Big routes of Mont Blanc group

Big routes of Mont Blanc group

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Location Lat/Lon: 45.84411°N / 6.92413°E
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wait please

still in progress, more sections will be added

the BIG routes

The ones who have climbed a big mixed wall perfectly know that the route cannot be described with precision: there where snow, ice, seracs, crevasses are part of the route, routefinding is only a matter of experience : climbers must be fit and skilled enough to go past the surprises that the changes of the seasons or of the weather can put on the route and, of course, be able to climb classical difficulties (even the strongest) wearing the crampons.

Which are the features that a route must have to be a BIG route (in the Alps) ?
  • long (at least 10-12 hours for going up)
  • leading to a very high summit (at least 4000m)
  • with more than 1000m of difference in elevation
  • very committing
  • technical (difficulties both on ice and rock)
  • with objective risks
  • a very difficult-problematic or no way to escape
  • must be found

    The only needed info to climb them, as for we are concerned, are :
  • where to start from and how long it takes to get the starting point
  • which kind of risks we're going to find and where
  • the difference in elevation
  • the difficulties of the strongest passages

    So we are going to put here these (we think useful) small info about the main routes.

    Brenva wall - the classic routes

    The Brenva wall is the Eastern wall of Mont Blanc.
    Its average slant is about
    - 40° northern border (Brenva Spur)
    - 45° northern side (Sentinel)
    - 50° central side (Major)
    - 55° left side (Poire)
    - 65°+ southern border (Pilier d'Angle)
    so not too much steep, but this is on a wall that has a difference in elevation between 1300m (Sentinel) and 1600m (Pilier d'Angle)
    Brenva wall from near the Col...
    On Brenva wall, in the years from 1927 to 1933 Thomas Graham Brown (a great British climber) created the famous triptych of the Brenva :
    1927 - The Sentinel aka Red Sentinel or Right Sentinel - with F.S.Smythe in 2 days
    1928 - The Major aka Left Sentinel - with F.S.Smythe in 2 days
    1933 - The Poire with Alexander Graven and Alfred Aufdenblatten in 1 day
    these were the first routes opened on the walls of Mont Blanc : till that time Mont Blanc was only climbed along its (safer) ridges.
    After those exploites the wall became (and is still now) a goal for the best mountaneers : the most climbed (and maybe the BEST) is the Major
    Some more routes were opened later, all more difficult and dangerous.
    Advice, giving a look to this wall from Rifugio Torino or Punta Helbronner you can see an almost vertical wall, when you cross the Fourche or the Col Moore to get there you will find something different: huge but not impossible.
    The Brenva Spurthe Brenva Spur
    from Purtud (Val Veni)
    Mont Blanc...the routes on the Brenva wall
    telephoto from the valley
    Brenva - Maior routethe Major on the Brenva wall
    from Punta Helbronner
    La Poirethe Poire on the Brenva wall
    from Punta Helbronner
    The 3 routes share a common approach, and that is a good thing because once started from the Fourche you can decide which is the better choice giving a look to mountain conditions.

    From the Fourche you have to cross, along the route to Col Moore (usual starting point for the Brenva Spur) the Brenva plateau, get the Col Moore (3479m), cross it and follow on ascending toward left, in a not difficult environment, till the foot of the Sentinella Rossa (Big red rocky spur with a good bivouac site at about 3800m).
    Now, crossing to the left and after a channel you get the "Costa Mummery", cross another channel to get the snow ridge dividing this channel from the big (Killer) central channel
    Here you can make the first choice :
  • straight on to follow along the Sentinel toward a rocky ridge (end of the danger)
  • cross the big central channel where it is more narrow (not too steep but requires to be very fast) to get the first rocks of the ridge of the Major.
    Here you can make the second choice :
  • straight on, first along the ridge, then along the border of the big channel and back to the main ridge of the Major
  • go on crossing toward left, on a not too steep snow slope to get the foot of the Poire (two dangerous channels to cross, the last one just under the big serac hanging between the Poire and the Maior)

    Once the choice has been done you must follow, as pointed out by the sketches, using the safer route you find; for the Major the best choice is to stay always on or very near the edge, at the end of the big snow ridge there should be an easier way out on the right part, but the sequence of channels and dihedrals on the left part is safer.

