TÍte Blanche - 3429 m (11,250ft)
Petite Fourche - 3520m (11,548ft)
2008-05-30
Photos
Trip Report
Photos

The second morning at the Refuge Albert 1. Again Gilbert chased us out of bed at the dawn of day and after a quick breakfast we are ready to go. The conditions were worse than the previous day and we are soon walking through the low-hanging clouds that cover most of the upper part of the Tour glacier. Another group consisting of three set out shortly before us but they broke their own trail instead of following the steps that we had left the day before. Shortly before the final steep incline to the Col Superieur de Tour we passed them and arrived a few minutes later at the col. We only needed about 2 hours from the refuge to the col, which is a quite respectable time. Again we put on crampons at this point and took a few break. Unfortunately, the visibility got worse as the day proceded and for the remaining hours of our outing we would not be able to see further than 20 meters.

From the col, instead of turning left towards the l'Aiguille du Tour, we stuck to the right and followed fairly flat terrain passed the regular Col du Tour towards the base of the Col Blanc. Losts of snow had accumulated on the 45 degree slope leading up the col and even though the distance to be covered was less than 100m in elevation, Gilbert broke trail on a long rope and we only followed him once he had secured himself and was able to belay us from above. His steps were deep but fairly firm, and we managed to get up without problems. Interestingly some small crevasses appeared near the top of the col, but as someone explained to me, it was actually the section of the glacier were it detaches from the underlying rock. Hours later, Gilbert would explain to us that this section was actually the only instance where there was a slight risk of an avalanche because of the large quantity of snow that had accumulated and the heavy wetness of it.

From the Col Blanc we headed left (South) and quickly arrived at what appeared to be the summit ridge of La Tete Blanche. I say "appeared" because we could not see anything but our fearless leader bravely ventured up the fairly flat slope. A few moves later we had reached was was really more like a summit plateau. At this point the weather cleared slightly and we could actually see our next goal, La Petite Fourche, a couple hundred meters of to the southwest. The only distance to be covered was another col and then a 50-100m of elevation gain up a steeper section to the point in between the two needless of the fourche (meaning fork). But before setting out to accomplish the next summit, we took a break on the summit of the Tete Blanche and again ate a few slices of bread with Comte cheese and saucisson. After the break we set out and soon reached the col between the two needless the Fourche. Gilbert pointed to the left one as the high point and still on one rope we scrambled/ rockclimbed to the high point. The climbing was not difficult, but fairly exposed with fairly steep drop offs to both sides. The rock consisted of excellent granite with fine hand and foot holds. The ridge flattened out a few times, letting one to assume that the summit had been reached, but they were false summits, before about 15 minutes after setting out, we reached the actual highpoint. We took a few summitshots, but headed down quickly after, because there was really nothing to do. The visibility got worse and worse and there was only one thing to be done, which was to go down. Back at the col of the Tete Blanche and the Petite Fourche, we headed down the col towards the northeast with the general aim of eventually finding our trail again. Gilbert led for a while through the deep and increasingly soft snow. Eventually I took over as the trailbreaker with instructions from Gilbert to stay faily high and to the right. This appeared logical because we just needed to stay close to the rock (of which we could shadowy outlines through the fog) and at some point we just had to cross the trail we had followed a few hours earlier. The trick was to stay fairly high and not give into the easy temptation to walk downhill on the exhausting slopes.

The strategy worked and about 30 minutes after setting out from the col we hit our earlier trail and headed back to the hut. At the refuge we ordered another soup and had another victory beer before packing up all our belongings and heading back to base of the skilift. On the way down, we followed the regular trail, which was cut into the steep rock. However, in some places the trail was still covered by snow. In one of these spots, Gilbert attempted to heel down by using his walking sticks as breaks and directional control. Sylvain followed him in the same fashion but was less successful and soon lost his footing, sliding through the soft snow towards the rockier sections below. Luckily Gilbert and Bruno were in the right position to stop his downward movement by placing their ice axes in the right place. I also had tried to imiated Gilberts movements, but had stopped when I saw Sylvain's slip. Thinking that I better head over to the left to the regular trail, I turned to head in that direction but sure enough also lost my footing and slid down the slope. Frantically trying to break my slide with my ice axe, I had no such luck, but luckily hit Gilbert's legs, because he had positioned himself in the way of my movement and thus broken the fall. Needless to say he was upset about our amaterous behavior and rightly so. We continued on the trail but arrived at another less steep section where we praticed self-arresting our fall with an ice axes for a few minutes.

After about 2 hours after setting out from the hut we arrived at the parking lot and packed up our stuff before going separate ways. Guilbert was heading back to his house and we headed to the refuge "La Boerne" in Tres-les-champs to take a hot shower, eat good food, read comic books and recover our strength for the following days. P.S. The next couple days after originally wanting to do the Mount Blanc, we spent two hours on Sunday walking in white out conditions on the glacier near the Refugio Torino (3400m) on the Italian side of the Mount Blanc massif. This we did with guides Henry and Yves, who had reserved the two days to climb MB with us. After 2 hours on Sunday and at the risk of getting lost we headed back and arrived completely soaked at the refuge. The rest of the afternoon we spent at the refuge, but headed out one more time at 5am on Monday morning. Conditions were still whiteout-like and fairly cold. We found a few migratory birds, some of them dead and some barely alive. The latter ones we put in our jackets in order to bring them down to safety. Henry was leading and found the metal ladders that connected the upper part of the glacier with the lower Glacier de Toul. The weather cleared a bit, but it started raining and after descending the glacier we arrived at the middle station of the gondola and were completely soaking wet. It wasn't easy 8am, but we decided to call it a day. After descending the gondola and driving back through the Mount Blanc tunnel to Chamonix, we drank a hot chocolate with Henry and Yves before heading back to Belgium. It took us 8 hours for the drive back and I arrived at my house at around 6pm, just in time to spend a nice evening with the surprised petite amie.


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This page was last updated: Thu June 3, 2008