Thursday, 4 June 2009

Mont Blanc North Face

Having just had 2 weeks in the UK I was keen for one last ski adventure for the winter, so on Wednesday Will, Ross & I set off up the Midi with a big day in mind. The days goal was the West Face of Mont Blanc - a Stefano de Benedetti descent from 1980 (?) with only a handful of known repetitions.

Mt Blanc West Face:

The face has had a couple of descents this spring, and with good fresh info from Andreas and Tobias we were confident the face was in good condition (there are very few good observation points for this side of Mont Blanc - maybe from Courchevel with very powerful binoculars..!).

An early start on the Midi cable car saw us at the bottom of the Mt Blanc du Tacul putting skins on at 9.20. A few big slots to avoid on the way up, not to mention a couple of menacing seracs...Not a place to hang about.

Big slot on the Tacul:

On the North face of the Tacul:

Heading across to the North Face/shoulder of the Mt Maudit, again you pass right under some rather worrying seracs:

Will & Ross at 4300m approx at the Col de la Brenva:

As we climbed higher the wind was picking up and we started to wonder whether the West face would be softening or not.. As it happened the Italian side of the mountain was cloudy, so with poor visibility and possibly no 'springing up' of the snow we adjusted our plans and dropped down the North Face.

Ross at 4500m:

Ross again, before the 'interesting' bit through the big (BIG) seracs on the face:

The bottom of the North Face from about 4000m:

And a slighter larger view:

The route continues down to join the (ex) standard ski route from the Grands Mulets, which for the last few winters has not been a viable option - very broken glacier + lots of big menacing seracs. (It had certainly deteriorated since the last time I was here (2005?), with a short rappel needed to cross a serac/crevasse on the way down:

Eventually we dropped out of the nice chalky snow we had been skiing down into slushy sticky snow, with a nice layer of Sahara sand thrown in to add some colour. Looking down at the Jonction - amazingly we only had to take skis off once to get through here:

Looking back up through sand-coloured penitents:

Finally a long traverse (half on foot half on skis) got us back to the Midi mid-station 5 minutes before the last bin down - perfect timing!
Judging by conditions I think it may be time to hang the skis up for the year and focus on sunny rock, but who knows??!!

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