OverviewGrande Rocheuse is one of the 82 4000 meter peaks in the Alps (acording to the UIAA list). The summit is located on the Jardin ridge of Aiguille Verte. Due to the vicinity of Aiguille Verte the Grande Rocheuse isn't very prominent and therefore relatively unknown.
Most routes on Grande Rocheuse are long, sustained and quiet. The mountain is mostly climbed in winter and spring by one of the Northeast Face routes. These modern alpine ice routes offer some of the best ice climbing in the Mont Blanc Range. In summer the most obvious ascent takes the Jardin Ridge, which is an established classic, but rarely climbed nowadays. The most common descent runs through the Whymper Couloir. Unfortunatly this can only be recommended with cold temperatures and enough snow because of rockfall. Altogehter, as it's neighbor, a mountain which should be taken serious.
First ascent: 17. September 1865 by Robert Fowler, Michel Ducroz and Michel Balmat.
Aiguille Verte and Grande Rocheuse (photo by Antonio Giani)
Getting ThereGrande Rocheuse is located near Chamonix, in the Mont Blanc Range. Chamonix is the number one hotspot for alpinists in the Alps. The Mont Blanc range offers numerous possibilities for alpinists, in both summer and winter. Chamonix is quite big for a mountain village and is easy to acces. See the official website of Chamonix for more detailed information on 'how to get there'.
There are two mountain huts which can be used during your climb on Grande Rocheuse. Thanks to Rahel and Hiltrud Liu for this part!
1. Ref. d'Argentiere. There are basically three possibilities to reach the hut:
- a. From Croix de Lognan (1970 m) in 3 - 3,5 h, to Croix de Lognan with cable car from Argentière: From Croix de Lognan, you go on foot up over the morainecrest till about 2250 m. Than you continue horizontally to the glacier, which you follow on the orographically left side. After about 1 km, the glacier becomes steeper and more torn. You climb onto the morain of the Rognons, first over a slippery shelf, then via a marked way which you follow until you reach the upper end of the ice break. You climb the glacier in SE direction and reach over the moraine the hut.
- b. On foot from Argentière in 5 h: From the ground station of the cable car, you follow the wide aisle of the ski-run. You leave it at the height of about 1750 m and reach the way of the middle station of the cable car (2 h). Now, you need 3 h to the hut.
- c. From Aiguille des Grands Montets (summit station of the cable car from Argentière; last train up: 4:45 p.m.) in 2 h: From the summit station, you go via a stairway to the Col des Grandes Montets. You traverse a bergschrund (maybe with the help of a rope) and go up the steep hang to the Glacier Rognons. You go in ENE direction on the western side along P. 3000 to P. 2754 m. You go down in south-eastern direction of the glacier d'Argentière, which you reach above the ice break. From here in 2 h to the hut.
2. Ref. de Couvercle. There are two common routes to the Couvercle hut.
- a. You reach the hut from Montenvers in 3,5 h over the glacier. From Montenvers to the starting point of the hiking way to the Ref. d'Envers des Aiguilles: You have to follow the way in direction of Les Echelles which goes slightly down to the western side of the Mer de Glace. But before you enter the Glacier, you have to follow the way on the western side of the glacier for about 20 min. Now you have to go up the glacier first more on the western side, then just through the middle in SE direction of Les Moulins. Now you do not follow the marking signs to the moraines but continue in S and then E direction of the steep passages at Les Egralets (partly a little bit like a way). You go the steep passages up and via a good way through grass hangs to a moraine, from which you reach the hut soon.
- b. You can reach the hut via a new climbing track below the Flammes de Pierre and the ends of the Aig. du Moine to the Ref. du Couvercle. But because of ice avalanches, some passages of this route have become very dangerous. You have to ask for the actual conditions. 3,5 h from Montenvers to Couvercle.
Grande Rocheuse and Aiguille Verte (photo by Antonio Giani)
Routes overviewThere are several routes to the summit of Grande Rocheuse. I will describe the ones that are most common. Grande Rocheuse is mainly climbed in combination with Aiguille Verte or Aiguille du Jardin.
- 1. Whymper Couloir: 48° in the average, till 55°, 530 hm, AD, 5-7 hours from Ref. de Couvercle. This route is useally used for the descent. Be aware of the fact that this couloir can be dangerous due to rockfall.
- 2. Jardin Ridge (E ridge): IV (2 passages), mostly III and II, D-, 450 hm till Aig. Jardin; from here 300 hm, 8-10 h.
- 3. Northeast Face: there are a few ice climbs on this face. Acces the routes by climbing the Couloir Couturier on Aiguille Verte. Leave the couloir on it's left side to reach the climbs.
a. Vivagel: IV, 4, TD, 1000m.
b. Northeast Face direct: IV, 4+, TD, 1000m.
c. Late to say I'm sorry: V 5+ A2/5c, ED+, 1000m.
d. Bettembourg-Thivierge: IV, III, D+, 1000m
Note: the lenght of the climbs is measured from the base of the mountain. The first part follows the Couturier Couloir (for about 500 meters).
- 4. Northeast Spur: a long and serious route which can be compared with the NE-spur on the Droites, although this route is less difficult. Mostly IV (max V), TD-, 15 hours from the Ref. d'Argentiere.
Guidebooks and MapsMap 1:25 000:
- IGN: 3630 OT Chamonix - Massif du Mont Blanc
- IGC: 165107 IGC Monte Bianco
- Gaston Rébuffat: The Mont Blanc Massif. The 100 Finest Routes. London 1996 ISBN 1-898573-03-4
- Mont Blanc Massif Volume II Selected climbs, Lindsay Griffin, ISBN 0-900523-58-1
- Snow, Mixed and Ice Volume 1, Francios Damilano, ISBN 2952188122
To order IGN Maps: www.ign.fr
To order Snow, Mixed and Ice: www.cordee.co.uk
External LinksMeteo France - Avalance Bulletin for Haute Savoie by Meteo France
Weather Forecast - Detailed weather forecast by Chamonix Meteo
Geneva Airport - Information on Geneva Airport
SNCF website - Train schedules
Chamonix - Tourist Office Chamonix
Office de Haute Montagne - The place to be to get up to date information on mountain conditions and routes.