September 29th 2008

Aiguille Verte - Choco and Vanilla go climbing

‘Choco and Vanilla Go Climbing’- III M5

This week saw a great 3 days spent with Will Sim up on the Argentiere glacier. Having spotted a potential new line on the Grand Montets ridge and with no comfirmed ascent in the OHM or any guide book we thought we’d give it a shot. Turned out to be much harder than expected as the top of the line ends up climbing a thin groove that is well hidden from below meaning we had no idea whether we were going to find nice ice or just bare rock.

The route (450m)

The inital part of the route is easy mixed up to two nice, thin, ice pitches- no harder than III.

Will Sim on the second ice pitch

At the top of these pitches a rather crappy horizontal traverse rightwards takes you to the start of a very obvious groove.

Will Sim on the traverse with the Aiguille Argentiere and Argentiere glacier behind

Will Sim on the first hard pitch

Will Sim on the crux of the first hard pitch

Jon Griffith on the crux looking down the rest of the route

Up and left the groove continues and narrows into a very thin crack for about 10m. There is good gear but nothing for the feet (A0). The higher you get up the thinner the placements become until you hit the wall on the left and pull up over onto a perfect belay ledge.

Jon Griffith on the short but pumpy second pitch

Will Sim seconding the second pitch

From here on you hit a easy snow slope above and veer off right (straight up leads to some very hard rock climbing even though it looks ok from below). A traverse over right (due to very large loose block on the natural line of weakness) and a couple of easy aid moves leads to easier ground which can be followed to 15m below the summit.

Will Sim on the penultimate pitch

The Next evening we headed off for the Ginat on the Droites which proved to be in perfect nick apart from the first pitch on the headwall which was a bit dicey. Otherwise it was bomber nevee all the way to the top. Thanks to Gavin Pike and James for putting a track up the last 200m snow slope.

Will Sim on the final pitch of the Ginat

The descent proved to be a right nightmare though and stuck in a whiteout on the glacier we ended up having to spend a very cold night sitting it out on a boulder til the morning….

The start of a very unpleasant and col night- eating tomorrow’s breakfast in anticipation of the cold
The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book