OverviewA classic ascent of one of the more solid teeth in the row and a beautiful climb with views over the Swiss prealps and the larger French Alps. Could be done in a long day but I'd recommend an overnight either in the Auberge de Salanfe or, for a real high-altitude slumber, the Refuge des Dents du Midi at 2900 meters.
This is a classic climb for experienced mountaineers and also a good intro to mildly technical mountaineering for those with some trad and shortrope/simulclimbing experience. Perhaps a longer approach than for the standard Haute Cime, but definitely more exciting, hands on and rewarding than the walk up the high summit. 3187 meters
Getting ThereSalvan is the most logical starting point to access les Dents from the south. One may begin in Champery, but expect to add several hours of approach time as it is on the North side of the mountain.
How to reach Salvan ?
Motorway A9 - exit Martigny. Then drive to Salvan. Once in Salvan follow the signs in the direction of Vallon de Van and continue until you reach the camping site in Van d'en Haut. Pass the small wooden bridge on your left and keep driving up to the car park. Leave your car there.
By train and bus
From Martigny's main station, take the regional train Martigny-Châtelard up to Les Marécottes. Get off the train in les Marécottes and take the bus (shuttle service) to the camping place in Van d'en Haut. (This bus is only available during the high season). train and bus timetables: www.cff.ch
Groups of 10 people or more, are requested to book their places on the shuttle from Salvan to Van d'en Haut. Call the station at Les Marécottes : Tel and fax : 027/761.13.29
Where to Stay
The first option is the Auberge de Salanfe, a cozy and well-equipped cabane at 2000 meters at the edge of the glacial blue Salanfe lake. The auberge is reached in about 1.5 hours on foot from the Van-d'en haut parking and frequent yellow trail signs will indicate how to reach it.
The auberge has 100 dorm beds, 20 double room beds, showers and a restaurant and is open from early June until early October. The fact that you can order soup and a glass of wine/cold beer at the end of your day makes the stay more than worth it. Check out www.salanfe.ch, email the keepers at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at +41 (0)27 761 1438.
The second option, which I highly recommend, is the Refuge des Dents du Midi, a much smaller and simpler refuge situated high on the Plan Neve glacier just beneath the teeth at 2900 meters. This place is small, quaint and with unbeatable views over the Alps to the south and directly up at the teeth to be conquered the next day. Much less frequented due to the steep and arduous approach from the lake, this refuge has about 10 bunk beds and a small kitchen, and you're much more likely to have the place and the outstanding views all to yourself. Bring food ready-to-eat or to cook, and refill your bottle with fresh glacial melt.
Once again, from the Auberge or the Susanfe lake, follow very distinct yellow trail signs and red rock paint for about 1.5 hours on a steep, rocky talus slope north to the refuge which sits at the very top of the talus heap. The advantage of staying overnight here is that on summit day you will only have about 300 meters to gain to the summit, which may allow for a sameday retreat or a stab at one of the other teeth on the imposing summit ridge. The sunrise is infinitely more astounding to watch from here.
Call +41 (0)24 466 1530 to make a reservation (if you speak french), or just show up as it's rarely if ever full. There is a friendly keeper in the high summer months but the door is unlocked and available for respectful use year round.
From the refuge you have a commanding view over the many teeth of the ridge, some quite intimidating. While looking north from right to left you have: the Cime de l'est(east summit), la Forteresse, Cathedrale, Eperon, and finally, la Dent Jaune, a distinctly yellowish shark's fin rising above you.
From the refuge, ascend north directly across the glacier to the base of the Eperon (no worries on the glacier as there are almost no sizable crevasses), then traverse along it's base until you reach the talus col just beneath la Dent Jaune. Hike up loose talus and onto the solid south ramp of la Dent, and make sure you are now roped in. Do a straightforward ascending traverse of the ramp, looking out for pitons on the left and adequate cracks for pro. The ramp becomes a bit more narrow and exposed on the right before making a left turn onto the steeper upper section of the ramp leading to the ridge. The ledges on this steeper pitch are relatively easy to surmount. From the ridge, do an easy hike/scramble over large blocks to the airy summit at 3187 meters, and enjoy the outstanding views in all directions.(Rough ascent time from refuge to summit - 2 hours).
The descent returns the same way and only requires rappelling in one spot. From the ridge at the top of the ramp, find the solid fixed chains from which to rappel and take care to stay to your left near the wall, as rapping over the large lower ledges can land you in a very difficult spot. Shimmy down the ramp and back onto the glacier for a different tooth attempt or drink a cold one at the refuge in the company of the imposing giants of the land...Enjoy!
Essential GearHelmet, a 40 meter rope, ice axe (only in spring or with abundance of snow), handful of slings and some midrange stoppers or cams for comfort. There are several usable pitons, but the added pro in sections may be useful so as to prevent a long fall.
External LinksAuberge de Salanfe
Fabienne & Nicolas Marclay
+41 (0)27 761 1438
Refuge des Dents du Midi
+41 (0)24 466 1530