August 16th 2009

Mont Blanc - Peuterey Integral

Headed up with Luke Hunt for the Peuterey Integral which has been on my tick list for quite a while now. Starting in Italy you cover over 4500m of technical ground over three days (two if you are unbelievably fast and know the raps off the Noire). It’s got just about everything to it and as I’ve never actually summited Mont Blanc before it was nice to finally get that ticked too as well as climbing it via an awesome route.

We had to admit that when we got dropped off on the Italian side only to find out that I’d forgotten my axe and had to use a Nomic I found in the back of the car that things weren’t going too well for the Psyche. Plus it’s a little daunting standing underneath the whole thing. Nevertheless we headed up and bivied below the Noire and settled in for the evening. It was around this time that we discovered that we were one headtorch short which was going to make the next few days of alpine starts a little interesting. Thankfully Luke is an excellent rock climber and didnt mind soloing the lower section of the Noire in the dark….I found it daunting enough with a torch but then I am a terrible rock climber.

Luke Hunt on the Noire with the Freney glacier behind

Hours later and we made it to a great little bivi spot below the Pointe Bich. Thanks goes to Luke for dragging me up the rock. Unfortunately there is no snow on the Noire anywhere so we made do with what water we had left from the day and bathed in the evening sun overlooking the Freney glacier. Awesome.

Chilling in the evening sun

Next morning we quickly headed up to the Noire Summit, gave the Summit Madonna a hug, and headed down the infamous raps off the Noire.

Stitch of Luke Hunt on the Bich with the Noire and Integral in the background

At first it seems that the raps are rather overhyped but on rap 3 I found myself rapping off a massive roof and freehanging for about 30m. This was quickly followed by having a nightmare trying to find the next rap station which was conveniently tucked away into a little corner. All time consuming stuff and also being a belay plate short (you can see a trend here?) it took a little while longer than guide book time.

Luke Hunt on the freehanging abseil

Finally off the raps and we located some water trickling out of the rock- pristine water but took a long time to collect the dribble into our bottles. In any case, finally hydrated, we headed on for the Craveri which was a nightmare of loose choss away. By the time we got to the hut I had already had a couple of ‘oh my god everything is going to collapse around me’ moments, so it was good to finally arrive on stable ground. The Craveri is not equipped with anything so worth bering this in mind. I think it has 3 blankets but that’s it. There is also no snow or water source anywhere nearby for the moment.

A little pokey but better than bivying

The next morning saw us head up the Blanche which was again a little loose but really pleasant and easy climbing. We were treated to yet another spectacular sunrise and made good time to the end of the rock.

Luke Hunt and the Noire in the background at sunrise

Stitch panorama from the Noire on the RHS to the Grandes Jorasses on the LHS

Here we donned crampons and axe and headed on over to the crescent shaped col between the two summits. It was an amazing feeling just being there having seen this amazing feature countless times from the Fourche bivouac. Stepping onto it for the traverse I kept picturing what tiny dots we would look like from the Fourche on this massive face.

Luke hunt on the crescent ridge of the Blanche

After the raps off the Blanche you normally take an obvious snow gully up to the upper Peuterey ridge but its too warm for the moment and unless you fancy climbing up a waterfall its advised to climb the rocky and very loose ground to the side of it. the final snow ridge was a bit of a pain but thankfully we put our heads down and flew up it.

Luke Hunt past the summit of the Grand Pillier D’angle

At 6pm we topped out on Mont Blanc Courmayeur and an amazing feeling spread over us as we climbed out from the shade and the longest route in the Alps into the sun and easy terrain all the way to Mont Blanc. Summit of Mont Blanc proper was also great but we didnt stick around for long as we had decided to make the Midi station that night.

Summit of Mont Blanc!

The descent over to the Midi was pretty painful but thankfully Will Sim had stashed food and gas for us at the station which was a real motivator for us getting over there as we had brought little food for the climb and were now absolutely famished. Pasta and Mackerel has never tasted so good! Thanks to Luke for a great 3 days and Will for the food and water at the Midi.

The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book