Norm Numerof and Curt Green in the Alps • July 9-16, 2007

In early July, Alps veteran Norm Numerof, and, on his first visit to the birthplace of mountaineering, Curt Green joined Mark for a week of climbing in the Chamonix area. Norm has done several trips with Kathy, both in France and Switzerland. Curt is a climbing guide himself with quite a few big ascent to his credit, and some amazing stories to go with them. His and Norm's friendship goes back several years.

This week was one of extremes, starting with a couple days of truly bad weather with lowering freezing levels and lots of precipitation. But finally the weather cleared beautifully and we had more than our share of blue-bird days.

Other Recent Trips


Finding a good objective for our first day was a bit of a head-scratcher. With rain and snow in the forecast, and possible afternoon thunderstorms, our choice had to be feasible in nasty weather and not take too terribly long. The Traverse of the Crochues fit the bill, and we were off.

On the climb the rain and snow came and went, but never truly got unpleasant. The worst of it was the lack of views, which normally are quite impressive from this peak. Here, Norm, on the left, and Curt, on the right, stop for a moment mid-route.

Kathy, climbing with Ken Seamon, also did the Traverse this day, adding pleasant company and a bit more security.


Finding our way to the Lac Blanc hut on the descent.


Fortunately for us, the stream of bad weather shifted to a more westerly origin overnight. This meant that while the main mountain massif was still hidden under cloud and darkness, the sun was likely to emerge in Italy's Aosta Valley, just a quick drive though the Mont Blanc tunnel.

We enjoyed a great day of sunny rock climbing at Machaby. Here are Norm and Curt on Bucce d'Aranccia, a 9-pitch classic on the main cliff face.


With merely blustery weather forecast for our third day, we chose the Chèré Couloir as our objective. This fun 4-pitch ice route on the North Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul is a good choice when the weather is cold and cloudy, as fewer climbers are inclined to brave the chill. This means that the risk of icefall in this narrow couloir is significantly reduced, a good thing. Here, Norm and Curt emerge from a tight chimney on the third pitch.


Rappelling down from the Chèré Couloir.


Finally, the weather cleared beautifully. With over a meter of new snow at 4000 meter elevation we decided to give it a chance to settle before tackling anything too ambitious. A fun ascent of the Arête des Cosmiques was the climb du jour. Here we descend the snow arête leading down from the Aiguille du Midi.


Looking towards Mont Blanc from the Arête des Cosmiques.


Descending a narrow ice couloir before the final pitches of the route. Unfortunately, these last pitches were rather choked with other climbers who had the same Cosmiques plan as us, and we had to wait in line for our opportunity to finish the route.


On the fourth day, we climbed the East Ridge of the Pyramide du Tacul. This is a fun, oh, let's call it 10-pitch, rock route on incredibly good granite.


Norm and Curt on the upper section of the route. We had feared that there might be too much snow on the north-facing last few pitches. But by gingerly stepping round the slippery stuff, we were able to get to the sharp summit block.


Curt and Norm on the summit of the Pyramide du Tacul.


Norm rappels with the Petit Capucin as a dramatic backdrop.


After the Pyramid we continued on to the Torino hut for the night.


Norm had always wanted to do the North Face of the Tour Ronde, a classic Alps ice route. However, in his previous visits, either the weather, or more commonly, conditions on the face precluded an attempt. But this year the stars aligned and both the route and the forecast were as good as could be.

The face is some 1200 feet high and normally involves about a dozen pitches of ice, up to about 60 degrees in steepness. With the new snow, we were able to easily move together for the lower third of the route, and also for about 2 pitches in the upper section, saving great amounts of time and energy.


Dawn comes as we climb the first pitch of the narrow section at mid-height.


A pitch or two higher and the couloir widens.


Climbing on the upper icefield. Good ice and great views.


Almost to the top of the face, Norm and Curt at the belay.


Curt and Norm, back in the sun on the summit of the Tour Ronde.


The view in the window of the "Panoramique du Mont Blanc".


Not to let a little exhaustion deter us, we decided to end the week with an ascent of the Traverse of the Three Summits of Mont Blanc. In this photo dawn arrives as we climb the steep snow slopes of Mont Maudit.


Looking down on other climbers on Mont Maudit.


The Col de la Brenva. The Grandes Jorasses is the dark peak in front, with the Grand Combin behind on the left and the rock pyramid of the Matterhorn on the right.


The summit photo on Mont Blanc.


Looking back up our route of descent, the Bosses Ridge on Mont Blanc.

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