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Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

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Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby dsq » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:06 am

I am not a climber but a hiker.I have hiked up to lac blanc and along Le Grand Balcon Nord.This visit i want to do something more exciting.I am looking for info to see how one goes about hiking up to the Refuge Couvercle from Montenvers?
Also is it possible to hike down the mer du glace from the Aiguiile Du Midi tram station?
I will be in Chamonix in early september.
Also how are the chamonix campsites?Is it noisy and is there a bathroom/shower facility there or anywhere in Chamonix?I would rather spend my money on food than hotels.
Thanks for whatever advice you can share.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby Jake » Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:27 pm

It depends if you want to do it by your own? On the Mer de Glace there are chances to fall into crevasse before you get to the dry glacier.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby dsq » Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:59 am

Yes i wanted to do it on my own.I hike and backpack solo in the Sierra Nevada but stick to trails.I was wondering if they have any fixed trails down the vallee blanche to mer de glace or is it really mountaineering experience that u need?

How much are guides?
How much to rent ice axe,crampons?
I would much rather bivy than stay in a hut for many reasons.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby WouterB » Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:27 pm

This might help: http://wouterbertels.be/trips/a-via-ferrata-style-approach-to-the-refuge-de-couvercle/. I think it's feasible to solo this if you're comfortable on a via ferrata and if there's no snow covering the glacier.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby 13ers » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:26 pm

If you want to run up to the Mer de Glace on the 10th I can meet you at the OHM in Chamonix the morning of the 10th. I will check my email the morning of the 10th before I head up. We can rent gear in Chamonix if needed. I already have a good map of the area.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby dsq » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:03 pm

13ers wrote:If you want to run up to the Mer de Glace on the 10th I can meet you at the OHM in Chamonix the morning of the 10th. I will check my email the morning of the 10th before I head up. We can rent gear in Chamonix if needed. I already have a good map of the area.


Thanks for the great offer but i wont be in the chamonix area til early september.I think i really must have a guide or experienced person because i have no glacier experience.In fact my experience is backpacking and hiking maintained trails in California Sierra.Maybe.My good experience is that i do hike/snowshoe at 2800-3400 meters (Kearsarge Pass,Palisades glacier,Sabrina Basin). I am flying to France from california at the end of august.
I am fascinated by the mer du glace and vallee blanche.I saw incredible photos from the Couvercle Refuge and was amazed.I have to go!
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby kheegster » Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:04 am

FYI this is the exit ridge from the Aiguille du Midi telepherique station down to Vallee Blanche. The first couple of hundred yards of the ridge is about shoulder width, and if you fell on the left side of the ridge you'd go 3000ft straight down to the Plan du Midi. I see many people going up or down this ridge who are scared almost motionless, and I understand that there are guided clients there who put on crampons for the first time and have to descend this ridge.

Image

I don't want to discourage you, but the Alps is a very different environment from anything in the continental US, and I think you'll need to know basic glacier mountaineering in order to do what you said you want to do. You could certainly hire a guide, but remember that it's possible for your guide to fall into a crevasse as well, and if you don't know how to self-arrest I don't think that's a great situation to be in. I think that on a glacier everyone on a rope team needs to know his/her crevasse rescue skills.
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby dsq » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:44 pm

great photo.

Do you know of any websites for chx mtn guide services?
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Re: Hiking the Mer du Glace and Le Refuge Couvercle

Postby mvs » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:19 am

Uh, that photo showing the exit from the Aiguille du Midi station is irrelevent. The exit that dsq would use is from the *Montenvers* train station, going down the ladders to the Mer de Glace. I was there 3 weeks ago and hiked to the Coveurcle Hut, which was indeed very scenic. I didn't take the balcony via ferrata trail, but I saw a lot of people doing that.

dsq, you need to be comfortable walking in crampons on a dry glacier, even crossing a couple of crevasses on ice bridges. The other challenge is the ladders down and back up on the Coveurcle Hut side, which are longer and steeper. In one case there is a vertical ladder for about 15 meters. These ladders also have bolts that parties with ropes can clip into. It's a little intimidating being there without using a rope when other parties use one. You may need to wait in exposed sections of ladders while they pass and you are soloing.

If this sounds intimidating, then yes, get a guide. Have fun, it's a beautiful place!
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