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La Meije
Mountain/Rock

La Meije

 
La Meije

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Dauphiné, France, Europe

Lat/Lon: 45.00620°N / 6.30920°E

Object Title: La Meije

Elevation: 13068 ft / 3983 m

 

Page By: om

Created/Edited: Apr 25, 2001 / Sep 25, 2013

Object ID: 150368

Hits: 30615 

Page Score: 89.01%  - 28 Votes 

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Overview

Geographical classification: Western Alps > High Dauphiné Alps > La Meije

La Meije (3983m) is the second highest montain of Ecrins massif (4101m).
La Meije part of the massif is a 15 Km long and 5km large East-West branch.
That ridge is southly connected to massif du Soreiller (3597m) and to la grande Ruine group (3765m).
To La Meije ridge belong lots of high peaks, from east to west: Pointe Nérot (3537m), Pic gaspard (3883m), Le Pavé (3824m),
La Meije Orientale (3890m),La Meije Centrale (3974m),Grand Pic de la Meije (3983m),le rateau (3809m), Pic de la grave (3669), Dôme de la Lauze (3512m),
le Jandri (3288m).The north side of La Meije group is ice covered by glacier like Glacier de l'homme, Glacier
du Tabuchet, Glacier de la Meije, Glacier de la Girose (the biggest), Glacier du Mont de Lans.
La Meije Group is north borded by La Romanche Valley, (1000 to 2000m), including La Grave village (1526m).
The south side is borded by 2 wilde small valley with a glacier on their highest part : La Selle (1500 to 2500m) and Etançons (1700 to 2500m).Both
small valley join Vénéon valley, the internal valley of Ecrins massif wich include 2 villages: Saint-Christophe-en-oisans and La Bérarde.

Submited by Martinmls :

The Meije and its traverse are an outstanding experience for those prepared to operate in an unforgiving and demanding environment of "Difficile" standard throughout the climb. It seldom falls below a demanding standard and offers a few surprises especially if you choose a quiet day and climb without a guide as my son and I did. We were alone on the ridge througout the day. The route finding is easy for the experienced, route guides are clear and there is adequate fixed protection. There were few if any nut placements but friends were useful. Excellent rock - steep at times gives way to mixed climbing with an axe, crampons and rope - climbing together was essential to cover the ground. Frequent abseils were needed on the ridge along with two 50 metre ropes. The pitch after the first tooth on the traverse is surprisingly steep but has a fixed rope which is essential if it isclimbed at "Difficile"
After the first tooth the difficulties ease but the position and exposure demand great care. Perhaps the most exciting aspect is gaining enough experience to guide yourself. If you're just "bagging" it using a guide then you've just taken the real adventure out of it. It's a real classic for the grade. Make sure you're well acclimatised. Contact me for more detail Martinmls@hotmail.com



Best up to date info :
http://www.refugedupromontoire.com/en-direct/

Grand Pic

Le Doigt de Dieu (Godfinger)

Meije Orientale

La Meije southern face

La Meije northern face

La Meije glaciers

Sunset

Getting There

Grenoble >> Bourg D'Oisans
or
Briançon >> Lautaret pass
or
Saint Michel de Maurienne >> Valoire >> Galibier Pass >> Lautaret pass (summer only)



La Grave >> Breche de la Meije >> Promontoire Hut (normal route to grand Pic or traverse)
or
La Grave >> L'Aigle Hut (Central and Oriental summit)
or
Bourg D'Oisans >> La Berarde (not in winter) >> Promontoire Hut (normal route to grand Pic or traverse)

Red Tape

None required

When To Climb

Summer period with stable wheather.

