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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.