The Chamonix valley offers a lot of ice couloirs, which tend to be in good condition in the spring. On one of the smaller peaks in the region, the Aiguille du Tour, several snow and ice couloirs can be climbed. One of them is the couloir which comes down the "Breche" (notch) between the north and south summit of the Aiguille du Tour on the NW side.
As the weather can be cold in springtime, it is advised to anticipate by bringing good and warm clothing.
The easiest access is from the refuge Albert 1er
hutt. In the spring this hutt is not serviced but it is open. The door is open and you can sleep there although it can be cold.
From the hutt continue over some rocks onto the glacier, heading towards point 2883 on the map (see the maps section). Before reaching the rocks turn left, heading up the glacier at approximately 50 meters from the rocks. Continue in this direction (towards Col du Midi) up to an altitude of approximately 3140 meters. Here turn to the right, heading straight east, towards the snow/ice couloir coming down from the indentation in the ridge between the north and south summit of the Aiguille du Tour.
From the Glacier the route can already be seen.
The route starts somewhat to the left of the not so steep snow ridge while still on the glacier. (see photo)
On the furthest left is the start of the route.
It can be somewhat difficult to get into the route if there is not abundant snow or ice and involve some mixed or rock climbing. If in good condition it is a short and steep ice climb of about 5 meters.
After this difficult start the route continues over snow or ice (depending on the conditions) at approximately 45 degrees.
Just after the steep start in the 1st length.
When we climbed it we could make good belays on ice screws, or if no ice was reached using an ice axe in the snow.
At the top of the notch the couloir becomes a bit more narrow and ends on some rocks.
From there it is possible to descend back to the hutt refuge Alber 1er by going down the not so difficult rock and snow filled east face for approximately 100 meters. From there continue on the upper parts of the Plateau du Trient heading to the south and keeping relatively close to the rocks of Aiguille du Tour, Aiguille du Purtscheller and head into the direction of the Col du Tour. After crossing the Col du Tour continue over the Glacier du Tour back to the refuge Albert 1er. The route is also depicted on the map below.
It is essential to bring VERY warm high alpine clothing!
2 ice-axes per person
enough ice screws for belays and protection in between.
Approach (green), route (red) and decent (blue) from refuge Albert 1er up the Couloir de la Breche and back.
An excellent free online map
is available from the swiss government.
(These are available for the entire alps