Sunday 11 March 2012

Col du Plan N Couloir

After the debacle of a fortnight ago when Tom M and I tried to climb the Fil a Plomb, we decided that a return match was in order. As is tradition Tom managed to brain himself skiing yesterday, but he soldiered on with his injuries and we made good time into the route. Unfortunately we'd been beaten to it by people who had stayed in the hut, and not keen to have ice knocked down on us, and equally not keen to miss the last Midi bin (the inevitable consequence of getting stuck behind other people) we opted to climb the Col du Plan N couloir instead.

Pegleg Moores with the Col du Plan N face behind.

The lower couloir was all in good nick, but the pitch where you break out right was pretty testing, and I was glad that we were moving together instead of soloing. I'm pretty sure that the route has not been climbed since the snowfall last weekend and as such I had to do some major snow clearing and it all felt a bit insecure and unpleasant, although luckily enough there was sufficient gear to make it ok. Scottish IV, 5 I reckon, but more tenuous and a bit loose than actually "hard".

Tom battling a bit of sprindift in the lower couloir

Tom on the crux pitch having just left the main couloir

And a bit higher up

60 metres or so after leaving the main couloir you find yourself on the long snow slope up to the col and conditions were again pretty tough. There was a huge amount of very loose snow on top of blue ice, and we decided to keep moving together instead of soloing as there were occasional screw placements. After wallowing in deep snow for a while, we were relieved to find that the final, steeper section to the col was good neve and we were soon on top in the sunshine. Now that we've put a track in, things should be much easier too.

Looking across at the seracs of the Midi N face

Boulder high on the Midi N face. How has this not fallen down the ice?!?

Tom far below, taken from the Col du Plan.

Overall we felt that although the climbing on the route is not amazing, it feels pretty "big" overall and makes for a really good day hit. One bit of beta - from the top of the route, the Midi is not quite as close as it looks, so having sat taking in the view and eating Mars Bars at the end of the route, we were reduced to hauling ourselves up the Midi arete JUST in time for the last bin! Once a punter....!

Final slog up to the Midi, which was far more rushed than it needed to be!