Sunday 14 August 2011

Peigne Pelerins Traverse & Aiguille de Roc

For a while now Peter and I have had our eyes on a traverse from the Aiguille du Peigne, across the Pelerins, Deux Aigles and Plan, and all the way to the Midi. Looking through the guidebook it was obvious that there was a huge amount of terrain, much of it quite technical, and so we decided that we would have to take 2 days over it. 

Taking bivi kit is always a nightmare, and after a week or so out of the mountains, it felt pretty tough making our way up the normal route on the Peigne. The route is quite tough to follow in places, and involves some climbing, down climbing and traversing, but always following the line of least resistance. There is one desperate pitch right near the top, but I think we might have been in the wrong place.

An early Midi bin passes us on the approach

Peter in the lower section of the Peigne normal route

And higher up, just before the Breche du Peigne

Me just past where the normal route crosses the Pappilons Arete.

2nd to last pitch

Final summit ridge

The summit itself is amazing, with big drops on all sides and amazing views up towards the Plan and the Midi. We were keen to keep moving though and so didn't hang around long, and we were soon back in the depths of the Peigne couloir, and headed for the Carmichael route on the Pelerins.

Looking down at me from the summit

Looking up at the Plan from the summit

A former classic, the Carmichael doesn't seem to see much traffic these days, and there was no fixed gear at all - a shocking state of affairs in Cham! The climbing pretty good, and the situations even better, but it is a long approach to the route, so I can see why it isn't busy.

Where the route joins the Grutter ridge on the Pelerins we stumbled across an enourmous ledge, albeit at a bit of an angle, and decided to make it home for the night instead of pushing on into unknown territory and risking not finding a decent bivi spot. It was still quite early and so we were able to chill out and take in the surroundings for a while before crashing out. 

Looking back at the Peigne from the Carmichael route on the Pelerins

North face of the Midi from our bivi

At this point I must point out to any people who would potentially like to climb with Peter that he took by far the best spot on the ledge with absolutely no discussion, and couldn't be guilt tripped into moving. Check out this video of him being unrepentant!

After a surprisingly good kip, we woke to find some pretty dodgy looking clouds looming around us, and that was enough to send us home having tagged the summit of the Pelerins. The route off the Pelerins is quite straight forward, but there are no abseils at all, it is just down climbing all the way. There are a few technical steps thrown in, and much of the rock is a bit loose, so all in all it feels serious enough though never too difficult. 

Downclimbing the initial ridge off the Pelerins summit

Downclimbing the Pelerin's ordinary route

As it turns out we made a good decision to bail as an hour of rain arrived in the afternoon which was unforecast and caught out quite a few people who had been high in the mountains when it arrived.

Yesterday we decided to try and climb the Aiguille de Roc, just next to the Grepon, by taking the first train up and walking straight in. As it turned out we managed to leave our axes and crampons in the wrong place and realised further up that if we pushed on, our descent route would not take us back to them. What a pair of ****s! Still, every day is a school day. If you do it then don't leave kit where you would for the Republique. Instead, carry it over the Tour Rouge Breche, across the couloir and up to the long leftward traverse. It will all make sense when you see it.

There is still some good weather coming up, so we'll be out making the most of it - we've waited long enough!