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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
The loose rock around the ridge is generally avoided by the intricate but logical weaving of this fine line and great mountain route.
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!
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.
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.
It was epic! Today was amazing, beefy day, high alping exposure, some tough climbing to challenge me, perfect day 😊 Thanks Rob! Bram
Summer 2021 Courses & Guiding Availability
For group courses, we have spaces available on the following courses plus many more on our Full list of courses here and please get in touch if you would like to arrange some private guiding & mountain adventures this summer either in the UK or the Alps.
- 1 place available on 3 day Intro Alpine Mountaineering trip with at least 1 night spent in a mountain hut above Chamonix.
- Mont Blanc training weekends: 17-18 July in Snowdonia
- Matterhorn training weekend in Snowdonia 31 July – 1 August
- Numerous places on Climb Mont Blanc courses in September