Northern Mountain Sport / Blog / Late Season Climbing in the Alps

Late Season Climbing in the Alps

It has been a long and memorable season in the Alps this year and I have many personal highlights; I always enjoy exploring new corners of the massif and it's been great to share that with so many this year. My alpine work is slowing now with many of the lifts closing and huts becoming 'winter rooms' only; with conditions remaining so good though there is still plenty to go and do.

After climbing on the Tacul with Kevin we headed back over to Italy and that side of the massif. From an early lift we climbed the ever popular Aiguille d'Entreves. This excellent training peak is easily accessed from the Helbronner lift and gives an airy and sometimes technical climb (and descent) at about PD+/AD-. We then headed over to the Torino hut which is currently under new guardianship - and I have to say what a great and welcoming group of people. The new guardian is a Courmayeur guide and is worth talking to and his staff are super friendly, all the ingredients for a good hut.

We had an earlyish start the next day and headed to the uber classic Rochefort arete. This is one of the Alps' finest snow aretes and you have to get conditions and timing right otherwise an enjoyable outing becomes a terrifying ordeal. Luckily for us we had fantastic conditions underfoot and made good time tip toeing along the precipitous crest to a fitting finale on the Aiguille de Rochefort (only just a 4000'er).

I've also spent the last week with Ivan who hadn't climbed in the Chamonix area before. We also started on the Italian side and climbed the Aiguille Marbrees as our warm up peak. A little easier than the Entreves it nevertheless gives a good outing at about PD and starts the acclimatisation process. There has been a big rockfall on this peak this season and the descent was badly affected. It has now been rebolted by the Torino guardian and goes a little further 'left'.

We caught an early lift up the Aiguille du Midi the next day and set forth for the mixed mecca of the Triangle du Tacul. As ever we kept an open mind as to objectives and as the Chere was mobbed and the Contamine Mazeaud had another team on it we headed to the Contamine Grisolle. This is on the left edge of the triangle and consists of open face climbing interspersed with short mixed pitches and an icy chimney. We pitched and moved together up much of it racing the ominous looking weather. Finally the weather overtook us about 3/4 up the face and we came to the point where you either abseil the face or climb to the summit. A flurry of graupel/hail had me reaching for my ever present supply of tat from the depths of my rucksack and we set off downwards reaching the rimaye a couple of hours later- as ever I ended up with more tat than I started with.

After another pleasant Cosmique hut experience (Salmon again!) we climbed the Cosmique Ridge back to the cable car station. The highlight for me was overtaking a young Fench guide though I think Ivan enjoyed all the attention from the tourists at the top of the route.

Lastly, we headed up to the Albert Premiere refuge. It's not guarded at this time of the season so I expected a quiet, solitary experince. Actually it's undergoing major refurbishment and all the workers are still up there, some of whom are dossing in the winter room. It's not a clean place at the moment and it won't be getting better anytime soon. We had an OK time however (luckily we took a stove) and set off next morning at dawn. I had wanted to climb a technical route on the Aiguille du Tour but a few things conspired against us; the snow was saturated and unfrozen after a cloudy night and the access couloirs to my preferred objectives I thought looked in poor condition. Rather than commit to these we decided upon heading over the col superior de Tour and climbing the 'voie normale' which actually was great to have to ourselves in such good condition.

Lastly, I've been climbing above the col de Montet a couple of times at les Chezerys and the Aiguilette d'Argentiere. At this time of year as they face south you can climb in a t shirt with an unparalleled vista. There are a few new lines which have been bolted which look OK (quite slabby) but we climbed the longest route there (Aubade) which gives 9 pitches or so on good rock.

I'm now off to the UK for BMG commitments then Grenoble for the International Snow Science Workshops, finally earning a break in the Italian Riviera the week after!


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