Grand Rocheuse N Face and a little more

On April 23, 2017 by Tim Neill

Following the excellent climb with Uisdean, Keith arrived for a solid week in the mountains allowing little room for a break. Day 1 resurrected a love for spring skiing with a fun slide down the Valleé Blanche…mainly to see if any climbing was available before the cold and windy midweek blip. The cloud obscured the Goulottes on the Requin but it was obvious that some ice was climbable (as always)  on the Tacul.

Next morning we skied to the foot of the mega classic Albinoni Gabarou…an obvious classic I’d never managed to climb yet. The lean conditions provided plenty of interest as did the volume of spindrift pummelling our progress. The weather was turning abruptly cold and windy and the absence of skiers added to the rare empty atmosphere. We climbed to the last scarp slope and abseiled back down in what had become a fairly burly day. After a few turns on the skis warmth returned to muscles and we dropped out the clouds. Having written off catching the train it was a pleasant surprise to see one idling early evening at Montenvers to help us home…that never happens!


The following day brought really cold but mostly sunny weather. Our nippy fingers just about managed to climb a long bolted classic at Barberine on the Swiss border… the new Piola line called the Magicien d’Oz. Nice and quiet with atmospheric views of snow squalls in the big mountains.

The next day had us pack for the mountains again..and a luxurious evening in the sun at Grandes Montets top station. Very early we dropped quickly under the seracs on the Verte and started up the Washburn variant to the Couturier Couloir…giving more snow than the grey ice in the normal way. We crossed leftwards into the N Face of the Grande Rocheuse and climbed through a steepening via the gullies of a line called “Vivagel” and up to its summit via the East Ridge…collecting another 4000m summit I’d missed many years ago after climbing the Bettembourg Thiverge and heading straight down the Whymper to race the rising sun.


A rapid descent of the Whymper Couloir got us late afternoon to the Couvercle hut and a Lamb Shank dinner and photographing the Grandes Jorasses before a long quiet night. An idyllic walk in the morning back to the train and a relaxing family day in town before packing for Wales…

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