Thursday 3 October 2013

Petits Charmoz

We've had some funny weather here in Cham for the last few days, with plenty of sun but also some ominous clouds appearing most days. It looks like things are going to get really nasty over the weekend so I was keen to get a good mountain day in before the rain arrived. Once again I was looking for something which would provide plenty of mountain mileage and some good climbing. The classic Petits Charmoz traverse ticked the bill perfectly and the fact that it had been my first ever alpine route made it even more appealing. Gary was keen too so the banter was sure to be good (and constant!)

First bin didn't quite happen (we can't be expected to climb without a coffee in town first) but we were at the Plan de L'Aiguille just after 9 and got stuck into the walk. Although not a massive distance, the walk is pretty hard going. You cross 2 pretty major moraines and go up and down a fair amount so it eventually took us about 2 hours to reach the foot of the proper climbing. It would be possible to shave some time off that if you traversed high up under the Nantillons Glacier but the area is notorious for rockfall so we took a low line in and had to climb up a lot of unpleasant, loose glacial moraine as a result.

The Aiguille de l'M and Petits Charmoz from the walk in. The traverse goes from the col on the right to the col on the left.

Once on the route the climbing is fun and pretty straightforward. The initial chimneys provide a bit of a challenge but they're more physical and thrutchy than actually "hard" and then it's an easy scramble up to the Col de l'Etala, from where the views of the Drus are stunning.

Gary emerging from the Etala chimneys, relieved to have fit his shoulders through the final tight section!

Gary stuffing his face at the Col de l'Etala

From the Col you climb some more easy ground to reach the "Livre Ouvert" pitch which was actually pretty tricky and requires a tough rockover onto a small ledge. Luckily for us, Gary led it with a minimum of fuss but if 4c is near your limit you might be glad of rockboots. With the Livre pitch out of the way it is straightforward but exposed terrain all the way to the summit, which is brilliant and the views are awesome in every direction. 

Gary arriving on the summit, with the Grand Charmoz and the Nantillons Glacier behind.

The descent is a combination of short abseils and down scrambling and there are abseil anchors of various quality all over the place. Basically you need to get yourself into the couloir below the Col de la Buche and then scramble down the loose rock to the ladders which take you back to the Nantillons moraine.

Abbing off the summit. 

On the ladders

From there, it's simply a case of slogging back to the Plan de l'Aiguille, which only took about an hour. All in all, we did it in 7 hours bin to bin having not really rushed at all so the route is perfectly doable in a day if you're fit and keen. Great little route and a really good use of a single good weather day - get on it!

Beautiful view of the Blaitiere and Plan on the way back to the lift.