It took most of the day to travel back to Chamonix. This time, we decided to stay within Swiss borders avoiding any unnecessary confrontations on the Italian border. We arrived back at the Les Chosalets campsite to find several of the friends I had been with the previous week still there. This proved a useful source of guides and maps for the valley and a change of company for the trip albeit only for a few days before the others returned home. It was late in the day and the forecast was looking good for the following day so we considered what to plan for. Iestyn and I decided to go up to the Midi in order to climb Mont Blanc du Tacul by a route on the north face and hastily rushed around getting ourselves ready for what would be a reasonably early start to catch the first cablecar from Chamonix.
The telepherique station was already busting with climbers by the time we arrived soon after 6am. After a short wait we
were whisked the 2800m up to the top station and prepared for the short walk across the glacier to the start of our
route. It was still cold and we kitted ourselves up accordingly. By the time we had got to the bottom of the route we were
surrounded by other like-minded parties. Our route, Left Edge (AD) was certainly popular that day. We roped up and followed
in the footsteps of the preceding pair up the initial steep but easy snow slope. The climb continued pleasantly crossing
several patches of more mixed ground before joining the ridge leading to the summit of the mountain. About half way up I
found my left leg feeling decidedly wet. When I realised the cause of the problem, it was too late to resolve entirely. The
nipple on the end of my Platypus tube had been pulled off causing my drink to leak out down my side. Although I could see
the nipple in the snow below me, I was unable to communicate with Iestyn - who was in front - enough to backtrack the few
metres to collect it. I drank as much as I could before turning the tube end up to prevent further leakage.
The following day saw more stormy weather so we spent the day in the valley doing very little. Some of our other friends who had been in Chamonix all along were leaving so we said our goodbyes. The following days however were forecast for good weather so we planned ahead. Dave and I considered going to climb the Dent du Geant and the Tour Ronde, bivouacking overnight in between while Iestyn and Colin chose to go and climb on the back of the Chamonix Aiguilles above the Envers hut. The following day, however, did not start as forecast so we delayed going up high again for another day.
When the improved weather finally arrived, Dave and I caught the bus down to Chamonix heavily laden with climbing and bivouac gear. We caught the telepherique up to the Aiguille du Midi and then continued across the Vallee Blanche on the Gondola. We had considered walking across to our objectives from the Midi station but quickly realised that this would require significantly more effort and probably add another day to our visit up high. We stepped out on the Italian side and deposited our bivouac equipment near the station at Helbronner. Our day then commenced with a short glacier walk to the start of the normal route up the Dent du Geant.
The route initially climbed a couloir to a col before continuing right up mixed ground to the Salle a Manger. We deposited
much of our gear here and headed off equipped only with rock climbing equipment. The rock route initially traversed left
to lead up a gully to the foot of the Burgener Slabs where fixed ropes led to the summit (although we climbed the route
free as much as was practicably possible).
The impressive Burgener Slabs continued for several pitches before a final pitch or two to the twin-summited peak. The
normal route finishes on the lower of the summits first and we continued across to the true top before retreating to the
lower for an abseil descent. Again, views were impressive and our vantage point gave a new perspective on the surroundings.
Moving between the summits proved a logistical challenge due to the multitude of parties present. At one point, a pleasant
young Austrian pair untied from their rope to ease the situation.
We awoke the in the morning and quickly packed away before being trampled over by the early morning passengers on the
telepherique. After lounging around for a while, and looking through the powerful binoculars on top of the station, we
prepared to walk round to the Tour Ronde. Again we deposited our bivouac gear nearby and started off around the glacier to
the start of our climb. Like the Dent du Geant, we had chosen the Normal Route for our ascent which started out as a mixed
ridge. There was a lot of loose rock which brought back
The weather for the rest of the week was still looking good so the following day Iestyn and I walked up into the Aiguille Rouges to do some climbing. We initially planned simply to go to the Aiguillette d'Argentiere to do some or all of the bolted routes on it. We got there in around an hour and half and quickly rattled through the four easier of the routes there, up to around VS. Iestyn suggested that we continue to Lac Blanc and then over to the Index - one of the more famous rock climbs in the area. Its popularity results from a close proximity to the Flegere chairlift from the valley, together with its quality rock providing continuous climbing at a relatively easy grade. We reached the Index late in the day at around 4:30pm and, after taking some time to identify where it was (without the guide), started our ascent. I had spoken to some people who had climbed it a few weeks earlier and it had taken them several hours to complete, being delayed by other parties on the route. With us arriving so late in the day, however, congestion was not a problem - there were no other climbers on the route - and we decided to move together on a 50m rope clipping the occasional peg as we went. This enabled us to make an ascent in less than 40 minutes, only needing to change lead once! We abseiled down from the fixed chains and made a rapid descent back to the campsite. Our total ascent for the day was probably in excess of 3000m, and we descended over 2500m at the end in less than an hour and a half!
The week concluded with a move to Annecy. Our time in the Alps had come to an end for this trip. Colin was returning home
and was dropped off at Geneva airport a few days later. In exchange, Iestyn's girlfriend joined us as we prepared to move