Interested in climbing in the Aiguilles Rouges but not in paying the 15.50 euro for the lift ticket? Enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, where a picnic basket with a bottle of wine is all that is needed to truly commune with nature? An hours hike off N506, the main road running N/S thru Chamonix-Argentiere-Vallorcine, along side the Tour de Mont Blanc is where you will find this El Dorado in the Aiguillette d'Argentiere.
Grab the guidebook, Les Aiguilles Rouges, by Thomas Dulac and Godefroy Perroux, available all over Chamonix. Contains all you need to know about the climbing possibilities offered throughout the North side of the Chamonix valley.
Drive thru Argentiere headed North on N506, up the twisty couple of switchbacks immediately after the city. The road narrows and then makes a bend to the left. After 100 meters there will be a small parking area on the left-hand side of the road, park here. If you crest the small hill there will be a much larger parking area on the right-hand side, you've gone too far. At the southern most end of the parking area is a signed path that says "Aiguillette d'Argentiere." Follow this for approximately one hour. They will be on the left hand side of the trail right before the beginning of the metal steps leading up the face of the cliff.
Using the IGN 3630 map, the parking area that works best is located at Tre-le-Champ on the left-hand side of the road. There is not a Parking Area symbol; the symbol is a bit further North and on the right-hand side of the road, this is too far as mentioned above.
I do not plan on adding individual route info as the great majority are one pitch routes. All routes are very well bolted.
I have only listed the six routes that I've climbed, there are a few more in the area. There is probably only one route that is more than one pitch and I think it's called "Biscante."
Arete NE, zig-zaggy 4c+/5
Voie de Droite, easy 5c put up by Rebuffat & Terray
Voie Normal, easy 5a
South West Face:
L'Epine d'Ours, solid 6a+
L'Etagne, rated at 6b, hard to believe as I did it on top rope without a fall.
Siesta, solid 5b
When To Climb
May to first heavy snows
Bivies are permitted in the Aiguilles Rouges and I'd recommend to use this approach if you are planning to do a couple of climbs over a couple of days, just have to have gear packed up each day, not a problem.
Plenty of camping in Chamonix...so you should never find yourself in the position that you have to use Les Drus campground. The people that run it are NOT worth dealing with. If you want the full story ask me. If you are looking for a nice place that is cheap and closer to Argentiere or Barberine Camping des Montets towards Vallorcine is a winner at 5.8 euro/night for person/tent combo (reduces to 5.1euro/night if stay is longer than 3 days). L'Ile des Barrats located right across from the hospital in Chamonix was a winner at 10.30 euro/night for a person/tent combo and located 15-20 min. walk from Aig. Midi station. Both have good, hot water showers provided in the cost. For when the weather is wet can recommend the gite, Le Chamoniard Volant (open year-round). The owners, Sylvaine and Erick, do a good job of dealing with almost every situation.
Winter Campgrounds around Chamonix:
Les Deux Glaciers, located in Les Bossons open from Dec. 15 to Nov. 15 tel: +33 (0)450 53 15 84...offer all inclusive price of 12.50 euro for 2 people/tent/auto.
Les Rosieres, between Les Praz and Chamonix on the North side of the L'Arve River open from Feb. 2 to Sep. 30 tel: +33 (0)4 50 53 10 42; www.campinglesrosieres.com.
see Rahel's Mt. Blanc Group page for excellent assortment of mountain conditions and other info of the Chamonix valley.
The OHM website in Chamonix, send them an email and they will respond with their latest info regarding routes.