Steve Scott assesses the climbing on the south facing cliffs behind the Argentiere hut.
Superb, sun-drenched, high-quality granite offering a range of impressive and rewarding routes, generally up to 250m in length.Perched cheekily at 2770 metres overlooking the magnificent Argentiere basin the refuge d’Argentiere plays host to this array of superb granite.
Access is straightforward from the Grand Montets, a time consuming glacier walk generally unhindered by crevasses: 3 hrs.
Facilities – The re-built hut is in a superb location with a capacity of 90. Don’t get too alarmed though, as in summer it is commonly used by guided parties preparing to summit Mt. Blanc.
Gear – set of cams to BD3/F3.5; medium and large nuts; 2x50m ropes.
Guidebook – Mt. Blanc Granite Vol 1 Argentiere Basin; Chamonix Rockfax
Other sources – camptocamp.org
Many of you know that I spent the summer in Chamonx, the weather was all over the place, red hot and dry for a few days then cold and wet with heavy dumps of snow in the mountains. In late August the weather calmed down long enough to warrant a trip to climb in the high mountains and we took the first car up to the Grand Montets. Arriving at the hut at lunchtime Bea and Fred gave us a friendly and attentive reception and we quickly refuelled and headed to the conspicuous arête of Le Gateau de Riz [D 5c>4c II P3], a 170m D on the Aiguille du Refuge (3057m), a mere 15 minute walk! The highlight is the aptly named Lucky Luke crack (F5c), a slanting flake-crack in a spectacular position angles leftwards across a vertical wall, climbed ‘a cheval’. Foregoing the fiinal pitch, three abseils down Bettembourg-Gillet saw us back at the hut in time for dinner.
The food was good and there was plenty of it!
Next morning, a short 20 minute walk led steeply up consoidated morraine slopes to the Aiguille du Genepie, the classic South Ridge [250m D 5c>4c II P2] was our objective. Blindly, we followed another party, and climbed the first section of Un Éclat de Rire [D+ 6a>5c II P2] before realising we were on the wrong route! Guarded by its hardest section, the Arête Sud fully deserves its classic status, with the 50m cracked-arête pitch giving simply sublime climbing, you just don’t want it to end. Two further traversing pitches across the summit, including the spectacular rateau de chevre (knife-edge) of the final pitch and a short abseil lead to an easy walk off.On our final day we were considering the mega classic Diedre Central [170m TD 6a>5b II P2] on the impressively featured steep face of the Plateau du Jardin, as it’s reasonably short and easy to descend. Other parties had this in mind too and with thoughts of the long walk out to the Lognon and the daunting 6a+ overhanging dulfer crack our discretionary choice was Mort de Rire (MDR) [250m TD 6a+>5b II P2) back on the Genepie, mainly pleasant enjoyable VS climbing. The third pitch offered a short technical challenge on slabs and a fast, equipped, simple abseil descent would enable us to reach the sacks, and head for the telepherique, at any time.
In summary – The breadth and quality of the climbing is exceptional, with broad appeal, offering long ridges such as the Rabouin [250m AD 4b>4b II P3], the modern testpieces of the Vierge; Reve de Singe [200m ED 7a>6b II P2], superb crack climbing found on Bettembourg RH [200m TD- 5c II P2] again on the Refuge and remote challenges above the glacier des Amethysts like the Mazars-Rebuffat [300m TD 6a>5c III P2} Rasta Metal [270m ED- 6c>6b II P3] and Versant Satanic [300m TD+ 6c>6b] on the Minaret.