three more 25m abseils, all from bolted belays, to the ledge system you crossed on the way up. Descend this rightwards (when facing out) via the odd technical step (it's worth placing some gear here and moving together as the terrain is not as easy as initially appears) to the belay where the ascent route branches off from the Southwest Ridge. Make a final 25m abseil to end up just below Brèche 3043m. Scramble up to this and then reverse the ascent route. At the far end of the long ledge overlooking the Peigne slabs is a bolted abseil anchor which allows you abseil directly into the Papillons Couloir via a 25m abseil. From here, scramble down easily to the bolt at the top of the 4b corner which marks the start of the difficulties on the way up. Abseil off the bolt and scramble down the remainder of the ascent route. © Rockfax

Liegard, O'Gorman, Ravanel and Couttet 23/Jul/1906

Ticklists: Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes in the Mont Blanc Massif, Escalades Choisies Mont-Blanc Aiguilles Rouges (60 Routes 4 to 6a+).

mark schramm 21/Aug/17 -
with Dave C
SJPowderham1 20/Aug/17 -
seanhendo123 07/Aug/17 AltLd O/S

From the papillions and in descent

with Lamb
Lamb 07/Aug/17 AltLd O/S

From the top of Papillons. Great summit.

Lumbering Oaf 05/Aug/17 AltLd O/S

A feast of mountaineering! We climbed this route in big mountain boots and a single 60 m rope. We took the wrong couloir (on the right) to reach the ridge line: it has lots abseil tat in it and a couple of awkward climbing sections. Made the lower ridge line on the SW spur and followed well worn scramble lines toward the Breche. Climbed the awkward crack (traditional thrutch) which leads to the 'thin section' and then the 'Salle A Manger'. From the 'Salle A Manger' the upper ridge line is reached with some excellent climbing and the ridge line at the summit is amazingly exposed! Excellent pitches to the summit block. Abseils back to the 'Salle A Manger' are easy to find/follow and are 25 m. Got a rope stuck on the abseils from the 'thin section' back to the Breche which caused delay. Eventually worked out how to reverse the lower pitches having come up the wrong way at the start. AC guide says this is a good route for 'novices'. You'd think they they had it in for the fledgling alpinist!

Wendy Watthews 04/Aug/17 -

Left our bivi at ~6am. Ran together through a lot of the scrambling ground. At the start of the proper pitches i managed to lead us almost immediately off route up a tempting flake system to a sloping belay. Finally managed to get back on route but this time with a few teams ahead of us. The ridge was gloriously exposed and managed to turn me into a wuss but was pretty spectacular. Got lost again on the 5th/6th abseils. Great long day out, rockfax description needs improvement as almost all the description for the to half is inadequate but I suppose that adds to the adventure.

professorcobra 03/Aug/17 Lead dnf

Run out of time and turned at breche

Hidden 03/Aug/17 Lead dnf
Petarghh 02/Aug/17 AltLd
Lakesben 01/Aug/17 AltLd

Started by doing Lepidopteres then joined the ridge which is a nice combination. Fantastic route, long and complex but not hard. Found the rockfax guidebook woefully inadequate both in description and pictures. Fortunately the other party on the route had a proper guide so we could use that. Worth being aware if you're using the new Rockfax, it's just not detailed enough. Descent was actually described very well and although involved is pretty straightforward

with Matt H
Hidden 01/Aug/17 AltLd O/S
Michael 01/Aug/17 -
janegallwey 17/Jul/17 Solo O/S

Felt exposed up there without a rope but the climbing is very secure. Didn't even get lost!

FelixJT 17/Jul/17 AltLd
with alex brighton
steve_gibbs 26/Jun/17 Lead O/S
with Joe Ramsay
IanHope 17/Jun/17 2nd O/S
with Bruce goodlad
joeramsay ?/Jun/17 2nd O/S

couldn't find the workaround to the hard bits, so we just did them

Hidden 22/Jul/16 AltLd O/S
Gumery 01/Jul/16 AltLd O/S

All in boots. Good mountaineering route.

with Alex Marchant
Hidden 27/Aug/15 AltLd O/S
tradguy 26/Aug/15 2nd β
mcaterina 26/Aug/15 Lead
QuentinSu 25/Aug/15 Lead O/S
Stuart Johnston 24/Jul/15 Lead O/S

Climbed the top pitches via the salle a manger. 4b is about the right grade but relatively sustained at this grade, so I thought harder than AD. Lots of people were in rock boots for these pitches (although we were in big boots and it was fine). The descent is quite long. Our guide book mentioned raps to get you back to the Salle a Manger from the summit, but if you do this you need to down climb a relatively horizontal traverse. On the way up we saw people rapping straight down from the base of the summit abseils, but we missed these. Storm broke as we hit the summit which meant for a long, cold 0 viz descent.

