From the village of Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi upper station, one can ascend more than 2700m of altitude in just 20 minutes using the cable car. At the Plan de l’Aiguille intermediate station, one can view the precipitous lines that carve up the Aiguille du Midi’s north face. Between the Col du Plan to the Aiguille du Midi, a dozen or so mixed rock and ice routes soar one vertical kilometer up the wall, ranging in difficulty from AD to TD. A few moments of contemplation will help you appreciate the scale and effort that these routes command.
The Mallory-Porter route follows a logical line that towers over the Chamonix valley. The route is direct and varied, composed of a succession of snow slopes and rock bands. The snow slopes range between 45 and 60 degrees while the rock bands do not exceed 4b (5.5 YDS). The route is long with 1530m of total elevation gain and 1060m of difficulties. Climbers should move simultaneously as much as possible and make gear placements for protection along the way. Most of the route travels directly below the Aiguille du Midi cable car, providing climbers with an interesting ambiance.
The route is committing and should be taken seriously. Retreat, bad weather or poor visibility would pose considerable problems. Ideal route conditions consist of stable snow and low temperatures, often found in spring and early summer. The route is north facing and takes several days to clear. The upper snow slopes often develop large snow accumulations, raising the risk of avalanche or ice fall. Parties should also be acclimatized as the top of the route reaches 3800m.
George Herbert Leigh Mallory (1886-1924) and Harold (Ned) Porter (1886-1973) established the first ascent on August 5, 1919. The Mallory-Porter route is aptly named in their honor. The modern route is known as “Rectified” Mallory-Porter as the line of first ascent was later “corrected” by following intermediate snow slopes.
From the intermediate station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car (2317m), ascend a trail heading southeast that follows the moraine along the Glacier des Pelerins. At 2365m, exit the trail on the right by a large boulder. Leave the moraine at 2385m, descend to the glacier and traverse southwest, aiming at the foot of the Eperon Seigneur. Ascend the slope to arrive at the bergschrund (2750m). (1 to 2 hours from Plan d’Aiguille)
AD+ / Grade III. Mixed route with sections of rock up to 4b (5.5 YDS) and snow/ice up to 60 degrees.
Approach: 1 to 2 hours. Ascent: 3 to 5 hours. Descent: 15 minutes by cable car.
From the bergschrund, climb a 60 degree couloir for approximately 150m and then follow a short snow ramp to the right before meeting the first rock band (2950m). From the right to the left, ascend the rock band for 40m (4b / 5.5 YDS) to emerge at a long and broad snow slope. Traverse the snow slope (50 to 55 degrees) by angling left and at its end, turn a corner right at the base of a rock band. Gain a delicate snow ridge by ascending another steep (60 degree) slope of snow for 40m or by directly ascending through a series of rock steps. Follow the crest of the snow ridge vertically, heading toward the Aiguille du Midi upper station. Gain the final snow ridge by angling left below the line of seracs. Follow the ridge to the ice cave of the upper station. (3 to 5 hours from bergschrund)
Descending the route by the Aiguille du Midi cable car is the most expedient method of returning to the valley. However, expert ski mountaineers may descend the route when conditions are favorable. Down-climbing the route is not recommended.
Rope, crampons, ice tools, ice screws and a few cams, quick draws, slings and carabiners.
Refuge du Plan de l'Aiguille
(staffed May 1 to November 1) Tel: +33(0)220.127.116.11.53
Access: (1) Walk 15 minutes down a marked trail from the intermediate station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, (2) traverse along the Grand Balcon Nord trail from the Montenvers train station for 2 hours or (3) hike up from Chamonix for 4 hours and 1200m gain.
Aiguille du Midi: Chamonix - Plan de l'Aiguille
French Geographic Institute (IGN
) 1:25,000 map Number 3630 OT "Chamonix massif du Mont Blanc"
Office de Haute Montagne
Time to Go
The route is best climbed in spring or early summer. Expert ski mountaineers may also descend the route in winter and spring.