The Red Pillar of Brouillard (Pilier Rouge du Brouillard) is the most striking feature when viewing the Brouillard flank of Mont Blanc. The pillar has various routes leading to its summit, the one described on this page, known as "Bonatti-Oggioni", was the first one to be established (1959). Although not as famous as the Central Pillar of Freney, or the nearby Innominata Ridge, this beautiful exploit by Walter Bonatti can easily match their atmosphere and comittment.
The base of the pillar can be reached in 1 or 2 hours from the Eccles Bivouac. Then follows 450m of high quality steep granite to the summit of the pillar (appr. 4100m). Next, it is approximately 3 hours to the summit of Picco Luigi Amedeo (4,469 m), thereby reaching the Brouillard Ridge itself. Continuing for 3 to 4 hours on this ridge, one reaches Mont Blanc de Courmayeur and shortly thereafter the summit of Mont Blanc (4808).
Altogether this is a very long en demanding climb in the most remote corner of the Mont Blanc area. Despite of not being very well known, this climb is one of wildest, most rewarding and beautiful ways to get to the summit of Mont Blanc, considering you are a very experienced alpinist...
First get to Courmayeur (Italy).
1. From Courmayeur take the public transport bus to beginning of the path to refugio Monzino (ask which bus to take at the bus station next to the tourist office).
2. Walk up to the Rifugio Monzino (2590m), 1000 vertical meters, involves a lot of via ferrata.
3. Continue to Bivacco Eccles (3850), this is incorrectly displayed on french maps. You have to cross the Brouillard glacier which can be dangerous at times, some seep sections, some big crevasses. The last part is scrambeling over rock or mixed terrain. This part can have a overall difficulty of AD, especially when the glacier has less snow in the late summer. 1300 vertical meters form Rifugio Monzino.
The route can be devided into four parts:
1. approach from the Eccles Bivouac
2. the Bonatti-Oggioni route on the pillar
3. to the summit of Picco Luigi Amedeo
4. to the summit of Mont Blanc
Make a rappel on the backside of the upper Bivouac hut and get over the rimaye. When contiuing down the Brouillard Glacier, after a couple of minutes one can encounter a big drop (serac). Here another rappel has to be established. In some seasons there is an in situ fixed point in the glacier. In 2013 there was no other way down than making a 8m overhanging rappel from this serac. Continue over the glacier to the rimaye under the red pillar. The route starts above the rimaye on the left side of the pillar at the base of a couloir (possible rock fall). Find your way over the rimaye to the base of the route. The first short pitch leads to the right to a small ledge under the second pitch which will be the first crux of the route. This is the modern and recommended variant (as drawn in the Philipe Batoux book)
Another option is the classical variant which starts up the mixed gully at the left of the pillar and joins the modern variant 100m higher. (1-2 hours)
For the second part you need a detailed and good topo. However, there isn't one. Various guidbooks contain a description of this route but not very detailed. The best topo is the one published in 'Mont Blanc Finest Routes - snow rock and ice' by Philippe Batoux. The topo in the guidbook by Michel Piola is also an option. I do not recommend the topo in 'Mont Blanc Massif: Selected Climbs' by Lindsay Griffin.
The climbing consists of mostly of cracks and chimneys, and is almost always on excellent rock. Some of the belays are equipped with bolts. Further there is almost no in situ gear. Route finding can be difficult, hint: try always to follow the most logical line. (5-7 hours)
It is possible to rappel the pillar, however it is not always possible to get back to the bivi huts or the way down to the valley due to the conditions of the Brouillard Glacier.
From the summit of the pillar continue upwards over the last technical sections of the climb and join the flank of the Brouillard ridge. Continue through loose rock and mixed ground (II/III) to the summit of Picco Luigi Amedeo (4,469 m) where the quality of the rock gets better. (2-3 hours)
Continue on the Brouillard Ridge towards Mont Blanc de Courmayeur. Rock and snow, very exposed at times, goes up and down at first. The last part is a a long and exposed snow ridge. From Mont Blanc de Courmayeur relatively easy in 30 min. to Mont Blanc. (3-4 hours)
Total: 14 - 16 hours
Decent: depending on wheather/darkness/physical condition to Refuge du Gouter, Refuge des Grands Mulets or the 3 Monts route to Refuge du Cosmique/Midi.
Rock sections on the pillar vary from 4 to 6a, mostly 5c. Take into account the long approach, the remoteness, the height and the heavy backpack. The climbing is very strenuous, many of the 'easier' pitches can be very tiresome and feel just like the 6a crux pitches. Climbing the rimaye to the base of the pillar can be 50/60/70 degrees steep ice or neve, depending on conditions. There are relatively few objective hazards: some rock fall when approaching the pillar, and the rock on Picco Luigi Amedeo is very loose.
Altogether it is a long classical route that combines many aspects of mountaineering.
A very good way to study this route is by watching the movie on tvmountain.com.
- Food/stove when spending the night at the bivouac
- Down jacket, warm clothing etc. it can get very cold above 4000m
- 1 light weight classical ice axe per person will do if you trust yourself with it on 20-40m of meters of steep ice and snow
- double rope
- trad set: BD cams .3-2.0 (.5 .75 1.0 double), one or two small cams C3 for example, 6 schlings, 10 quickdraws, some snappers