Northern Mountain Sport / Blog / More Ice and Winter Climbing in Chamonix

More Ice and Winter Climbing in Chamonix

The Alps are experiencing a period of amazing weather at the moment. Whilst we haven't seen fresh snow for a good long while now the high mountains are in fantastic shape for climbing. Nick and Tim are with me for an 8 day hit and it's hard not to get excited by all the options! We drove to the Col de Montets (near the Swiss border) where ice readily forms and there are a stack of accessible routes. We climbed 'Les Torrents' at about WI4 before rapping the line. The other routes: Colonne and Micro Goulotte are also in great shape. We planned for a shortish route as we were headed into Italy that evening to catch the last telepherique up to the Torino Hut. This Italian Alpine Club run hut is a far cry from the 'new' summer one though it has the same guardians. The winter hut is way smaller but very much better and friendlier (and cheaper I think?).

The next morning we headed out into the massif with our newly aquired snow shoes. Suffice to say I prefer to ski but these are definitlely better than walking without (you would probably sink to your thighs). We headed over to the North Face of the Grand Capucin, a peak normally known for its high quality rock routes. It actually has a great North Face and we climbed a gem called 'Laratoune' III 4+. Matt Helliker had put me onto this line and it is typical icy mixed climbing, never desperate and maybe Scottish IV/V. It has around 7 pitches before topping out on the West notch of the Capucin where you can complete the circumnavigation and rap the Aigulettes Coulouir back to your snow shoes.

Another typical Italian meal later (cheesy peas for Nick) and we headed out again. This time we went to climb the classic North Face of the Tour Ronde (D). A couple in the hut tried to sneak away before us (I had told them we were doing the route) by getting an earlier breakfast so I was mightily pleased to see them take the wrong line to the base of the route. We snuck in ahead and quickly despatched the bergschrund and never really saw them again. The route is in good condition. Snowy but not too much and the crux is squeaky neve. The snowpack is now really faceting (transforming to granular, sugar like crystals) however so you can't trust every foot placement. The atmosphere on the face was good: increasing exposure as we gained height. The finishing ridge is spectacularly exposed with a drop down the North Face to your left and the Gervasutti Coulouir to your right. We chose to ignore both and walk in slow and steady manner.

We finished the route in good time and caught the last telepherique back to Italy and on to Chamonix. Tomorrow will be spent resting, planning and cacheing bivvi kit and food for a grand finale!

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