This page is dedicated to the former maintainer Rahel Maria Liu who tragically died during an attempted climb of the Innominata spur on the southern (Italian) face of Mont Blanc in August 2004.
The Cosmiques Ridge is a supurb varied route which is justifiably popular. It is the perfect introduction to Alpine mixed climbing has enough variety to keep experienced climbers happy. The route is also known as the Cosmiques Arête and South-South-West Ridge. It's graded at AD (sometimes even PD or PD+) but the crux is hard for its grade and suitable mixed climbing and abseiling skills are required. Much of the ridge can be climbed moving together, however the crux section will likely require a belay to be established. The rock is excellent quality throughout and there are plenty of locations to place protection.
It is possible to climb the ridge year round however poor snow conditions will make the route more difficult and dangerous. In poor conditions, descending from the cable station down to the Col du Midi can also be a nervous affair. Most people climb the route between June and September. The ridge was first climbed by George and Maxwell Finched on 2nd August 1911.
The route starts from the Abri Simond bivouac hut which is adjacent to the Cosmiques hut. The obvious way to reach the starting point is via the Aiguille du Midi-Vallee Blanche Cable car from Chamonix. From the cable car station, descend to the Col du Midi and then head for the Cosmiques Hut, bearing towards to Abri Simond as it comes into view. It's possible to climb the Cosmiques Ridge the same morning as having taken the cable car however there will be climbing traffic on the route which will likely slow you down.
The route description sounds intricate however it is generally easy to navigate. Cosmiques Ridge commences from the Abri Simond hut from where it climbs 150m to 3770m. Despite the short distance, the route usually takes about half a day. Initially the climbing is up an easy snow slope and then mixed ground. As you approach the first gendarme of the subsidiary summit (3731m), climb the inclined slabs (4b).
Follow the crest of the ridge to the second subsidiary summit. Make a descending traverse (exposed, possible abseil) across two steps. Follow the steps to the end where it passes between two rock walls.
Abseil 30m in two pitches via the bolted belays.
Continue traversing along terraces to go round the first big tower. Climb an awkward chimney (4a) to reach a good ledge on the right. Climb back onto the ridge via a snow slope that overlooks the Cosmiques Couloir. Go right round a second tower. Alternatively skirt the second tower to the left, going through a small notch and descending a small ice couloir. Follow the ridge to the foot of the crux slab.
The crux slab is only 5m and has an in-situ sling and pegs in the diagonal crack running up it but is rated 4c. The slab appears to have been made easier recently by a mindless moron having chipped sections out of the rock. I have not seen the evidence first hand to be able to gauge how this affects the difficulty but these photos clearly show the damage:
If you can't manage the slab then you will need to back-track and descend the Cosmiques Couloir (PD, 200m, 40/45 degrees) down to the Col du Midi.
Above the slab, traverse right along the narrow ledge. Climb a few metres to a terrace on the left and move onto the NW face. Gain a couloir-chimney, then climb clacks (2 pitches 3c/4a). Go up onto the final snowy shoulder and climb the metal ladder to the terrace on the South pinnacle.
1. Eberlein :
IV+ (6m), mostly II, seldom III, mixed AD, short but varied firn and rock ridge, very beautiful, in summer full, 200 hm, 2-4 h
2. Damilano/Perroux :
II AD. 4a, key passage: 4c
• Ice axe
• Rope (2 half ropes recommended for the abseils)
• Half a set of nuts
• 4 slings
• 4 quickraws
• Abseil/belay device