Rockfax Description
IV, 800m, 6 - 8 hours. A true alpine classic which is many climbers first foray into icy grandes courses. In anything other than icy conditions, protection is limited for most of the route, although it is usually possible to place ice screws on the crux pitch.
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 and climb a series of runnels, heading directly towards the crux. Generally the line drifts continually rightwards and the exact line taken will depend on conditions but there will always be some short steps which kick up to 65/70 degrees. Belay on the right at the bottom of the distinctive runnel.
2) Although it can be split, the crux runnel is better (and faster) climbed in one long 55m pitch. It is briefly around 80-85 degrees and usually takes ice screws and the odd bit of rock protection in cracks on the right.
3) Once above crux, climb the snowfield straight up the middle, heading for some slightly steeper ground which can be mixed in thin conditions.
4) Follow the mixed ground (Scottish 3) for 70m to reach the top snowfield.
5) Follow the snowfield directly to the summit.
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


Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes in the Mont Blanc Massif , Batoux's 100 finest routes in the Mont Blanc massif , ROCKFAX Chamonix: Top 50 , Big Routes , Alpine Grande Courses , Alpine Dreamz , Big Alpine Routes


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High TD
Mid TD
Low TD
High TD-
Mid TD-
Low TD-
High D+
Mid D+
Low D+
Votes cast 13
High 5
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Low 5
High 4
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High 3
Mid 3
Low 3
Votes cast 15
Style of Ascent
Alt Leads
Not Set
Flashed (β)
Not Set
Route of Interest
Couloir des Italiens

Grade: TD- ***
(Grande Casse)

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