Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mont Blanc - The Three Monts Route

Alec and I have spent the last few days in Chamonix for our annual quick autumnal hit of snow and ice. We timed it well arriving with the onset of a stable high pressure system which brought blue skies and sunshine to some of the worlds most beautiful mountains. On Sunday we took a walk upto the Aiguille de Plan (our bivvy point 2 years ago when we climbed the Frendo Spur and so now an established favourite) for an acclimatisation bivvy under the stars. A drop of rain was a surprise and limited the sunset shots but we were up bright and early and carried on the cable car unto the Aiguille de Midi at 3842m on Monday morning.

Our objective for this trip was the Kuffner ArĂȘte, a 1600m mixed route that finishes on the summit of Mont Maudit and we spent the morning walking across the glaciers to the Fourche Bivouac hut. It was great to be out on the snow, the crevasses were easily negotiated and the beautiful weather continued We were however disappointed to find that the route had very little snow on it and decided that it just didn't look in condition. Our return crossing meant that we missed the last cable car down and had to spend a night in the Cosmiques Refuge. The Guardian of the hut took delight in telling us that everyone knew the Kuffner was out of condition at the moment, clearly not us! We bumped into Rob Jarvis in the hut who told us a French team climbed the route the day before and reported very lean conditions with lots of loose rock, this was not what we wanted so a good decision had been made. The hut was half empty which is very unusual for the Cosmiques, we were surprised to find it still open and had expected to be bivvying in the winter room so a cooked meal and warm bed was a real bonus!

We now had to choose a fresh objective but only had some minimal kit, we had packed light for our ascent. Everyone else in the hut was planning an ascent of Mont Blanc the following morning and so with no other plans and being in the hut we decided to do the same. We set off at 3:30 and enjoyed some beautiful sunrise shots over the whole of the Alps. We summited at about 8:00 and had the entire summit of Western Europe's highest mountain to ourselves for a while as we were the first team to the top. We headed back down and on the way had a look down onto the Kuffner, it was definitely not looking the same as the photos that had inspired me and so remains a future tick. We made it back to Chamonix for lunchtime and recovered with red wine and fine food.

Whilst not the sort of route we had been planning it was lovely to be on the mountain in such stunning weather when the hut and the route were quiet and to enjoy the summit to ourselves.

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