V, 900m, 1 day. One of the great alpine climbs. Aid was used on the first ascent and most teams still climb it this way but it can be free climbed at 7a+. Given the physical nature of the climbing on the crux pitch, and the fact that you're at nearly 4500m, your ethics will need to be as strong as your arms if you're to attempt a free ascent! Go to the northern end of the Col Eccles, follow a line of fixed abseil anchors down towards the Frêney Glacier, and then traverse above the bergschrund to the foot of the pillar. Getting onto the Frêney Glacier and crossing it is extremely serious and exposed to rockfall. Ideally the approach to this route should be done in the dark so as to minimise rockfall danger.
1) Scramble up a snow/mixed ramp to reach a detached flake which marks the start of the route proper.
2) 4b. Climb a pitch up the left-hand side of the flake (4b) and then continue up two further 4b pitches to reach a snowy ledge. Scramble up this ledge and some blocky mixed ground above it to reach the next belay, beneath a left-leaning slabby ramp system.
3) 5b. Go up the ramp system for 35m (4c, excellent) to a stance below and right of a chimney. Climb the chimney (5b, physical) and follow it through an overhang, which is marked by countless pegs, to reach a snowy couloir
4) 4b. Climb up the snowy couloir (4b, very condition-dependent) and branch left out of it by following a line of weakness up and left (4b). This line comes back right and finally left again, to reach a right-leaning crack.
5) 5b. Climb the crack (5b) to reach the famous snow arête which separates the lower part of the pillar from the Chandelle - the steepest and toughest part of the route. Teeter across the snow ridge and scramble up and left to the foot of a corner marking the start of the Chandelle. Possible bivvy here.
Photo-topo on p.349 of the next two sections.
6) 5c/A1 or 7a. Go up the corner (5c) to a ledge. Climb the steep crack (5c, with quite a bit of A0/A1 aid - 7a if done free) to the left of the ledge to belay beneath the crux overhangs. Go straight up to the overhangs and then traverse out right (7a if free, 5c/A1 for mortals) underneath a roof to a staggeringly exposed stance in a chimney system. Climb the steep peg-filled groove that leads into wide, overhanging, crack/chimney. Battle up through this by pulling on various bits of old gear to a stance above the overhang, with a superb view of the pitch you've just climbed. The pitch gets 5c/A1 but reputedly goes free at 7a+ for those finding aiding it too easy. It can be icy as it is one of the few parts of the pillar which is mainly in the shade, but it is so full of in-situ gear that (unless you're trying to free it) a bit of ice isn't a big problem.
7) 5b. Climb a 5m wall to reach a ledge and follow this leftwards to a chimney. Go up this (4c) and the slab above (5b) to reach the top of the pillar.
8) Make a short abseil down onto mixed ground and follow this to the Brouillard Ridge. © Rockfax
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