Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Clocher du Portalet and Aiguilles Dorees

Finally got to the mountains during last w-end, and not anywhere - an enchanting spot, paradise for beginners, but also for advanced masters of the art. Overshadowed by Chamonix, the great neighbour, this backside of the Mt Blanc chain hides some real treasures - like the Clocher du Portalet, one of the rare, vertical to overhanging pieces of granite on 200 meters of perfect stone. Maybe it is not an equal to El Cap, but given the environment, the glaciers and the wonderful free climbing lines, it's not far.

We tried our teeth on Esprit du Clocher, beautiful crack line on the East face, just around the corner from the North one harboring such beauties as Etat de Choc by Remy brothers. This wall has to be seen to be believed - an incredible bit of rock sticking out from the ground, perfectly vertical and enourmously steep. The route prooved to be a bit over our heads - we reached the top grumbling and spending the whole day (+ 3 hour approach) there - alone, as another party bailed on the South-East pillar route. We did get to the top to get this picture -

After a nice accueil at Orny hut (plan to go up to Trient cabin prooved too optimistic as we returned to Orny at nightfall from Portalet), we went up for the second objective - the Aiguilles Dorees. Even further out in the wild, demanding some snow skill at Saleina window, these 400m faces are another wonder of this place.

The descent of the window was rather easy, hardly requiring more than ski poles (crampons didn't get out of our bag either...) and gettres.

However, what awaited on the other side, was certainly worth coming for. Maybe less impressive and vertical (in the first half), Aiguille de la Varappe has gorgeous climbing. Less difficult, on golden granite, it was perfect if not for the wind that chilled us to the bone on the first pitch. Aiguille d'Argeniere looked condecendingly on our efforts, with only 2 other humans crossing the glacier up to Saleina through the day. Certainly the Chamonix crowds are not interested in this place.

Mixing a couple of routes (Eole et Je suis le vent) we got 2 short pitches from the top, to only descend tired and satisfied. What a stone! Have to come back as many routes are still there, especially on Aiguille Sans Nom further in the Dorees chain, as well as on Portalet. Here is the view of the Orny hut on the descent.

No comments: