Wednesday 22 August 2012

Aiguille des Chamois S Ridge Integrale

Last week I was down on the Cote d’Azur, and returned to Cham over the weekend to find the sun shining and the temperature no different to Monaco. The mountains have clearly dried out hugely over the last 10 days or so, and it sounds like people have been pretty busy on big routes.

However, the heat was such that the weather seemed to be becoming a bit unstable, and I wasn’t keen to get stuck into anything too big and then be committed if a storm did arrive. The first idea I came up with was a quick hit in Switzerland to climb the Dent Blanche. 2 hours into the walk in the heavens opened, and we promptly turned around and walked back down. Win some lose some.

Tristan and I decided we had to get something done even with the threat of afternoon thunderstorms, and opted for the South Ridge Integrale on the Aiguille des Chamois (2902m) in the Aiguilles Rouges. The route is supposedly about 90 minutes from the top of the Index chairlift, but I was walking with Tristan so we did it in just over an hour....

The lower section of the route climbs the Pilier des sept lacs, and then over several towers, along some easy terrain, and finally onto the summit. It all adds up to about 450m, and with pitches up to 6b, we knew we’d have our work cut out to finish the route in time to catch the lift down.

Tristan on the lower buttress

And on the "Red Gendarme", the 4th tower.

Chamois family just below the summit

The climbing is mainly superb, although there is the odd loose section here and there, but nothing too grim. Also, the supposed 6b crux pitch on the 3rd tower is actually much easier than the second 6a+ pitch on the 2nd tower, which is the actual crux – worth knowing if you’re trying to trick your mate into leading the tough bits (which I was). The final good bit of info is that the route is really well bolted, and you only need gear occasionally (although the bits where you need it, you really need it), so there’s no faffing making belays as they are all in situ, and some pitches are entirely bolt protected. 

Tristan and me on the summit

 Tristan on the summit, about to start heading down

Looking down on the Berard Valley and across to Mont Buet. 

We made good time on the route, and by 3.30 were on our way down, and made it back to the Flegere with time to spare. A great day and a great route finishing on a spectacular summit – makes me wonder why I ever climb on the other side of the Valley J