Camping

La Bérarde or La Grave

Mountain Conditions

Mountain meteo Briançon
And
Phone the Promontoire Hut : the guardian is very experienced.

meteo 7 days Briançon

meteo 7 days Bourg d'Oisans

meteo 7 days Grenoble

meteo 7 days Gap


1st ascent

Pic Central : August 23 1975, Guides Alexandre Tournier, Léon Simond et François Simond, Henry Duhamel, Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau
Grand Pic: August 16 1877, Pierre Gaspard and Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau
Grand Pic, one day ascent : july 26 1883, Pierre Gaspard, Maximin Gaspard, Célestin Passet, Henri Brulle.
Ridge Traverse west-east : 1891, J.-H. Gibson, U. Almer et F. Boss

La Meije huts

LE PROMONTOIRE 3082m CAF hut
Situation: Vénéon side. La Meije south side.
open: 04/15-05/15 and 06/15-09-15 guarded
Size: 36 pers.
Getting There: 1369m high from La Bérarde
Hut's phone : 04 76 80 51 67
Guardian: Marielle Tuaz 268, rue des Fiz 74170 Saint Gervais
Guardian own home phone: 04 50 47 73 44

L'AIGLE 3450m CAF hut
Situation: Romanche side. La Meije north side
open: 04/15-05/31 and 06/30-09-15 Guarded
Size: 24 pers.
Getting There: 1650m high from Villar-d'Arêne (Pont Vieux)
(+1800 m)
Hut's phone : 04 76 79 94 74
Guardian: Marie Sangnier Le Serre Barbin 05220 Le Monétier les Bains
Guardian own home phone: 04 92 24 90 32

routes overview

Name: Meije Promontoire ridge
Difficulty: AD
Time required: 4h-5h to Grand Pic
Essential gear: crampons, crabs, rappel
Start point: Promontoire hut (3092m)
Top point: Grand Pic (3983m)
Difference in height: 891m
First ascent:Boileau de Castelnau, Pierre Gaspard August 16 1877

Name:Meije traverse
Difficulty:D
Time required:4h-5h to Grand Pic + 3.30h-4h to Central Pic + 1h to l'Aigle hut
Essential gear: crampons, crabs, rappel
Start point: Promontoire hut (3092m)
Top point: Grand Pic (3983m) + Central Pic (3974m)
Difference in height: 891m + 700m = 1591m
First ascent:J.H. Gibson,Ulrich Almer, Fritz Boss july 13 1891

Meije Traverse montagne-virtuel topo

Name: Oriental Meije NE ridge
Difficulty:PD, thin ridge sometimes
Time required: 2.30 h
Essential gear:crampons
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point: Oriental Meije (3890m)
Difference in height: 460m
First ascent:H. Duhamel, Giraud-Lézin, F. Gonet august 21 1878

Meije Orientale montagne-virtuel topo

Name:Oriental Meije N Face
Difficulty: D (Ice 50°)
Time required:2.30 h
Essential gear:crampons, crabs
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point:Oriental Meije (3890m)
Difference in height:460m. North Face from rimaye 180m
First ascent:j. Biju-Duval, G Sourice, J-M Traynard july 6 1971

Name:Oriental Meije - Pavé - Pic Gaspard
Difficulty: AD
Time required: Meije - Pavé : 2.30 h, Pavé - Pic Gaspard: 4-5 h
Essential gear:crampons
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Mid point: Oriental Meije (3890m)
Mid point: Pavé (3824m)
Top point: Pic Gaspard (3883m)
End point: l'Alpe hut (2079m)
Difference in height:460m + 101m + 206m
First ascent:A. Boell, G Franck, E. Brun august 22 1944 (Meije - Pavé)
Fist ascent:A. Arnaud, P. Dalloz september 12 1926 (Pavé - Pic Gaspard)

Name: Meije Grand Pic gravelotte corridor
Difficulty: D (Ice 58°, rimaye usually open)
Time required: 1.30 h to rimaye + 4 - 8 h to summit
Essential gear:crampons, crabs
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point:Meije Grand Pic(3983m)
Difference in height:from rimaye to summit : 500m ice + 80m rock. 580m
First ascent:E. Gravelotte, Maximin Gaspard, Casimir Gaspard, Devouassoud, joseph Turc september 24 1898

Name: Meije Central Pic, Corridor corridor
Difficulty: D (Ice 55°)
Time required: 1.30 h to rimaye + 3 - 7 h to summit
Essential gear:crampons, crabs
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
mid point: Rimaye (3350m)
Top point:Meije Central Pic (3974m)
Difference in height:from rimaye to summit : 620m
First ascent:M. Mme H. Déchamp, Max Liotier, J. Véron august 26 1961

