The Aiguille Du Tour (3529m)....Your First Alpine Summit?
When aspiring to climb in the Alps for the first time it can be daunting to know where to begin. With many great mountains with long approaches and high altitude, it’s good to know there are great peaks to climb that help you get started. The Aiguille du Tour, at 3529m, is approached from the village of le Tour in the Chamonix Valley and is the rocky peak clearly seen above the village. It gives a great adventure through a glaciated landscape, crossing a high pass and climbing rocky ramps and ridges of granite to reach a fine summit.
British International Mountain Guide (IFMGA) Hannah Burrows-Smith takes us through some of the highlights of this excellent introductory alpine excursion above the Chamonix Valley.....
First using the ski lifts of le Tour, a trail then skirts the hillside high above the valley and above the end of the Glacier du Tour, to then take the moraine path up to your mountain hut accommodation for the night, the Albert Premier Hut. It’s going to be an early start from the hut the following morning so it’s good to be prepared. The glacier is just down behind the hut and it makes for a perfect venue to try out your crampons and axes on the ice and to practice your rope-work skills.
Staying in a mountain hut for the first time can be a fun if not an unusual experience. Life becomes simplified when staying in the mountains, there’s a 3-course meal in the evening and breakfast at 5am. The sleeping arrangements are in dormitories, and as the Albert Premier hut has been recently refurbished they are all quite fresh and airy, despite there being perhaps 90 people staying there that night. There’s a certain feeling of anticipation each evening around the hut as most folk are preparing and planning out their various climbs for the following day, whilst also sat outside on the terrace enjoying the sunset and perhaps a glass of wine.
Getting sorted the next morning alongside everyone else doing the same thing can seem a bit of a muddle, but once your own team is set up outside ready to start it can be quite amazing as the snowy peaks all around start to be illuminated in the arriving light of dawn. After a short rocky trail, you reach the start of the glacier. Here the climbing team ropes-up for the glacier; sometimes here there will be this year’s winter snow to walk over which hides some of the crevasses, sometimes the snow will have stripped back somewhat to reveal the bare glacier ice. Early in the morning the glacier is relatively frozen and better for walking on, the early start being needed so that the team doesn’t return too late in the afternoon when the snows much softer.
After a couple of hours the route starts to climb up steeper snow and rocks to reach the pass the crosses over into Switzerland. Behind you now the great Aiguille du Chardonnet is shining in the morning sun, and we head round into the sun above a new glacier, the Trient, which we traverse round to reach the foot of the Aiguille du Tour cliffs. Once across the bergschrund the climb works its way up through the rocks then traverses up and out to the right. Then on reaching a notch in the ridge you then pull yourself up through the final granite rocks to stand on the not-so-spacious summit, with the greater view of the space below you, the view of the Mont Blanc Massif beyond and all the mountains of Switzerland behind you. A fine alpine summit!