Summit Mont Blanc Kufner Ridge – Photo by Klemen Gricar
Aspiring – Midi-Plan traverse
My first choice is one for the aspirant alpinist. This is a perfect route to hone your alpine skills. The route follows the beautiful crest of the ridge between the Aiguille du Midi and the Aiguille du Plan. This mixed route is never too difficult but requires a good head for heights as you negotiate rock, snow and ice whilst enjoying some of the best views in the Mont Blanc massif.
You can either start from the first cable car of the Aiguille du Midi or stay the previous night in the Cosmiques Refuge (3613m), recommended if you want to photograph the sunrise! The route initially follows a scenic snow ice ridge with the challenges starting on the steep snow or ice descent to the Col du Plan; it then passes alternately on snow and rock, sometimes on the Chamonix side, sometimes on the Envers side, but mostly on the crest. At one point a steep section of good rock is descended with several rappels. After this rocky section a traverse on the Envers side on steep snow brings us to the final peak of the Aiguille du Plan. The last rock tower of the Plan is climbed in about three short pitches on excellent granite.
Now it’s time to figure out how to return to civilization! One option is to reverse the traverse, back to the Aiguille du Midi. While this option retraces ground already covered, it has the advantage of returning to the Cosmiques hut, from which you can make other ascents on subsequent days. Longer, but perhaps more interesting is to descend down the southeast side of the peak to the Mer de Glace past the Requin hut. The glacier just below the Plan is quite crevassed, and in the later season or low-snow years may not be feasible. This route brings you to the Montenvers cog railway and down into Chamonix.
Adventurous – Frendo Spur
Second up is one of the most striking and well known routes in the Chamonix valley, as it rises right underneath the Aiguille du Midi téléphérique in full view of camera-happy tourists! The Frendo Spur is a striking line that towers over the town – it rightly sits high up on many alpinists hit lists when they first arrive in Chamonix.
This is a classy route with an easy approach and an even easier descent. To climb it is a study in contrasts. The route itself is divided abruptly between the rocky lower half and the many pitches of ice that dominate the second part. A long route on a cold and somewhat forbidding north wall, but once you top out near the summit you enter a world of restaurants and happy, comfortable tourists – a bizarre world!
Frendo Spur Arete – Photo by Matt Dickinson
The route is the most logical and continuous buttress on the Chamonix side of the Aiguille du Midi. Though the technical crux is found in the rock climbing of the initial steep buttress, most climbers find the upper ice pitches more tiring. After a long day, endless pitches of 50-degree ice are exhausting and it is a challenge to maintain focus and climb well and easily.
Ambitious – Kuffner Arête
My third choice is a big route in every sense. The Kuffner Arête or Frontier Ridge of Mont Maudit is arguably one of the finest routes in the range. The nearest satellite peak of Mont Blanc is a major objective in its own right with no straightforward ways up its vast glaciers and lofty spires.
Arete de la Brenva Kufner Ridge – Photo by Klemen Gricar
For many this will be a three day outing, even getting to the start of the ridge is arduous, a long glacier walk across the top of the Vallee Blanche is followed by a steep snow and ice climb to reach the hut on the Col de la Fourche. Now on the ridge proper a long day of mixed climbing lies ahead of you. Including short sections of snow and ice climbing up to 60 degrees and rock pitches of grade 4 and 5 which ultimately reach a point high on the east ridge which is followed to the summit. Views throughout the climb are stunning – especially of the Brenva Face and south side of Mont Blanc. Fast and light alpinists might make the last lift back to town but most will make do with a beer and a night in the Cosmiques.
So there you have it, three Chamonix classics in arguably the capital of world alpinism. Now, what kit should you be wearing?
A selection of our Extrem AW16 kit – available on our website now
Extrem 8000 Pro
Extrem 7000 hoody