L'aiguille du Tour - 3544 m (11,627ft)
Trip Report

Back in Chamonix: My second visit to this haven of mountaineers and general outdoor enthusiasts. After last year's fun week on the Haute Route, we had assembled some old members of our team (Jean Marie and Bruno) and one new one (Sylvain) and the four of us this time were aiming at climbing Mount Blanc, the highest point in Europe at over 4800 meters.
After three days of acclimatization on nearby peaks with Gilbert Guirkinger, we planned on tackling Mount Blanc's summit on days 4 and 5 of our adventure, but of course nothing worked according to plan due to the unreliable weather we encountered.

We had left Namur at 3:30am in the morning and arrived in Chamonix at 1pm with just another time at have lunch and rent some missing equipment before meeting with Gilbert at the ski lift to the Col du Balmbe. Unlike a year earlier, when we took the lift to within easy walking distance of the Albert 1 refuge at 2700m, the ski lift wasn't operating yet and we had to hike up from the base at 1400m. At about 2000m we encountered the first snow which rendered a few passages on the trail, carved into the side of the steep rock, quite tricky but with the use of our ice axes or hiking sticks we crossed them safely and arrived at the hut about 3 hours after setting out. On the hike up the refuge it was overcast and a slight drizzle in addition to our own perspiration resulted in the fact that we were almost drenched when reaching the hut. Luckily, the operators of the refuge not only had a fire going but also served us warm soup upon our arrival. The refuge had also just opened a few days earlier and for the first night we were the only people staying there. This was quite a more pleasant experience compared to least year when every bed in the large dormitories was occupied. After dinner at 6:30pm we went to bed early in order to be fit at the pre-dawn start at 5am.

Gilbert shook us awake and after breakfast and packing up we set out at 6am behind the hut and aimed for the Col Superieur de Tour. The snow was very soft and we did not have to put on crampons at all. After about 45 minutes from the refuge we entered crevasse territory and roped up. Gilbert, who was the only one wearing snow shoes, was in the lead followed by Sylvain who still sank into the snow quite a bit despite the trail breaking by Gilbert. I was the last person the rope. After some early morning haze, the clouds disappeared and about half way up the col we could see that we would encounter nice conditions for the day. At about that point too, Gilbert had enough of the trail breaking and he relayed that role to me. I put on the snow shoes and we just turned around the order of the rope with me going first and him going last. Poor Sylvain however, had to stay in second place but stoically endured his sinking into to his knees on every step, especially on the steeper section up to the col. The other three then followed our steps more or less in a climbing the stairs sort of way.

When we arrived at the col, the sun was out and there was not a cloud nearby. We took a short break for some bread with saucisson and Comté cheese and applied some sun tan lotion. We also put on the crampons before turning north to follow the gradually inclining slope passed the Aiguille Purtscheller To the base of the Aiguille du Tour where we shed the crampons and continued in a rock-climbing fashion. It was really more like scrambling but to lots of snow on and in-between the rocks and fairly wet conditions we stayed on the rope, with Gilbert aside from placing a few slings and friends belayed us from above. The actual summit was less than 100m above the point were we left the glacier and about 20 minutes later we arrived at the summit and took the obligatory summit shot. The views were very nice. We could nicely see the Aiguille du Chardonnet to the South and far into Switzerland to the East. However, the Mount Blanc was again covered by clouds and even though we saw bits and pieces of the landmarks in its surroundings, the actual summit again stayed out of view. Bummer!

On the way down, I led the way down and placed the slings, because I was the first (last) one on the rope. We put the crampons back on and returned back to camp the same way we had come up. All in all a great day. We felt great that we had finally climbed the Aiguille du Tour. Last year we had made it to the base of the scrambling section when a thunderstorm with lightning all around us forced us to retreat from within a few dozen meters from the summit. Back at the refuge we celebrated with the obligatory pitcher of wine before having dinner and retiring early to be ready for another pre-dawn start.

More Mountain Stuff: Back to Overview.

This page was last updated: Thu June 3, 2008