Aiguille de Bionnassay 4052m
The Perfect Snow Cone of the Aiguille de Bionnassay (4052m)
With the 'Chaine des Aravis' beyond to the West
The Journey Starts with Morning Café at the Beautiful Chalets de Miage
The prominent grassy col top right is the 'Col de Tricot' linking the Chalets with Bionnassay & then on to Bellevue and Les Houches. Tour de Mont Blanc country!
The Tough Walk to the Glacier du Plan Refuge
The North Face of the Dome de Miage on the right with the Metrier Spur on its right hand side. The long flat col on the left is home to the Durier Hut.
Refuge de Plan Glacier (2730m)
A great lunch spot en route to the Durier Hut not to mention launching pad for routes on the Domes de Miage North Face and Arete de Tricot
The Durier Hut (3389m)
A strategic spot between the Domes des Miages and Bionnassay. Between the Contamines and Val Veny Valleys. Between France and Italy. The Guardian is 'Manon', a great cook and Contamines Valley local. We took an 0330 breakfast for our traverse of the Bionnassay (top left) to Mont Blanc (top right).
After the Initial Rocky Path the Real Ascent Begins With This Fine Snow Crest
Done in the dark this exposed ridge provides a fine warm up for the extended narrow snow crest to come.
The Ascent of the Bionnassay 'Bastion'
Done here in snowy conditions this ridge provides a fine short route in its own right to the summit of the Bionnassay. The St. Gervais Guides company have added several bolts and made the descent considerably easier.
Summit of the Aiguille de Bionnassay at Dawn
Martin and Matt are accompanied by British Mountain Guide, Mark Thomas
Pristine Snow Conditions on the Brilliant Snow Crest Between the Bionnassay & 'Pitons Italiens'
Here a large cornice is passed on the Italian side however it is often possible to complete much of the traverse on the crest itself.
Matt, Mark, Martin & Rob on the Summit of Mont Blanc
If good time is made on the traverse of the Bionnassay a right turn can be taken at the Dome du Gouter and a swift ascent of Mont Blanc summit can be made. This can be combined with the traverse of the Domes de Miage, continuation to the Cosmiques Hut and on to the Aiguille du Plan and descent to the Envers Hut & Mer de Glace giving a superb high level traverse of the Mont Blanc massif
Approaching The Col Du Miage & Durier Hut
Aiguille Du Bionnassay South Ridge beyond. An easy section leads up for several hundred metres above the Durier Hut before the more engaging, narrow snow ridges & mixed scrambling of the Bastion is reached.
Initial Section Of Narrow Snow Ridge On The Bionnassay South Ridge
This enjoyable exposed traverse provides a gentle warm up for the long & even more exposed section of summit ridge to come!
Dry & Sunny Autumn Conditions On The Bionnassay Bastion
Despite it being mid November, the warm sun & calm weather gave enjoyable alpine conditions for this autumnal traverse of the Bionnassay
Exposed Snow Summit Ridge On The Bionnassay
Leading in to the heart of the Mont Blanc range from the western end. This narrow walkway provides magnificent views of the Miage face & glacier and Bosses Arete on Mont Blanc, but only to be viewed whilst stationary!
Summit Of The Dome Du Gouter (4304m) With The Aravis Beyond
This final section of the climb provides a physical rather than technical challenge! The slopes are easy but long and the altitude will be felt. In normal conditions there is a quick descent from here to the Gouter Hut along the track of the Mont Blanc normal route. In mid November we were enjoying a brew in the Gouter Hut winter room in well under an hour from the summit.
Beautiful Post Dusk Descent To Bionnassay From The Gouter Hut
The autumn descent is long. In the absence of summer trains and lifts the climber descends just under 3000m from the Dome du Gouter to the parking 'Le Crozat' above Bionassay village. Once the mixed ground of the Gouter Ridge and steep Tete Rousse path have been negotiated there just remains the donkey work down paths and tracks back to the valley.
Wintery Autumnal Conditions On The Very Last Section Of The Durier Hut Approach
These chains form the last few moves of the approach from the Refuge Plan Glacier to Durier. This approach starts with a rocky and somewhat technical section through the rock buttresses linking the hut with the glacier. This is traversed whilst ascending to the large red paint spot and start of the marked route and loose approach to the top of this buttress. In good snowy / winter / spring conditions sometimes teams climb the large gully to the left of this buttress.
A Very Cold Autumnal Night Was Spent In The Durier Hut
There are plenty of beds and blankets in the hut, but the air temperature was unseasonably low for mid-October and any water split on the table froze very quickly. Next morning was cold too but the South Ridge of the Bionnassay is exposed to the sun from quite early and the day soon warmed to extremely pleasant sunny calm autumn conditions.
Superb Sunny Scrambling High On The Rock Bastion Of The South Ridge
The Durier Hut is on the col well below with the fine Domes de Miage Ridge extending away rightwards in to the Contamines Valley beyond. The Italian side of the Tre-la-Tete and Aiguilles des Glaciers on the left.
Good Autumn Snow Conditions On The Summit Ridge
The final south facing summit snow slope was in good re-frozen condition and the snow crest itself also had good snow and an intermittent track. It is still long and exposed though!
The Long Steady Ascent To The Dome du Gouter
After the narrow ridge is completed there is the easy but long & high steady drag to the Dome. It looked like one team had skirted around the Dome on the Gouter side to make a short cut rather than going to the summit and joining the Mont Blanc normal route, which is normal but longer. Please let us know if you have taken this short cut and what it was like!
The Moon Rises Over The Summit Of The Bionnassay
Seen during the long descent from the Dome du Gouter (C.4300m) to the parking above Bionnassay village at C 1380m. A long walk down! The descent to the Gouter hut was done swiftly in a good track and a break was had at the winter room there. Then the Gouter Rib down to Tete Rousse, crossing of Grand Couloir and descent path from Tete Rousse were all done in crampons. Then all that remained was the long walk back down in to the Bionnassay valley....