A classic Chamonix outing involving ski touring, rock climbing, ice climbing, mixed climbing and finishes with a great descent down the Valley Blanche. What’s not to like???
I heard the route was being done as early as November so I knew conditions would be good in the couloir and as we approached the route it looked like the direct start was possible. I had tried the direct start before with a good friend Scott, but had to turn back off after he took a nasty fall skiing down to the route breaking his shoulder. He still managed to lead the first pitch which was a cracking effort considering his shoulder and its hard!
This time climbing with Riis I lead off up the 1st pitch progressing slowly upward on tenuous hooks for axes and poor edges for feet, more like dry tooling than mixed climbing and thankful to get to the top of it. Riis followed up and racked up for the 2nd crux pitch. From underneath the route looked terrifying, an overhanging block of ice at the top which we would have to go over to get access to the couloir. In normal Riis style he dispatched the route without seeming to try too hard making me unaware how difficult the route was. I followed up glad to have a rope from above while making crazy pulls on overhanging ice with forearms screaming with acid build up. I thrutched my way over the lip and sunk my head in the snow rewarded with hot aches.
We carried on up the couloir moving together on good quality easy angled ice. Compared to the 1st couple of pitches the climbing seemed quite dull and samey but good fun. As the weather deteriorated in the afternoon we decided to turn around and miss the last pitch which looked good fun but with the amount of wind and spindrift coming down we had to get down. Easy abseils on good anchors got us back to our skis quickly for a thigh burning descent down the heavily moguled valley blanche.
Thanks to Riis for a good day and for driving while I dosed after a sleep deprived night with my daughter Lotte.
Here are some pics but they dont do the route justice, way better to look at: