Forbes Arête, Aiguille du Chardonnet

A selfie of Laetitia and Pete on the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet

Note to self: If you go up a mountain after too much time spent in the office and too little time spent acclimatising, it’s going to hurt – everywhere!

But why go to the Alps if you don’t go up a mountain?

Pete scanned through our various coffee table books of best and finest routes in the area: Gaston Rebuffat The Mont Blanc Massif – 100 Finest Routes, Philippe Batoux Mont Blanc – The Finest Routes, Jean-Louis Laroche and Florence Lelong Ascensions au Pays du Mont-Blanc, Marco Romelli Mont Blanc – Classic & Plaisir and François Damilano Snow, Ice and Mixed vol 1. We decided the Aiguille du Chardonnet would be a good summit.

Guidebooks Galore!
Guidebooks Galore!

After booking a night in the newly refurbished Refuge Albert Premier we made a leisurely start on Monday. With the assistance of the lifts in Le Tour it takes less than two hours to reach the hut so we planned to get there mid afternoon, giving us time to recce the approach to the mountain. It was a beautiful evening so lots of opportunity to grab some photos. The Forbes Arête takes the left line of the mountain.

The snout of the Glacier du Tour seen from the terrace of the Albert Premier Hut
The snout of the Glacier du Tour seen from the terrace of the Albert Premier Hut
Evening light on the Aiguille du Chardonnet (3824m)
Evening light on the Aiguille du Chardonnet (3824m)

2am breakfast!!! That hurt. I’m not sure that I’ve had that early an alpine start ever before. We went to bed at 9pm and managed a few hours broken sleep before the alarm. We joined a few other early risers in the dining room managing a quiet Bonjour and trying to swallow bread and jam knowing we’d need the calories.

In the dark, it’s always hard to find the best route, and of course we couldn’t find the Col du Tour path that looked obvious in daylight. Luckily we had been on this path before when we climbed the Aiguille du Tour and knew we were heading in the right direction.

Laetitia on the approach slopes of the Aiguille du Chardonnet as dawn starts to appear behind the mountains
Laetitia on the approach slopes of the Aiguille du Chardonnet as dawn starts to appear behind the mountains

We found our way to the bottom of the route in 2.5 hours, 30 minutes longer than guidebook time so we knew we were going slow.

The first few hundred meters took us up some steep slopes (50°) and climbing together meant keeping a steady head. My calf muscles were burning and I was breathing very hard.

As we reached the ridge proper the sun was almost up so we had good light to see the route ahead. It was pretty windy up there and very, very cold. I was glad I’d brought my duvet.

The route follows the ridge line with plenty of ups, downs and around the various gendarmes and across some fantastically exposed and thin arêtes. Awesome, but not to Pete’s liking. 😐

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the route. My camera got too cold and the batteries went dead – doh! But Pete got a good one of me on one of the tricky sections and we got in a couple of summit shots.

Laetitia making a tricky move on the Forbes Arête of the Aiguille du Chardonnet
Laetitia making a tricky move on the Forbes Arête of the Aiguille du Chardonnet
Pete on the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet
Pete on the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet
A selfie of Laetitia and Pete on the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet
A selfie of Laetitia and Pete on the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet

The descent, although the easiest way down, is not a small undertaking. There are a few abseil points (slings wrapped around spikes) on the trickier sections, but there was a lot of down climbing on steep snow. Luckily, due to the early start, the snow was still in good condition, and again, as we were climbing together this meant keeping a very steady head.

But eventually we got down to easier ground, the Glacier de l’Epaule, which required negotiating some serous crevasses as we headed back to Refuge Albert Premier.

Laetitia navigating around one of the smallest of the  MASSIVE crevasses on the way back down the Glacier de l'Epaule
Laetitia navigating around one of the smallest of the MASSIVE crevasses on the way back down the Glacier de l’Epaule

As we had been slow, we knew we’d missed the last lift down to Le Tour and we had a very long walk back down to the valley. In the end, it’s not that long from the Albert Premier, only about 2 hours, but after such a long day in big boots and heavy rucksack, just about everything was hurting and we were very glad when we eventually made it back to the carpark.

Pete taking a rest on the descent - all the way from the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet back to Le Tour (we missed the last lifts) - at the Charamillon lift station
Pete taking a rest on the descent – all the way from the summit of Aiguille du Chardonnet back to Le Tour (we missed the last lifts) – at the Charamillon lift station

11 thoughts on “Forbes Arête, Aiguille du Chardonnet”

  1. What a great route 😀 😀 and great weather and pics aswell. Shame the camera batteries gave up. Well done for getting up so early Pete!! 😯 😯 you deserved that cake :yum:

  2. Glad to see that you’re ‘slowly’ getting the ‘proper routes’ done 😎
    We walked past the FA a couple of weeks ago, returning from somewhere else, and it had not been climbed for a week or so because of the heavy snow.

    So next I want to see the Frendo Spur featured here and I’m sure Boris would like to see the Couturier Couloire ticked too 👿

    1. Alpine climbing is too hard for me Terry – I like the comforts of a quiet nights sleep, short approaches, and fun climbing followed by tea, cake, and beer (in roughly that order, but not mandatorily so). 😳

      However, will endeavour to try harder in future…

  3. BTW, nice picture of Tish traversing – it’s good enough to be on front cover of a magazine, somewhere or other 😳

    But how come she’s carrying all coils on summit piccie ❓

    1. Well, we dropped some of the coils towards the end when Pete negotiated a couple of airy arêtes with no protection between us. Pete does’t like arêtes. 🙄 🙄 🙄 but these were particularly thin with only enough room for one foot in front of the other and it was pretty blowy.
      With only the final fun rock step to the summit we didn’t bother recoiling them for the last few meters.

  4. Laetitia, you have a PINK downy AS well!!!!!! Love the crevasse picky as well as the dramatic traverse one. I can’t imagine going back to those alpine starts though 🙁

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