    Peuterey ridge

    the finest route to Mont Blanc a real stairway to heaven
    to be approached ONLY when weather conditions are absolutely good !!! once near the Col de Peuterey the escape is the M.Blanc summit

    The Peuterey ridge
    Yes, the Peuterey ridge is also the safest route for coming down having climbed the Aiguille Blanche or the Pilier d'Angle (it's not a joke, coming back to the valley from the Col de Peuterey is normally more difficult and much more dangerous than going to M.Blanc summit).

    In a fine weather day, not too windy, the ridge has classic difficulties on normally good snow, the only requirements are to be very very fit and trained; from the Col de Peuterey only the first stretch (up to get the snow ridge after the Pilier d'Angle) has some difficulties and some (small) danger.

    The marked route is the finest, the Pilier can be passed over on the left side (Freney) along a system of snow ledges and short rock steps, but it is a little less safer.

    The big gendarme after the Pilier d'Angle must be passed over on Freney side (W)

    The only problem is how to get this point: there are many different solutions (all requiring to be a good mountaneer) :

  • the less difficult one should be starting from Rifugio Monzino or Bivacco Craveri (Dames Anglaises) to get the Aiguille Blanche and, crossing its three summits, come down to Col de Peuterey. (5-8 hours)
  • the most classic is starting from the Fourche, getting the Aiguille Blanche along the Chabod route and descending to the Col de Peuterey.
  • a good variant, shorter ad faster but a little less safer, could be the Rebuffat-Terray route to Col de Peuterey. (4-7 hours)
  • the hardest one is to choose one of the very difficult routes rising directly from the Brenva up to the Pilier d'Angle (but the ones that can think to do it absolutely don't need any info)

    Once at the summit of the Pilier d'Angle (there where the Peuterey ridge changes its direction) only 500 metres to the summit of Mont Blanc (3-5 hours)
    Aiguille Blanche de Peutereythe Aiguille Blanche routes
    North east side of Grand Pilier d Anglethe Pilier d'Angle routes
    Mont Blanc - Peuterey (south)...Peuterey ridge from the upper end close to Mont Blanc summit

    Mont Blanc South side

    Freney Pillar
    the whole range, from Brouillard to Peuterey ridge, is a sequence of big routes.

    Some became classic like the "Innominata" (the "easier") and the "Central Pillar" (the most famous,maybe due to the tragedy during an attempt) and so, often climbed.

    Some are really a gamble (like the Hypercolouir, the Hypergoulotte, the "Abominette" and the Gran Colouir du Freney) because can be climbed only in particular conditions of the mountain.

    One, that could become really "classic" (the Gervasutti on the North Pillar) has been forgotten.

    No info about the other ones that maybe have been only "exploits" but I think that are really very challenging.

    Grandes Jorasses

    all the routes to Grandes Jorasses must be considered big
    The easiest route, the normal one from Rifugio Boccalatte, is as engaging as the Brenva Spur to Mont Blanc.
    The traverse from Col des Grandes Jorasses to Punta Walker (West ridge) is the only route that can be climbed (with absolutely safe weather) by "normal" climbers, all the other ones leading to the main summit ridge are very strong and difficult and require very good rock climbing skill and a very high training and fit.
    The East Face
    Apart all the routes on the N side, all very engaging and difficult (some also very dangerous) there are 2 more "classic" routes, not so often climbed (almost neglected), that are very worth :

  • the Tronchey Ridge, long, difficult (some picthes of V and 1 of VI) in a wild environment where an escape is a gamble

  • the Hirondelles Ridge, shorter and easier to be attached than the previous one, with only 1 difficult pitch (the V carving) and fantastic for its riding between the two big walls of the Jorasses : the East and the NE)

  • For details see the Route section ot the Grandes Jorasses page