Climbing In The Aravis

3 September 2019, Pointe Percée, Mont Blanc, Gran Paradiso, Weissmeis Matterhorn Conditions

The end of UTMB week in Chamonix marks the end of a busy & hot high summer period and the arrival of the quieter late summer and lovely early autumn period in the mountains.   The mountains have also responded with significantly cooler temperatures around this week and a decent overnight freeze on the high altitude snowpacks.  The middle mountains have very little or no snow and we had 2 teams enjoying trainers / rock boot alpinism on Pointe Percée, the highest summit in the Aravis.  The lovely scramble of the ‘Cheminées de Sallanches‘ provides a fine scramble up the South Ridge of Percée and great route to the summit from either the Doran or Gramusset Hut with the option to do a traverse of the mountain and down the normal route via the latter.

Doran Hut
Pointe Percée above the Refuge Doran. The Cheminee de Sallanches is accessed via the Col de Doran at the back of this valley, around steep grassy ground to the Col Vert and up the South side of the mountain.

The Arete du Doigt also provides a brilliant rock route to the summit of Pointe Percee, but a much harder one!  This takes the big strategic ridge line visible from the Geneva – Chamonix motorway and is a striking feature of the mountain.  The climbing starts with some warm up pitches of F3 and F4 before a spectacular traverse of the Doigt itself and some superb solid limestone.  There is some harder climbing above including a fine ‘airy’ 5c+ pitch with a bold start and then an ‘Eagles Nest’ traverse on to the north side. Above lies the crux wall….and we saw a demonstration of how to do it, up and down, from a local wallcreeper!  Climbed free this is a hard 6c wall but there are many bolts, close together and it can be easily ‘frigged’ by pulling on quickdraws clipped to the bolts.  An ascent of this, magnificent panorama from the summit and descent of the Cheminees de Sallanches provides a great traverse of the mountain.

These are the last climbing moves of the Arete du Doigt before this steep headwall section gives way to the pleasant easy & scenic summit ridge

Arthur and Neil made a fine job of climbing Mont Blanc late last week and found good conditions above the Gouter Hut and did not see any stonefall in the Grand Couloir on their ascent or descent, but obviously there has been plenty.  There has been some fresh snow above, and just below the Gouter Hut over the weekend and yesterday, but a big fresh track going up from Gouter again this morning. Arthur carries on with his ‘Mission Impossible’ programme this week and is heading to the Hornli Hut today to try and climb the Matterhorn tomorrow.  The weather does not look promising for an Eiger ascent after that and the Mittellegi Hut has just shut, only for a day or 2, after the recent storms.  With more sunny weather the traverse of the Eiger should return to the good conditions it has been in recently.

Mont Blanc View
Late Summer view of Mont Blanc north side from Passy Plaine Joux

We have more teams hoping to climb Mont Blanc later this week so stay tuned for an update on that.  One of these teams warmed up with an ascent of the Weissmeis yesterday.  They did the aller retour on the South Ridge via the Almageller Hut both to avoid the descent of the increasingly complicated route on the north side – serac hazard and steep snow slopes.  The descent of the South Ridge also gives great down climbing training for the Matterhorn.   The lovely base camp of Almageller Hut also gave the team an opportunity to complete the local classic alpine rock route this morning, the Dry Hornli Ridge, with great rock and a descent to the hut for refreshment before the pleasant walk back down to Saas Almagell.

Weissmies Course
Lovely rock, great alpine training and brilliant views….the Dry Hornli Ridge above Almageller Hut in the Swiss Valais Alps. Dom & Tasch beyond. Photo Kenny Grant

Another of Climb Mont Blanc teams are warming up with our 3 day Gran Paradiso course and they are hopefully making the summit climb today.  More details to follow later but the Chabod Hut were reporting lots of teams are still climbing up the glacier there although there are plenty of holes, crevasses and bridges on the glacier route.   The glacier route from the Vittorio Emanuelle side is now not in condition and teams have been working their way up the mountain via the rocky ridge route that accessed the upper Chabod Glacier to complete the ascent via that route.  Some of the glacier and rock ridge conditions around the Col du Geant and Torino Hut are very ‘late summer’ like at the moment with plenty of crevasses to watch out for and stone fall off many of the ridges and peaks up there including and especially the “normal” descent from the Aiguilles Marbrees ridge after the traverse has been completed.  Maybe best not the normal route for the moment!

Icy late summer conditions on the lower glacier above Chabod Hut and below the North Face.

The Monte Rosa Hut are still reporting decent conditions for an ascent of the Dufourspitze and teams on the other, Italian, side of the Monte Rosa massif have found reasonable, albeit heavily crevassed conditions on the high altitude glaciers over there.  We are hoping to climb Dufourspitze via the Monte Rosa Hut next week as well as warm up climbs above Zermatt so stay tuned late next week for more info on that.   Less high altitude glaciers have been struggling and teams travelling from the French Tour Glacier to the Swiss Trient Glaciers have some complicated options for making the crossing with the Col Sup de Tour looking very unpleasant with steep black ice and loose rocks and the Col de Tour not being great either.

Pointe Percee Guide
Wonderful panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif…and various other massifs! From the summit of Pointe Percee above Sallanches in the Massif des Aravis.

We only have 2 more open group courses remaining for this summer 2019 season and both still have places available.

And, for summer 2020 courses….

Magical Snowdonia. An inspiring place for your next mountain adventure and alpine training weekend…Photo Andy Teasdale