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Rockfax Description
III, 750m. Arguably the best known route in the Envers, the Mer de Glace Face is an established classic. The first ascent took place over a century ago, but the final pitch (the Knubel Crack) has humbled many a well-equipped modern climber. This is an excellent example of a route that isn't done until it's done!
The route begins at the foot of a light-coloured slabby ramp.
1) 4c. Cross the bergschrund (usually easiest over to the right) and climb easy glacier-polished ramps to reach a terrace at the foot of a short corner. Climb this (4c) and step left onto more easy ground.
2) 4c. Go diagonally up and left across broken ground to a collection of slings around a block at the foot of a long, left-leaning chimney/corner with a jammed block halfway up. Climb this in two pitches (4c) and move out of the corner and climb easy slabs to a belay on a ledge marked with a large boulder. From here there is an excellent view of the remnants of the old Tour Rouge Hut, which must have been a stunning place to stay when it was still standing.
3) 3c. Traverse horizontally left around a pillar and then go up a tricky looking (but actually easy) corner (3c) to reach the foot of the long, grey couloir leading up to the Aiguille de la République.
4) 4c. Cross the couloir and climb diagonally up and left across moderate ground and then go up slabs and ledges to the right of a prominent pillar descending from the Grépon's north summit. 100m after leaving the grey couloir you reach a shoulder. Traverse left across this and then a 2m wide, deep chimney and then make a short downclimb to reach an abseil anchor. The anchor is not easy to find and many climb too high and end up above it. If you encounter any ground more difficult than 4c, you can be sure that you have gone too high. Descend back down to get back on line.
5) 4b. Make a 12m abseil and then go up and left to reach the buttress coming down from Pointe Balfour, the small summit which separates the top of this route from the top of Le soleil.... Climb on the right of the buttress for 30m (4b) to a terrace, and then move right and continue up similar steady ground to a huge terrace (the 'Niche des amis').
6) 4c. Above the terrace, climb the 12m corner with a jammed block (4b), and similar cracks and chimneys above to reach a shoulder. Step right around a small arête and head up more cracks (4b - 4c) to another shoulder. Step right and climb a final 4c crack to a large horizontal ledge.
7) 4c. Traverse the ledge leftwards, crossing Le soleil..., to reach a right-leaning flake-filled corner. Go up this (4c) to another ledge and cross this rightwards. It is possible to skip out the two traverses by climbing a 5c crack on the right immediately after reaching the first ledge.
8) 5c. Climb a steep chimney (4c) and step right to a ledge. Head up a steep crack (5c) on the left of the ledge to reach a notch in the Grépon's summit ridge. Leave your rucksacks at the notch then traverse right across flakes to reach the foot of the Knubel Crack. Climb this onto the Grépon's south summit. The crack starts out as a corner and becomes a flake-crack above. It is graded 5c and is a notorious sandbag!
Once on the Grépon's summit, give the madonna a peck, take in the staggering view and abseil back to your packs.
Descent - Descend the Grépon via the descent route off the Charmoz-Grépon Traverse. This necessitates carrying crampons, boots and ice axes up the route but this is an old-school alpine route - you have to earn it! It is also possible to descend to the top of Le soleil... and then abseil this, but if you haven't already climbed the route, abseiling it with no prior knowledge of where it goes would be extremely difficult. © Rockfax

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User Date Notes
Webster 8 Aug, 2020 Show βeta
βeta: getting onto the start of the route is all but done for the season now (for the roc and republic normal routes as well). Knubel crack is about 6b and the leader needs to be able to climb the crux clean as there is no gear once committed.
βeta?
Show beta
βeta: getting onto the start of the route is all but done for the season now (for the roc and republic normal routes as well). Knubel crack is about 6b and the leader needs to be able to climb the crux clean as there is no gear once committed.
bogpetre 1 Jul, 2019 Show βeta
βeta: Be careful about about beta in Boscoe's "Chamonix" guide. We found it highly misleading and possibly inaccurate. camptocamp topo is much more helpful. Would have been better off having never read the Boscoe beta, since it only confused us, undermined our confidence in what would otherwise be logical routefinding, and lead us astray. The descent beta is illustrative. Whereas the actual abseil from the summit notch to the Natillion glacier follows an almost directly vertical line of bolt anchors, the Boscoe guide shows two or three anchors that are significantly (skiers) left of the fall line. I often found myself pendulumning way off course looking for bolts that were in fact directly in my fall line all along. Doing so I discovered nests of tat indicating that others had often made the same mistake, and missed the bolt anchors entirely. Thankfully we descended in daylight, but a party descending in the dark with this kind of beta might struggle. Similar misleading information appeared to confound route finding on the up as well, but while there's some ambiguity here because there are likely many trivial variations to a line as long as the mer de glace, there's no ambiguity in what the correct abseil route is thanks to the bolt anchors marking the way, thus leaving no doubt regarding the shortcomings of the Boscoe beta.
βeta?
Show beta
βeta: Be careful about about beta in Boscoe's "Chamonix" guide. We found it highly misleading and possibly inaccurate. camptocamp topo is much more helpful. Would have been better off having never read the Boscoe beta, since it only confused us, undermined our confidence in what would otherwise be logical routefinding, and lead us astray. The descent beta is illustrative. Whereas the actual abseil from the summit notch to the Natillion glacier follows an almost directly vertical line of bolt anchors, the Boscoe guide shows two or three anchors that are significantly (skiers) left of the fall line. I often found myself pendulumning way off course looking for bolts that were in fact directly in my fall line all along. Doing so I discovered nests of tat indicating that others had often made the same mistake, and missed the bolt anchors entirely. Thankfully we descended in daylight, but a party descending in the dark with this kind of beta might struggle. Similar misleading information appeared to confound route finding on the up as well, but while there's some ambiguity here because there are likely many trivial variations to a line as long as the mer de glace, there's no ambiguity in what the correct abseil route is thanks to the bolt anchors marking the way, thus leaving no doubt regarding the shortcomings of the Boscoe beta.

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Route of Interest

Decorps-Perroux Couloir (North Couloir)

Grade: D+ 2 ***
(Tour Ronde)