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in the Mont Blanc Massif. Modern alpinism is a multi-faceted activity for which the Mont Blanc Massif is the perfect playground. Classic routes to which every mountaineer can aspire are surrounded by the towering rock faces, huge mixed walls, precipitous ice shields, serrated ridges and narrow gullies that define the massif’s harder climbs. In order to attain these prestigious summits via the most interesting itineraries, this book presents a modern selection of 100 must-do routes, ranging from historic classics to more recent lines, described in order of increasing difficulty. Author and mountain guide Philippe Batoux provides a comprehensive account of each route, outlining its history and atmosphere and giving all the technical information needed to climb it. These written descriptions are complemented by photo diagrams and detailed topos. In addition, every route is illustrated with superbly evocative photos that make best use of the book’s large format. The routes were chosen for the quality of the rock, the reliability of the in-situ gear, the beauty of the surroundings, the prestige of the summit and the enthusiasm the route inspires. Preference has been given to routes in the modern idiom, whether they are gullies that only major summits. There are routes here for all tastes, from famous classics such as the Cosmiques Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi, the American Direct on the Petit Dru, the Whymper Couloir on the Aiguille Verte, the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit to more recent gems such as J‘t’ai Conquis, J‘t’Adore on Pointe Lépiney, No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses and Le Vent du Dragon on the Aiguille du Midi.

Philippe Batoux is an exceptional mountaineer who has travelled the globe seeking out the world’s greatest climbs. He works as a mountain guide and as an instructor at France’s national ski and mountaineering school in Chamonix. He has climbed all the routes he describes, often in the company of today’s most talented mountain photographers.

MONT BLANC PHILIPPE BATOUX Foreword by Patrick Gabarrou

THE FINEST ROUTES

form in winter, difficult free climbs on high-altitude cliffs, long ridge scrambles or traverses of

MONT BLANC

Mont Blanc – The Finest Routes is a collection of the 100 must-do climbing routes

FSC LOGO

THE FINEST ROUTES

Rock, Snow, Ice and Mixed


For my father. Acknowledgements I would like to thank all the friends who helped me produce Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes for contributing to the choice of climbs and for casting a critical eye over the route descriptions. Jean Annequin, Michel Béal, Stéphane Benoist, Marc Céreuil, François Couder, Michel Coranotte, Jonathan Crison, François Damilano, Lionel Daudet, Frédéric Ducruet, Micheline Faure, Patrice Folliet, Olivier François, Claude Gardien, Yan Giezendanner, Marie Guiguet, Jean-François Hagenmuller, Didier Jourdain, Erwann Lelann, Alexis Mallon, François Marsigny, Jean-François Mercier, Antoine Pêcher, Paul Petzl, Benoît Peyronnard, Michel Piola, Christophe Profit, Rénald Quatrehomme, Sébastien Ratel, David Ravanel, Mario Ravello, José Ribas, Benoît Robert, Pascal Sombardier, Rémi Thivel, Thomas Vialletet. I would like to thank artist-photographer Pascal Tournaire for the numerous photographs he has contributed to the book. I would also like to thank Patrick Gabarrou for his help in compiling this book and, especially, for all the routes he has produced. Patrick is one of the pioneers who began exploring the most obvious gullies in the Mont Blanc Massif more than 20 years ago. Today, many of the routes he created have become classics. As well as being a visionary player in the evolution of ice and mixed climbing, he has opened many exceptional rock routes, such as Divine Providence and the Superdirect on the Red Pillar of the Brouillard, which have become benchmarks of modern mountaineering. The quality of Patrick’s new routes is reflected in the fact that he is responsible for 10% of the itineraries included in Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes. My thanks also go to all my sponsors for their continuing support and for helping me realise my projects: Béal, Cébé, Millet and Petzl. Thank you to Sophie and Magali Batoux, who put up with my absences and the many hours spent in front of the computer.

Cover photo: José Ribas, hands flat on the rock, balances along the delicate traverse below the roof on pitch five of the Bonatti–Ghigo Route (Grand Capucin). In the background, the vertical and aggressive lines of the Trident du Tacul contrast with the gentle contours of the Combe Maudite. Photo: Philippe Batoux. Jacket inset photos: Top: A few delicate steps between the Aiguille and Col de Bionnassay. Photo: Philippe Batoux. Middle: Shiva Lingam is in condition at the beginning of the season. Photo: Philippe Batoux. Bottom: Approaching the top of the first Clocheton. Photo: Philippe Batoux. First published in France by Éditions Glénat, under the title ‘Mont-Blanc: Les Plus Belles Courses’. Copyright © 2012, Éditions Glénat, 37 rue Servan – BP 177 38008, Grenoble, France. Project editor: Pascal Sombardier Editor: Micheline Faure This English language edition first published in 2013 in the UK and Europe by Vertebrate Publishing. Vertebrate Publishing Crescent House, 228 Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8UT. www.v-publishing.co.uk Copyright © 2012, Éditions Glénat. ISBN: 978-1-906148-64-5 All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanised, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of the publisher. Translated from the French by Paul Henderson (traduction@paulhenderson.fr). Produced by Vertebrate Graphics Ltd, based on an original design by Éditions Glénat. – www.v-graphics.co.uk


Mont BLANC Philippe Batoux Foreword by Patrick Gabarrou

The Finest Routes

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The 100 Finest, 2013 Mission impossible! Given the number of quality climbs that exist today, ‘mission impossible’ would seem a highly appropriate subtitle for this book. Gaston Rébuffat’s 100 Finest Routes was a milestone. Despite the constraint of being restricted to just 100 climbs, Rébuffat’s book beautifully encapsulated mountaineering in the Mont Blanc Massif, highlighting the incredible diversity of routes to be found in this relatively small area and inspiring innumerable climbers to dream of new heights, to learn, to progress, to gradually ‘tick’ the famous numbers one by one. Published in 1973, when climbers such as René Desmaison and Walter Bonatti and North America’s big wall specialists were taking mountaineering to new levels, it provided a vivid portrait of alpinism at the time. This period also saw the emergence of new techniques which would revolutionise all aspects of mountaineering — rock, ice and mixed — opening up vast new possibilities in a massif that, for a while at least, had seemed fully worked out. As a result of these developments, the last few decades have seen a veritable explosion of new climbs of all styles. Tackling the abundant gullies, icefalls and blank walls that abound in Mont Blanc’s ‘enchanted garden’, these modern routes are a fitting complement to the more traditional lines showcased in Rébuffat’s 100 Finest. Given the effect of these changes on modern alpinism, a new compendium illustrating the current state of play would seem to be long overdue. But how could one person produce such a compendium without being crushed by the enormity of the task, especially if they were to stay within the impossibly narrow confines of the magic figure ‘100’? One of the area’s most brilliant, knowledgeable and multi-talented mountaineers has risen to the challenge. A connoisseur of all the advances in mountaineering that have occurred during the last 40 years, Philippe’s experience climbing big-walls shows he is not easily daunted by long and difficult enterprises! For this book, he has adopted the same basic philosophy as the great Gaston, which was not to produce a comprehensive inventory of the best climbs, but to encourage mountaineers to discover, in every sense of the word, the varied facets of the Mont Blanc Massif. To this end, he has extended the book’s horizons to incorporate all areas, styles and seasons. With so many great climbs to choose from it is easy to imagine what a formidable task it must have been to decide which routes to include, even if a number of the climbs, both classic and modern, would be automatic choices on anyone’s list. It is also easy to imagine how hard it is to classify such incredibly varied routes by order of difficulty. Well done, Philippe! Naturally, it is tempting to draw up a list of the other gems that dot the massif like so many shining jewels and which deserve a place in this book. But their absence preserves the element of mystery that fires the imagination, excites curiosity and ensures that quiet corners will continue to exist for those who like to explore and get off the beaten track. May this book spark ambitions, strengthen passions and inspire dreams… Patrick Gabarrou

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The elegant Rochefort Ridge

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CONTENTS INTROdUCTION [p. 8]

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK [p. 13]

PHOTO CREdITS [p. 216]

01 mEr DE GlAcE [p. 16] Introduction to ice climbing

17 tour rouGE [p. 43] Le Marchand de Sable

32 AiGuillE Du chArDonnEt [p. 70] Migot Spur

02 clochEr DE PlAnPrAZ [p. 17] Cocher–Cochon — Traverse of the Clochers and Clochetons de Planpraz

18 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 45] Contamine Routes [north face of the Triangle du Tacul]

33 PointE lAchEnAl [p. 72] Contamine Route

03 PointE lAchEnAl [p. 19] Traverse of the Ridge

19 AiGuillE Du miDi AiGuillE Du PlAn [p. 47] Midi–Plan Traverse

04 AiGuillE D’EntrÈVEs [p. 21] South-west — North-west Traverse 05 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 22] Cosmiques Ridge 06 DÔmEs DE miAGE [p. 24] West–East Traverse 07 thE ÉcAnDiEs [p. 26] Traverse 08 AiGuillE crouX [p. 27] Ottoz Route 09 GEnDArmE 3009m oF thE PEiGnE [p. 28] Papillons Ridge 10 AiGuillE Du GEnÉPi [p. 30] Mort de Rire 11 tour VErtE [p. 31] Le Piège — Retour à la Montagne 12 ArGEntiÈrE GlAciEr, riGht bAnK [p. 32] Le Grand Bleu — Shiva Lingam

20 AiGuillE D’ArGEntiÈrE [p. 49] Flèche Rousse Ridge 21 Gros roGnon [p. 51] Pas d’Agonie Gullies

34 monts rouGEs DE triolEt [p. 74] Mal Partiti 35 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 75] Vent du Dragon 36 AiGuillEs DorÉEs [p. 77] East–West Traverse 37 thE courtEs [p. 79] West–East Traverse

22 PrEmiÈrE PointE DEs nAntillons [p. 52] Bienvenue au George V

38 thE cisEAuX [p. 81] Troussier Route — Le Festin de Babeth

23 AiGuillE VErtE [p. 54] Whymper Couloir

39 thE minArEt [p. 83] South-east Spur — Versant Satanique

24 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 55] Albinoni–Gabarrou and Modica–Noury Gullies [East Face]

40 AiGuillE Du PlAn [p. 85] East Ridge or Ryan Ridge

25 PointE lAchEnAl [p. 57] M6 Solar — Pellissier Route 26 PointE Du Domino [p. 59] Petit Viking 27 roGnon Du PlAn [p. 60] Le Fil à Plomb

41 notch bEtWEEn PointE FArrAr AnD thE AiGuillE cArrÉE [p. 88] Ravanel–Frendo Gully [North Face of the Grands Montets Ridge] 42 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 89] Super Dupont 43 mont blAnc [p. 91] Tournette Spur

13 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 34] Baquet–Rébuffat Route

28 GEnDArmE 3078m oF thE PEiGnE [p. 62] Contamine–Vaucher Route

44 PointE 3038m oF thE trÉlAPortE [p. 93] California Dreams

14 tour ronDE [p. 36] North Face

29 tour ronDE [p. 64] Rébuffat Gully

45 GrÉPon [p. 95] Grépon–Mer de Glace

15 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 38] Chéré Couloir

30 mont blAnc [p. 66] Royal Traverse: Dômes de Miage, Aiguille de Bionnassay and Mont Blanc

46 YElloW toWEr oF thE AiGuillE DE blAitiÈrE [p. 97] Fidel Fiasco

31 mont mAuDit [p. 68] Kuffner Ridge — South-east Ridge

47 ArGEntiÈrE GlAciEr, lEFt bAnK [p. 99] Nuit Blanche — Tequila Stuntman

16 mont blAnc [p. 40] Normal Route via the Bosses Ridge and Traverse of the Three Mont Blancs

