Thursday 25 August 2011

Aiguille de la Vanoise & Mont du Fu

Despite the good weather in Cham, I am still not conviced that the forecasts are reliable, and the conditions as stable as everyone is saying. With this in mind, Emma, Matt and I bailed down to the Vanoise for the weekend and left the crowds behind. I’d never been climbing in the Vanoise before and I was really impressed by what we found, save for the monster walk ins! Looking for some good mountaineering objectives and some research into possible ski lines, we teamed up with Will Eaton, all round good guy and a former Brit turned Vanoise local.

Another rough night in the Vanoise with Will

 The first day we went in to do the traverse of the Aiguille de la Vanoise, above Pralagnon, and had a fantastic day. Passing under the north face of the peak was pretty impressive, and Will pointed out some amazing looking 300 metre rock routes which climb it, so Matt and I are keen on a return before summer is out. The traverse itself is amazing – perfect views, easy route finding, bags of exposure and easy scrambling.

Will, Emma and random German tourist below the Grande Casse.

Will low on the route with the Refuge du Col de la Vanoise below.

Will a bit higher, above the north face.

Matt on the final summit ridge

Will on the final section to the summit

Looking down the North face

Me, Emma, Matt and Will on the summit, with the Grande Casse behind.

The descent of the West ridge consists of some tricky down climbing (albeit bolt protected) but there is an abseil descent down the south face which starts just by a cairn 50 metres west of the main summit. I think 2 or 3 x 50 metre abs would have you down on the path. Despite the long walk in and out it was great to be out on such a superb route and have it to ourselves, and even better to walk out with no-one else in sight. Big thanks must go here to Matt, who carried 4 beers all day so that we could enjoy them whilst having a swim in a river on the descent!

The next day we went for the Arete Blanche on Mont du Fu, above St. Jean de Belleville in the Val Thorens valley and again had a great day. The route is slightly better known now having appeared in the “6a Max” guidebook, but was still deserted. The climbing is slightly trickier than on the Aiguille de la Vanoise, but most of the difficulty is concentrated into 2 sections of about 50 metres, which were the only bits where we used the rope. The one quibble with the route is that it is escapable virtually the whole way along, and the fact that it is a guided classic means that it is fairly vigorously bolted, but it is fun and in an amazing place so it is hard to whinge. One top tip would be to drive up the dirt track to Gollettes, which we didn’t do in case the road was impassable (Our local guide, Will, hadn’t been up there and didn’t know how “off road” it was). We chose to walk from La Sauce and ended up doing much more than we needed to.

Mont du Fu. The Arete Blanche is the ridge line climbing up from the left.

Emma at the start of the route proper

Matt soloing a "lovely" little variation

Thanks to Will for the guiding and hospitality, and here’s to a winter of skiing all those 1st descents we scoped out!