Aiguille Grands Montets, East Ridge

We have had a barren spell of getting into the mountains recently, mostly due to the weather. That’s not to say we have not missed a couple of average days, when getting up at 6am, looking through the curtains and seeing nothing but cloud or rain, and on those days my bed is more inviting. Although today we took the risk on an average report and when I woke up it seemed clear enough.

We drove Argentiere and the Montets lift. We had not packed any of the kit so on arrival started sorting the kit and making sure we had everything for the route we were going to try, nothing would be worse than getting the top of the lift and realizing that you have left your crampons in the van! The route we were going to climb was called the Montets Ridge, and was graded PD+, which we had chosen to have an easier day, following a few hard days crag climbing in the valley and the extended 30 minute run we took the day before.

 

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Sandwiched between clouds!

Once in the lift we started to pass through a band of mist, and popped out the other side to find ourselves sandwiched between two layers of cloud, and although the photo gives you some ides, it does not do it justice, just how nice it was.

 

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Crossing the snow bridge on the first crevasse

We kitted up in the snow plod area at the foot of the lift and seemed to be the only group that were not heading up Petit Verte, which to be honest looked really thin across the Bergschrund and not a pleasant prospect. We made our way down the slope from the lift, towards the Argentiere Glacier, with a large crevasse early on, which was a sure reminder that we had set foot in the mountains again.

It was a short walk to the foot of the ridge, where we rounded the bottom and started to follow the steps of other teams from previous days, on the other side of the ridge. We followed these for longer than we should have, and soon realized that we had missed the entry point for the ridge and then decided that we would join it at the next opportunity.

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Following on from the steps in the snow, we found a way on the ridge and started the scrambling, before reaching the twin crack peak. We made our way to the foot of this and made safe, which was hard given the lack of space at the ledge, where jess started to belay me. I started up and soon stopped and down climbed, as it felt uncomfortable in crampons. We saw that all the other crampon marks and broken snow took the route to the right of this and decided it would be easier and safer to take this route as the snow on the cracks was undisturbed before I arrived.

This lead onto ground that I would expect to see on a PD+ to AD route; scrambles, short climbing sections and at times it was really exposed on the crest of the ridge, which added a nice element to the climb that I was not expecting. On my research for the route I looked at UKC and noticed that some people had thought this was a F graded route, I’m not sure if it was the fresh snow or I’m just a pussy, but this ridge was not an F grade, I’ve done plenty of those and none are like this, in fact, I reckon this was only slightly easier than all the AD routes on the trip so far.

 

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On the ridge as the clouds close in

In the earlier sections of the climb we had some good visibility en-route, as we were in the clear filling, sandwich between the clouds. However, as time passed the route become more shrouded in cloud and mist, and once again we might be getting bad weather chasing us to the finish line, as it had when we had done the Petit Verte Integrale Ridge earlier in the trip.

 

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Jess working her way up the ridge

We continued on through the cloud, and it was not long till the ground became easier to navigate and before we knew it, we were face to face with the viewing platform, and made our way to it following the metal rail. On the viewing platform it was dead quiet when we arrived although after a couple of minutes it was really busy. A lady dressed as a bear gave us a round of applause, which was nice, although I’m not sure why she was dressed as a bear?

It was starting to get cold at this point, so we de kitted where we were and put on our warm layers that we had discarded earlier in the climb, before setting off back down to the valley just as the rain started. This had been a good day and I had enjoyed our brief foray with the mountains. Hopefully the weather improves somewhat and we can get on some of the routes that we have planned to do for a while, Jess has not done Mont Blanc, so that is on the itinerary as well as a few others. Both Jess and me love it here in Chamonix, however we know that we have a long road ahead of us, and I think we both just want to spend a few days on a beach recuperating, before setting off elsewhere to places that have yet to be discovered by us. There are so many places that we wish to visit I just hope that we have time for them all!

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Jess crossing the crevasse at the start
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The cloud formations which looked amazing as the sun shone through
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The route followed the top of this ridge for the most part, although we spent a bit too long on the snow the other side
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Jess taking in the views
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Posing for the camera
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Mountain pose!

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Jess scrambling her way upwards
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Jess nearing the top of the ridge, with the platform at the top left of the picture
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The lovely hand rail at the end!
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Coiling rope over easier ground
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Getting my leg over!
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