After living with Tom Grant for over a year this was my first climb with him. He could find no-one else to climb this challenging mixed route so in the end he had to settle with me, even though I thought that the route might be slightly above my level, but with nothing else to do I would give it a go! What we climbed was mainly an ice and snow route because it was so filled in; normally there is more mixed ground and ice filled corners.
The black dot indicates roughly where we turned around.
We arrived at first bin at the Aiguille du Midi cable car at 8:30 and we were well on our way, after a quick toilet stop, by 9am.
The nice footpath quickly changed to breaking trail through huge boulder fields in the moraines in sometimes thigh high crusty snow. After an hour we had made it through this minefield and onto the lower slopes of the Aiguille des Pelerins and we were ready for crampons to start the climb.
To get to the start of the serious climbing we had to start up the small mixed gully to reach some 55/60 degree neve slopes that took you up to the first pitch.
Once at the start of the first pitch I could get a grasp of the extremity of the climb and it didn’t look too difficult, I changed my opinion after the first pitch difficulties though!
The first mixed pitch. 65/80 degrees of mixed ground.
I was still feeling ok after this first mixed pitch and then there was another 60m or so of open neve to climb before the next mixed pitch which was steeper than the first one.
We had a little trouble when Tom was trying to get over a 80/90 degree ice bulge which did not look very safe, and three Italian climbers were rappelling over him and kicking down a lot of ice and spindrift. He made it over after a short wait hanging from his tools and then it was my turn to second it.
The next pitch was the hardest climbing I have done on rock or mixed. I really had to trust my front points and tools as I tried to reach over the bulge and get a strong hold before putting all my weight on two axes, which are very blunt and in need of new picks!
After I managed to use brute strength and no technique to overcome the crux move I had to stop for a minute or two to regain my breath before joining Tom at the belay.
Me just after the vertical wall and just after my five minute breather!!
The next pitch looked very manageable but I insisted to Tom that we head down, I was pleased to have made it as far as we had and I really didn’t want to miss last bin at 4:30 and have to walk from the plan down to Chamonix! We had climbed about 350m of the 550m route.
Tom was fine with this as I only agreed to climb with him if I decided when were done! So with this we started the 5 or 6 rappels we did to get back down to the start of the route.
The next pitch above where we turned around, The route is in a much fatter condition than Tom remembers it the last time he climbed it about 3 years ago.
The rappels went smoothly and we made quick ground back down.
Me on one of the last rappels, you get a feel for how steep this route was.
We had a much quicker walk back to the Plan as there was a more established path in by this time. We made last bin and I still had a smile on my face!
Thanks to Tom for the climb and for wearing my GoPro and getting some cool shots!!