Triangle du Tacul, Contamine-Grisolle (AD 3, 350M, 60°)
That would be my second climbing trip with Pawel, who I met through UKC. The first time we went to Scotland for a weekend mission but our plans were cut short due to appalling weather. Gusty, cold and miserable, we got soaked to the bones on the way up to Ben Nevis. We managed to get some shelter at the CIC hut and tried again when the weather gave a break but decided to head back when the party on our side was slightly avalanched. We flew to Geneva Friday evening and rested at a hostel in Les Houches. We wanted to get the first cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi but when we arrived there was already a massive queue and we lost the first lift. By the time we got to the top, geared up and started walking towards the glacier it was 9am.
The descent out of the Midi is a very steep and exposed snow ridge but it soon got better. In less than an hour we arrived at the base of the route. I could see fresh tracks going towards different lines but no one on the face itself.
The first part of the route is over a 45-50o snow slope which we simul climbed. The snow path narrows rightwards to a rock constriction which gives way to another rocky ledge that leads further right. For this bit we set up a belay using some slings that were already placed on the rocks. Once passed this tricky part we went further to the right where a icy mixed narrow path led straight up. This is supposed to be the crux and was a little sustained. From there we quickly reached the second snow patch and went up and left. We ended up following the tracks of a previous party and accidentally finish the route slightly too early to the left where the original line would kept going further up for a few more meters.
That wasn’t a big issue though and we probably saved some work since the intense heat had melted a lot of the good ice on the steeper parts and we were left only with the tricky black hard one. In places where the terrain eased off we would still find loads of fresh snow which had to be cleared in order to find decent protection. Eventually we crossed a last fiddly section of mixed climbing and found ourselves a few meters below the boulders on which the route finishes. We followed the snow ridge and went past and behind it, zigzagging along the slopes until the point we joined the normal route to the Mont Blanc du Tacul and started going down. The fact that there was a clearly marked path made the whole thing much easier and less stressing. For long periods of time we were totally in the clouds and could not see much except for the tracks in the snow. During most of the descent we were exposed to huge seracs which made me pretty anxious due to the warm temperatures. We crossed snow bridges and deep crevasses and on two occasions had to short abseils due to the steepness of the terrain. Pawel was really tired and I was concerned that a silly mistake like a trip could send us both down the slopes. After two hours we finally reached the base and could celebrate. We still had a walk to the Cosmique hut, the final bit was a ramp with deep soft snow which finished whatever energy we had left. By this time my lack of acclimatisation was taking the best out of me and to say that I was feeling shit would be an understatement. My head was banging hard and at every few steps I had to stop to let my heart calm down and regain my breathing. In total it took us ten hours from the lift back to the hut. The route itself is short and the route finding quite straight forward. From the shoulder though there is still a lot of walking up so do not underestimate the whole length of the route. To minimize altitude issues it is wise to either acclimatise properly for a day or go gung-ho and climb as “quick as possible” so that you will only start “feeling it” by the end .
Used gear • 6 ice screws • 3 cams (small ones) • Nuts 3, 5, 7, 9 • 6 quickdraws • 4 extenders • 3 slings with locking carabiners