Off the beaten track - British new routes in the Mont Blanc Massif

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 26/11/2013
The South Face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet. Pilier Alphonse Couttet takes the central of the three pillars and has a prominent grey rockfall scar on its left side. Photo: Tom Prentice.
View 1 of 3

In late August Tom Prentice and Simon Richardson added two new routes to forgotten corners of the Mont Blanc Massif; on the east-southeast side of Mont Greuvettaz, and on the south side of the Aiguille du Chardonnet.

During their 2012 explorations on Mont Vert de Greuvettaz the pair had spotted a prominent left-slanting corner system on the vertical granite wall rising toward the top of Punta 3,469m, a point on the south-southeast ridge of Mont Greuvettaz that is sometimes referred to as Punta Bosio.

They believed this to be unclimbed.

The lower section of the corner looked loose, so the two climbed four pitches on the left before joining it, whereupon they were surprised to find a series of ancient abseil slings and a peg.

They continued for three more pitches, then took a right-slanting ramp and subsequent open groove to reach the summit ridge. At this point they rappelled.

Richardson had always assumed that the 1982 Grassi-Lang-Meneghin route, graded D and rarely repeated, followed a well-defined corner system on the left side of a prominent pillar closer to Mont Greuvettaz.

This pillar rises to the south-southeast ridge north of Punta Bosio, closer to Punta 3,557m.

However, back in the valley he discovered the error. The corner system just climbed had been the 1982 route, though the pair had created a four-pitch variant at 6b.

This left the prominent pillar unclimbed, but before returning, Prentice and Richardson made a four-hour approach from the Grands Montets to the south face of the Chardonnet.

They bivouacked close to the foot of the second main rock pillar left of the Col du Chardonnet (the first was climbed in 1971 by Jérome Belin and Jean-Franck Charlet at TD-).

Next day - August 18 - they climbed the pillar in swirling mist.

The climb seemed similar in scale and difficulty to the Bonatti Route on the Red Pillar of Brouillard, though not as sustained in the upper section.

This pillar lies to the right of the Pilier du Cairn, climbed in 1979 by Charlet and Ducroz, and leads to the summit of Gendarme 3,660m, a.k.a Pointe Alphonse Couttet. They therefore named the route Pilier Alphonse Couttet (350m, nine pitches, TD, 6a+).

Four days later they were bivouacked below the unclimbed pillar on Mont Greuvettaz, with the next day available for the ascent before a forecast storm on the 24th.

A succession of excellent pitches in the corner system led to an easier broken finish. Highlights were Prentice's lead of a difficult face right of a huge overhang (6b) and Richardson's struggle with a flared off-width (6a+).

As the rock was sound and the terrain steep, the abseil back down the line went like a dream, and after a further bivouac, the pair reversed the complex approach to the lower glacier, just before the violent thunderstorm hit.

As they were accompanied on both Greuvettaz ascents by choughs, the pair named their climb Casa dei Gracchi (500m, 11 pitches, TD+, 6b).

While climbing this route they were struck by the southeast ridge of Mont Greuvettaz to the right. This was climbed in 1942 (600m, TD+) by Emilio Carlini, Isidoro de Lazzer and Arno de Monte, and looked quite impressive.

Although more modern lines reach its upper and easier crest, it's not certain that this route has been repeated in its entirety.
 



« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 288 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Accomplished mountaineers die in Alpine accidents
0
Accomplished mountaineers die in Alpine accidents

Tragically, four well-known mountaineers have recently lost their lives in the Mont Blanc, Bernese Oberland and Bernina massifs.
Read more »

Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free
0
Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free

Frenchmen Fabien Dugit and Cédric Lachat have succeeded in making the first free ascent of the rarely climbed hard aid route Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou (3,501m) in the Chamonix Aiguilles.
Read more »

Spanish make valiant attempt on the West Face of the Dru
0
Spanish make valiant attempt on the West Face of the Dru

Spanish climbers Josep Maria Esquirol and David Palmada made a spirited attempt to climb the centre of the rock scar on the west face of the Petit Dru, more or less along the line formerly taken by the American Direttissima.
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

Accomplished mountaineers die in Alpine accidents
0

Tragically, four well-known mountaineers have recently lost their lives in the Mont Blanc, Bernese Oberland and Bernina massifs.
Read more »

Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou climbed free
0

Frenchmen Fabien Dugit and Cédric Lachat have succeeded in making the first free ascent of the rarely climbed hard aid route Balade au Clair de Lune on the South Face of the Fou (3,501m) in the Chamonix Aiguilles.
Read more »

Spanish make valiant attempt on the West Face of the Dru
0

Spanish climbers Josep Maria Esquirol and David Palmada made a spirited attempt to climb the centre of the rock scar on the west face of the Petit Dru, more or less along the line formerly taken by the American Direttissima.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »