Midi-Plan Traverse (me in the yellow helmet)
I recently returned home after 9 days in the French town of Chamonix, famous for it's close proximity to Western Europe's highest mountain, Mt. Blanc. I went with two friends to celebrate the end of university and, primarily, to get my first taste of alpine mountaineering - the obvious advancement from Scottish Winter climbing.
With just nine days we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were given. Our first excursion involved 3 days and two nights on the mountain, climbing Aiguille de Tour and Tete Blanche, two F (Facile) graded routes; an ideal start and a good refresher of the rope skills to remove our rustiness. Following this we headed up the Aiguille de Midi lift (at the extortionate price of 45 euros for a return) and took on the Midi-Plan traverse from Aiguille de Midi to Aiguille de Plan; this was a step up at PD (Peu Difficile) and a fantastic route; the return, however, was not so fun - the route quickly became out of condition as the intense heat turned the snow extremely slushy. The return journey to the lift was slow but we luckily made it back safely.
Approaching the long rock section of Dent de Geant.
With weather set to worsen in the massif we decided to attempt Dent de Geant, an imposing peak at 4,013 metres and a more difficult route at AD (Assez Difficile); this would be a great final challenge and a great achievement for my first week of Alpine mountaineering. A 9 1/2 hour epic of a day, starting before five, saw us summit this great mountain, involving a long rock section, aided slightly by fixed ropes to haul yourself up the trickiest of sections, and a six pitch abseil down the South face in thick clouds and light snow following reaching the summit.
The final of six pitches abseiled off the Dent de Geant
It really was a fantastic trip and I'd recommend that all climbers follow the obvious path and take on alpine mountaineering; a fantastic place to learn to climb properly before you think of tackling any Himalayan or Greater Ranges peaks. One great thing about it is that you can climb in the sun, something completely alien to the die hard Scottish winter mountaineers among us!