Name: Meije Ridge N face
Difficulty: D sup (Ice 70°)
Time required: 9 h to summit
Essential gear:crampons, crabs
Start point:l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point:Meije Pic (3951m)
Difference in height:from rimaye to summit : 550m
First ascent:j. Biju-Duval, G Sourice, july 4 1971

Name: Meije Grand Pic Z north route
Difficulty: TD (depending on ice conditions)
Time required: Promontoire hut to face 2 - 2.30 h,l'Aigle hut to face 1.30 h + 10 - 14 h to summit
Essential gear:crampons, pitons > 12, mousquetons
Start point:Promontoire hut (3430m) or shorter l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point:Meije Grand Pic(3983m)
Difference in height: : 750m
First ascent:G. Robino, A. Tobey, August 3 1947

Name: Meije direct Sud face
Difficulty: TD, 10 pitons
Time required: 7h-9h to Grand Pic
Essential gear: crampons, pitons > 10, mousquetons, rappels 40m
Start point: Promontoire hut (3092m)
Top point: Grand Pic (3983m)
Difference in height: 800m
First ascent:P. Allain, R. Leininger August 21 1935

Name: Meije Central Pic direct Sud face
Difficulty: TDsup, 15 pitons not easy
Time required: 10h-15h to summit
Essential gear: crampons, small pitons > 15, mousquetons
Start point: Promontoire hut (3092m)
Top point: Central Pic (3974m)
Difference in height: 700m
First ascent:P. Chapoutot, J-L Mercadié, August 29 1968

Name: Meije 3rd Dent direct Sud face
Difficulty: TD, 10 pitons
Time required: 7h-10h
Essential gear: crampons, pitons > 10 short, mousquetons
Start point: Promontoire hut (3092m)
Top point: 3rd Pic (3951m)
Difference in height: 700m
First ascent:m. Brissaud, J-M Léroux, V. Péguy September 4-5 1971

Name: Meije Grand Pic direct north route
Difficulty: TD (depending on ice conditions)
Time required: Promontoire hut to face 2 - 2.30 h,l'Aigle hut to face 1.30 h + 12 - 15 h to summit
Essential gear:crampons, pitons(extra-flat), mousquetons, 40m cord, bivouac
Start point:Promontoire hut (3430m) or shorter l'Aigle hut (3430m)
Top point:Meije Grand Pic(3983m)
Difference in height: : 750m
First ascent:R Ginel, R Renaud,August 1-2 1962


Meije orientale trip

L'Aigle hut trip

special route to Aigle Hut montagne-virtuel topo

Historic Ascent

La premiere ascension de la Meije (3987 m) en une journée
26 juillet 1883 (Gaspard père, Maximin Gaspard, Célestin Passet, Henri Brulle (1854-1936)

Il y avait plus de trois ans que la Meije ne s'était laissé escalader... La veille encore, une tentative dirigée par deux guides de Chamonix avait échoué. Mais comme elle était le but avoué de notre voyage, nous n'étions pas disposés à lâcher prise volontiers; au besoin, nous pouvions lui consacrer un siège en règle de quinze jours. Gaspard père, avec son plus jeune fils Maximin, commandait la caravane, à laquelle nous avions joint Célestin Passet, notre guide habituel des Pyrénées: il était assez bon montagnard pour mériter de se mesurer avec les Alpes, et nous voulions qu'il pût développer, à l'école de Gaspard, des qualités de guide de premier ordre. Celui-ci lui avait fait bon accueil, l'entente la plus parfaite régnait dans notre petite troupe; tout nous promettait une heureuse campagne.

Entraînés par l'ascension des Fétoules (3.465 m) et celle du Plaret (3.570 m), nous étions installés au Chatelleret, attendant que le soleil eût fait fondre la neige qui, récemment tombée en grande quantité, interdisait toute tentative sérieuse. Le jeudi 26 juillet, le temps parut favorable et, dès 1 heure du matin, on fit les préparatifs de départ.

