Having done the Ginat a couple of months previously we were pretty psyched to get on the Colton-Brooks and see how it compared. We were lucky enough to catch the Ginat in superb conditions in the Autumn and were pretty sure that conditions on the face hadn’t changed that much.
The Colton shares the same start as the Ginat but quickly moves away and instead of heading up the Messner Ramp you go straight up to the right headwall and then follow a series of ice and snow ramps that are superb.
The shrund was passed on the RHS this time and we started to head straight on up towards the higher ice fields. Where the Messner Ramp branches off you want to basically keep heading straight up.
Approaching the obvious Messner Ramp
In the start of the Messner Ramp
We thought there would be a couple of pitches of steeper ice at this point but it turned out to be much longer than expected. You can still move together on it but it does keep coming.
On the seemingly never ending ice after veering off from the Ramp
Finally onto the upper ice field you want to start veering up right so that you are aiming for the middle of the ice filed exit. Its all pretty intuitive once you are up there.
Towards the top of the Ice Field
Exiting off the ice field and getting onto the start of the headwall can be a bit of a nightmare. We encountered pretty crummy ice just after the ice field (before the traverse) and then after that there is a long left downwards traverse to get to the start of the ramps. It’s not hard in itself, just a little time consuming.
Entering the traverse
Approaching the start of the headwall
Approaching the start of the headwall
Tea break at the start of the headwall
Once you have reached the start of the headwall section you can either go straight up a rather obvious sheet of ice or keep traversing up and right if the ice is too thin there.
On the first section of ice on the headwall
After this point its a real romp and very obvious where to go. You find yourself in a series of great ramps and enclosed couloirs that you can literally race up. The 85 degree section described in the guide book is really very short and there is pro on the rock if need be. We found the headwall to be the easiest part of the climb but then we got it in stella nick.
Romping up the awesome ramp line of the headwall
The ‘crux’ ice section
Once you exit these systems of ramps you still have a while to go till you can exit out onto the summit ridge. I guess that there must be a fare few ways to exit out but we continued straight on up the snow slope until we hit the mixed sections. From here we followed a line of weakness that took us up and right until we topped out right next to the rap stations for the descent.
About to exit into the sun
I can see how you can end up going a slightly different way though and having a nightmare trying to find the rap stations. I think in the past the normal routine was to head on up to the Breche des Droites but if you can locate the rap stations directly above the Colton-Brooks then you save yourself alot of time by doing three diagonal raps into the Breche des Droites.
The Summit of the Verte from the top of the route
Rapping down the south side in the setting sun, Mont Blanc in the background
Once off the raps you need to go down about 100m and then take a high traverse line right (as you are looking down). Once you reach the other side of this ‘bowl’ you can pick and easy line down towards the moraine and the Couvercle winter hut. Whatever you do don’t just head straight on down from the shrund or go left as you end up in a nightmare of crevasses and seracs. Count at least 4 hours from the top of the route to the hut by foot.
Getting stuck into some serious cooking back at the hut