Tuesday 31 May 2011

Pilier des Contes

With only one day of good weather left, Peter and I decided to make the most of it and go and climb a route on the banks of the Mer de Glace. The Pilier des Contes has, by all accounts, some of the best climbing in the Envers area- and that's saying something. 

The walk in is actually quite tough, and it took us about 1hr 40. You go up the Mer de Glace, follow it round to the right and then cut up through the moraine to the Pilier. The problem is negotiating the small icefall at the corner of the glacier, as it is a bit of a maze. On the way up we stayed by the side of the glacier and ended up walking through some pretty grim moraine/ice. Once below the Pilier itself it is simply a case of scrambling up the loose moraine to get to the routes. On the way down we walked right out into the middle of the glacier and ended up in an even bigger maze of crevasses. The one saving grace is that the glacier is dry so you don't need to rope up and there are no unexpected surprises, its just a case of walking round looking for gaps small enough to jump across. I think on balance that staying near the edge of the glacier is the better option.

Which ever way you get there however, it is worth it simply for the situation. The Pilier is an amazing piece of rock and even has a big grassy area underneath it, which feels a bit weird when surrounded by big, snowy mountains. It also gets sun all day long, so it is really warm - we climbed in T shirts all day.

We did the classic of the crag, "Les Contes de la Folie Ordinaire" (TD+, 6a+, 250m), which takes an obvious line up the left hand side of the cliff.

Les Contes de la Folie Ordinaire

The route itself is excellent, and nicely sustained without ever being really hard. The bottom pitches are roughly HVS, but with 2 that would get E1. 

Looking down on pitch 5.

The belays are pretty comfy!

After about 5 pitches it all gets much easier, and the big challenge becomes taking in the rope fast enough when belaying the second up. The final pitch is probably the best of the top half - an easy but amazing layback leading to the summit of the Pillier, which is even marked by a little cross.

A full rack is needed but anywhere without cracks there are bolts, so the whole thing is very well protected and the belays are bolted, so the whole experience is pretty stress free. As with most of the routes around here the descent is a simple case of abseiling back down the line.

Nice route, amazing situation and a good day hit - get on it.