The Aiguilles Rouges
On clear days you have spectacular views of the north side of the Mont Blanc massif just across the valley.
A large part of the range has been declared as the Réserves Naturelles des Aiguilles Rouges in 1974. There are two info points, the visitors center Chalet du col des Montets and a small building right on top of Le Brévent.
Popular trails and sights include:
- Grand Balcon Sud trail; At around 2,000m without significant elevation difference (it's also a section of the Tour du Mont Blanc trail). (Photo album)
- Lac Blanc (2,353m/7,720ft); Popular lake; There's a serviced mountain hut (food and beverages) where you can stay overnight right next to it. [http://www.refuges.info/point/357/refuge-garde/aiguilles-rouges/refuge-du-lac-blanc/]
- Lac Cornu and Lacs Noirs (both 2,276m/7,467ft), two lakes close to each other.
- Chalet La Floria (1,350m/4,429ft); Cute little hut in the woods decorated with lots of flowers. Open for snacks and beverages in summer months only. Short hike from the valley.
- Le Brévent (2,525m/8,284ft)
- Petit Balcon Sud trail; Longer trail in the lower elevations from Argentière to Servoz.
ClimbingThe Aiguilles Rouges are home to several popular lower-grade rock climbing routes that are considered good introductions to alpine climbing. There is a small climbing crag close to the summit of Le Brévent (lift service from Chamonix), as well as a few other less-easily accessible crags along the south side of the range. Some of the harder climbing routes can be found on the prominent vertical south-facing wall just below the summit of Le Brévent. With the help of the lifts, virtually every outing on the Aiguilles Rouges can be done as a day trip.
Note that popular routes generally get a lot of traffic. An early start is always beneficial.
Some suggestions:Classic, Lower-Grade Climbs
- Chapelle de la Glière (IV+/5a/5.6-5.8) on the Aiguille de la Glière
- Southeast ridge (IV/4b) on the Aiguille l'Index
- Aiguilles Crochues traverse (IV)
- Several routes on La Grande Floria (can be combined with the Aiguilles Crochues traverse)
- Clocher-Clochetons traverse (V) on Le Clocher de Planpraz
- Voie Frison-Roche (6a+, 5c obl.) on the south face of Le Brévent
- Hotel Rwanda (TD/6c, 6a+ obl.) on La Grande Floria
- Les Gaillands (very close to Chamonix; parking right in front of it, generally crowded)
- Servoz (a good 10km down the valley from Chamonix, right next to a road)
- Coupeau (nearby Les Houches, close to a road)
- Le Brévent (a small crag close to the summit of Le Brévent)
- La Joux (between Chamonix and Argentière, 10 minute hike-in)
- Monolithe de la Chauffria (between Chamonix and Argentière, 30 minute hike-in)
- Aiguillette d'Argentière
Feel free to PM me with additions or corrections.
Mountain BikingAllowed on designated trails only. Mountain bikes are allowed on the Planpraz (half way up Le Brévent) and Flégère lifts between around mid June and mid September.
ParaglidingThere is a paragliding take-off site a few minutes uphill from the Planpraz lift station (half way up Le Brévent) at an elevation of around 2,000m/6,600ft (1,000m/3,300ft above the valley).
LiteratureThere are two main book stores in Chamonix that stock loads of climbing-related literature, including guide books and maps.
- Les Aiguilles Rouges 1 (Michel Piola). New in 2008, Volume 2 to follow. French only, but supposedly very useful even if you don't understand the text parts.
- Les Aiguilles Rouges (Thomas Dulac, Godefroy Perroux) (French only)
- The Mont Blanc Massif: The 100 Finest Routes (Gaston Rébuffat) (several editions)
- Crag Climbs in Chamonix (François Burnier, Dominique Potard). Available in English (ISBN 2910672131) and French.
- Mont Blanc Massif: Selected Climbs (Lindsay Griffin) (Volumes I and II, ISBN 0900523573 and 0900523581)
- Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges: A Guide for Skiers (Anselme Baud) (ISBN 1904207278)
The blue series maps (1:25,000) from the French Geographic Institute (IGN) are all you need. Suggestions:
- Map 3630 OT, "Chamonix massif du Mont Blanc", covers most of the Mont Blanc massif and the Aiguilles Rouges.
- Map 1344, "Col De Balme", covers most of the Aiguilles Rouges.
Chamonix lifts: www.compagniedumontblanc.fr
Detailed mountain weather forecasts in English and French (with webcam): http://www.chamonix-meteo.com/
A great info point about routes, conditions, and weather is the Office de Haute Montagne (OHM) in Chamonix (next to the church).
GeologyI'm not much of a geologist, so please refer to more competent sources, such as:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiguilles_Rouges (in French)
There's a French film titled "Les aiguilles rouges" (2006) telling a fictional story of eight scouts who get lost trying to climb Le Brévent. It's filmed on-site. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478548/
"Ian Fleming, when writing the fictional biography of James Bond, mentioned that Bond's parents were killed in a mountain climbing accident in the Aiguilles Rouges near Chamonix, when the future secret agent was eleven-year-old." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiguilles_Rouges]