Another summer, another trip to Alps. It became kind of regular summer vacation. This year was the first year of a real independent mountaineering experience. We went with our sport group to the French Alps. Before the trip we’ve built a list of routes all together. However the weather made its own corrections. Out of two weeks it was raining for about two thirds of that time.
Glacier du Tour
Our first part of the plan was Glacier du Tour with routes to Tete Blanche – Petite Fourche and Aiguille du Tour. We took Charamillon lift to approximately 2200 meters above the sea level. From there it was relatively easy path to Refuge Albert Premier at 2702 masl. All the way rain and fog were following us.
Just above the refuge we’ve put our tents. Usually it is allowed from sunset to sunrise only, but these days there were not many people at the refuge and it seems nobody was really controlling it. For the following day we wanted to start with relatively easy route to Tete Blanche, but the weather had its own plans and we had to stay at the refuge just drinking tea and relaxing.
At the same time we’ve decided to change our plans, skip Tete Blanche and start directly with Aiguille du Tour via Couloir de la Table. And for desert we wanted to try Aiguille du Chardonnet.
On the following day we’ve started early, around 4 am. It took us probably about two hours to reach the beginning of the route. Most of the other climbers were following the route to Col du Tour so it was a bit tricky to find the way to the Couloir de la Table. On the way I’ve got an experience of a few crevasses, luckily they were pretty narrow, so my backpack and the rope prevented me from falling deep.
We’ve started our climb with pretty low visibility. The fog was dense and route finding was challenging at the beginning. As soon as we got higher in the couloir the route became more evident. The higher we got the narrower became our way. And in a few hours we’ve got to the top of the ridge. According to the route description we had to follow the ridge for “some time” to reach the summit. What a surprise it was when “some time” in fact became an hour or more ;) I think it is possible to cut the time twice in better weather and with somebody who knows the route.
Luckily when we were almost getting to the ridge the fog dispersed for some time giving me the opportunity to take some photos. For the way back we took the other side of the summit and farther via well seen way to Col Superieur du Tour. The weather became even better ;)
It took us about 14 hours hut-to-hut. So pretty exhausting due to the weather and loose rocks in the couloir. As a result we had to drop our dreams about Aiguille du Chardonnet for the following day. Staying at this place for one more day would have broken our further plans. Next day we returned to our campsite near to Chamonix.
The second part of the trip was dedicated to Vallee Blanche. However even with a cable car directly from Chamonix to Aiguille du Midi it wasn’t easy. Our idea was to get to the top with the last cabin, put our tents and start early next day. We took our packs with all equipment, got a bus to Chamonix and… the cable car was closed due to the thunderstorm. Next day we had to repeat all the procedures, this time successfully.
The original plan included Midi-Plan traverse and Arete des Cosmiques. However due to pretty warm temperatures those days the snow ridge on the Midi-Plan was like a porridge. We had to change our plans once again. And the first climb was Arête à Laurence, a small ridge behind Refuge des Cosmiques with its finish at the Refuge. We even had chance to try great pies in the Refuge after completion of the climb :)
From the refuge we got back to our tents at Col du Midi. The weather was still not really good, but changing for better. In the evening I even got a chance to capture a few nice shots of the surrounding mountains. A few days before I set an alarm clock for 21:00 — according to my observations between 21:06 and 21:09 the sunlight was was the best for the photos :)
Next day we got up around 5 am, got some breakfast and departed on one of the most spectacular routes around Chamonix — Cosmique Arete. The weather was brilliant. It was probably the best weather on the route since our arrival to Chamonix. The climb took us about 4.5 hours to the top of the cable car station. And almost when we were finishing the climb the thunderstorm came.
Luckily we were already at the cable car station. The strong wind blasts were only sounds from the outside. We were standing near to the window and looking at our tents down the at Col du Midi 300 meters below. In about half an hour two workers of the station came and said that the last cabin is leaving in 5 minutes and if we want, we can go with them. But we decided to stay.
In about an hour we were rewarded — the wind went down. We got all our equip and started our way to the tents. In about 30-50 minutes I was already packing tent and all the stuff like crazy. When I was almost finishing packing my backpack I looked around and realized that we were in a total whiteout. In a few more minutes it began to rain and hail. The time that we fortunately got run up… We at the same time were running up to the Refuge ;)
And the final video from Aiguille du Midi…