Friday 30 September 2011

Kuffner Ridge, Mont Maudit

Having got back from Bolivia late on Sunday night (report on my site for those who are interested), Monday passed in a blur or laundry, emails and cafe dwelling, but by Tuesday I was keen for the mountains so Matt, Vicks and I went up the Helbronner to check out conditions. We were hoping to climb the Aiguille de Toule but saw it was all black ice and swapped plans for the Aiguille d’Entreves, always an awesome day no matter how often you do it.

We climbed up what is usually the descent route, and had quite an amusing encounter with a highly preened British guide. Matt and Vicks were ahead when I heard “do you guys have a guide?” Having told this bloke that we didn’t have a guide (matt wasn’t even on the rope!), we got told that ACTUALLY, we were climbing the descent route, and that we would have been better doing the traverse. A few more minutes of being talked to like we were 6 year olds followed, which caused us much amusement for the rest of the day. Not sure what it was that made him think we were hapless punters, but I’m blaming the Hawaiian shirt that Matt insists on wearing for alpine routes.  What’s the difference between God and a Mountain Guide? God doesn’t think he’s a Mountain Guide.

On Wednesday Peter and I decided to walk up to the Fourche hut and do the Kuffner Ridge (II, D, 4c) on Mont Maudit. The walk up to the hut is about 3 hours of sweating, the final hour of which is up a steep snow slope. The bergschrund is quite full on right now and although not difficult, 2 axes are definitely required as there is about 10 metres of 65 degree black ice. 

On the way to the hut.

The hut itself is just incredible, perched on the ridge with views across the “Himalayan” south face of Mont Blanc. There were a few other parties in the hut, but it wasn’t too cramped and thankfully no-one snored so we all managed to get some kip. 

Welcome to the Fourche hut!

Up and away for 5 am, Peter and I made good time initially but managed to lose the route briefly and lost a bit of time early on, but otherwise things went fine. For future reference, when the guidebook says “go left”.....go left. Oops. 

The route is perfect  – easy but exposed snow and rock climbing, with the most incredible views in all directions.

Route finding is quite obvious in the upper section, and you eventually emerge onto the shoulder of Mont Maudit, looking down on the hordes plodding up Mont Blanc’s “Trois Monts” route. A spectacular snow ridge leads you to the summit tower of Mont Maudit and it is then a short scramble to the top. Peter's photos say it all.....

Looking back down the ridge at daybreak

Mont Blanc's south face

Quick stop, Tour Ronde behind.

Me higher on the ridge

Me on the famous snow ridge just before the top buttress

Higher still

On the final snow slope to the summit

Final slog

Peter arriving on the summit, Mont Blanc behind.

Looking back to the Midi

Getting from the summit down to the Trois Monts path was a bit awkward as the downclimbing was on black ice, but fine with 2 axes. Once there it was a simple case of walking back to the Midi.

Add 2 more names to the already long list of people who rave about the Kuffner!