The Midi-Plan Traverse

Due to consistent afternoon thunderstorms, and a lack of weekday partners, I found myself with a short weather window on Tuesday, itching to get a little time in ze’ alpine.  I took this as an opportunity to solo the Midi-Plan traverse.  Soloing a couple easy routes has been a goal of mine while in Chamonix, for reasons I’ll post about soon.

The Midi-plan traverse, is a straight-forward ridge traverse, totaling about 1 mile in distance.  It involves taking the Aiguille du Midi tram to its highest point, descending from the station, and traveling Northwest long a well-defined ridge until you reach the Rogon Plan.  From here, you traditionally turn around and head back to the lift the way you came.

This was my third time taking the tram to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, and I feel like I am starting to get used it to.  It does remain a strong contrast to the tranquillity and brutality of Cascade approaches and bushwhacking, but it does provide a quick way to get in more time in technical terrain.

I managed to make the second tram, get crampons on, and head down the ridge before most of the roped-up or guided parties.  At times I passed them on the right or left, being careful not to make this my last outing here. This was probably the most dangerous moment of the entire day, but an unavoidable moment for any climbing using the lift.  From here I traversed across the first col and arrete.

The first of a few spine-like arretes found on the first part of the traverse. The Grand Jorasse in the background on the right.
The first of a few spine-like arretes found on the first part of the traverse. The Grand Jorasse in the background on the right.

 

Looking back at the Aiguille du Midi and the arrete above.
Looking back at the Aiguille du Midi and the arrete above.

The traverse continues from on, descending and re-ascending a bit, on the north side of the ridgeline.

 

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The trail can just barely be seen on the shaded north-side of the two points, and a set of footsteps show the end of my day before turning around on the rounded dome in the middle of the photo.

I turned around an hour into the traverse after reaching the endpoint.  The quickly warming temperatures and lack of deep re-freeze within the snowpack meant wet loose slides would likely make the terrain more dangerous as the day wore on, particularly on the southern aspects of the route.  Low and behold, I witnessed avalanches, like the one below.

Avalanche on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi

 

I made it back to the Aiguille du Midi tram within 3 hours, not without a long break to enjoy the fresh air, views, and a mid-mountain conversation with a parapenter (or “para-skier” – not sure what they call it once they attach skies to the legs and jump off the hillside).

Returning to the col just before the final 100m to back to the Aiguille Midi, Michael Shaffer (aka Bird Early) was launching in his windsuit.
When returning to the col just before the final 150m to back to the Aiguille Midi, Michael Shaffer (aka Bird Early) was launching off the north side with a parachute and skis.

For the trip I brought:

  • two ice-tools
  • a 60m x 6mm accessory chord in case rappels were necessary
  • 19cm and 16cm ice screws
  • some coordelette, two slings w/biners, one prusic and a ropeman, locker
  • .75 L of water and and 600 calories
  • extra warm gloves, OR incandescent down hoody and OR Ferosi, and a Gore-tex shell.

The above kit was probably overkill (in particular, a second tool, and such a larger glacier kit were probably unnecessary). I might lose one of the slings or coordelette and some of the biners next time, but I wanted to be prepared should I have found myself in complicated situation.

Here is a track of the route, which I would recommend as a simple first trip.  It definitely lacks much complexity.  Then again, that was kind of the point.

Full track details here

3 thoughts on “The Midi-Plan Traverse

  1. Anonymous cowgirl

    Only .75L of water?!

    1. chris

      You know me, I like to be as thirsty and hungry as possible by the end day so that binging on tortilla chips and beer seems like a reasonable thing to do.

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