II, 220m. A great route if you like your climbing traditional.Approach - From the Montenvers train, take the lower of the two paths (the one that doesn't go via 'Le Signal') heading towards the 'Plan de l'Aiguille'. Follow this for 45 minutes until it meets up again with the higher path at a signpost. (NOTE - this sign says that Montenvers is 1 hour 10 minutes away via both paths. The reality (for when you're descending) is that the higher path takes about that long but the lower path will have you back to the train in a little over 30 minutes). From the signpost, continue towards the Plan de l'Aiguille for 300m until a vague path leads off left, directly towards the Aiguille de l'M, just before the main path descends slightly. The vague path climbs for 10 minutes and then reaches a boulderfield. Continue straight across this and then begin to look for the cairns which mark the way. Follow the path as best you can (not easily done) as it takes you onto and up the long scree slope below the peak. The vague path from here is rarely clear and at times it may feel easier just to plough on up the scree slope, picking the easiest looking line and heading straight for the foot of the route. Even if you do manage to follow the path, the approach is unavoidably a bit of a grind, but this is mountaineering - it's all part of the 'fun'! Once you reach the foot of the ridge, scramble up easily to a ledge 5m below the bottom of the slab on the first pitch.1) 4c, 25m. From the ledge, scramble up to the slab and rock over onto it. Follow a crack out right and then come back left more easily to belay beneath a wide chimney.2) 5b, 45m. Climb easily up to the left of the chimney to reach a ledge. (There is a belay on the right of the ledge if you want to split the pitch but, provided you manage your gear and avoid rope drag, it's better to carry on.) Go to the far side of the ledge and climb the steep wall on the far side of it, clipping a couple of pegs on the way. Step left at the top onto a slab. Cross the slab leftwards and get onto the ridge crest to belay at a block just to the left of a large flat terrace.3) 5b, 25m. Go onto the north side of the ridge and climb the staggeringly polished corner-crack. This has been the scene of many undignified scrabbles and is one of the classic pitches in Chamonix. Whether you enjoy it much will depend on your tastes but you certainly won't forget it in a hurry. A couple of big cams will ease the pain and there is also a peg on the left wall near the end. Belay at the top on a ledge in the shade.4) 4c, 30m. Climb the chimney and twin cracks above the belay and then step onto the slab on the right. Climb this for 4m then come back left and head up the thrutchy open groove. Above this, 10m of easy ground leads to a ledge at the foot of a short, steep wall.5) 5b, 25m. Instead of climbing the cracks directly above the belay, follow the ledge to its leftmost end and head up the crack there, which is marked by some pegs. Above this, go up a layback crack and then cross a slab rightwards easily to belay beneath a chimney with two chockstones in it. 6) 4c, 20m. Climb through the chimney onto the north face by passing between the chockstones. This may involve taking your rucksack off and those of a more 'powerful' build might not fit even without a pack! Once through the chimney, cross a ledge on the north face and belay beneath easy ground.7) 3c, 50m. Climb the easy ground just right of the ridge crest and then get onto the crest itself and follow this to the summit.Descent - From the summit, scramble back along the route for 15m to reach a pair of bolts which face east. Make a 25m abseil from these down to a large ledge with a narrow slot between two huge blocks on the right (when facing down). Walk through this slot, which has an awkward chockstone at the far end. Then scramble back around underneath the ledge the abseil took you to via a short, steep step and then an easier, slabby chimney. The steep step could be abseiled but there are no anchors in place so you will need to leave some abseil tat. From the foot of the chimney, go down and left to reach the top of a slab. Make a 25m abseil down this from a cord around a jammed block and then make a final 20m abseil down to the Col Blanc. From here, downclimb the gully leading back to the foot of the route. Until late summer this will be snow and is roughly 40 degrees at the top, so take crampons and an ice axe. When dry it is an easy but occasionally loose scramble. From the foot of the route, descend the approach path. © Rockfax
A. Contamine 24/Aug/1948.
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