One of the challenges with Chamonix this year has been the *relatively* small selection of routes that are in, accessible, doable in a day, and yet still provide you with a very worth sense of accomplishment. Not that the list is small, but picking one that resonates with all the members of your party, and doesn’t leave you sleeping in the toilettes, isn’t always easy. I had made promises to Kyros and Simon to climb on Thursday, but told them I had to make the last lift down.
We ruminated over some options:
- Aim for the Frendo Spur from the first lift. Possibly even hike in over night from the valley floor (anybody who has climbed in Chamonix knows this would be rather anti-establishment).
- Rock climbs on Brevent
- Harder rock routes no the Aiguille du Midi, like Super Dupont
I had to meet my mom for dinner that evening, as she had just arrived in town. Between the three of us, we weren’t collectively sure of our ability to climb 8 pitches of stacked 5.10 climbing, and wanted to get in some end of season ice/mixed terrain.
We settled onto linking up Profit-Perroux into the Voie Rebuffat, and finishing with a traverse of the Cosmique Arrete. Profit-Perroux is 5-pitch mixed route, accessible via rappel from the north bridge on the Aiguille du Midi. It is right next to Vent Du Dragon, which Simon and I had completed 5 days earlier, so we thought it might be in condition. The Voie Rebuffat is a short, moderate rock route on the south face of the Midi. It has a cool 6a roof move, sand-whiched between some French grade 4/5 granite crack climbing.
I’ll save the suspense and tell you that I did not sleep in the bathroom that night, but not without a little bit of bickering with folks on Cosmique when they wouldn’t let us solo past them to make the last lift. More below on that. All in all it was totally rocking fun, and just the kind of the I have been enjoying: constant action. It was a great trip to practice climbing fast and light with a group of three.
Here is the timeline:
640am: Simon Kyros and I meet at my place to ensure we are on the first lift.
710am: Board and depart on first lift to Aiguille du Midi
740am: Exiting the cable car at the top.
9am: Bottom of pitch 3 on Profit-Perroux. We did 4 rappels from the bridge on the Aiguille du Midi. On the second two rappels, the second two folks simul-rappelled down the snow slopes. From the end of the ropes on the fourth rappel, I starting leading. This meant down-climbing another 40m, then traversing right into the gully, then back up about 100m to the base of pitch 3. We simul-climbed all of this, but had too much rope out, so there were basically 30m loops of the rope drooping between myself and Simon and Kyros the entire time. No falling allowed by I knew the terrain and everything was very secure.
910am: Reorganized and Kyros begins leading P3, which turned out to be fun mixed pitch on some thin ice and blocky terrain up a gully. Kyros brought Simon and I up to his belay, from which Simon lead to the top of P4. Both his and Kyros’s leads were slowed by the lack of quality ice, gear, and presence of some loose rock. The climbing was a little PG-13: no hard moves, but a little runout.
1140am: Top out mid-way along the Cosmique Arrete above Profit-Perroux. After Simon lead his pitch, we climbed up to him, then he switched the belay from a guide-style top belay to his harness and we kept climbing the last 20 m of the route. I used some of the gear I had cleaned to “lead” this pitch, then built a quick anchor with a sling around a boulder at the top to bring him up.
1pm: I start climbing on the Voie Rebuffat route, while Kyros belayed and Simon transitioned. We did two rappels from the mid-point on the Cosmique arrete down the snow gully to the right of the Eperon wall. As the snow had softened substantially by this point, I took off my crampons while I was waiting for Simon to do the first rappel. Then, while he did the second rappel, I racked up. Kyros and I simul-rappelled both pitches. When we reached the bottom of the rock route, all I had left to do was de-layer and switch to rock shoes, at which point Kyros put me on belay on both ropes. It required some trial and error to figure out where the route was, as we started a bit more right on the face than shown in the topo. We basically did three pitches up to the top of the 6a/5b (1 to ledge, 2 along the ledge, 3 to belay cave well above roof).
4pm: Top of the Rebuffat route, which was a snow arrete. From here we would join the Cosmique. Kyros led from the cave belay mentioned above, which is easier taken to the left initially. We were getting a little nervous about time, so each transition was hurried. From the top of the last rock pitch, I led up through very unconsolidated, warm snow (nerve-racking), placing protection in exposed rock were possible. I triggered some large sluffs that fell right on Kyros below. After about 20 m, Simon started climbing, and another 20m, then Kyros. We simuled until we reached the bolted anchor from which you rappel onto the Cosmiques.
When Simon had reached me at the top, I had started rappelling on a single strand while he belayed Kyros up. Once I was down the first rappel (10m), Simon unfixed the rope, and I pulled enough rope down to perform the second rappel (also 10m). This left enough rope for Kyros and Simon to rappel the first section while I rappelled the second. They transitioned over to the second rappel, bringing the rope with them, and feeding most of it through. By the time they had rappelled to me, I had coiled most of the rope. Kyros pulled the rest through, I coiled it, threw it on my pack, and ran to catch up with them, one tool out, one gloved hand…go go go!
440pm: We end up behind two parties who are pitching out the step across and then separately, the chimney section 60 m from ladder up to the Aiguille du Midi platform. We thought that the last lift was at 5pm, and KNEW if these people didn’t let us pass, we would be totally screwed. Apparently they had been waiting all day behind other larger parties, and so felt it was unreasonable to let us solo up while they flaked their ropes at each belay. We exchanged a few expletives, some broken French, and frustrated English before Kyros and I decided that pitching out the right hand variation would be faster (which should be done roped, while the normal route is easy uphill steps in a chimney). Once Kyros was halfway up the start of this, one of the parties informed us that that last lift was 530pm not 5pm. Phew – now we were just getting one more pitch in for good volume. We ended up bring down some ice on them (though I caught some big pieces and put them in my lap to be just a little considerate)….sorry
All in all, I was pretty frustrated with this whole aspect of the day, and would admit to being kind of an asshole. The two groups we wanted to pass were behind no one at this point, and Simon, Kyros and I could have climbed through at several times without any impact to their climbing or their safety and we would ALL have made a 5pm lift. I guess its part of climbing on one of the busiest routes in Chamonix, and our fault for trying to have too much fun in one day.
505pm: With the extra mixed pitch in the bag, we topped out, took off crampons, and headed for the line down.
I expect that this could be done a whole lot faster, here were some of the places we wasted time:
- Figuring out where to rappel from on the Cosmique after topping out on Profit-Perroux
- Stuck rope on Cosmique after first rappel down from Perroux. We had wrapped the rope around a boulder directly instead of using a sling or coordelette
- Better understanding of the first two pitches of the Voie Rebuffat. I screwed around for a bit trying to find out which way to go, and burned 20 minutes bringing the guys up after meandering around with a lot of rope drag due to unexpected changes in direction.
- Waiting to decide what to do when we were stuck behind people on the Cosmique arrete
Some of the things we did well:
- Lots of communication ahead of time on the plan
- Everybody led terrain in their strongest suite (me: rock on Rebuffat, Simon and Kyros: ice/mixed on Perroux). This meant that even when this were more difficult than expected (Perroux), the route didn’t add too much more time.
- Quick belay transitions as we swapped leads
We were all fully satisfied:
- 4 pitched out rope lengths of mixed climbing, and then 3 more on sunny, warm granite
- 100s of meters of simul-climbing on rock and snow
- 6x60m rappels + a few shorter ones
- Some awkward stares and conversations on the lift back down when we ended up in the same car as the parties we had tried to pass, and I spoke quite loudly about the cluster on the Cosmiques arrete