The last week has seen sunny days followed by thunderstorms most evenings, so Matt and I were looking for a nice rocky ridge, but nothing too long, hard or committing. Having read Jon Griffith's account of the Aiguille du Moine S Ridge Integrale (5c, D+, 500m), we decided that it fit the bill perfectly and headed up late afternoon in search of a good bivi spot (Matt deciding we should give the hut a miss as he "didn't want to pay for a bad night's sleep"). We found a great spot right between the 2 paths to the hut (one coming up from the Mer de Glace, the other from the Charpoua Hut), which provided comfy grass to sleep on, running water and an amazing view. Bomber.
View of the Grandes Jorasses N face from the bivi.
Matt "The Alpine Clown" Livingstone gets psyched for some dinner
After a good night's kip the alarm went off at 5, but that felt far too early so we pressed snooze for half an hour, and then got away about 6.30. Finding the start of the ridge is pretty easy, and from there it was a bit of a faff for the first section, but after an hour or so we got onto some amazing granite and stayed on it all the way to the summit. The climbing varies from easy scrambling through to some quite physical chimneys (including one that provoked some "industrial" language from both leader and second!), and the overall quality is extremely high. Best of all, the Moine is surely one of the best viewpoints in the Massif, with views of the Verte, Courtes, Droites, Grand Jorasses and all the way across to the Chamonix Aiguilles and up to Mont Blanc.
Having made it to the summit about 5 hours after starting, we had a quick bite to eat and then spent just under 2 hours downclimbing the Moine normal route. There are ab points all over the descent but we opted to downclimb virtually everything, only abseiling a chimney quite near the bottom and then doing 3 short abs (we only took one 50m rope) above and then over the bergschrund.
Most of the S Ridge Integrale in profile
Ridge views -
Matt on top
Matt and me super psyched for 2 hours of downclimbing
How the hell did this get there?!?!
Matt on the descent, Leschaux Glacier behind.
One thing we couldn't figure out about this route was why it was so quiet. I'm forever hearing that Chamonix is too busy and it never fails to make me laugh because I never seem to share a route, and today was no exception. If you stick to the 20 most famous routes in the Valley then expect to queue, but we were on a low altitude, mid grade, superb route and didn't see a soul all day. If you're looking for a great day out which is low enough to do virtually unnacclimatised, and want to see some incredible views and climb some perfect granite, look no further.