Il serait inutile de raconter cette ascension, copiée sur un itinéraire déjà parcouru quatre fois, si elle ne présentait une particularité importante, c'est d'avoir été effectuée tout entière en un seul jour. A l'avenir, Gaspard ne veut pas faire autrement. Ainsi plus de nuit terrible à redouter: le lit de camp du Chatelleret remplace la corniche du glacier Carré. Peut-être cette perspective sera-t-elle de nature à attirer à l'une des montagnes les plus belles et les plus originales des Alpes un plus grand nombre de visiteurs.
L'air était vif et le ciel encore plein d'étoiles quand nous fermâmes derrière nous (3 h. 35) la porte du refuge: le glacier des Etançons fut rapidement enlevé et à 5 heures nous arrivâmes à l'extrémité inférieure du promontoire. Les débuts furent lents, car il fallut tailler des marches dans la glace des couloirs et prendre garde au verglas des rochers, ce qui est peu de chose en montant, mais devient plus grave lors de la descente. Nous laissâmes cependant, pour être plus lestes, trois de nos piolets sur cinq; fort heureusement, nous ne devions pas commettre sur la pente du glacier Carré la même maladresse que quelques jours plus tard au col des Ecrins.
Il n'y a pas deux chemins, il n'y a même pas de variantes jusqu'à la pyramide Duhamel; on chemine tantôt dans des couloirs de glace, tantôt sur la crête même, dont les rochers sont recouverts d'un verglas épais, par suite de la grande quantité de neige tombée précédemment et de la chaleur de la veille. Quant à la grande muraille qu'il faut escalader pour atteindre le glacier Carré, c'est une succession ininterrompue de couloirs à pic, de murs lisses, de corniches vertigineuses à confondre l'imagination. Les sept mètres de corde qui nous séparaient les uns des autres n'étaient pas toujours suffisants pour permettre à chacun de s'établir en sûreté; heureusement que la roche est solide, et qu'habitués dans les Pyrénées à gravir des rochers difficiles, nous savons tirer parti des moindres saillies. Un passage surtout est émouvant c'est le " pas du chat ", un peu avant d'arriver au glacier Carré. Les plus déterminés ne s'y engagent pas sans s'y reprendre à plusieurs fois: la roche est lisse, il faut ramper sur une dalle fortement inclinée sur un épouvantable précipice et, comme on perd de vue ses compagnons, on éprouve en se voyant ainsi suspendu sur l'abîme un affreux serrement de coeur.
Une fois sur le glacier Carré, le plus dur est fait. Il ne reste plus qu'à le gravir, ce qui est facile quand il n'est pas à découvert et à escalader la face Ouest de la pyramide terminale, ce qui serait facile aussi sans le verglas maudit qui nous poursuit. Un dernier effort pour franchir un mur terrible de 5 ou 6 mètres, où Gaspard seul sait trouver des aspérités suffisantes pour se hisser et nous sommes sur la cime par un temps d'une pureté admirable. Aussi, quel merveilleux spectacle! (1 h. 30).
Pas un nuage au ciel, pas une brume à l'horizon. Du Mont Blanc au Viso, du Cervin à l'Olan, des Grandes Rousses aux Alpes Maritimes, nos regards émerveillés flottent au hasard de notre imagination surexcitée. C'est féerique et défie toute description.
La cime est couverte d'une épaisse couche de neige sous laquelle sont enfouies les pyramides de nos devanciers. Il fait très froid, aussi à peine sommes-nous au but depuis un quart d'heure qu'il faut partir.
Engourdis et glacés par le vent du Nord, nous franchissons avec peine le premier escarpement: resté le dernier, Gaspard se voit obligé de sacrifier un morceau de la corde supplémentaire.
A 3 h. 30, nous achevons la traversée du glacier Carré, ayant cherché en vain dans les rochers du Pic du Glacier et sur les indications d'un croquis contenu dans le registre de la Bérarde, les couvertures abandonnées en 1879 par MM. Pilkington et Gardiner. Nous repartons à 4 h. 05, cette fois pour ne plus nous arrêter, car si nous prétendons arriver au Chatelleret, il n'y a pas une minute à perdre.
