Having seen the Dents du Midi on multiple alpine holidays we finally had the chance to hike up the highest peak, Haute Cime (3257m) in July 2010. It is only snow free for a month or two over the summer and a good weather window provided ideal conditions.
We were staying in Chatel so chose to drive to Champery, leaving the car at Grand Paradis (1056m).
Plenty of spaces to park (free) and started walking about 3.30pm. We had booked bunks in La Cabane de Susanfe, 2102m, http://susanfe.ch/, over the phone. The path took us through a steep wooded area that joined a road track on the hill side.
We then realised we could have driven and parked higher up.
After passing Refuge de Bonavau (1550m) and resisting the urge to buy some lovely looking cake we treked on up through the Pas d'Encel. One short stretch requiring hands and there is a chain if needed. It took about 3hrs to reach Susanfe Hut with a few stops for water.
We chose to buy an evening meal and breakfast in the hut. The food was plentiful and good with helpful staff. I guess we were lucky as it was only about half full with plenty of space. The evening views across to Mont Ruan were spectacular.
The following day after a swift breakfast, we were walking by 6am up towards the Col de Susanfe (2494m). Easy walk to col over a few patches of snow.
The real challenge came after leaving the col for the summit. On the whole the path was easily visible. It is very exposed and traversed steep mountain side. It was mainly scree rock. About 2/3 of the way up we lost the path and found ourselves on some extremely steep scree where both hands were necessary. We started to feel a little unsafe due to the height and risk of falling down the slope but luckily spotted and rejoined the path again. It was well worth the slog and effort as we succesfully reached the summit about 10am.
We were the first to summit and over the next hour about another 10 hikers arrived. Views were magnificent but care was needed close to the summit north edge as the drop was vertical.
After about an hour on the summit we set off down. This was the first opportunity for some of the group to enjoy their first screeing experience. Great fun but care needed.
A brief rest and drink at Cabane de Susanfe before the final descent to the car. The Bonavau forest really took the last strength out of our legs but a cold beer as the path entered Grand Paradis was a welcome relief. We arrived at the car at about 4.30pm.
I would recommend this walk to experienced hikers, but pick good weather. It can be done in one really long day if you are extremely fit but staying overnight in the hut adds so much to the experience and would allow longer on the summit.