6 MONT BLANC, The fiNesT rOuTes

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48 PointE ADolPhE rEY [p. 100] Le Corsaire 49 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 102] Frendo Spur 50 PointE lÉPinEY [p. 104] J’t’ai Conquis, J’t’Adore 51 ArGEntiÈrE GlAciEr, lEFt bAnK [p. 105] Bringing Home the Bacon 52 thE DroitEs [p. 107] East–West Traverse 53 GrAnDEs JorAssEs [p. 109] Rochefort–Jorasses Traverse 54 PrEmiÈrE PointE DEs nAntillons [p. 112] Au Nom de la Rose

66 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE WAlKEr [p. 135] Hirondelles Ridge 67 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 138] Supercouloir

86 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE hÉlÈnE [p. 178] La Belle Hélène

69 mont blAnc [p. 142] Innominata Ridge

87 PEtitEs JorAssEs [p. 180] Omega

70 triAnGlE oF thE AiGuillE VErtE [p. 144] Frendo–Ravanel Route — Gérald Durand Route

88 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE croZ [p. 182] Croz Spur — Slovenian Route

71 AiGuillE Du miDi AiGuillE DE blAitiÈrE [p. 146] Traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles 72 GEnDArmE VErt oF thE AiGuillE DE roc [p. 149] Ice in the Sky

56 AiGuillE Du miDi [p. 115] Eugster Couloir Direct

73 triDEnt Du tAcul [p. 150] Les Intouchables

57 chAnDEllE Du tAcul [p. 116] Bonatti–Gallieni Route — Tabou

74 PointE GuGliErminA [p. 152] Boccalatte–Gervasutti Route

58 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 118] Traverse of the Aiguilles du Diable

75 GrAnDE rochEusE [p. 154] Too Late to Say I’m Sorry

59 GrAnD cAPucin [p. 120] Bonatti–Ghigo — Capucines Direct [East Face]

76 PEtit Dru [p. 156] Allain–Leininger Route [North Face]

60 loWEr buttrEssEs oF mont mAuDit [p. 124] Lacrima degli Angeli — Fantasia per Ghiacciatore [South-east Face]

77 AiGuillE noirE DE PEutErEY [p. 159] Ratti Direct

62 PEtit Dru [p. 127] South Couloir 63 mont blAnc Du tAcul [p. 128] Macho Couloir Direct 64 AiGuillE noirE DE PEutErEY [p. 130] South Ridge 65 GEnDArmE 3190m oF thE moinE [p. 133] Sale Athée

85 thE DroitEs [p. 176] North Face Routes

68 GrAnD cAPucin [p. 140] Voyage Selon Gulliver

55 thE courtEs [p. 113] Swiss Route

61 WEst notch oF thE tour Du col Du rEQuin [p. 126] Ice is Nice

84 col DEs PÈlErins [p. 174] Rébuffat–Terray Route

78 PEtit Dru [p. 161] American Direct and North Face Finish 79 AiGuillE Du tAcul [p. 164] Stupenda

89 PEtit Dru [p. 185] North Couloir 90 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE WAlKEr [p. 187] Walker Spur 91 mont blAnc [p. 190] Hypercouloir of the Brouillard 92 mont blAnc [p. 192] Peuterey Integral 93 mont blAnc [p. 195] Central Pillar of Frêney 94 mont blAnc [p. 197] Red Pillar of the Brouillard Superdirect, Gabarrou–Long Route 95 AiGuillE DEs PÈlErins [p. 200] Beyond Good and Evil 96 AiGuillE sAns nom [p. 202] Gabarrou–Silvy Route 97 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE croZ [p. 204] No Siesta

80 PEtit clochEr Du PortAlEt [p. 166] État de Choc — Ave Caesar

98 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE WAlKEr [p. 208] Serge Gousseault Route [North Face]

81 AiGuillE Du Fou [p. 168] American Route

99 GrAnD PiliEr D’AnGlE [p. 210] Divine Providence

82 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, south FAcE oF PointE WAlKEr [p. 170] Hypercouloir

100 GrAnDEs JorAssEs, PointE WAlKEr [p. 213] Little Big Men

83 GrAnDs chArmoZ [p. 172] Merkl–Welzenbach Route

THE 101ST lAFAillE routE on thE PEtit Dru [p. 215]

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01 ❘

Mer de Glace [approx. 1800m] Introduction to ice climbing

Difficulty: From easy to extreme, depending on the route Time: 40 min to get to the beginners’ climbs/1 hr to get to the moulins Gear: Crampons, ice axes, ice screws Period: Summer for the beginners’ climbs, autumn for the moulins Access: Montenvers station

Right Learning how to front point. Below Steep climbing in the tunnels in the tongue of the Mer de Glace.

Twenty years ago, the Bossons Glacier was a popular place for initiating beginners into the art of ice climbing. Unfortunately, the glacier has retreated so far up the valley that its tongue now lies on very steep slopes that are exposed to serac fall. As a result, climbing on the Bossons Glacier has become unacceptably dangerous and the Mer de Glace is now considered the best venue for learning basic crampon and ice axe techniques. However, more experienced alpinists also come to the Mer de Glace because the moulins that form within the glacier are excellent places for climbing very steep ice. Mountaineers must master the art of using ten-point crampons, and practicing on an easy glacier is an essential step in the learning process. The techniques beginners learn will depend on the types of route they are preparing for. Because most accidents occur on easy ground, and generally when descending, it is extremely important to feel at home when walking down steep ice slopes. Moulins — shafts in the ice that carry water directly from the surface to the bottom of the glacier — form just below the confluence of the Mer de Glace and the Leschaux Glacier. In the autumn, the colder weather stops the flow from the glacial streams but the magnificent vertical chasms in the ice remain. These are perfect places for practising front-pointing techniques but the climbing is often steep and strenuous and the loud cracking sounds produced by the highly compressed ice can be heart stopping. A single ice-axe blow can sometimes crack the ice for dozens of metres, which is quite stressful. The glacier tongue also contains ‘caves’ in which it is possible to climb overhanging ice bathed in surrealistic blue light. On severely overhanging walls it is impossible to place an ice screw with one hand, so routes are first climbed using ice screws for aid and then climbed free using the previously placed screws for protection. The teeth on the end of ice axe blades are essential, as the axe is only held in position by the torque between the tip and the top of the blade.

