|Petite Aiguille Verte
The Petite Aiguille Verte is a satellite peak of the much larger (an much harder) Aiguille Verte. The presence of the Grand Montets telepherique has transformed this summit from what would otherwise be a unknown and very rarely visited peak to a very popular route and perfect training ground for alpinism. For better or for worse, the lift has given climbers the opportunity to enjoy high altitude alpine mountaineering from a base of civilized comfort, and to do so with minimal investment of time.
There are two routes on the Petite Verte we frequently do the Northwest Ridge, and the Northeast Ridge. The Northwest is a bit easier and, regardless of the route up it is our usual route of descent. This is an excellent introduction to alpine mountaineering. There is a little of everything, glacier approach, a bergschrund problem (usually fairly straightforward) and mixed climbing along a crenellated ridge with tremendous exposure, and "in your face" views of the immense Nant Blanc face of the Aiguille Verte. The ridge is stepped but offers a few real moves of rock climbing. Normally crampons are worn for most of the ascent except for the last section of rock climbing.
Though we have done this climb many times, the great exposure and the wonderful views are always enjoyable. Highly recommended.
The Northeast Ridge is a somewhat harder alternative to the Northwest Ridge. It begins with a bit of ice climbing to gain the rock of the ridge. There are several possible lines but all are interesting, and all meet at the base of the "Demi-Lune", a fine curving snow arête which is followed to the upper rocks and the summit.
|Descending the Northwest Ridge.
The Petite is a good choice if you are looking for a shorter day out, yet still want to get up on a bit of ice at high altitude. The approach is quite short, up a glacier and usually takes only 30 to 40 minutes. The regular Northwest Ridge involves both rock and ice, but the difficulties are short. The route is quite exposed, however. Crampons are often worn on some of the rock climbing, so climbers need to be solid on their feet.
The slightly harder Northeast Ridge always includes at least 2 pitches of ice climbing usually at about 50 degrees in steepness. You'll need to two ice tools for this and a knowledge of frontpointing techniques and ice screw removal.
Climbers should be fit and have a head for heights. For the easier Northwest Ridge, previous experience in crampons is highly recommended, but glacier travel experience is not necessary. Experienced in exposed terrain is needed. A good level of fitness is required.
For the Northeast Ridge, you'll need to know how to climb with two tools, disassemble belays, and clean ice screws. These skills can be learned on a previous day's coaching and instruction on the Mer de Glace ice climbing area.
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
All images, layout and text ©2004 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved
Your Comments - more info