Mont Blanc, Ecrin Massif: several questions : LUSENET : Mountaineering : One Thread

My wife and I are going to be in France mid-June. This is our first trip to the Alps. We will have about 2 weeks to play, and will be self-guided. We are both comfortable on mixed routes, moderate ice and rock (<5.8) (have climbed in the Cascades for >15 years). We don't want to haul a lot of gear around. If you don't mind, and if you have the time, could you help me with a few questions?

Mont Blanc area: 1) What are conditions usually like in June? I assume there will be a lot of snow- but does this present problems in terms of mixed routes? In other words, if it is silly to do mixed routes that time of year, and more advisable to plan on snow and ice routes- we will take appropriate gear.

2) What's the weather like that time of year? How cold at night?

3) A few classic routes that were suggested to us in the Mont Blanc area: Brenva Spur, Triangle de Tacul, Arete des Cosmiques, Arete de Rochefort. What do you think? Any others that you would recommend?

4) I assume these routes are pretty crowded. Is this a problem in terms of speed (i.e. can you usually pass other parties, etc.)?

5) In terms of gear, and if conditions are appropriate- we were going to try to get away with leather boots (La Sportiva Trangos), stiff crampons, alpine axes, light "third tool" hammers, small rock rack, couple of screws and pickets, single 9.8 mm rope, lots of slings. Does this sound reasonable, under- or over-kill for moderate mixed routes?

6) Sounds like the classic rock routes (like S. Face Aig du Midi) have a lot of fixed pro- is this usually reliable?

Ecrins Massif 7) Are you familiar with the Ecrins area? The obvious classic in the area appears to be the traverse of Le Meije- any other suggestions?

8) Any suggestions for places to stay in this area?

Eastern Alps 9) We may travel to Vienna for a couple of days to visit a friend- any suggestions for an easy day climb close to there?

General 10) Say it is continuously pissing down rain in the Western Alps (you can tell I'm paranoid and from Washington State!). What's a good alternative area that is likely to be drier?

Thanks a lot--this will help in terms of planning.

-- Robert C. Lee (, January 27, 1998


1 It depends. Some mixed routes are really mixed terrain and are climbable year round. Some have long sections of rock separated by snow/ice. Snow elevates significantly their difficulty. ask ohm. 2 unpredictable. freezing around 2000 meters. 3 that's all good routes, quite different in character. triangle du tacul is an area and has several routes which are almost always in condition. cosmiques is a good introduction to the range and can be done in any conditions. combine rochefort with dent du geant for a varied outing, or with the grandes jorasses traverse for a magnificent but more serious one. brenva is a serious undertaking and shoud be tried only when you feel in great shape. try also to do something in the argentiere basin (lots of good stuff there. pick for instance from Rebuffat's book). 4. it's not a problem to pass. the locals are fast anyway. on triangle du tacul, watch for falling ice if there are people ahead of you. 5. locals don't use pickets. on the other hand, double ropes give you more flexibility if you need to rappel. 6. mostly yes. 7. that's indeed the classic. other magnificent mixed routes are Fourastie and Coste Rouge routes on Ailefroide (a mountain often called Oisans's Jorasses), and the south face of Ecrins. 8 In La Berarde there is an alpine club dorm. In La Grave, there is a gite d'etape. 9 i don't know anything about the area. 10 unfortunately it can happen. the further south you go the drier it is likely to be. if the weather is really bad, you can always to rock climbing near the meditarrenean. the rock dries quite fast, so it's always possible to squeeze some climbing. take your sport climbing stuff.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (, January 28, 1998.

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