Pointe du Domino is the most significant point on the frontier ridge between the Aiguille de Triolet and Mont Dolent. Because of it's easy access from the Argentiere Hut (a 2 hr approach on skis) and the quality of the ice routes on it's north face, it is climbed quite often in winter. The normal route from the Italian side is graded AD, but all of the routes on the Argentiere side are hard. The route following the NW couloir (Petit Viking) has become very popular since it's first ascent in 1984 (B Cormier, D Radigue, and S Tavernier). It gives 10 good pitches of ice climbing (500m, TD-, WI 4) with an easy mixed finish to the ridge (at the Breche Est du Domino). All of the routes are described briefly below.
Routes via Breche (Ouest) du Domino and SW Ridge
1) South Side (AD, 900m, 4-5 hrs) -- This is the only easy route to the summit but is climbed far less frequently than the routes on the north side. Begin from the Fiorio Bivouac Hut (2,724 m) and follow gradually steepening snow slopes over the Pre de Bar glacier, staying to the left of the Pointe du Domino South Ridge. Reach and climb a rocky barrier for 100m to reach the Breche Ouest du Domino (3,575 m, 3-3.5 hrs from the hut). From the Breche, climb directly along the SW Ridge over a gendarme to reach the summit (loose).
2) North Side (TD, 500m, UIAA V/V+, 75 degrees) -- Climb the icy gully which ascends directly to the Breche from the Argentiere Glacier. The initial difficulties are on ice (Scottish 4, 75 degrees) and lead to a difficult mixed finish on poor rock (V/V+). After reaching the Breche, continue along the SW Ridge to the summit. The route should only be attempted when well frozen (high stone-fall danger).
Routes via Col du Dolent and NE Ridge
1) SE (Italian) Side (PD- to Col du Dolent, D to summit, 900m, UIAA IV, 6-7 hrs) -- From the Fiorio Bivouac Hut, cross the Pre de Bar glacier to reach the base of the snowy couloir which leads to the Col du Dolent. Climb the couloir and rocks on its right side to reach the col (3,490 m, 4 hrs). Now follow the NE Ridge to the base of a large gendarme. Turn it on the left or climb it by a slanting crack and slab on the left flank (V). Rappel to the gap beyond and continue along the ridge, turning an overhanging section on the right to reach a large chimney. Climb the chimney (IV) to regain the ridge just below the summit.
2) NNW (French) Side (D, 450m, UIAA IV, 55 degrees, 5-6 hrs) -- Climb the steep ice couloir which leads to the Col du Dolent (3,490 m) from the Argentiere Glacier (300m, 3 hr, average angle 55 degrees). Continue along the NE Ridge to reach the summit of Pointe du Domino, as when reaching the col from the SE (see above). This route is considered to be of classic status (F.A. E Whymper w/ C Almer, F Biner, and M Croz, 26 June 1865).
Routes via the North Face
1) Petit Viking (TD-, 500m, 80 degrees, 5-6 hrs) -- An excellent winter climb with 10 pitches of ice and snow up to 80 degrees. The crux pitches are found early in the route. Approach as described below under "Getting There," 2 hrs on skis. Descend by rapelling the route (2 hrs). The route climbs the first couloir to the right of the NNW Spur to reach the Breche Est du Domino (beware of the cornice when topping out). It is possible to continue along the SW Ridge to reach the summit, depending on the condition of the cornice.
2) NNW Spur (D+, 600m, 6 hrs) -- This route climbs steep mixed ground on the buttress descending directly from the summit. The route initially follows snow slopes and a steep couloir to reach a ridge on the left, which is then followed over a gendarme and two cols to the steep upper spur. This spur is climbed via cracked slabs, a snowfield (slanting right), and finally a 200m couloir which leads to the summit. Reportedly an elegant and appealing line. Descend by making 8 rappels down to the first col and then downclimb the couloir on the west side to the Argentiere Glacier.
3) N Couloir (TD-, 500m, 57 degrees, 5 hrs) -- Climb the steep ice couloir to the left of the NNW Spur (average angle 57 degrees). The easiest start is to make a rising traverse from the foot of the couloir which leads to the Col du Dolent. A direct start, close to the rocks of the NNW Spur is the harder alternative. Climb the left side of the couloir to minimize the risk of stone-fall. At the top of the couloir, traverse right and climb steep mixed ground to the summit. Descend as for the NNW Spur (see above).
The climbs on the Argentiere side are approached from the Argentiere Hut, which is reached most easily from the top station of the Grands Montets cable car. On leaving the cable car, go down the stairs to the Col du Grands Montets. Follow the Glacier du Rognon down steeply to the left to reach the left bank of the Argentiere Glacier. Cross the Argentiere Glacier to its right bank and ascend gradually, passing some crevasses on the right until a large curving moraine comes into view. Make a gradually rising traverse up the moraine slopes until the hut comes into view. To reach the climbs on the north face, descend from the hut to the Argentiere Glacier, cross towards the left bank, and ascend gradually into the snowy cwm at the base of the north face.
There are no permits or fees required to climb the Pointe du Domino. Be aware though that the Grand Montets cable car is closed briefly during the spring and fall, between the peak skiing and climbing seasons.
When to Climb
Although the peak can be climbed in all seasons, it is primarily a winter climb, when the ice routes on the north face are in the best condition (such as Petit Viking). During the summer, many of these routes have no ice and require climbing on very loose rock.