A pp r o a c h From Montenvers station (1913m), go down the ladders to the Mer de Glace. Go up the glacier towards the ladders that lead to the Charpoua hut. The depressions in the glacier just upslope from the ladders are perfect for practicing classic 10-point crampon and ice axe techniques. To get to the moulins, go up the Mer de Glace towards the Leschaux Glacier. The moulins usually form just below the confluence of the Leschaux Glacier and the Mer de Glace, generally on the right bank. For the caves in the glacier tongue, follow the path towards the snack bar at Les Mottets, then turn right onto the path down to the glacier.

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02 ❘

CLOCHER DE PLANPRAZ [2428m] AIGUILLES ROUGES

Cocher–Cochon Traverse of the Clochers and Clochetons de Planpraz Rock climbing in the Aiguilles Rouges has experienced a renaissance with the creation of dozens of modern, bolted routes. Boasting easy access and unbeatable views of the Mont Blanc Massif, these new climbs are of moderate difficulty and well protected. Climbing Cocher–Cochon and then continuing along the original traverse is an excellent way of combining one of the modern routes with a more traditional climb. The first section is fully bolted and follows a line that was dictated merely by the first ascensionists’ desire to link the best climbing. The second part of the route, the traverse, is only partly bolted and was done with the aim of finding the easiest passage. It is a very instructive route for practising a number of rope manoeuvres. For example, you will have to untie from the rope at three points along the traverse in order to set up abseils — unless you know how to tie a mooring hitch. A party with good rope technique should not take more than three hours to complete the traverse. As far as I am aware, it is the only route in the area that requires a Tyrolean traverse. To rig the Tyrolean, throw a loop of rope around a T-shaped peg between the first and second Clocheton, and then pull the rope back through once you are across.

Access: Planpraz cable car

Cocher–Cochon Difficulty: I 6a max. 5b obl. Vertical height: 250m Time: 45 min for the approach/3 hrs for the route/35 min to get back to the cable car Fixed gear: Bolts Gear: 11 quickdraws First ascent: Morgane and Jérémy Franc, Manu Méot and Christophe Mussat, 19 August 2000 Summit of the Clocher 2412m B10 junction with the traverse 25m

Cocher–Cochon

5a

Col du Clocher

5c

A pp r o a c h

6a

From the top of the Planpraz cable car, follow the Col Cornu path (15 min). Go up the first cirque on the left, then follow the narrow path on the right towards the south-east spur of the Clocher de Planpraz.

5c B9

Approaching the top of the first Clocheton; the classic route climbs the crack, the modern route follows the crest of the pillar.

4b B8

5a 5c slab

B7

3b

B6

100m

B5

12m abseil (north face)

4a

B4

5c B3

4c B2

5b B1

4b Cocher–Cochon Planpraz 35 min

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Tyrolean between the first and second Clochetons.

Clochers Clochetons Traverse

Chimney–crack on the third Clocheton.

Difficulty: I 4c max. 4b obl. Vertical height: 250m Time: 1 hr for the approach/3 hrs for the route/15 min to get to the Col du Clocher Fixed gear: Partly bolted Gear: Omega Pacific cams – purple, green and yellow, slings, four quickdraws Period: Summer, autumn First ascent: Miss A. Aguisol, J. le Bec, J. and T. de Lépiney, 31 August 1913

Clocher de Plampraz

1st Clocheton

Petit Clocher

Tyrolean

5a

5a

2nd Clocheton 20m

3rd Clocheton

4a

40m

5a 3a

jammed block

Clochers Clochetons Traverse A pp r o a c h From the top of the Planpraz cable car, follow the Col Cornu path (15 min). Go up the first cirque on the left to the saddle to the left of the Clocher de Planpraz (path and cairns, 1 hr). R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n Cross the Col du Clocher onto its the north-west side, then go round a flake to a platform. Climb the slab on the west face of the Clocher (4b), then follow flakes to the south-west ridge. Traverse across the south face to get to a series of cracks. Climb the gradually widening right-hand crack to the top of the Clocher (junction with Cocher-Cochon). After a diagonal abseil (25m) to a wide ledge, go up easy ground (3a) to the Petit Clocher. Abseil (40m) to the foot of the first Clocheton. Climb the crest of the pillar to the summit (5a, pegs). Set up a recoverable Tyrolean, traverse across and climb to the top of the second Clocheton (4a). Abseil (20m) to a vast ledge. Climb a chimney below a jammed block (5a) to get to the summit of the third Clocheton, then climb down the slabs to the east. Follow a faint path to go right round the final gendarme, then move onto the north face. Cross scree slopes to the Col du Clocher.

huge ledge

Descent Abseil down the north face of the Clocher de Planpraz to the notch to the right of the Col du Clocher. Go across easy ground to the Col du Clocher path, which is followed to the cable car station.

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03 â?˜

POINTE LACHENAL [3613m] COL DU MIDI — TACUL

Traverse of the ridge

Mountaineering requires a wide variety of skills that take many years to learn and master. Today, many alpinists begin their careers at climbing walls, so they tend to be good rock climbers and competent at climbing from belay to belay. However, the easier sections of mountaineering routes are always climbed moving together; therefore, the first skills the budding alpinist must learn are how to walk in crampons and how to manage the rope. The Traverse of Pointe Lachenal is a short ridge climb that is perfect for practicing basic rope techniques, such as the different ways of roping up for moving along a ridge, walking on a glacier, crossing a bergschrund and tackling a rock pitch. The slopes are easy angled and can be climbed and descended using ten-point crampons. It is ideal terrain for practicing crampon techniques, moving together, taking in coils round the shoulder and becoming efficient at rope work. Mastering these techniques is essential in order to climb safely on the other routes described in this book. Running from north-east to south-west, the traverse involves alternating sections of snow, ice, mixed ground and rock, during both the ascent and the descent.