Malgré ses corniches vertigineuses et ses couloirs à pic, la grande muraille est descendue sans encombre, en juste autant de temps qu'il nous en a fallu pour l'escalader.
Quand nous passons à côté de la Pyramide Duhamel, la teinte mélancolique du soir envahit déjà les vallées. Peu à peu, le soleil disparaît, les ombres grandissent. Nous avons beau faire, grâce au verglas, la nuit nous devance dans les derniers corridors du promontoire, et pour comble d'ennui, des brumes épaisses nous enveloppent, nous ravissant jusqu'à la lueur indécise des étoiles. Désormais, il fait aussi noir que dans un four nous avons bien une lanterne, mais elle ne pourrait éclairer suffisamment la route, et sa lumière vacillante serait plus dangereuse qu'utile.
Quoique, dans ces rochers, une chute pouvant avoir des conséquences graves ne soit guère à redouter, la marche y est terriblement pénible; on n'avance qu'à tâtons, en trébuchant et en se heurtant à chaque pas. Personne n'est fatigué, et pourtant chaque fois que se rencontre quelque étroite plate-forme, plus d'un propose d'y camper pour y attendre le jour, tant il semble insensé de poursuivre.
Tout à coup, Maximin et Bazillac, qui marchent en tête, bondissent en arrière, en même temps que nous entendons rouler une avalanche de pierres. Ceci se passe au sommet d'une muraille à pic de sept ou huit mètres où se trouve l'unique passage. Pour descendre, il faut s'en-gager d'abord sur des blocs qui chancellent et dont on ne voit seulement pas le point d'appui.
Cette fois, les plus déterminés croient la partie perdue, mais Gaspard ne veut rien entendre. Admirable d'audace, d'adresse et de sang-froid, il maintient à bras-le-corps une pierre énorme qui menace de balayer le couloir et dirige la plus difficile manoeuvre qu'il soit possible d'exécuter. Je ne raconterai pas comment nous parvînmes tous sains et saufs, par une obscurité complète (il était 9 h. 30), en bas de cette cheminée, déjà difficile en plein jour. Il y eut dans cet épisode dramatique de notre descente des moments de véritable angoisse.
Tout finit bien grâce à Dieu: le reste n'est plus qu'un jeu et je passe les derniers incidents. Bientôt, les piolets abandonnés le matin sont retrouvés; la lanterne est allumée sur le glacier des Etançons que nous descendons au pas de course et, à 10 h. 40, nous rentrons triomphants au Chatelleret, après une absence de plus de dix-neuf heures. Quand, autour du poêle flambant joyeusement, nous songeâmes à nous détacher de la corde qui nous liait depuis de si longues heures dans une étroite solidarité, il sembla que ce fut avec regret que chacun reprenait sa liberté. Puis des tasses d'un thé parfumé et authentique, savamment dosé et préparé, firent oublier les épreuves de la journée: on but à la Meije, on échangea ses impressions, et il était plus d'une heure quand nous nous décidâmes à prendre un repos bien gagné, mais dont aucun de nous ne ressentait le besoin.
La Meije mérite sa renommée. Mais si pénible, si difficile qu'en soit l'ascension, surtout à cause de sa durée sans trêve ni repos, il faut reconnaître qu'elle est une ennemie loyale: peu ou point de pierres qui roulent sur la tête ou glissent traîtreusement sous le pied, point de saillies perfides qui cèdent sous la main, point de danger caché ou imprévu. Aussi me faisant l'avocat de la Meije, me hasarderai-je à émettre le voeu qu'elle reste toujours telle que l'a faite la nature. Ne faut-il pas laisser quelques efforts à faire aux Alpinistes de l'avenir ? D'autant plus qu'il ne manque pas dans les Alpes de belvédères aussi superbes et plus faciles à conquérir.

