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General Climbing Discussion

Topic Date User
Mont Blanc Granite - Summer Trad Climbing 29-May-2007 At 11:40:44 PM stuart h
The Mont Blanc region could be paradise - almost unlimited climbing in a great setting (although people do tend to complain about the crowds and the French/the English/the Germans depending on their perspective). The granite is amazingly good and the access generally easy (most of the best areas require straightforward glacier crossings). In July the best climbing will be on the modern alpine rock routes, which feature harder climbing and better rock, often on smaller outlying spires, than the traditional routes to the top of the major aiguilles.

Some of these routes are multi-pitch sport routes, but most need a light rack that will be supplemented by bolts where there are no cracks and by in situ belays so that you can rappel the route back to your boots&crampons, etc.

The routes are generally 5-10 pitches long, but there are plenty up to 20+, and the climbing, up cracks, corners and off-vertical faces with some sections of slabbing, is mostly in the 18-23 grade range. The granite on the faces tends to be more featured than areas such as Buffalo or Yosemite. On most routes the climbing is well protected and aesthetic. Take double or twin ropes (lots of rappels). 4-6 cams from finger-hand/fist, a set of nuts (more in the larger sizes, generally you don't use anything really small) and about 10-12 quickdraws usually does the job.

The Piola topo guides are the best guidebooks to the area (they are available in English if you can't read climber's French). Most of the refuges (you will certainly need to book in July) have copies of the guidebooks and topos of new routes done in the area. The Maison de la Montagne in Chamonix also has guidebooks, new route topos and condition info available for the public to review. If you take some tracing paper or similar you can get all the info you need without spending too much.

My favourite area is around the Refuge d'Envers. I've done about 20 routes from this gorgeous building - the individual pitches are fantastic, the climbs are quite wonderful (as are the setting and the access). This area also features "Little Yosemite" if you are keen on cracks. The Chamonix side of the Blatiere and the Peigne feature concentrations of great modern routes, often a little harder and less frequented. At the head of the Mer de Glace, the south face of the Midi will be buried in crowds in July but it also features fantastic climbing. Nearby, but less crowded are the various pillars of the Tacul, Pointe Lachenal and Pic Adolphe Rey, all of which feature lots of terrific climbing. The Grand Capucin is there as well - a more serious undertaking but one of my favourite climbs. The rock in the Aiguille Rouge on the other side of the valley is also heavily developed with quick access and slightly better weather, while there is a vast amount cragging in the valley, particularly if you go downstream to the big multipitch sport climbing areas - a good chance to stock up in the big supermarket. Then there the more traditional alpine routes as well as plenty of other high mountain crags, and Switzerland.

wish I was going

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