Saturday 24 April 2010


With a good forecast for thursday, Tom, Sergei and I headed up for a bivi at Grand Montets and a plan to do Vivagel Direct (IV, 5, ED, 1000m) on the Aiguille Verte the next day. As it turned out we skipped the direct finish and did Vivagel itself (IV, 4, TD, 1000m). See line below.

Photo Courtesy John Cuthbert
After a very warm bivi in the cable car station toilets we set out early and after a short ski and skin up we started soloing up the low angled start to the Couturier. One party ahead of us had turned round due to lots of snow but we found it really easy, mainly because the track was already in place. Where the Couturier bent right we went left and began moving together up perfect, but seemingly never ending neve.

Sergei half way up the low angled bottom ice slope.

Having reached the steep headwall in good time we began pitching and found some pretty hard, black ice, which really slowed us down. The ice was steeper than it looked and brittle so we made steady but pretty unspectacular progress.

By pure chance a friend our ours was skiing along the Argentiere Glacier and got this shot of us arriving at the start of the technical climbing at about 9.15. Look closely!

Me leading through the initial technical section

Sergei and Tom following the first proper pitch. Steeper than it looks and quite delicate in places, but really good climbing.

After doing 5 pitches we made the decision not to do the direct finish due to the time, but started moving together again up towards the normal finish up more good firm neve.

Having done one last pitch on hard ice we crested the ridge and got a superb view of the Jorasses (see above) and finally got the weight off our feet. Nice ledges are conspicuous by their absence on this face!

Me and Tom on top!

We had planned to ab the face and knowing there continuous ice we set off on a marathon of V thread digging. Huge thanks to Sergei on this one - the World's fastest and best V thread digger! We lost count of the abseils, but between 15 and 20 is our best guess, followed by a long down climb back to skis and a long (but quite enjoyable) ski back down to Argentiere in the dark.

The inevitable consequence of "having a look at the top bit" when time is running out!

All in all a great route in pretty good condition, just allow plenty of time. Cheers to Sergei and Tom for their good company and ability to keep smiling long after it was reasonable to do so!

All the routes on the buttress look good and the Couturier must have had 20 people climb it during the day, all of whom descended the Whymper, so it is clearly the mountain to be on.
As ever, April is proving to be immense!