Henri Brulle
ASCENSIONS

historical mountaineering here

A NIGHT ON THE MEIJE
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ARTHUR STREETLY Queens', journal, June, 1953 .
[By a member of Cambridge University Mountainering Club]
http://www.cam.ac.uk/societies/cumc
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHEN I was asked to go to the Alps last summer, I jumped at the offer. So it was that on the 1st of June, 1953 Ted Wrangham, David Fisher, André Kopczsynski and myself set out in Ted’s Jaguar from London, our first destination Lympne and the Silver City Airways. The flight across was uneventful and after a very comfortable and pleasant run from Le Touquet, I was enjoying my first sight of Paris.

Next morning, after spending a short while in Pierre Allain’s shop, we proceeded southwards at a leisurely 80 m.p.h., and after a further night spent in a small hotel, midday found us twisting and turning up a tortuous bit of road leading to ’La Bérarde in the Dauphiné. This was to be our headquarters for a week. Our arrival in La Bérarde aroused some interest, but it waned slightly when we produced tents. Within a short while we were pleasantly encamped, with a glacier fed stream within convenient distance for collecting water. A short tour was then made of the town. This did not take long, as it consisted of only about seven buildings, of which five were hotels. Readers will understand then why our tents were not appreciated, especially as they come from the depths of a "Jag" boot.

When we had bought a good stock of provisions, and agreed on the way to our first climb the following morning, we returned to cook our dinner and to go to bed early. It was the first time for many years that I have been disturbed at such an ungodly hour, but the air was pleasant enough when we had a few clothes on; within an hour we had packed everything up and were on our way.

It was not without a little trepidation that I set out, but the thought that later on that day I should be on the top of one of those lovely peaks, which were now only blacker outlines against a black darkness, was stronger than any fear I might have had, though there was still immeasurable awe. The first climb we had chosen was the west arete Pic Nord des Cavales. It entailed a very long tramp from La Bérarde to reach the start, and it was quite light by the time we had roped up, but the climb itself went well enough, although I was making rather hard weather of it through height, and the resulting lack of breath. The feeling on reaching the top of a real mountain was as great as I had always imagined. We did not stay there long, but made our way down as quickly as possible, as we had been warned that it was still rainy every afternoon, and we were taking no chances. This day though, we were safely back in camp when the rain started around five, pretty tired, because it had been a long day and our first climb, but content. After a day of rest we were off again, this time with some stores, bound for the hut. Towering above and away from us was the Meije, which I had seen before on our first climb, but which now could be studied more leisurely. The Meije, however, did not enter our heads until we had returned from our second climb, again a west arete, this time of the Point des Aigles. There had been one rather perturbing incident on the way up this, when a rock nearly the size of my head tried to bomb me. Fortunately it richochetted off my back, and no damage was done, but I spent a little while ruminating before finishing the pitch I was on at the time.

Back at the hut, which we reached in record time after glissading most of the way, we debated our next climb. Eventually it was decided that we should do the classic traverse of the Meije via the glacier Carré from the Promontoire hut. Supplies were running short, so next day we tossed to see who should go back to La Bérarde to pick up fresh food and to bring it right up to the Promontoire, but Ted and I were lucky, so after saying au revoir to Dave and André we took most of what foodstuffs were left and proceeded to the Promontoire hut, which was perched a little way up on the arete we had to climb the next day.

Snow was down so far that the stream given in the guide proved not only waterless but non-existent. After a fruitless search for another, Ted and I as arranged, went ahead to scout the route we would be following in darkness the following day. When we returned we were surprised to find that Dave and André had already arrived, some hours ahead of schedule. During dinner, which was as usual a throw-in of corned-beef, rice, onions and a tube of tomato pur6e, the chief subject of conversation was the weather. It had snowed on the mountains, and rained in the valleys, regularly every afternoon we had been in the area, bearing out what the people had said. It had never however come any earlier than three, and usually started around five. If the morning was fine therefore and we could start out, it would have to be early.

At 2.30 a.m. therefore the kettle was boiling: by three we were off, Ted and I leading in the darkness the route which we had scouted the previous afternoon. Gradually, as we could see better, we progressed a little faster. At about 9.30 we had reached the level of the glacier Carré, and began our traverse on to it. At 11 p.m. we were eating some food on top of the glacier Carré in the hollow between the twin peaks of the Meije. So far we were making good enough time and, as we proceeded on our way the sky started to get a little darker, but nobody worried particularly about it. Suddenly, however, about two pitches from the top of the right hand peak, it began to snow, gently at first, but by the time we had all reached the top, it was swirling and thick. There was now no time to waste; a regrouping of forces was called for. Dave, who had six Alpine seasons to his credit, took the lead, next André with one season, myself in my first, and Ted bringing up the rear, the second most experienced of the party on his third. A detailed description of the traverse, done in ever worsening conditions, with occasional stops to discard humming ice axes, is impossible; the main thought in all our minds was to keep moving as fast as possible, not to mind the snow melting and penetrating everything, only to keep moving, keep warm. When we had reached the next peak our traverse was complete; Dave had done his job safely and well. Now all we had to do was to get onto thc snow and walk off the mountain to the nearest hut, which was, according to the guide book, not very far away. Besides the snow had stopped, but our troubles were by no means at an end. It was getting dark. We began to make our way down. Combined with the gathering darkness a mist, which still lingered, prevented our seeing more than about 50 feet ahead. Ted, who was leading, now came to a series of bergschrunds. We were getting nowhere fast. "I’m going to jump it," from Ted. Silence and tenseness from us in reply. A jump – safe – jubilation on our parts. Three more bergschrunds followed the first, then "Well, boys, here’s where we sleep the night: cosy, eh?"

