Chris Kulp Alps Climbing • July & August 2003

In mid-July Chris Kulp made his annual pilgrimage (his 10th year, now!) to the birthplace of alpine climbing for more good fun, and a bit of exercise. The weather was hot and dry, so the big ice routes were out of condition, but we had some good fun on the rock.

Other Recent Trips

As has become a tradition, Chris and I (Mark) started the trip with a fine day outing. In this case a fun route called Clocher-Clochetons on the Clocher de Planpraz in the Aiguille Rouge. Chamonix, and our hotel is visible far below in the valley. This is a great little route. An easy approach is greatly aided by the nearby ski lift leads to 7 or 8 pitches and a fine summit. One rappel, a bit of easy trail and another lift ride lead back to town.


Chris on the summit of the Clocher de Planpraz.


Another team climbs the last rope length of the Clocher. This is a great pitch, exposed, in a fantastic position, with some remarkably continuous 5.7-8 climbing (the crux is about 5.9-10a lower on the lead. The Drus and Aiguille Verte poke into the clouds behind.


On our second day, we did a bit of exploring. Here we are hiking up the Petit Charmoz in the Chamonix Aiguilles. The Mer de Glace and Grands Jorasses behind.


Our original intent for the day was to head up the NE buttress of the Tour Ronde, but massive lines at the telepherique suggested that another choice might be better. So we walked over to the Montenvers railway, took the train up and went searching for the pillar on the Petit Charmoz. Lacking a guidebook (remember, this was not our plan for the day) we found our buttress, but spent time on two different routes, one classic climb, and the other a much harder modern bolted route just next to the first. In this photo, Chris negotiates the first truly hard pitch (we found) on the bolted climb.


After a few pitches of this fun we rappelled off and made a dash for the last telepherique (which we easily reached).


Day three found us on the Pyramid du Tacul, a great rock climb nestled at the foot of the monstrous east face of the Mont Blanc du Tacul.

Here is the exit from the Aiguille du Midi, the point at which we exit the world of lifts and enter the world of ice.


The Pyramid du Tacul with the East Arête marked. This is a very fun route, with superb rock, about 9 pitches and no harder than about 5.7. Descent is by rappel, and a glacier walk to point Helbronner and a series of lifts back to town.


Chris on about pitch 5 or 6.


A bit higher on the route.


After our descent down the Pyramid, we traverse the "rest" of the Vallée Blanche, then up to Point Helbronner, just out of view here, and then the fantastic ride across the glacier on the lift and then to town.


The view out the window of the cable car. Tour ronde on the left and Mont Blanc just poking through the clouds behind.

The traverse of la Meije had been on our "tick list" for at least a couple years. We had heard how good this climb was from many sources and decided we simply had to check it out. So off we went to La Grave, the starting point for this long route.

This is a view of la Meije from the north. The climb begins with a crossing of the Brèche de la Meije, the pass to the right of the peak. A short descent (ugly bits in here) leads to a hut. then up the other side of the peak to the summit of the Grand Pic, the prominent summit in this view. The traverse leads left, along the crest, then finally down to another hut (and another night) before dropping about 2000 meters to the valley floor and an easy return to the car.


The Meije and the brèche (pass) to the right. The approach to the brèche climbs the buttress just right of the glacier.


The Refuge Promontoire, where we spent our first night. The Grand Pic (summit of the Meije) is the large tower up and left of the hut in this view. The traverse continues right over all the "teeth" that follow.


The view out the door and down the valley from the hut.


Climbers on the Glacier Carré. This is a small "glacier" high on the route, reached just before the summit pitches.


Chris on exposed climbing just after the Cheval Rouge. The village of La Grave can be seen far, far below in the valley.


On the summit of the Grand Pic. We waited here, enjoying the view for some time, while parties below negotiated the numerous rappels of the descent.


The view from the summit looking east toward the Doigt de Dieu "Finger of God". We Traverse takes in all this fine ridge crest.


After a number of rappels off the summit, the next tower, the Dent Zsigmondy, is turned on the icy north side. Fixed steel cables make otherwise desperate climbing only rather strenuous.


Emerging back into the sunlight after the traverse of the Dent Zsigmondy.


Some hours later, after more traversing and rappels we finally unrope at the Refuge de l'Aigle. The Grand Pic of the Meije is on the far right in this photo with the Doigt de Dieu in the center. From the Doigt, the route descends down to the glacier and easily to the hut


Hanging out at the Refuge de l'Aigle. Though old and small, this is a great hut, with a super-friendly staff, and great music and food.


Sunset from the Refuge de l'Aigle.


And sunrise on the glacier just below the hut. We ended this day hiking down some 2000 meters to La Grave, then a long drive back to Chamonix.

After an good rest in Chamonix, we decided to head up into the Aiguilles Rouges and do the Parat-Seigneur route on the Praz Torrent. This is a steep climb, but with lots of holds and a clever line that avoids some impressive overhangs.


Hiking up to the base of the route. Already, cumulus are building along the Franco-Italian border. Later, after we arrived safely down in the valley, these would produce a good bit of rain. In the background are the Aiguille du Chardonnet, the Argentière Glacier and the Aiguille Verte.


A 4c pitch, about half-way up the route.


Chris arriving on the summit of the Praz Torrent. We still had several hundred meters of scrambling, a rappel and some loose scree before we reclaimed our packs at the base of the route. Behind is the Glacier du Tour and the Aiguille du Tour.


As a fine one day outing, we climbed the Lépidoptères route on the NW Face of the Aiguille du Peigne. This is a slabby route on fine granite, good practice in footwork.


Chris nears the end of the difficulties on Lépidoptères.


The Petit Aiguille Verte. Chris and Mark have had a number of minor epics on this peak, largely because they insist on trying it only when the weather is "less than ideal". However, on this ascent they teamed up with fellow guide Mike Powers and decided to give it a go when the sun was out. As a result, a very fun day was had on the hill.


Chris nears the top of the ice face.


Mike and Chris ham it up on the summit.


Looking back across the ice face from the descent. The Aiguille du Chardonnet in the background.

All images, layout and text ©2003 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved