14 June 2022, Aiguille Croux 🇮🇹 Monzino & Voie Laurent Grivel, Skyway Monte Bianco

Approaching the Laurent Grivel Route on the East Pillar of the Petit Flambeau…in poor soft snow conditions and with the odd crevasse hole about!

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!

Scott and James on the fine stance at the base of the good climbing on the East Pillar of the Petit Flambeau, and above the chossy climbing.

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!

James enjoying the solid granite and being back in balance after some steep and powerful moves on the crux crack of the East Pillar (F5b). There is a bolt just below the steep climbing but the wide crack above means it’s difficult to add any more protection – or frigg the moves – without a very large cam!

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!

Great position on the crest of the pillar with soaring views across to the Giants Tooth and down the Vallée Blanche. Nice cracking climbing F4ish.

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…

There are 3 sections of well equipped Via Ferratta on the ascent to Rifugio Monzino and it’s a fun journey in a beautiful valley just getting to the hut.

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.

Good scrambling on the SW Ridge of the Aiguille Croux with the Rifugio Monzino below.

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.

One of the 2 crux cracked wall pitches (IV+) towards the top of the ridge. There are numerous bolts, well places fixed anchors and cracks to add further protection – cams.

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:

Fine views down Val d’Aosta to the north faces of Gran Paradiso and Grivola

After a short and slightly descending goblin walkway an even shorter steep wall leads to a fixed anchor and the lovely mini summit ridge…

Lovely short mountaineering ridge leads from the top of the face to the summit of the Croux. The abseils down the face start from a good fixed anchor on a massive block just back down the ridge.
Scott and James on the summit of the Aiguille Croux, 3256m with the Freney face beyond, Punta Inominata behind and the Aiguille Blanche up and right.

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.

Aiguille Croux topo in the Monzino Hut

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!

Spot the Marmotte! He was under the line of the abseils but seemed more curious than scared, perhaps he’s had a sandwich in the past – not today!
The last abseil off the SW face on to the snow patch. From here we descended on to the glacier du Châtelet with another couple of abseils.

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.

Harris the hut dog with the remarkable south ridge of the Noire above and Aiguille Croux on the Left. Great peaks, great hut, great dog!  Photo Scott Bugden.

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.

The fine arrowhead peak of the Aiguille Croux, with the Monzino Hut up on the high terrace on the Left and the magnificent South Face of Monte Bianco beyond.