1st ascent: Mortiz von Kuffner with Alexander Burgener, Josef Furrer and a porter, Jul 2-4, 1887. They left Courmayeur on the 2nd, climbed up the Brenva glacier via the left side, bivouaking near the current position of the now derelict Bivouac Hut de la Brenva. This approach was the one most of the parties followed until the Fourche hut was opened. Recently, this longer and more strenous approach has been "rediscovered", mainly from people who wants to avoid the Fourche crowd. It's however really long and circuitous, not very evident, and should be considered only by the most adventurous.
1° solo Pierre Souriac, Sept. 5, 1953
1st winter, Jean Louis George and Bernard Germain, Feb. 17-19, 1975
Alberico and Borgna bivouac hut (3674m.)
This is a metal and wood structure with room for 15 people, always open, w/o warden. Property of the Turin section of CAAI, call +39 11 546031 for more information.
Approach (diff. PD+, 2-2.30 h):
From the Torino Hut (3375 m., reached via the gondola starting from Courmayeur-La Palud) cross the nearby Col Des Flambeaux (3407 m.), easily visible because it's located right under the ugly suspended pillar of the Valleè Blanche cablecar), then turn left and cross right under the north face of the Aiguille Des Toules. Take the W direction, pass near the N face of the Tour Ronde (not too near, in summer there's some rockfall danger), and then, following a very genlte slope, point right towards the ice slope of the Col De La Fourche (it's the one to the left of two short rock spires that look like a prong - the "Fourche": they don't call it the Combe Maudite - "the cursed valley" - for nothing!)
At the the base of the couloir leading to the col (very steep, actually a short proper ice climb!) cross the rimaye where it's possible (in some season it's quite awkward) then go up until the col. Beware of the "traffic" - there's usually someone above you that's literally digging the slope with his axe bringing down huge chunks of ice. At the col, turn left and after few metere you'll see the hut just below you.
If the ice slope is in desperate conditions, use the rock rib to the right (some loose rock)
some map and some out-of-date guidebook still report the presence of the Ghglione bivouac hut at the nearby Col du Trident. The bivouac isn't there anymore!
It was removed few years ago because the rock platform where it had been built was literally sliding down the Brenva. Plans to replace it have been made, but never finalized.
From the Fourche hut follow the ridge (on the right), passing a little spire on the right (Valleè Blanche) side. The snow ridge become here quite aerial and narrow, and in 40 minutes bring you at 3740 m., where the ridge start climbing. The direct variant coming from the Torino hut (if you've decided to sleep there) arrives here.
Pass a first huge step, taking a large snow couloir on the left side. The, back on the ridge's edge, climb up a very aerial snow shoulder (this is probably where this picture
was taken), ending up against the Pointe De L'Androsace. Now, you've two options:
1) pass the Pointe to the Brenva side, going down for few meters then traversing over a very awkward series of steep and rotten slabs, until you reach a narrow snow couloir (dangerous without snow!), then a rock ramp (IV) that brings you back on the main snow ridge
2) climb to the top of the Pointe De L'Androsace. To do that turn right to a evident chimney. Reach a rock step, then another rock couloir until you find a stance (usually well equipped). From there, follow some slab and a easy crack (IV and some V) until you reach the top of the Androsace. From there, one 20 m. rappel on the Brenva side, and more horizontal traverse beyond some rocky tooth lands you on the main snow ridge. This second variant is more technically difficult than the one above, but safer and immensely more interesting.
From there cros a snow shoulder (4240 m.) where the Col Maudit ridge arrives, then climb a mixed slope until the NE shoulder of Mt. Maudit (4346 m). Now the ridge becomes large completely snowy again, but beware the corniches on the Brenva side. Reach the base of the summit tower, avoid it on the right and then climb back to the summit form the west ridge.
Allow from 5 to 7 hours from the Fourche hut, or 7-10 hours from the Torino hut
This is a fairly technical climb, and it's the second highest summit of the entire massif - you're above 3600 m. all the time, and you must keep that in mind. Bring effective altitude clothes, good crampons, at least two ice screws for each member of the party, twin ropes, and a couple of snow stakes. AND WEAR YOUR HELMET!
This is a bona fide classic, one of the best medium difficulty routes of the entire Alps, and a testament to the skill and stamina of the FA party.
The Kuffner Ridge is a mix of several ingredients - technically interesting, almost incredibly panoramic, great ambient, relatively easy access, and a varied terrain, that always keep you guessing what's next.. In some point the exposure can be quite unnerving, so don't come here if you're problems with it.
The downside is the traffic. If the season is good (i.e. there's enough snow and the weather is stable) you'll have plenty of company. This can be psychologically good if you're uneasy with the isolated setting, but can become dangerous when (exp. below the Androsace) you've another party above your head.
Don't, I reapeat, DON'T attempt this route on extremely dry and hot summers. This is a June or September route.
The problem with Mt. Maudit is almost never going up - it's getting back down, expecially if visibility becomes difficult. The trouble is that once on the top, you've basically just one option - going to the Col De La Brenva, then decide if you want to
a) go down to the Col du Midi via the Midi route of the MB - long, with some steep bit under the Col du Mont Maudit, and generally not what you want to do after a strenous day on the Kuffner ridge
b) going up to the Mt Blanc top, then descend using the Gouter or the Italian normal route. In fact it's the easier option, but to do that you have to climb the 350m. of height difference between Col De La Brenva and the MB top. Believe me, when you're there your legs will probably ask you "why"?
c) going straight down the Corridor towards the Grand Plateau and the Mulets route - the direct route to the valley. From the col look extremely attractive, but if you don't know the route, or the weather is poor, or the temperature is too high, it can become a trap (several causalties here). The passage under the Corridor towards the Grand Plateau is under a massive unstable serac wall; straying too much to the right in poor visibility means falling down the ice barrier below; and the Grand Plateau itself is a featureless bowl. If you decide to use this option, you must know what you're doing.
If you feel fine and the weather is great, go with "a". If you're having altitude problems, the weather is fine and you know the route, go with "c". If the weather turn ugly but you're still strong enough, the option is "b" - at worse, you can use the Vallot hut as emergency shelter.
If you're having altitude problem and the weather is worsening, you're in trouble.