Monday 30 May 2011

Mont Tondu NW Ridge

As is often the case in May, the weather has been pretty average for most of the month. A weather window did eventually appear over the weekend though so Vicks and I decided to go and climb Mont Tondu from the Conscrits hut. At just under 3200 metres, not really technical or commiting (the NW ridge gets PD and the descent is even more straightforward) and offering a nice traverse it seemed like a really good objective for some unacclimatised climbers.

The walk up to the Conscrits hut is pretty hard work, but luckily the early bit out of the valley is in shade so you're spared the worst of it. All in all it took just over 4 hours, most of which we were able to do in trainers and only changed into boots about an hour from the hut, where the glacier starts.

The next morning saw us away by 5.30 and making good time up to the col at the start of the NW ridge. With nice, firm snow we were able to keep the crampons off all the way to col and up the inital part of the ridge, which saved us plenty of effort. The walk up to the col and the first step are little more than walking and easy scrambling. The second step is the only vaguely technical part of the route so we put the crampons on for it, and for the final snowy ridge up to the Pain de Sucre - the "lower" summit of Mont Tondu. The second step is basically some easy scrambling, with about 50 metres of slightly tougher, steeper ground but still no harder than grade 2 scrambling. From there it is just pleasant snow plodding.

Vicks low down on the NW ridge

Me just below the summit of the Pain de Sucre

Although graded at "Facile", the ridge from the Pain de Sucre to the summit of Mont Tondu looked pretty full on, but assuming that it couldn't be that bad we set off to have a look. As it turned out it was pretty straightforward scrambling but in a really exposed spot. Vicks isn't a huge fan of exposure so she had a bite to eat and I was dispatched to finish off the ridge and "bag" the summit for the team.

Me on the summit of Mont Tondu - look closely!

With that done we began the long descent down the normal route of the mountain. Essentially a long glacier walk, it is pretty obvious where to go, just keep drifiting rightwards near the bottom. Once back on flat ground there remains about 3 1/2 hours of walking to get back to the car, by which time an ice cream was in order.

Heading home

For a place like Cham, where lower grade mountaineering routes are in short supply, Mont Tondu and the other routes accessed from the Conscrits hut are a really enjoyable option, particularly when bad weather has ruled out options higher up or when you're trying to escape the crowds. Also, the views are stunning and it all feels very wild, so pretty amazing all round.