If there are two people in this valley who’s 5 star approval means I pack my bags and get on the route asap it’s Korra and Jeff. So when they came back down from the Czech Route on Les Droites and gave it the thumbs up myself and Colin Haley headed up to the Grands Montets for the night. As usual the sunset was stunning over the Mont Blanc and the Aiguille Verte and we settled in for a cold night.
4am rang and we enjoyed the traditional breakfast in the toilets that a luxurious night at the Grands Montets offers and we were off. Arriving at the base of the Droites it was nice to see a line of headtorches above us breaking a fresh track to the Legarde…perfect for us. At our junction to our route we tied up and simul climbed / solod up to the base of the ice pitches- the nevee so far had been perfect and it felt great to finally find some after a winter of such dry weather. Things were looking up! Colin headed off on the first ice pitch which yielded fun climbing weaving between patches of hollow snow and good nevee.
The following pitch was the run out crux and it was certainly both of those. Korra is a man who uses the word ‘run out’ and ‘you really dont want to fall’ very sparingly so we were expecting it to be pretty spicy. Unfortunately by now the ice was fully in the sun and was turning mushy to add to the interest factor. As I made my way across the melting ice bulge I managed to stick a high red stubby screw and delicately weighted it for the traverse across. As with all these things in retrospect it’s not too hard but there’s basically no pro at all for about 20m right beneath your feet so it’s a bit ‘heart in mouth’ on the lead. A nice crack to the side offered some bomber pro and I sat on it gladly. Above looked easy but was just more run out and steep mushy ice- get up early and get on this pitch before the sun does…it will make your life a whole lot easier and safer.
An easy snow gully later and some thin mixed saw us at the base of the ampitheater and the final 80m of climbing til the Tournier Spur and easier ground. Colin took over for the amphitheatre and fired on up through to the Spur where we were greeted by a really cold wind…winter is still lurking on the North Faces. The view across the N face of the Droites is really impressive from up here- you can see over in to the Ginat and Colton-Brooks whilst at the same time taking in a rarely viewed angle of the Grande Rocheuse on the Aiguille Verte.
We had intended to continue up the whole spur to the summit of the Aiguille Verte but by the time we arrived at the bail point down the Legarde we couldn’t resist. At this point it was getting late and it would end being a nice fun day out, continuing on to the summit would have been ok but it would have stepped in to the realms of ‘epic’ by the time we got back down. Keen to avoid anything epic unless the climb itself is really epic we bailed down the Legarde and to our skis.