David Long in the Mont Blanc Massif • July 25-30, 2007

Aspiring alpinist David Long was having trouble finding good alpine routes near his home in North Carolina, so he came over for a week of climbing with Kathy in the Mont Blanc massif. David was lucky in that sunshine predominated during his time in the Alps; on the other hand, the temperatures remained very wintry.

Other Recent Trips


We covered a lot of ground, from the Aiguilles Rouges to the summit of Mont Blanc. Here we find a friendly climber to take our photo on the summit of the Aiguille du Tour with Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Aiguilles in the background.


But I anticipate... we started out with a rock climb in the Aiguilles Rouges. The view across the valley to the Grandes Jorasses was unusual; a cold, wet storm had just plastered the north faces with a thick flocking of snow to remarkably low altitude for the season.


Next we moved on to the Petite Aiguille Verte, again in very cold and snowy conditions, keeping the crowds down and making for an interesting and scenic climb.


We got to the "summit" early (this climb ends rather arbitrarily at the first major tower along a ridge that ultimately leads to the summit of the Aiguille Verte, a long, long way away), so we continued along to the next bump, just to see what we could see. David negotiates a complicated threading of towers here, while other climbers on the "normal" summit think it over... nahhh.


Next we moved over to the Albert Premier hut to take on the Aiguille du Tour, which we climbed by the unusual "Table de Roc" spur. David here approaches the eponymous (look THAT one up!) pitch, with the Aiguilles de Chardonnet and Argentière in the background.


David on the "Table".


Further on along the route, we get a good look back at the Table, still "standing" after all these years.


Approaching the summit, we see others enjoying the sunshine.


One of David's goals was to begin working on more autonomy in terms of leading and putting together a climb on his own. We took advantage of an ascent of the Cosmiques Arête on the Aiguille du Midi, to get him on the "sharp end". Here he wends his way up a mixed section near the beginning of the climb.


This photo shows off the typical features of this climb; the busy-ness, the snow, the rock, and foreshortening to the end of the route; you can see both the "sputnik-era" needle placed for visual effect on the summit of the Aiguille du Midi, and the observation deck area onto which the climb dumps you at the end of the road.


Approaching the end of the climb, the crowds eased off. Looking down the NW flank of the Aiguille to the glaciers seeming miles below.


The weather continuing clear, we decided to have a go at Mont Blanc, via the Traverse. Here some scary-looking crowds contradict the rather favorable weather forecast. It must have been the tail end or edge of a weather system, as this did not in fact presage any cloudiness.


A typical dinner hour scene at the Cosmiques hut in good weather; warm, steamy, congenial, busy (the appetizing smell of dinner about to be served doesn't come through in the photo however).


The next morning was not only cold, but windy! Traversing the back (west) side of the shoulder of Mont Maudit, we encountered the wind in the raw.


Looking up the final slopes to the summit of Mont Blanc, the sun began to tint the snow a tantalizing rosy color.


However, that sun seemed to have very little warmth in it. Looking back down the slope, we can see the force of the wind scraping and sweeping the snow off into the void.


We bundled up with every layer we had, and covered every inch of skin we could. Even so, the right side of our faces got pretty "sand-blasted". Good for the complexion, so they say.


On the summit at last, the force of the wind seemed less. Happy summiteers dance to keep warm.


As soon as we started down the NW ridge, everything seemed much better; the sun warmed up, the wind was less strong and no longer transporting the gravel-like ice crystals that had been so painful on the way up. By the time our loooooong descent down the Grands Mulets was over, we were back to sweating and moaning about the heat! Well, sort of.


We had a last day to spend in the mountains, so we moved over to a shorter climb, the Aiguille d'Entrèves. On this morning, a freezing fog of the night before had glazed the rock with a clear, 1/4 inch thick layer of ice! Fortunately the route lies mostly on the east side, quickly dried off by the morning sun.


This is what the ice looked like on the most northerly, shaded and wind-ward side. Don't even think about stepping on these rocks!


Still pretty cold, David pulls up carefully on the north side, looking for hand and foot-holds free of ice.


We carefully rappelleddown the normally down-climbable descent slabs, slip-sliding all the way.


The Grand Capucin appeared and disappeared through the shifting cloud-banks.


And crevasses and séracs looked mysterious in the changing light.


So long to Mont Blanc for now, but future climbs await...

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