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#14207 - 02/07/05 06:38 PM climbing in France in the fall
learningtolead Offline
old hand

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 981
Loc: a wanna be kerhonkson-er
My partner and I are looking to go visit a friend in Geneva, Switzerland in early september and then go climb in France (probably near mont blanc) for 8 days or so. I need ideas on what's in the area, where to stay, english guidebooks etc. i'm most interested in multi-pitch moderate routes (sport or trad) but i'll take any info ya got.

anyone been to the area?

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#14208 - 02/07/05 08:54 PM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: learningtolead]
Timbo Offline
addict

Registered: 12/23/99
Posts: 696
Loc: Delaware
Can't help much with the mountain routes, but for cragging the guidebook is "Crag Climbs in Chamonix" by Francois Burnier and Dominique Potard. Describes many crags in the Chamonix Valley. Available at any outdoor shop in Chamonix for about $20.00 (that's euros).

If you want to do some hiking too, check out Rick Steves website. He has some very good info on using the lifts, rails, funiculars. etc and hiking.

There is a small cheap campground just outside of Chamonix. Can't remember the details. We just stayed in a hotel. We found it very cheap because we were there off-season (May) and it was a couple of years ago before the Euro. I probably have more specific info in a file at work if you want it.

The only other thing I can say is avoid restaurants with their menu in English.

Enjoy.
T
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#14209 - 02/09/05 11:46 PM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: learningtolead]
tradjunkie Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 365
I've spent a fair amount of time in that area climbing. The main destination is Chamonix, but there are others. You basically have a choice: bolted limestone midsize mountains with sport routes of 1-10 pitches, or the granite massif of Mont Blanc / Chamonix. If you go to Cham you can easily access some limestone routes. Also, on the opposite side of the Chamonix valley are a third massif, the Aiguilles Rouges, which have some decent gneiss, again bolted.

It's worth maybe even ordering a guidebook in advance, but don't feel obliged to.

The Potard guide mentioned is pretty good - and in English. Mostly though it just covers little 'jardins d'escalade' or 'ecoles d'escalade' which are where you go to learn to climb (bolted crags 1p etc), though it covers Barberine which has some lovely multipitch routes that go at 5.9 to 5.11a.

For some alpine routes of wonderful quality, look for Michel Piola's guide Mont Blanc Range Topo Guide (Vol. 1) which is also found in English. This covers rock routes only, trad and adventure-bolted climbs (they bolt a lot, but bring a rack and alpine gear), mostly on the granite massif, and some routes in the Aiguilles Rouges.

The classic Rebufffat guide '100 Most Beautiful Routes of the Mont-Blanc Massif' has been republished in Britain, you might be able to find it. Covers older style alpine routes from snow plod up to crazy-hard. Lovely book.

So those cover Chamonix. If you're going there, why do 1-pitch modest clipups when you can do the great big climbs? I'd get the Piola guide and have a ball. You won't get in over your head, don't worry.

For going elsewhere, unless you want to do glacier plods, you're looking at limestone, and all your guidebooks will be in French. Michel Piola has some lovely topo guides (Calcaire en Folie vols 1 & 2) which are easy enough to figure out if you don't parlez francais.

BTW, if you do speak French, you have a few other guidebook options, but stick to the ones mentioned above in Chamonix. The one other one worth looking at covers the Aiguilles Rouges only.

