Contamine-Mazeaud, Triangle du Tacul

Relatively straight forward and easy climbing can be found just 30 minutes from the Aiguille du Midi. The Triangle du Tacul offers many routes of differing grades and can be found in good condition all year round. Last year I climbed the Chere Couloir and the Contmine-Grissole so the next obvious route was the Contamine-Mazeaud.

Mostly a 60 degree snow slope this route offers varied climbing with great views back towards the Aig. du Midi and looking down the Vallee Blanche. Failing to climb this route on Friday due to high winds I went back up yesterday with Tim and we were quick down the arete, reaching the bottom of the route by 8am. After pitching the first 70/80 degree ice pitches we moved together until we hit the easy mixed ground so we could change the lead. Reaching the summit of the triangle in under 4 hours we then abseiled down 120meters onto the Tacul north face and then walked the normal route back to the Midi, Taking just over 6 hours from bin to bin.

The climbing was superb with good ice and firm snow up the central slope which made trail breaking a joy. These quick routes are great for days where the weather is deteriorating in the afternoon. Get there quick while the boot pack is still in.

Contamine-Grisolle, Tacul Ski descent

Contamine-Grisolle. II AD. 350m

Initially I wanted to go up and climb this route on the Monday with the intention of skiing powder on the North Face of the Tacul. However when checking the webcams on Monday morning at 6:30am you could see nothing but cloud so we decided to bail on that idea looking at Tuesdays forecast we thought it would be a much better option.

Rising early on Tuesday there was some cloud visable from the valley floor but upon viewing the webcams and seeing no cloud up high I was straight on the phone to Emily and arranged to meet at the Aiguille du Midi at 7:30.

We were at the top by 8:30 after a slight delay and down the arête with our skis on by 8:45.

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Skiing from half way down the arête we already had some nice powder turns with just over 6” of fresh snow. Skis on our feet made the approach to the base of the triangle very quick and we had our skis on our back and crampons on by 9am.

The start of the Contamine-Grisolle is on the far left of the Triangle behind the lowest rock spur.

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To start there is a 150m 50’ slope to climb before you hit the first rock step and mixed gully.

Emily climbing the lower snow slopes before the first rock step.

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The first mixed gully was easy to protect and we moved together up it fairly quickly, we were slower than other groups but they didn’t have 188cm planks of wood on their rucksack, which made negotiating some of the narrow trickier sections of mixed quite a delicate operation.

A couple of hours in and the wind had picked up and it was really cold, struggling to keep my hands warm I was in and out of hot-aches and cursing a lot!

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There was a lot of mixed ground in the middle of the climb then a few snow slopes that had changed into bullet hard ice in places, which made moving very precarious and slow going. We tried to place protection as much as we could but there were some places where it was not possible so extra care had to be taken.

The exit mixed gully was knackered, a combination of little or no ice and what was there would break easily or was slushy, this coupled with little protection made the last pitch take a while and we were both pretty tired by this point.

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Finally on to the ridgeline and a small mixed climb to the summit slopes.

The wind on these exposed top slopes was blistering and we tried to make a quick pace to get some relief but the altitude and our tiredness made the last 200m very hard. As we had both summated the Tacul in previous weeks we decided to just head down without topping out as by this point it was not looking like we were going to make last bin.

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Above the clouds on the summit slopes to Mont-Blanc du Tacul, with Mont Maudit on the left and the Dome de Gouter ahead.

We walked down the the lower ridge of the Tacul before putting our skis on as the snow was heavily wind affected and didn’t make for good skiing.Watching skiers come down the north face of the Tacul on our ascent we could see some great snow and some nice big powder turns, this is what kept us going throughout the climb. The ski down was amazing, and not just for the end of June! Nice powder and so much fresh to be had as only about 3-5 skiers had been down.

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We made a quick descent of the Tacul and tried to carry as much speed as we could off the bottom so we had less walking to do back up the arête. It was hard going because of the long hard day we had but we just made it to last bin, a couple minutes late but we were on it!

Thanks to Emily for another fantastic day Climbing and Skiing, and another Epic!

Chèré Couloir – Mont Blanc Du Tacul

After coming back from the UK on the 15th I was keen to start some alpine climbs. Going up the Midi on Sat 18th and being put off by howling winds and cloud I decided to give it a miss, and then with over a foot of snow falling at 3800m it was definitely  a no! The following Monday we saw there was some good weather but I only had until 1:30pm to do anything because of work so decided to ski Grand Envers which turned out to be really good considering it is nearing the end of May.

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After skiing Monday with Alistair we decided that because the weather the following day would not allow us to ski again, despite there being a couple of feet of snow up there now, we would aim for the Chèré Couloir on the Tuesday.

It was another work day for me but I managed to change with work and start at 3:20am and then have my second pick up at 6:10pm, this would give us all day for the climb, which we needed!

Tuesday morning we met up at the Midi at about 9 with the first lift going up at 9:30. Walking out on to the arete at 10 there were no tracks going down and alot of fresh snow, this already started to slow us down. After some whiteout navigating we arrived at the start of the climb at 12:00 with only two people just starting the 3rd pitch, there was so much snow!

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My 100m trail breaking, with Ally doing the rest, as usual!

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Just approaching the start, The Chèré Couloir is the obvious Ice route up the centre of the photo. Difficulty D 200m

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Ally on the second pitch.

The conditions were excellent, with really good ice and snow for climbing. We didnt place any protection until I led the last pitch, just clipping on to a couple of pieces of cord on the side of the route.

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Me leading my first big alpine route, I placed a couple of screws on this pitch as it was near vertical. Throughout the climb we were being pelted by powder snow avalanches and big spin drifts which resulted in us being very cold all day long and experiencing my first climbing hot aches and screaming a little!

After reaching the top of this last pitch it was on with the down jacket to wait for Ally to top out and start the decent.

To get back down you rappel the same couloir using the bolted belays on the left hand side, opposite side from the accent. There were a total of four raps with the fourth taking you back over the bergschrund way below the start of the climb.

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Ally on the first of four rappels.

When we got back down over the schrund we had noticed that our track that we put into the climb had now completely disappeared and that we would have to put another one in to get back to the Midi. We had 2 1/2 hours until the last bin at 5:30pm left so we thought this would be plenty of time. Once again we only had a rough idea of where to go as it was still a complete whiteout with only the Cosmiques Arete coming into view every so often. The snow was even deeper than the morning and the going was slow and tiring.

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The snow was over Ally’s knee and he isn’t a short man!

As we slowly got closer to the Midi we could start to hear the announcements over the tannoy that the last departure was in 30mins, then 15, then 10. At this point I rang the office to say that I might not be able to make my pick up at 6:10! This didn’t go down very well, and with a call back almost straight away saying that there was no one else to work it I knew we had to dig deep and get up the arete quickly, this was very hard work as there was no track in and well over a foot of snow. We made it to the top and into the cave at 5:28 and with a quick dash we just made the bin with moments to spare. Down the cable car and into my van and straight to work. This was a very long, very good and very challenging day of Alpine Climbing. Although there was a great deal of suffering throughout the day I loved every minute of it!