|Aiguille du Midi, Arête des Cosmiques|
The Arête des Cosmiques is one of the most popular routes in the Mont Blanc Massif, and deserviedly so. It is not too difficult, though has a few challenging sections, it is outrageously exposed with incredible views, it is varied, with both rock and ice climbing, and it has a very easy approach by way of cable car from Chamonix.
Though we have done this climb many times, it is always a pleasure for us. The changing scenery, rock towers, snow aretes and always the glaciers far below, diversity of climbing and the inevitable smiles it elicits are what make us say that this is simply a "must-do", even for hard-men.
The climb begins and ends at the summit of the Aiguille du Midi, which is attained by a 9000 foot ride in the telepherique. We exit the summit tourist complex through an ice tunnel, descend the following steep snow arête and traverse below the steep South Face of the Midi to reach the foot of the ridge. The "approach" takes about 30 minutes from the top of the Midi and is mostly downhill!
The ridges starts with easy mixed terrain, gaining a small summit. From here, things get more interesting, winding up and over, or around the fantastic rock towers when look as though they will always bar the way. A very short aid section (2 moves) surmounts a steep rock wall, then a few more easier pitches lead to the memorable finish–a rickity ladder to the tourist observation deck, and a hero's welcome.
This is a short route that involves about 4 or 5 hours of climbing. The main challenges are the steeper rock sections, which are often climbed in crampons. But these are short and on each, a good rest soon follows.
If the weather is difficult, the route can be windy and cold, as it lies right on the NW ridge of the Midi.
Climbers should be athletic and have a head for heights. Previous experience in crampons is helpful, but glacier travel experience is not necessary. A good level of fitness is required.
The Refuge des Cosmiques is located at the foot of this ridge. From this hut there are literally hundreds of great climbs that can be done in a day. Some recommended climbs include the Traverse of Mont Blanc, Mont Blanc du Tacul via the NW Face or the North Face Triangle, the Midi-Plan Traverse, the East Arete of the Pyramid du Tacul, the Traverse of Pointe Lachenal, and the Traverse of the Aiguille d'Entrèves.
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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