Difficulty: ii 1 3c Time: 45 min for the approach/4 hrs for the traverse/1 hr to get back to the Aiguille du Midi Fixed gear: None Gear: 2 ice screws, 3 quickdraws, slings, a few cams Period: All year Access: Aiguille du Midi cable car First ascent: Not known

Mont Blanc du Tacul

Pointe Lachenal Triangle du Tacul

Col du Midi

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The summit ridge of Pointe Lachenal looks as if it is directly below the seracs of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

A pp r o a c h From the top station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, go down to the glacial plateau of the Col du Midi. Take care at the bergschrund, which is generally crossed on the left going down. Go across the Plateau du Midi towards the north-west extremity of Pointe Lachenal (45 min). R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n Cross the bergschrund and go up the first snow or ice slope (35°) to the ridge. Continue along the crest to the top of the second Pointe. Move onto the south face, then abseil (10m) down the north face to the snow slope. Go past a snowy saddle to a loose chimney. Climb the chimney (3c, 40m), then traverse right to climb a 45° snow (or mixed) slope to the summit. From the summit, continue towards Mont Blanc du Tacul and descend the least steep part of the snow slope without going too close to the area below the seracs on the Triangle du Tacul.

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04 ❘

AIGUILLE D’ENTRÈVES [3600m] COMBE MAUDITE

South-west — North-west Traverse

Difficulty: II 1 5a Vertical height: 80m Time: 1 hr from the hut to the Col d’Entrèves/3 hrs for the traverse/40 min to get back to the Col d’Entrèves Tour Ronde

Aiguille de Toule

Aiguille d’Entrèves

Fixed gear: Partly bolted Gear: Omega Pacific cams – green, red and yellow, wires, quickdraws Period: Summer Access: Torino hut (3371m), Italy First ascent: L. Enzenhofer, L.V. Hibbler and R. Weitzenrock, 22 July 1913

Looking across the summit of the Aiguille d’Entrèves to the Peuterey Ridge.

Torino hut

Géant Glacier

The traverse of the Aiguille d’Entrèves is a wonderful beginner’s route in the magnificent setting of the Combe Maudite. A glacier approach is followed by an easy but airy ridge. It is a short route that allows newcomers to mountaineering to practice their rope work on glaciers and a rock ridge. Numerous rock spikes along the ridge can be used as natural runners by placing the rope on the opposite side of the spike to a potential fall. As will quickly become apparent, this protection technique, which was regularly used by earlier generations of climbers, is much quicker than placing cams and quickdraws. ENSA instructors often use this route to train future guides how to belay their clients. Unfortunately, the traverse has now been bolted, destroying some of the teaching value of using natural protection.

A pp r o a c h From the Torino hut, go across to the Col des Flambeaux (5 min), then descend below the Aiguille de Toule. Go up towards the Combe Maudite and then head left up the valley to the Col d’Entrèves (1hr). R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n The traverse starts just to the left of the Col d’Entrèves. Follow the crest of the ridge, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left. Go down the first chimney (3b, 10m) and then up the second (3c, 10m). Continue along the airy ridge and climb a steep wall (5a) to the summit. Descent From the summit, continue eastwards and go through an obvious notch. Go down a corner to a belay on the right. Abseil (50m) to a notch, then move back onto the crest of the ridge and follow it for 100m. When the ridge becomes too jagged, go along the Italian side for two pitches, then move back onto the French side. Go down the snow slopes on the left to the glacier.

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05 ❘

AIGUILLE DU MIDI [3842m]

VALLÉE BLANCHE

Cosmiques Ridge

Difficulty: II 1 3c Vertical height: 200m Time: 1 hr for the approach/3 to 4 hrs for the ridge Gear: 3 quickdraws, slings, a few cams Period: All year Access: Aiguille du Midi cable car First ascent: George and Maxwell Finch, 2 August 1911

The last few metres of the Cosmiques Ridge with the three Mont Blancs in the background.

The Cosmiques Ridge is a magnificent route on some of the best granite in the world. It is one of those rare routes that can be climbed all year round and in almost any conditions. Nothing less than a lightning storm or a level-five avalanche risk can stop you attempting it. The type of climbing will depend on the time of year. At the beginning of the season it is a relatively easy mixed route, mostly on snow and climbed entirely in crampons. At the end of the season, especially if the summer is dry, it can be climbed without touching snow and it won’t be the same route at all. In very snowy winters, the 3c section can be overcome in one long stride! The Aiguille du Midi cable car provides immediate access to the high mountains, freeing climbers from the long walk from the valley floor and whisking them in the blink of an eye to the eternal snows of the glaciers. This easy access and almost instantaneous immersion in the high mountain environment has made the Cosmiques Ridge one of the most classic and most popular routes in the massif. Every step of the climb offers breathtaking views of Mont Blanc, the Tour Ronde, the Dent du Géant, the Triangle du Tacul and the Bossons Glacier, and is sure to inspire dreams of future adventures. Almost the entire ridge can be climbed moving together. Being quite short, it is an ideal route for practicing taking in and letting out coils and for perfecting your rope work.

A pp r o a c h From the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, go down to the glacial plateau of the Col du Midi. Take care at the bergschrund, which is generally crossed on the left going down. Pass below the south face of the Aiguille du Midi, then go up to the Simond shelter and the old cable car station.

Aiguille du Midi section on north face

Simond shelter (winter only)

Vallée Blanche

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R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n Climb the south flank of the ridge, zigzagging between blocks of granite to get to a small pinnacle. Continue along the south side of the ridge to a second pinnacle. Abseil (bolts) and pendulum across (25m) to a ledge and a second abseil (bolts, 25m) down a chimney–gully. Cross the ledge and climb to a peg belay (3a). Go up diagonally rightwards, then descend slightly to a couloir that leads back to the ridge. Traverse right to a ledge system which is followed to the foot of the Gendarme des Cosmiques. Go up the snow slope to the ridge and follow it to the section of 3c climbing (chipped holds). Traverse the crack–ramp rightwards (20m). At the end of the ramp, fork left to gain a comfortable platform. Move onto the north-west face and climb (3c) two pitches (each 25m), often icy, to the top of the ridge. Traverse horizontally for 15m to get to the ladder which leads to the south terrace of the Aiguille du Midi.

Top The fabulous view from the Cosmiques Ridge takes in the summits on the traverse of Mont Blanc, from left to right, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc, the Bosses Ridge, the Dôme du Goûter and the Aiguille du Goûter. Right The snowy step on the ridge below the Gendarme des Cosmiques.

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77 ❘

AIGUILLE NOIRE DE PEUTEREY [3772m] ITALIAN FACE OF MONT BLANC — FRÊNEY BASIN

Ratti Direct

The west face of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey is a vast, complex and extremely impressive cliff, almost 700 metres high and seamed with corners and couloirs. Vittorio Ratti and L. G. Vitali’s first ascent on the eve of World War II was a truly audacious achievement. Their route picks an astute line up the face before directly tackling the very steep summit buttress. Hemmed in by a jumbled web of seracs and pillars, the Frêney Basin feels particularly remote and wild, far from the comforts of civilisation. The rock on the Ratti Direct is generally quite good, except for the section above the snowy ridge in the middle of the face.

Difficulty: IV 6a A0. A big route with a complex descent Vertical height: 700m from the foot of the route to the summit Time: 4 hrs from the hut to the foot of the route/10 hrs for the route/2 hrs 30 min for the descent via the northwest ridge (abseils), then 1 hr to descend the southwest couloir of the Brèche Sud des Dames Anglaises (abseils, steep snow) to the foot of the route, or 4 hrs to descend the east ridge Fixed gear: Pegs Gear: Aliens, Camalots – blue 0.3 to blue 3, wires Period: Summer Access: Monzino hut (2590m), Italy First ascent: Vittorio Ratti and L.G. Vitali, 18 to 20 August 1939

Moving up to the summit ridge — a superbly positioned belay in front of the Brouillard and Frêney Pillars and Mont Blanc de Courmayeur.

Frêney Glacier

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Pointe Bich

B17

Pitch 13 of the Ratti Direct. 5c 5c B13

5c/A0

6a

bivouac

Brèche des Dames Anglaises

5c

Pointe Ottoz

5c B10

loose rock

4c

Pointe Brendel

w y

rid

ge

loose couloir

sn o

B8

4b 4c B6

4b 4b B4

co

ul oi r

4a

B1

5b 5b

Frêney Glacier Monzino hut via the Col de l’Innominata 4 hrs

B3

chimney with jammed block

Monzino hut via the foot of the Aiguille Croux (beginning of the season) 2 hrs 30 min

A pp r o a c h From the Monzino hut, follow the path to the Châtelet Glacier. Go up the glacier and move onto its left bank. Head right past the ice-polished slabs, then move back left across a snow slope. Climb a couloir-chimney to get to the Col de l’Innominata (3205m). Do two abseils down a couloir of poor rock to get to the Frêney Glacier. Traverse towards Pointe Gugliermina and go up to the foot of the west face of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey (4 hrs). At the beginning of the season, when there is a lot of snow, it is quicker to go past the foot of the Aiguille Croux, reaching the Frêney Glacier by a short abseil (10m, fixed rope). Cross the glacier and go up along the foot of the Aiguille Noire to the route (2 hrs 30 min). R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n The route starts about 50m to the right of the bergschrund below the couloir that comes down from the Brèche Sud des Dames Anglaises. Go up a system of rightward-slanting ledges (40m) to a chimney with two jammed blocks. Climb the chimney (5a), exiting right onto a platform. Go over the overhang directly above (4c, pegs) and climb chimney–cracks (4b) to a couloir. Go up the couloir (50m), then climb the cracked slabs on the left (3a to 4b) to a snowy ridge. Follow the ridge to a notch. Climb the couloir directly above the notch (60m), then make a rising traverse leftwards across loose rock (50m, 4c) to get to and climb a corner (50m, 5b). Climb rightward-leaning corners, then move back left across a slab (40m, 5c, possible bivouac site on the left). Climb the corner (6a, 40m, pegs, belay on a small platform). Traverse a few metres left and go up an overhanging corner (A0, numerous pegs). Exit right across a slab. Climb a crack (6m), then traverse right across a slab (5b) to a corner. At the top of the corner, head diagonally rightwards up cracked slabs (pegs) to join the south ridge 20m from the summit (10 hrs). Descents – Via the east ridge: abseils and numerous cairns (see route 64). – Abseil down the north ridge (Peuterey Integral, route 92), then go down the couloir below the Brèche des Dames Anglaises.

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78 ❘

PETIT DRU [3733m] AIGUILLE VERTE

American Direct with the North Face Finish

‘It is the perfect mountain. It is symbolic, the archetypical shape of a mountain. Its taut, vertical lines make it the mountain par excellence.’ Guido Magnone, interviewed for the film Les Amants des Drus. The west face of the Drus has undergone several major changes in recent years. During the heatwave of 2003, the base of the famous Bonatti Pillar collapsed. During another heatwave, in 2005, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the Bonatti, the whole pillar — 600 metres of granite, millions of cubic metres of rock — came crashing down, destroying almost a dozen routes. The impact shook the earth as far away as Chamonix. Only the western side of the face remained unscathed and the routes on the left do not appear to be any more dangerous than before. The most recent landslide, during the summer of 2011, affected the top part of the American Direct. The route has been repeated since, but it was necessary to climb through the affected area on dust-coated rock of doubtful solidity. The route described here seems to be the most solid at the moment. It climbs the American Direct past the 90-metre diedre and then follows the German rescue traverse to join the Allain Route on the north face.

Difficulty: IV 6c max. 5c obl. Vertical height: 900m Time: 1 hr 15 min for the approach from the Grands Montets or 2 hrs 30 min from Montenvers/9 to 12 hrs for the route. It is possible to bivouac at the jammed block Fixed gear: Glue-in bolts on the lower slabs, in-situ belays up to the jammed block, a few pegs in the pitches Gear: Camalots – blue 0.3 to blue 3, Aliens – blue to yellow, wires Period: Summer. The lower slabs are subject to stone fall from the Niche des Drus. Stone fall is less frequent when there are good freezing conditions and a lot of snow, as is often the case in late spring/early summer. The Drus should be avoided during heatwaves, when there is a greater chance of landslides Access: From the Col des Grands Montets or Montenvers First ascent: Gary Hemming and Royal Robbins, 24 to 26 July 1962

Exiting onto the south face after going through the hole at the top of the north face.

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ille R oute

A few years earlier the Petit Dru narrowly avoided another form of desecration. A young climber from the Chamonix Valley, bewitched by this beautiful face, wanted to climb three new routes in a new style, three parallel lines climbed using bolt-on holds: a blue route, a white route and a red route! He began by bolting the lower slabs of the American Direct, which caused quite a stir among Chamonix’s climbing community, but then he suddenly abandoned his project. No one knows why. However, the bolts in the lower slabs remain, greatly facilitating route finding in the dark. As a result, the route can be started very early when there is much less risk of stone fall from the Niche.

Lafa

section on the north face via the Allain-Leininger Route

original route (destroyed by rock fall)

slab

A0

xx x x xx

90m diedre

B22

90m diedre

Dr u

s

6c

6a

de s

jammed block

e

ch Ni

B19

jammed-block bivouac

4c

5c 5a stone fall!

3/4

!

5c

B16

6b 6b B13

5c

5c 6b 5c

B10

5c

B8

4c

Lafa

ille R

oute

Passage Cardiaque

4b

B6

4b 5c B4

5a 5c

B1 1 hr Grands Montets Montenvers cable car station 1 hr 20 min 2 hrs 30 min

2 hrs

Lafaille Route

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A pp r o a c h From the Col des Grands Montets, traverse horizontally across the Grands Montets Glacier towards the Drus. Gain a flatter area on the ridge of the Petite Aiguille Verte above the ‘rabbit ear’ rocks. Go down a snowy couloir (80m) to a wide snow slope. Traverse left to get to the shoulder above a second couloir. Depending on conditions, it may be necessary to abseil down the top part of the couloir before continuing the descent on foot. Go across the Nant Blanc Glacier, passing below the Aiguille Sans Nom to get to the base of the west face of the Drus (1 hr 15 min, good bivouac spots at the top of the moraine). In the autumn or the spring, when the Grands Montets is closed, the route can be reached from Montenvers by following the path towards the Charpoua hut (see route 62). After the ladders, follow the Mer de Glace balcony trail to the third hairpin after the steep section (cairns). Turn left here to go up a faint but cairned path. Move onto the moraine, staying well to the right. Traverse across the glacier to the good bivouac spots at the top of the Rognon below the north face (2 hrs 30 min). Descent Abseil down the route from the jammed block or abseil from the Grand Dru. It is also possible to descend from the summit via the Drus normal route.

Right Christophe Profit during his solo ascent of the west face in 1982. Below Christophe Profit strolling up the west face of the Drus. Here, he is climbing the 90-metre diedre.

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AIGUILLE DU TACUL [3444m]

79 ❘

LESCHAUX BASIN

Stupenda

Difficulty: III 6 M6 A2 Vertical height: 300m Time: 1 hr 30 min from the Leschaux hut to the foot of the route/8 hrs for the route/1 hr 30 min for the abseil descent Fixed gear: Belays equipped with pegs and bolts Gear: Aliens – black to yellow, 2 sets of Camalots – purple to grey, plus 1 purple 5 and 1 green 6, wires, 2 bird beaks, 7 pegs – 2 knifeblades, 2 lost arrows, 3 angles Period: Winter, autumn Access: Leschaux hut (2431m) First ascent: Philippe Batoux, Patrick Gabarrou and Christophe Dumarest, 14 March 2003. A week after the first ascent the route was soloed by Bruno Sourzac

Aiguille du Tacul

Eric’s gully

Above Patrick Gabarrou climbing the lower buttress of Stupenda during the first ascent. Stupenda

Right-hand page The climbing becomes much more difficult when the ice is of variable consistency (6).

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While we were walking up to the Leschaux hut before the first ascent of A Lei on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, our eye was caught by a vertical streak of ice on the Aiguille du Tacul. The line was so obvious it was hard to believe it hadn’t been climbed. I pointed it out to Patrick Gabarrou, who knows the geography and history of the massif better than anyone. His reply amazed me: the line had never been done. We promised we would come back after the Jorasses. The route has three distinct parts. The first section is about 75 metres long and consists of a leftward-trending streak of thin ice. This relatively easy-angled section is followed by a wide, 60-metre- long crack that is filled in places with snow and ice. The crack then widens into a more classic gully that leads to the summit snow slopes. The crux is an icy crack that is slightly wider than a Camalot 6, which means it is too wide to be jammed but too narrow to be chimneyed. Climbing this type of crack, known as an offwidth or a squeeze, is already hard enough in rock shoes; in crampons it is a different experience entirely. It is usually climbed using a mixture of free and aid techniques but it should be climbable using dry-tooling techniques. The rest of the route consists of a perfect, 200-metre-long gully with sections of vertical snow-ice and small plugs of unconsolidated snow. What more can you say — ‘Stupenda!’ A pp r o a c h Go up to the Leschaux hut from the station at Montenvers[1]. The Aiguille du Tacul is opposite the hut. Cross the Leschaux Glacier and go up the moraine to the foot of a narrow slanting gully that splits the lower buttress from left to right (1 hr 30 min). R o u t e de s c r i p t i o n Climb the narrow gully in two pitches (4) to get to the base of the off width crack. Climb the crack, half free, half aid (60m). Follow the gully (200m, sections of vertical snow-ice and plugs of snow). From the end of the gully, go up snow slopes to the summit of the Aiguille du Tacul. Descent The gully has in-situ abseil stations every 60m.

