September 4th 2010

Grand Pilier D’Angle - Cecchinel-Nominè/Boivin-Vallençant

The Grand Pilier D’Angle

Following on from an awesome trip to Saas Fee we felt strong and ready to head up something bigger. The day after we got back from Saas Fee we were packing and getting ready to head off to the Fourche bivouac with the classic Cecchinel Nomine on the Grand Pilier D’Angle in mind. We had actually headed up last year to do this but the route wasnt in great nick at the time. We had no idea what it would look like now but there was no harm in having a look.

Arriving at the Fourche bivouac the face looked good. We headed off to Col Moore to partly put a track in for the next morning and partly to see what the approach looked like to the route. From Col Moore you have to do about 4 30m raps and then leg it under the biggest grouping of seracs in the Mont Blanc range- from the Fourche they look absolutely terrifying but everyone says they look worse further away…which was true but nevertheless doesnt mean you get a worry free sleep the night before.

When we got back to the hut there were three other parties also there with the same objective in mind- typical. Plans made we headed off at 3am with two French guides to be the first on the route. The raps down were fine (do 30m ones not full 60m ones) and we quickly sped out from under the serac fall line. Once at the start of the route we unroped and soloed up incredible nevee all the way to the crux.

Fred arriving at the belay for the crux at dawn

We arrived as the sky started to lighten and roped up for the crux 15m. Some years there is bomber ice but right now you have to aid up the left side on insitu pegs- given 5c/ A1.

Didier monkeying his way up the aid of the crux at sunrise

Past that and its easy angled terrain pretty much all the way to the summit snow slopes and then the summit. Amazing setting and beautiful climbing. Never that hard apart from the crux and for the moment it is perfect nevee.

Sunrise over the Brenva face of Mont Blanc

Traversing over to the Boivin Vallencant

Entering the Boivin Vallencant

On the upper Boivin Vallencant- incredible ice

Approaching the top ice field

Putting a track into the top ice field

4.40hrs later - Summit of the Grand Pilier d’Angle- still a long way to go though

High up on the Peuterey arete. The summit of the GPA far below

Putting in a deep track up the Peuterey arete

Putting a track up the final summit slopes and then all the way up the arete de Peuterey was less fun though as the snow was deep and wet but we toped out on Mont Blanc pretty exhausted from all the trail breaking at 2pm and made it in time for the lift back down to town at 5. It felt like a very long day back up to the Midi but great to manage to make it back to town for supper and a warm bed instead of the Vallot.

The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book