with Lara Kesterton
Hidden 16/Jul/15 AltLd O/S
Hidden 05/Jul/15 2nd
MoWalker3 06/Sep/14 Lead dnf

Reached the top of an icy couloir above the poor rock traverse then retreated due to time constraints.

with IanC
Hidden 10/Aug/14 AltLd dnf
Harry Ellis 17/Jul/14 AltLd dnf

Turned back having gone wrong near top and taken too long

with Chris Cox
AnnaBacklund ?/Jul/14 AltLd O/S
Hidden 15/Aug/13 AltLd
Hidden 24/Jul/13 2nd
PtereBradley ?/Jul/13 2nd dnf

Had to alter rout and finish early due to traffic

with Phil Dowthwaite
walts4 ??/2013 -
Hidden 27/Aug/12 AltLd dnf
Hidden 03/Aug/12 Lead
Hidden 03/Aug/12 2nd O/S
tebs 11/Jul/11 AltLd

After Lepidopteres. Long and faffy but quite good. Sensational summit ridge.

with Tim
HimTiggins 11/Jul/11 AltLd O/S

Started up Lepidopteres

with Bart
masa-alpin 15/Oct/10 AltLd O/S

Completed the route itself in 3 hours 10 minutes (7 hours 10 min for the round trip from/to Midi Plan station). Although the route was partly snow-covered, we managed with climbing shoes. Near the summit I went off route, ending up in a good HVS 5a crack, followed by a chimney lead by Max, which lead to the main summit directly (bypassing the sub-peak). Abseiled off on the clean slab.

with Max C
David Horwood 06/Sep/10 -
Pat-H 09/Aug/10 2nd
Hidden ??/2010 -
reima ?/Aug/09 AltLd dnf

Started with Lépidoptères to gain the top of Papillon ridge and wandered along the normal route until the last gendarme, at which we met some other half-lost climbers and a returning guide with a client. The general consensus was that it was better to turn back at that hour.

with Nora, Niamh
Bristoldave ?/Aug/09 Lead
CarolineH ?/Aug/09 -
with Dave
Hidden ?/Aug/09 Lead
tebs 25/Jul/09 -

Not sure if this is what we were on we had no guidebook. Accessed from easy terrases above papillons, walked round these to traverse under a slabby face overlooking le ticket, then up an icy gully and onto an arete that had some tricky pitches, certainly felt harder than anything on the papillons. Bailed close to the top. complicated descent, some loose and icy downclimbing in rock shoes. Didn't enjoy it much.

with Tim and Eero
Misha 16/Jul/09 AltLd O/S

Was in a three with Dave and Mike but that didn't slow us down that much as we mostly moved together. Route finding was tricky though. Crux pitch was fine but then I went off route by following a line more or less straight up from the belay rather than traversing to the right. This was harder than the normal crux and then had to ab off a little ridge to get back on the route, so lost time. Didn't actually quite get to the summit as decided to turn back in the hope of getting the last cable car down (I got to within about 10 metres of the summit before abbing back). The descent took ages though as we had to reverse the entire route to collect axes and crampons (which proved unnecessary as it was possible to get up the neve in big boots, should have checked in the OHM), so we only got to the Plan around 9pm and decided to stay in the hut for the night as didn't fancy the walk down. The nice guardien prepared a meal for us even at this late hour. Big boots all the way of course.

Hidden ?/Jul/09 AltLd
JonHarvey ?/Aug/08 AltLd O/S

From the top of the Papillons ridge

Hidden ?/Aug/08 AltLd O/S
Hidden 06/Aug/07 AltLd O/S
Paul-Michael 20/Jul/03 AltLd O/S

Diccon tried to climb South-West Ridge and kept going for 1 1/2 hrs. We had a spageti moment with the rope.

with Peter Collins, Diccon Proctor
stokesrees ??/1997 Lead
with Ryan Brown
ericinbristol ?/Jul/96 AltLd O/S

Started up Lépidoptères (Aiguille du Peigne).

with Richard Nadin
Hidden ?/Aug/94 Lead
Hidden ?/Aug/93 AltLd O/S
John Marsland 12/Aug/85 Solo
Robmwatt ??/1984 AltLd
with Gaz Morgan
mark-abz ?/Jul/80 AltLd
with descent route
Bolt Phobia 04/Aug/75 AltLd

Descent route

with Kit Spencer, Nicole
Rob Davies ?/Aug/75 AltLd dnf

Lost route, ended up below steep ground above Col du Peigne.

with Niall Macfadyen
Bolt Phobia 13/Jul/75 AltLd

Descent route

with Kit Spencer
Bolt Phobia 15/Aug/74 AltLd
with Steve Woollard
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