To make the most of our 2 day climbing expedition to the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif – and to add some more technical interest to our hut approach day – we ascended the Skyway lift and made the very short approach towards the East Pillar of the Petit Flambeau. Our Gran Paradiso course teams were on the summit of the Flambeau getting some good training and acclimatisation done and we skirted the very upper Combe Vierge to access the rather chossy base of the East Face. There had been little to zero overnight re-freeze and snow conditions out of the track were particularly poor. Not ideal for this untracked and crevassed approach but this gave an alternative form of excitement before the route had even been reached!
The lower 3 pitches of the Laurent Grivel route are worse than ‘nothing to write home about’ and provide a slightly delicate means of accessing the base of the much more inspiring granite tower above. The climbing is easy but there is a lot of loose rock and care is required plus it would not be ideal to be following other teams up this section. There is a good fixed anchor and ledge at the base of the difficulties where we had planned to change in to rock boots – but perhaps because it was cool and windy, or perhaps because James and I had posh new mountain boots – we elected to carry our rock boots up the route rather than use them!
A short and pleasant F4b pitch with a bolt runner leads on to a fine narrow balcon at the base of the crux wall, split by the prominent half moon crack and offering an impressive obvious soaring line up the next pitch. This is short and steep and is followed with another fine short and steep crack up the next pitch again, possibly slightly undergraded at 4c!
The good climbing continues up the crest of the steady pillar above with cracks, bolts and fixed belays leading to the pleasant mini summit ridge, firstly with some fine scrambling on the crest and followed by the pleasant snowy amble over to the summit. We were in the high altitude café for an early lunch before transferring back down the Skyway and up in to the beautiful Val Veny…
The Southern Italian side of Monte Bianco is a beautiful place with a relatively wild feel and remarkable mountain ambiance leading from the greenery of the valley floor to the ice spattered granite pillars and faces above. The journey up to Rifugio Monzino has 3 sections of very equipped via Ferratta with the option either to clip the cable for protection with individual tethers or to move together as a roped team using the many pigs tails for runners.
Monzino is a great base camp with a hospitable team, great hut dog, old school rifugio style and appealing Italian food & café. The hut had only just opened for the season and there were only 3 teams staying making it feel entirely spacious and it’s a fine launching pad for routes on the Aiguille Croux, Punta Inominata…or into the inner and upper sanctuary of the South Face of Monte Bianco and famous names like Eccles, Freney and Brouillard.
The approach to the SW Ridge of the Aiguille Croux requires a little navigation of the broken lower slopes but the camp to camp and hut topos were useful and there are many cairns, mini paths, the odd bolt and even fixed rope. Likewise the lower SW ridge is open to variation and can be climbed via various different lines although the regular bolts now indicate the best line.
As height is gained, the quality improves and there are some good pitches of III, IV and IV+ with the 2 shortish pitches up the cracked wall towards the top of the ridge probably providing the crux and highlight of the route. Although the ambiance and views are another major highlight and as well as Monte Bianco, we could keep an eye on our teams further south down Val d’Aosta climbing Gran Paradiso:
After a short and slightly descending goblin walkway an even shorter steep wall leads to a fixed anchor and the lovely mini summit ridge…
The descent of the West Face can be made by an efficient series of abseils, marked accurately on the hut topo and with good quality modern anchors.
We were joined by an inquisitive marmotte on one of the abseils and carried on down via the West Face snow patch and then 2 further abseils down on to the glacier du Châtelet. All abseils were done on a single 50m rope and most of them are pushing the full 25m so keep an eye on the end of your ropes!
We were back at the hut roughly 7 hours after we had left, with the descent taking almost as long as the ascent, and Haris the hut dog was there to welcome us and a equally welcome pause pasta – lemon soda – coffee before the descent of the via ferratta and path plunging us back down in to Val Veny 2 hours later.
Our Summer & Autumn 2022 Mountaineering Courses – Remaining Availability
Many of our summer 2022 courses are now full but we do have a few selective places remaining and can still arrange private guiding for Chamonix rock climbing and, depending on dates, alpine guiding.
The selected courses below are all running and ready for you to join & you can keep an eye on the full programme on our course page here.
- 1 place available on our Skyway Mont Blanc Training Day – 21 June
- Places available on our Gran Paradiso Courses on the 18-20 July, 21-23 Sept and 9-11 Oct
- 1 places available on our Climb The Weissmies Course 21-23 July
- 1 place available on a 3 day Matterhorn training & Chamonix Rock climbing course, Aug 29-31
- 2 Places available on our Becoming An Alpinist Course Sept 19-23
- Places available on our Autumn Mont Blanc course on the 9-15 Oct