An hour later, by the light of a flickering candle four people, feet in rucksacks, could be seen eating a little food. The mist had cleared, and the sky was perfectly clear. "No more snow anyway, and thank heavens not too much wind." – "Are you cold?" "A little." "Midnight," one, two o’clock: pass round the sugar, figs, apricots, raisins, anything to keep my mind off the cold. Wish I hadn’t only worn a light shirt and cotton vest under my anorak and that they hadn’t got wet, but just think, 90°F at home in the shade. Three o’clock, let’s have a bit of chocolate, wish my teeth wouldn’t chatter. Four o’clock, "Come along, fellows, let’s start making a move. It’ll soon be light." "O.K." "Brother, I’m stiff, me too, boots frozen up, can’t get mine on, ah there it is."

Start slowly down. Just a few feet away a place where we could easily have crossed the bergschrund. Still, glad we didn’t risk pressing on, no telling what might have happened. Sky suddenly seems to get lighter. Look, Mt. Blanc.

Away in the distance, poking its way through a layer of lowish lying cloud, was indeed Mt. Blanc. There was no mistaking her. One side was covered with that glorious pink of dawn on snow, which is only matched in colour by the glory of a queen conchshell; the other side still lay in darkness seemingly expectant, waiting to take on life again after the colourlessness of night. It is one of those views which I shall always think of with pleasure, tinged with a little awe, but it cheered us up tremendously, and a sight of the hut not more than half an hour’s walk away made our hearts light. When we reached it it looked as if nobody had been in it for months. Nobody had, we learnt later. André and I decided come what may we were going to have some sleep before we proceeded down to La Grave. Dave and Ted went on straight away. I didn’t sleep for long, and went. and sat in the sun until André woke up. We left the hut eventually around 1 p.m., following the other’s footsteps. It was nice to be down below the snow line once again, to hear the tinkle of the sheep bells and the tonkle of the cow bells; One thing about a night in the snow, I thought: it certainly makes you appreciate those things you’re apt to take too much for granted.

Le Grave showed some interest in us. Where had we come from? Who were we? What had we done? Our answers set off a hubbub of conversation. Evidently we couldn’t have been "Anglaise" and traversed the Meije, because the last two Anglaise who had tried it had been found frozen stiff in a bergschrund next day. Hunger called, however, and we searched out an hotel. It was gone 3 p.m., and they stopped serving lunch at 3 p.m., but everybody was kind, and with a lovely meal before us, our first proper meal for many hours, and a large bottle of wine each, we couldn’t have asked for more.

We booked rooms in the hotel for the night, and went in search of Ted and Dave. While we were all walking back to the hotel we were approached by a youngish chap who wanted to hear all about it over again. He had done the last traverse of the season last year, and had hoped to do the first this year, but did not think the weather was steady enough yet. We were very lucky. You mean – yes, ours was the first traverse of the season – our triumph was complete.

External Links

  • Oisans site
    In French but gives all on accomodations, meteo, photos and more and more...

  • Ecrins National Park Official Site
    you will find here a lot of information about the National Park

  • CAF Grenoble Oisans
    French Alpine Club - Grenoble region
  • AACZ pictures

  • Ecrins-Pelvoux-Meije Massif geology
    Nice geology site and nice pictures with comments, even if the translation is not perfect (I love Big Red-haired persons as translation for Grandes Rousses Massif !)
  • mountain guide
    ascent of la meije by differents routes with a guide
  • alpesexploration.com
    Page about La Meije (in french)
  • La Meije Orientale photo album

Images