Three British new routes in the Mont Blanc Range

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 03/10/2012
Tom Prentice just above the crux section on the second pitch of Pointe de la Fouly. Les Courtes, Droites and Aiguille Verte behind. Simon Richardson
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In the first two weeks of September Tom Prentice and Simon Richardson completed three new rock routes on French and Italian sides of the Mont Blanc Range.

Two of these routes were on Mont Vert de Gruevettaz, a three-summited mountain marking the end of the long ridge falling southeast from Mont Gruevettaz, and accessed from the Comino Bivouac Hut above Val Ferret.

From northwest to southeast these three summits are traditionally defined as Puntas 2,873m, 2825m and 2,810m, though the most recent Italian map to the region (2011) designates the latter 2,796m (with no spot heights for the other two).

Prentice and Richardson initial foray into this area produced the first ascent of the Southwest Spur of Punta 2,873m, which gave a 300m climb of D.

Nine roped pitches, with a crux sixth pitch of UIAA V+, led to a final 40m of scrambling and the pointed summit. They descended by scrambling northwest along the ridge, then down a gully (a few rappels at the base) to regain the cwm.

Most climbing on Mont Vert has taken place on Punta 2,810/2,796m, directly above the Comino Hut. Tils Bartels and Richard Goedeke recorded the first route here, climbing the South Ridge (300m, AD+/D-, UIAA V-) in 1975, then traversing the ridge north over the two higher points.

In 2002 Alberto Franchini and Alessandro Zizioli (the latter badly injured this year attempting a new line on Mont Rouge de Peuterey) added a partially bolted line up a large diedre on the southeast face (300m, 7a+ and A0, 6b obl), and in 2010 Vito Carlotto, Carlo Lorenzini and Alberto Pasero added the nine-pitch, partially bolted Via del Carletto (6b, 6a obl) up the slabs and walls left of the 1975 route.

The Southwest Ridge Direct remained unclimbed and gave a harder climb to Prentice and Richardson than Punta 2,873m. Eleven pitches, with difficulties up to UIAA VI (around British 5b), plus 60m of scrambling led to the summit. Three points of aid were used on pitch four and the route rated TD.

In between these two ascents the pair put up a new route on the Aiguilles Rouges du Dolent, near the head of the Argentière Glacier.

This collection of summits lies on the frontier ridge north of Mt Dolent, and runs from the Brèche de l'Amone to the Col d'Argentière. The first summits, as far as Pt Kurz, are termed the Grandes Aiguilles, and contain the quadruple-topped Pointe de la Fouly (3,608m).

The four tops of the Fouly have been traditional denoted as a, b (the highest), c and d. The highest was first reached in 1892 via the north-northwest ridge from the Argentière Glacier, though was gained for a second time in 1900, on this occasion by a long traverse of the Swiss flanks from the Col d'Argentière , the party descending a couloir on the west-southwest (Argentière Glacier) flank that falls from the gap between c and d.

In 1980 Jean-Franck Charlet and Olivier Ratheaux, both very active at that era putting up new routes in the massif, climbed the west-southwest spur of summit c (550m, V but not sustained).

Running parallel and to the left of this line, the complex and pinnacled west-southwest spur of the highest summit, b, appears to have remained unclimbed, until Prentice and Richardson completed it in 19 pitches (500m, TD), with a crux second pitch of VI (British 5a/b).

After making a bivouac, the descent of the southwest face proved equally complex. The pair dubbed the climb the Scottish Route.
 


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