East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Gabarrou Albinoni (III,4+) in green, Modica Noury (III,5+) in Red
Damien starting the proper climbing
Random Slovene guy finishing the last pitch, our skis just about visible at the foot of the route.
Despite the onset of manflu, the weather was perfect and Damien keen so we went up to do the classic Modica Noury (III, 5+) on Mont Blanc du Tacul having been told it was in good nick. Damien had done the Gabarrou last week and said it was thin - "Scottish 5 with no gear", so we weren't entirely sure what we'd find.
The bergschrund is ok, just about worth a rope, and then there is 5 "pitches" of 55 degree soft snow, which we kept the rope on for, but didn't bother with any gear. With a couple of parties behind us we had to keep a good pace up, and I was just about at death's door by the time we got to the proper climbing, so Damien headed up. We moved together up the first 150 or so metres (albeit with a ropeman clipped to each intermediate belay in case one of my retching fits made me fall off!) and then having run out of gear we belayed and did the last pitch on it's own.
The route is in good nick right now but the crux pitch and the final 10 metre step are pretty thin and require a delicate approach. Even then there's plenty to knock off, so best to be first on the route. 2 guys climbed below us, but I wouldn't do it as the route is a perfect funnel for debris. There is also a huge amount of spindrift, so it all feels a bit scottish.
The descent is easy, all on fixed belays, and you can save a bit of time by combining down climbing and abbing on the snow slope. We made good time and were back at the skis for 3.30 having left them at 9, but missed the last telecabine up to Montenvers but 10 minutes - gutted. The James Bond track is frankly desperate right now as we discovered.
Weather is now perfect all week so the lucky people without jobs or illness are in for a great time.