If you want to do some great routes in the 5.4-5.7 range (I'm guessing?) I'd suggest trying to hit the granite routes if the weather allows. I assume you can cross very easy glaciers (nothing serious, maybe a steep bit at the base, but low crevasse danger).
GRANITE TRAD ROUTES (ALL NEAR CHAMONIX)
Aiguille de l'M - smallest of the Aiguilles de Chamonix, NNE Ridge is a classic 5.7. A good starter route for the mountains, long enough to take a day, not too long to get over your head. Crux is a slick 5.6 move, the 5.7 is easy!
Pyramide du Tacul - another classic 5.7 you'll find, glacier approach, spectacular setting. Mostly 5.4ish.
Papillons ridge on the Peigne - one 5.7 you can aid, the rest is awesome 5.4-5.6. Heading for the summit makes for a long day for the 5.6 leader, but doing the normal route on the Peigne is some nice easy -grade mountaineering that will test your routefinding, so doing the normal route one day and the Papillons to where it hits the normal route on the next day could be nice.
Sonam or Rhododindons - good excuses to visit the lovely Envers des Aiguilles hut, an awesome hike (ladders!) and these are two moderate (but Sonam is long) routes in the Envers area. This place is full of 15-25 pitch 5.10 climbs - and 5 star climbs at that. Also from the Envers you can do some ultra-classic alpine routes (5.6 max) that are long days (I don't know how much mountaineering experience you have so I won't recommend any, you'll find them)
MOUNTAINS
Lots to choose from. The Dent du Geant, for example. Acclimatize first. 13,000'. Table de Roc route on the Tour is one I always wanted to do. Or do Mt Blanc - it's a lovely peak no matter which way you snow-plod up it.

MULTIPITCH ROUTES IN THE AIGUILLES ROUGES (GNEISS)
Chapelle de la Gliere - one 5.7 move, a long but fast climb (14 pitches half day?!?!), trad
Index - 3 or 4 pitches, 5.5-5.6, trad
Frison-Roche - 6 pitches, ever done a bolted crack climb? 5.9+ but have a go
the wall at the top of the cable car with Asia etc - some classic moderates

LIMESTONE ROUTES
All bolted. I'm not sure what there is below 5.8 but there are plenty of 5.8 or 5.9 4-5 pitch routes all over the place. there is a 17-pitch 5.7, bolted, NW of Cham that's not in a guidebook. If real mountaineering seems too ambitious for you, try to find that. It was in a magazine somewhere, ask at the OHM (see below).

Note: The Office de Haute Montagne (OHM) is in Chamonix and an incredible resource. They have all the guidebooks etc., and a staff on hand who give advice, and notebooks for route descriptions, notebooks for people looking for partners, keep up to date on route conditions, etc. They speak English. ohm-chamonix.com

In Chamonix, you don't have to camp (and thus don't bring all that stuff on the plane). If you have $, you can stay at huts up in the mountains (not too expensive, $20-$30 depending on FX rate and particular hut) instead of bivy. I would do this at least once, for the experience. (e.g. you are placed in a bunkroom based on the route you plan to climb - and thus the hour you are awakened!) There are campsites in Cham, pay sites. Worth checking out for a little extra dosh are the guesthouses "gites" - ask the tourist office about these - a step below a hotel, kind of like a hostel, tend to be full of climbers and hikers. Some nice ones include the Tupilak if you have a car - it has an indoor bouldering wall, La Tapia (Sophie makes it feel like a home instead of a YMCA).

Hope that's a helpful start. Have an awesome time.

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#14210 - 02/11/05 03:16 PM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: learningtolead]
tradjunkie Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 365
Oh, I forgot to mention:

the guidebooks published by the Alpine Club [Britain] are quite unpopular. People complain that the route descriptions are condescending, sandbagged, and vague. [For example: "follow the ridge up past gendarmes to a red wall. Turn this on the left to a pair of cracks. Climb these to regain the ridge and continue to the summit. 350m. A pleasant training climb for when the larger peaks are out of condition" - this being the entire description of a 10 pitch 5.7] One might even venture to call them 'useless'. Note: this applies only to their Mont Blanc area guidebooks.

I also realized you'll be there in mid/late Sept, so crowds shouldn't be an issue (but weather up high might be). In this case, if the weather holds, try to do the Cosmiques ridge on the Aiguille du Midi (the one with the BIG cable car) - a classic mixed day out, one 5.4+ move, lots of snow/rappelling/traversing/etc. Normally incredibly crowded but that time of year should be a blast. If you like that try the Midi-Plan traverse - a longer more serious trip but technically no harder. Other easy alpine routes with more rock climbing would be the traverse of the Petits Charmoz (good starter), or you could graduate to trying to climb the Grands Charmoz (5.6ish).