[1] The fastest way to get to the Leschaux hut in winter is to ski down the Vallée Blanche from the Aiguille du Midi.

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80 ❘

PETIT CLOCHER DU PORTALET [2823m] TRIENT BASIN — ORNY GLACIER

État de Choc — Ave Caesar

The Clocher du Portalet is an extraordinary granite spire at the northern end of the Mont Blanc Massif. The rock here is more similar to the granite in Yosemite than that found in other parts of the massif, as it is finer grained and the cracks have sharper edges than typical Chamonix granite. What is more, there are no small crimps that can be used to compensate for poor jamming technique, so you have to be able to jam. All the routes on the north face are outstanding and very steep. The easiest, État de Choc, includes a number of disconcertingly wide cracks with an insatiable appetite for ‘eating’ climbers. The cracks on Ave Caesar are of a more classic width. Its crux pitch, a 45-metre, slightly overhanging, finger to thin-hand crack, provides some of the best crack climbing in the area.

A climber-eating crack on pitch five of État de Choc, graded 7a.

Ave Caesar

État de Choc

Time: 1 hr 45 min for the approach from the top of the La Breya chairlift/5 hrs for the route/1 hr 30 min for the abseil descent/1 hr 15 min to get back to the chairlift Period: Summer, perfect for hot days! Access: Via Champex (La Breya chairlift) or the Arpette de Saleina Valley (Switzerland)

État de Choc Difficulty: II 7a max. 6a obl. Vertical height: 300m Fixed gear: A few bolts Gear: Two sets of Camalots up to purple 5 and one 6 First ascent: Claude and Yves Rémy, 1983

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B9

4c

6b+ B7

7b

7a 7c

B6

6c 7c

B5

7a

(Camalot 6)

6c

B4

6c 7b+

B3

Ave Caesar

6b+ B2

stepped

! ledges

6b B1

6a+ État de Choc

Orny hut

50 min 40 min 1 hr 45 min La Breya 1 hr 15 min chairlift

The gently overhanging finger crack (7b+) on the first pitch of Ave Caesar

A pp r o a c h The easiest approach is from Switzerland, via Champex (La Breya chairlift) or the Arpette de Saleina Valley above Praz-de-Fort (shorter if the Champex chairlift is closed). From the top of the chairlift, head up to the Orny hut (1 hr 15 min). When level with the tongue of the Orny Glacier, go down the moraine and traverse across towards the Clocher. After the glacier, follow cairns and a path to the foot of the cliff (fixed rope in place for crossing a couloir exposed to stone fall). Descent Abseil down Ave Caesar.

Ave Caesar Difficulty: II 7c max. 6b obl. Vertical height: 300m Gear: P4 (7b+): Camalots – 2 purple, 2 green, 2 red, 2 yellow, Aliens – 2 black, 2 blue, 2 green, 1 yellow P6 (7c): Camalots – 1 grey, Aliens – 2 black, 2 blue, set of C3s P7 (7c): Camalots – 3 purple, 4 green, 1 red, 2 yellow, 1 blue 3, 1 grey 4 First ascent: Didier Berthod, François Mathey and Alexis Mikolajak, summer 2003

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in the Mont Blanc Massif. Modern alpinism is a multi-faceted activity for which the Mont Blanc Massif is the perfect playground. Classic routes to which every mountaineer can aspire are surrounded by the towering rock faces, huge mixed walls, precipitous ice shields, serrated ridges and narrow gullies that define the massif’s harder climbs. In order to attain these prestigious summits via the most interesting itineraries, this book presents a modern selection of 100 must-do routes, ranging from historic classics to more recent lines, described in order of increasing difficulty. Author and mountain guide Philippe Batoux provides a comprehensive account of each route, outlining its history and atmosphere and giving all the technical information needed to climb it. These written descriptions are complemented by photo diagrams and detailed topos. In addition, every route is illustrated with superbly evocative photos that make best use of the book’s large format. The routes were chosen for the quality of the rock, the reliability of the in-situ gear, the beauty of the surroundings, the prestige of the summit and the enthusiasm the route inspires. Preference has been given to routes in the modern idiom, whether they are gullies that only major summits. There are routes here for all tastes, from famous classics such as the Cosmiques Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi, the American Direct on the Petit Dru, the Whymper Couloir on the Aiguille Verte, the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit to more recent gems such as J‘t’ai Conquis, J‘t’Adore on Pointe Lépiney, No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses and Le Vent du Dragon on the Aiguille du Midi.

Philippe Batoux is an exceptional mountaineer who has travelled the globe seeking out the world’s greatest climbs. He works as a mountain guide and as an instructor at France’s national ski and mountaineering school in Chamonix. He has climbed all the routes he describes, often in the company of today’s most talented mountain photographers.

MONT BLANC PHILIPPE BATOUX Foreword by Patrick Gabarrou

THE FINEST ROUTES

form in winter, difficult free climbs on high-altitude cliffs, long ridge scrambles or traverses of

MONT BLANC

Mont Blanc – The Finest Routes is a collection of the 100 must-do climbing routes

THE FINEST ROUTES

Rock, Snow, Ice and Mixed


Mont Blanc - The Finest Routes