Overview(The information on this page is taken from the books featured by the Alpine Club, and Gaston Rebuffat, and from my personal experience. Please contribute!)
The Tour Noir is a fine peak on the ridge that lies on the border between France and Switzerland. The peak looks over the Neuve Glacier and the Swiss Val Ferret to the East; and the Amethystes Glacier to the West. This mountain generates a lot of interest due to the proximity of the Grands Montets telepherique to the Argentiere Hut, and as a result of its inclusion in Gaston Rebuffat's '100 finest routes'. The view from the top of this mountain is reason enough to climb it - one looks out over the whole of the Mt Blanc range, the Rhone valley, the Vallais and the Oberland.
The best route is the traverse. One ascends the Amethystes Glacier to the Col Superieur du Tour Noir (3690m) and up the North Ridge; descending down the SE side by the ordinary route (South East Flank), over the Javelle Ledges to the Col d'Argentiere (3552m) and then down the Tour Noir Glacier to the hut. One can, of course, reach the Col Superieur du Tour Noir from the Swiss Val Ferret and the Neuve Hut, but it is a much longer and more difficult climb. The same is true for the descent on the Swiss side from the Col d'Argentiere where one must cross shattered rocks and a tricky bergshrund.
The first ascent was by the SE face by E. Javelle and F.F. Turner with J. Moser and f. Tournier on the 3rd August1876. The North Ridge was first acsended on the 23rd July 1898 by L.H & Th. Aubert with M. Crettex. Click on the routes section on the left for detailed descriptions of the main routes to the summit.
Getting ThereThe Huts:
1. Argentiere Hut. 2771m.
Property of the CAF. A large and welcoming hut and a magnificant viewpoint situated on the right bank of the Argentiere glacier at the foot of the SW (Jardin) ridge of the Aiguille d'Argentiere. Room for 140. Restaurant service and warden from 15th March to 15th September (except for the month of June.) Part of the hut remains open all year as a Winter refuge (sleeps 60) and even when the hut is open you can cook your own food downstairs in the kitchen.
From the Aig des Grands Montets Telepherique Station descend the Rognons glacier to the Argentiere Glacier. Cross to the right bank diagonally and gain the path through the lateral moraine that leads to the hut (1.5 - 2hrs from the telepherique.)
2. A Neuve Hut. 2735m.
28 places, guarded from 1st of July to 15th of September,
Huttenwart: SAC Sektion Diablerets, 1002 Lausanne, Tatjana Billinger, 1944 Fouly, Tel: ++41 27 783 21 11
Reservations (hut telephone): ++41 27 783 24 24
Situated under the Pts des Essets to the E of the Neuve glacier. From La Fouly go through L' A Neuve to a parking place at the end of a drivable track in the forest (1592m). Follow the track on the left through the forest. Continue along the morraine until the track crosses the river on a small footbridge. Zig zag up a ravine, finally making a wide detour to the NW. Reach the hut on the right via a rocky chimney with fixed chains. 3hr. In winter the slopes below the hut can be prone to avalanche after snowfall.
When To ClimbYou can climb this route all year round. In the summer it is essential that you take a helmet because of the loose rock. You must have good glacier experience because the Glacier des Améthystes is very cravassed. In winter and in spring it is a very nice ascent and it could make an excellent side trip from the ski touring 'Haute Route'. An approach in skis is recommended from the Argentiere Hut which may of may not be manned (but will always have room to sleep). See the Mont Blanc Ski Tours book that is featured on the left of this page.
I have not made a winter ascent of this mountain, or a ski ascent, so if you have any information, please add it to the page.