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.

janegallwey 17/Jul Solo O/S

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

steve_gibbs 26/Jun Lead O/S
with Joe Ramsay
IanHope 17/Jun 2nd O/S
with Bruce goodlad
joeramsay ?/Jun 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
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
Hidden 06/Sep/10 -
Pat-H 09/Aug/10 2nd
Hidden ??/2010 -
reima ?/Aug/09 AltLd dnf

Started with Lpidoptres 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
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 Lpidoptres (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
Rob Davies ?/Aug/75 AltLd dnf

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

with Niall Macfadyen
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