20 June 2021, Valley to Summit – Aiguille Purtscheller 3478m South Ridge

There is something really special about a pre-dawn alpine start, and a couple of hours using headtorches on what is very nearly the longest day of the year, meant that this was a particularly early one!  For a change, it started not in a mountain hut, but in the valley.   Being the Chamonix Valley there were already several other teams of head torches bobbling along up the mountain paths…at 0230!

2 hours sustained climbing from the Chamonix Valley – The Albert Premier Hut with lots of teams preparing for the ascent of the Aiguille du Tour + some already heading for the north face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet.

It was going to be a hot day, the last of this current mini heatwave and all the way up to the hut and just above, there had been no re-freeze of the snow.  Fortunately the big well packed track for the Aiguille du Tour highway meant the going was still fine.

On the Tour Glacier above the Alber Premier with the north face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet beyond. Already a bit more icy than last weekend.

Lots of teams were heading for the Aiguille du Tour, and conditions for the crossing of the Col Sup du Tour are still good.  Several other teams were on the Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche and Aiguille du Chardonnet with head torches seen bobbling up to both the base of the Migot Spur and Forbes Arete.  Info from this was that the refreeze was poor but the climbing just about ok in the tracks.

The excellent first pitch of the Putscheller South Ridge. This is the direct version with some fine 5b crack climbing to the first bolted belay on the Trient side of the ridge (out of the wind this morning)

We headed on to the Swiss side and Trient Glacier approach to the obvious V notch which marks the start of this classic South Ridge rock climb on the Aiguille Purtscheller, at 3478m a slightly smaller sister to it’s neighbouring Aiguille du Tour but with another series of fine granite gendarmes seen from both the French and Swiss side.

Atmospheric belay on the Trient Swiss side of the South Ridge with the north faces of the Chardonnet and Argentiere beyond.

There is still plenty of snow on the steepening approach to the V notch on the South Ridge from the Trient side and a small but significant crevasse feature to negotiate.  We climbed right up to the base of the route in crampons and then switched to rock boots for the good rock climbing above.  The route is in great condition with snow on the approach and descent but completely dry rock in-between although this first steep pitch was cold in the still early morning stiff westerly winds coming over from the French side.

The brilliant but ‘old school’ chimney on the South Ridge with a real mix of climbing styles and some skills placing trad gear required.

The route has a great mixture of styles and lovely granite climbing with steep cracks, jamming and laybacking, some easy slab climbing and some pretty old school chimney climbing particularly on the big obvious flaky orange chimney pitch which can be well seen from the glacier.  This requires some determination, back and footing, thick skin and an appreciation of old fashioned granite rock climbing techniques….no red route holds here!

Great high mountain ambiance high in the chimney pitch nearing the top of the South Ridge with the Argentiere North Face Beyond.

The loose rock around the ridge is generally avoided by the intricate but logical weaving of this fine line and great mountain route.

Bram on the summit of the Aiguille Purtscheller. A fine small granite pinnacle summit, well earnt with some determined rock climbing, and great views including the Aiguille Chardonnet behind.

It’s not long but packs in some good climbing, a proper summit and then an interesting short descent on mainly bolted belays back to the Trient Glacier at the Col Purtscheller and very close to the normal route on the Aiguille du Tour, thus the autoroute!

Last of several short abseils back down to the Trient Glacier. We used a single 50m rope and found plenty of different bolted and good in-situ belays. There is more loose rock when the snow has gone.

Despite the now hot weather and poor snow conditions – the Aiguille du Tour normal route served us well for a rapid return for an excellent and decent value omlette at the Albert Premier Hut.

Good €8 omlette at Refuge Albert Premier, before the steep & direct route back to Le Tour

All that remained of a solid 11 hour mountain day with 2100m of climbing and descent and 20km of distance was the steep and direct route down to Le Tour from Albert Premier.  Much maligned by those who prefer the more gentle traverse round to the ski lift descent, this path does have the early summer advantage of having nice easy snow to rapidly lose height followed by a scenic & interesting although admittedly fairly brutal and slightly technical descent down to the lovely meadows of Vormaine.

The direct descent from Albert Premier to Le Tour. Done rapidly today thanks to Brams strong legs and trail running experience + some nice easy snow to loose 400m D- very easily.

It was epic! Today was amazing, beefy day, high alping exposure, some tough climbing to challenge me, perfect day 😊 Thanks Rob!  Bram 

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Bram enjoying the excellent first pitch of the Purtscheller with a cold wind coming over from the French Tour Glacier on the Right.