I doubt the ice routes will be back in yet at that time of year, but do check. Some routes that tend to be in year-round are on the Triangle du Tacul up near the Midi cable-car station. 1000' of ice, or mixed, grade 2 to 5.


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#14211 - 02/22/05 02:36 AM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: tradjunkie]
hangdog Offline
stranger

Registered: 12/30/04
Posts: 24
Loc: The Gunks
Climbed the arete des cosmiques which is on the Aiguille du midi which was awsome and not difficult but a mountaineering climb-mixed rock and snow. Also if you do decide to climb up there you may want to acclimatize for a couple of days because it is high enough to really wind you. Can easily do this by taking the tram or hiking up the trail and spending part of you day hiking around up there (Aiguille du Midi) it is spectacular!

Also climbed at the Col du Colombiere (which is about an 1 hour and 1/2 outside Chamonix. This was incredible climbing without much altitude and no snow on the approach. We climbed at Piliers de La pointe du Midi, a route named Tchao Godillo rated 5c/6a -very soft 5.10 (7 pitches 250 meters) The route was bolted but the bolts are pretty far apart since most of the climbing is much easier. If you do any routes like this bring a few cams-they come in handy. The guide book for there (in French) is called Massif des Aravis and can be bought right there.

Also through the Mont Blanc tunnel in Italy (not far from the exit maybe 1/2 hour) There is some great climbing. We climbed at Machaby which was bolted and, rated about the same 5c/6a. ( approx 10 pitches 350 meters) Bolts were more frequent on the route we climbed but the climbing more sustained. I sure you can get info and or a book on this area while your there.

We also climbed near Lac Anncey which was also bolted but a good bit harder and we attempted the easiest route there. Bailed after 5 pitches.

The best pure rock climbing I did was outside Chamonix but my experience is limited to the 1 week I stayed there. I wanted to do longish pure rock routes ( ie no big approach across Glaciers) because of the limited time and equipment I had. I f you do decide to do some mixed routes or ones that require crampons and an axe on the approach you can rent boots crampons axe etc right in town. Have fun its a breathtaking place no matter what you do. I'm jealous! Oh attached is The route we did in Italy to give some idea of scale in the upper left are 2 climbers.

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#14212 - 02/22/05 02:37 AM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: hangdog]
hangdog Offline
stranger

Registered: 12/30/04
Posts: 24
Loc: The Gunks
I guess here is the photo-never done this ....NOT ABLE TO POST PHOTO************


Edited by hangdog (02/22/05 02:42 AM)

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#14213 - 02/22/05 03:53 PM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: hangdog]
tradjunkie Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 365
Also climbed at the Col du Colombiere (which is about an 1 hour and 1/2 outside Chamonix. This was incredible climbing without much altitude and no snow on the approach. We climbed at Piliers de La pointe du Midi, a route named Tchao Godillo rated 5c/6a -very soft 5.10 (7 pitches 250 meters) The route was bolted but the bolts are pretty far apart since most of the climbing is much easier. If you do any routes like this bring a few cams-they come in handy. The guide book for there (in French) is called Massif des Aravis and can be bought right there.

You placed cams on Tchao Godillo? ? ? ? ? ?

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#14214 - 02/23/05 04:45 AM Re: climbing in France in the fall [Re: tradjunkie]
hangdog Offline
stranger

Registered: 12/30/04
Posts: 24
Loc: The Gunks
Yes 1 on the 5 or 6th pitch and was happy to have it. Was trying to point out that these are not typical sport climbs and some people may choose to place the occasional piece. I always take 4 or 5 cams on climbs like this in an area I don't know well.

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