Petit Aiguille Vert 3512m

Yesterday I skinned up from the Bochard gondola at Grand Montets towards the top station, Upon reaching the col on the left hand ridge I changed to crampons and scrambled up the rocky snowy ground towards the top station at 3300m. This was good fun and I was keen to go that bit further and continue up to the summit of the Petit Aiguille Vert. Deciding against it at the last minute I headed back down.

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Alone on the summit of the Grand Montets.

Going back up with Ally Hurst today the plan was to repeat what I did yesterday and then climb the ordinary route on Petit Aiguille Vert. After getting the second bin up GM at 9:30 we were on our way up the Bochard Gondola and soon we had skied the short traverse to where we would skin from. It took us just under an hour to get to the Col du Rachasses, 3037m, from here we changed to crampons and continued up the north ridge of the Grand Montets towards the viewing platform on the summit.

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Ally Changing into his crampons with the North Ridge of GM behind him. You can see my track from yesterday on the right.

This ridge is very similar to the first section of the Cosmiques Arete and is good fun and relatively easy with a few moves thrown in for good measure, maybe grade 3/4. We flew up the ridge in under an hour with about 250m height gain.

Pausing on the summit for a few minutes we then headed down the steps that lead out of the back of the top station and started up towards our main goal, Petit Aig. Vert.

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The red line indicates our route to the summit, We came down the same way apart from near the Bergschrund, I will say why later.

We made quick progress up the snow slope but then hit a problem at the Bergschrund. Ally found a way over but on the other side was 50′ bullet hard black ice, this would not normally be a problem with two axes and a rope but we only had one lightweight mountaineering axe and no rope, harness or anything! After I ran up the steep slope another 30m and found no other way across, Ally came back down and we started to look for another route up.

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We eventually decided to climb up the mixed ground to the right of the normal way up to avoid the ice and this turned into somewhat of a challenge. The above photo shows the way we went up in red and Ally down climbing the way we didn’t feel would be easy going up. The route in red we took was harder than the exit couloir on the Cosmiques Arete and coupled with loose powder snow and no protection it felt like AD or even D grade, and for some reason I went up first, clearing the snowy ledges as I went. Next time ill send Ally up first!

Once we were through this mixed ground and onto the main ridge it went quick and it was pretty easy going.

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Following the obvious ridge to the left of the rocks you follow a series of snow slopes and small mixed steps to come to a short but steep rock move up to the summit ridge.

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Me coming towards the short rock section. Photo Ally Hurst

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Ally freeing it up the upper rock section, Some tricky moves to make without a rope!

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Once over the rock section there was some more mixed ground and snow ridges to get to the summit. Ally is one step away from the summit here, with the Aiguille Vert to his right.

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Me following Ally on to the final summit ridge with the Aiguille Rouges  and Mont Buet behind. Photo Ally Hurst

After reaching the summit there are two ways down. In the summer me and John Vincent rappeled down the north face with 3 50m raps. With no rope Ally and I had to reverse the whole route, Down climbing in soft sugary snow was somewhat precarious but we made quick time.

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Me down climbing the upper section. Photo Ally Hurst

We had no problems and then when we came to the section of ice above the Bergschrund I went down first kicking in big steps in the snow until we got to the ice then it was front points only for the last 20m.

After getting past this section we were down and back at our skis within 25 minutes. Getting our skis back on we headed down the north face towards the upper slopes of the Bochard and found some nice sections of soft snow, then down some steepish couloirs we had some nice chaulky snow to finish.

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Me skiing half a mile away from Ally. Photo Ally Hurst

All together another great day climbing and skiing up at Les Grand Montets. Some powder would be nice now! Thanks to Ally for the company!

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Argentiere Glacier Ski Tour, Conditions and La Sportiva Spectre

We have had no new snow here in Chamonix for over two weeks so Looking for something good to ski is out of the question. Alex was keen to get out and do something and suggested Petit Viking at the top end of the Argentiere glacier. Reading up on the climb it appears that the bergschrund is near impossible to cross so we looked at other possible routes up that way. The Charlet route on Mont Dolent looked like something that would be possible for me with my level of climbing and It also is on a mountain that has been on my list for a while now. Mont Dolent shares its summit with France, Italy and Switzerland.

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Leaving Grand Montets Lognon station just before noon we headed up towards the bottom of the glacier and found a well run in track that would lead us up the right bank of the glacier towards the Argentiere refuge.

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Negotiating some parts of the moraine with skis was tricky and we had our skis off a couple of times, as it was too icy.

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Looking up the Glacier with the refuge behind the first moraine bank on the left and Mont Dolent at the back centre of the photo

Reaching the refuge about 3pm we had made good time and had enough time to go and play on some ice with our new boots.

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Alex has new Dynafit TLT6 and I have La Sportiva Spectres. We were both looking for a boot that was lighter than our current tech boots and something that we could use to climb with also.

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I had bought my boots the day before from FootWorks and was keen to get a good test out of them. Overall skinned about 10km, climbed a small free pitch of mellow ice and skied over 10km back to town on a windblown glacier and 700m of pistes. The boots were great overall. The had a bit of work done to them when I had them fitted to improve the fit on the last as they pinched, something which has been mentioned in other reviews. They felt good climbing in walk mode with the top two buckles open and the power strap still tight. I found that the power strap could stay on the whole time you are skinning too. I went to Grand montets yesterday and skied over 7000m of vertical on nice firm pistes, they performed better than my old Dynafit Zzeros.

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After another sleepless night in a refuge we set off just before 5 to go and climb the route. Both very tired but heading up the glacier steadily we reached the route just after 7. Skinning up there in the dark was amazing, It was very clear and still and the snow being firm made the going easy.

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The route runs up the gully that tops out to the right of the summit.

At the bottom of the route we could see that it was not in good condition. The right hand gully was very dry and what was there didn’t look good. The left hand gully was a grade harder and looked slightly better, although what we could see looked ok but we were not sure of what was above it and we were uncertain if it was possible to rappel the route which was a big concern for us from the beginning.

After all this effort we decided to go home! We were umming and arring for a good half hour in the shade and getting very cold and loosing psyche quickly, add to that I noticed my crampon was broken! Now all we had to do was ski the 8/10km back down this relatively flat windblown crusty glacier. This was not fun.

I managed to snap a couple of photos of the Droits and Courtes to show current conditions for those who want to climb them.

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After failing up the Le Tour glacier a few weeks ago I see these outings as training sessions and at least this time I got a good testing out of my new boots. With this good weather set to continue here in Chamonix I should hopefully get out and do something over the weekend and climb a route for a change.