Aiguille du Midi, Arête des Cosmiques

Published by Lone Ranger , 24 August 2011, 23h53.

Region: World » France » Massif du Mont Blanc » Chamonix
Date of the hike:21 August 2011
Mountaineering grading: AD
Climbing grading: 4+ (French Grading System)
Geo-Tags: F 
Time: 4:00
Height gain: 270 m 886 ft.
Route:Cosmiques hut-Aiguille du Midi- Cosmiques hut
Access to start point:Aiguille du Midi cable car station, or Cosmiques Hut which is half an hour walk down (PD)
Access to end point:As above

This is a short, lovely technical climb at Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix. An extremely popular route due to easy access and easy descent after the climb.

Approach: Can be done as a day trip from Chamonix. We however reached Chamonix the previous evening, took the cable car to Aiguille du Midi and descended to Cosmiques Hut (3614m), where we spent the night. The ridge descent right after you exit the cable car station is the trickiest part: a very narrow snow crest that is also very crowded, so when you pass those climbing up, it becomes very dangerous (waiting out isn't an option, you'll be stuck the whole day if you wait for the route to be free). My guidebook recommends taking belay here, as it is very accident-prone. The rest of the walk down to the hut is straightforward.

The climb: Well, we climbed this in perfect conditions, it was a song. You can choose breakfast times 1, 3, 5 or 7 am. We chose a leisurely 7 am, and set out around 8:15 am for the climb.

The conditions were oh so perfect, warm enough to climb without gloves/layers, and most of the snow was gone, so it felt more like a rock climb (like Chli Bielenhorn). I led the route; my partner felt a bit slow that day, and he was not too happy climbing rock with his new Baturas (winter boots).

There is one small pitch (7m) of grade 4a moves, actually it used to be a 4c as I learned from this discussion. In fact I remember discussing with my partner, how I suspected the holds were chipped out by man and not natural, but it is now maybe 4a or 4b (I did not use the aid-slings while leading it, which is a very rare achievement for me ;-) Anyway, nothing to worry, it is a well-protected section.

The route has exceptional drops, feels great because the climbing per se is never hard, you always have decent holds, yet enjoy the thrill of a real mountain feeling. It could be much harder when covered in snow though.

Difficulty: various guidebooks rate it from PD+ to AD. The one I use rates it at AD which I think is a bit higher than it deserves.

Time: the normal time for ascent  is also listed variously as 2-5 hours, but again it depends if you are doing i with a guide who knows the route, or you are finding the route on your own, and where you start (the hut or the cable car station). We took just over 4 hours, but can easily do it in 2-2.5 hours if doing the second time. In any case, unlike most other climbs, the time is not critical here because the climb ends in the safety of cable car station.

Equipment: There are two 20m abseils, (one of them seemed down-climbable though), so take suitable length rope, maybe 2-3 friends, slings and maybe even nuts although you'd probably not encounter more than 2-3 places where you need them. Crampons and one walking axe.

Lastly, the climb ends at the cable car station where the crowds will be watching you appear from below, so be prepared to feel like a hero (no one asked for autographs though, maybe because a dozen climbers had reached before us, but we did pose for some pics and explained our fancy gear to the folks)

Overall, a very nice, objectively very safe climb. The only thing it is missing is length, like the play getting over just when your are fully turned on :)

Hike partners: Lone Ranger

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