IV, 850m, 10 - 12 hours. One of the most famous climbs in Chamonix, taking one the area's finest lines - this is understandably a much sought after route. It is often underestimated and no matter how long you expect it to be, it will feel longer! Some of the belays are bolted and there is a lot of fixed protection, but take a full rack. The route finding, particularly in the upper section, is not obvious. A team expecting to do it in a reasonable time should be happy moving together for a lot of it.
1) 5c, 30m. Start on a ledge on the left hand side of the pillar (this may involve some climbing based on the height of the glacier each year). From here follow the line of weakness, close to the crest of the pillar, past a bolt to a ledge with a further bolt. If the ledge isn't reachable, climb a bolted crack at 6b from the foot of the pillar instead.
2) 5c, 60m. Head diagonally right then back left to a belay.
3) 6a, 60m. Traverse up and left into a chimney system that steepens into a sustained crack and eventually easier ground, to a peg belay.
4) 5c. Easier ground (4b, 60m) leads to a large corner that is climbed for two 60m pitches that gradually steepen (5b then 5c) climbing parallel cracks and passing a letterbox, until a brèche is reached and passed through.
5) 5c/A0. Climb on the right side of the spur for 15m until this steepens significantly just below a triangle of rock. Aid up a steep 20m crack on pegs (quite a workout with a sack on) to a belay. A long 5b pitch above this, initially on a ramp, regains the crest of the spur at a small pinnacle. Abseil 10m from this to a notch and traverse 5m left to reach the foot of the 70m chimney.
6) 5b. Climb this in two superb pitches (5b, 60m then 5a) to a ledge and pass onto the north side.
7) Climb a short, steep wall (5c, fixed rope) and then gain a right trending crack (6a, pitons) that is followed to a small ledge.
8) 6a. Move right past a piton with cord and climb two corners (lots of pitons) to a ramp system (60m). Follow this for 2 pitches (5a).
9) 5b. At the end of the ramp, climb two consecutive chimneys passing a brèche between them (60m). From the top of the second chimney, descend then reascend 2m to bring you to a ledge and a short pitch (4b, 15m) further brings you to the top of the pillar.
10) Make a 20m abseil down the pillar's South Face to a platform overlooking a couloir. Opposite the line of the abseil is a chimney system taking you back up to the same height as the abseil station, but on the opposite side of the gully. Climb the left-hand chimney crack (5b, 40m, often icy, pitons). From here, traverse into the broad gully system.
11) 5c, Climbing snowy mixed ground up the gully for 200m used to be the norm at this point but in recent drier years it is far more advisable and safe (and aesthetic) to climb the Red Tower. Climb easy ground to gain corners near the crest that are climbed in 3 pitches. Climb a slab followed by a crack (5c) which leads to a notch just to the right of the top of the Red Tower. Traverse under the summit and down to the Breche behind.
12) Follow mixed ground for 150m to where the ridge narrows. From here, pass numerous gendarmes on the right and then follow the crest to a snow slope which takes you onto the summit of the Tacul itself. © Rockfax
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