With the Midi set to close for its seven week annual maintenance this Sunday, yesterday Alex and I headed up high to make the most of the quick day-hit alpinism that the lift offers. Our chosen route was M6 Solar, a modern mixed line on Pointe Lachenal.
The day didn’t get off to the best start. Recent snowfall up high meant there was a lot of slow wading through deep snow to get over to the base of the route. Then, once at the bottom of the face, Alex started climbing up some difficult gully that was wildly off-route (my route-finding error, not his!). He soon decided a retreat was the best idea. Fortunately he wasn’t the only one to have made this mistake and he found an in-situ wire with maillon to lower off. We were quickly burning through time and conscious that the last lift was at 16:30. This didn’t leave us much time to find the route, climb it and get back to the Midi before the last lift back down to Chamonix. With no bivi gear, neither of us really fancied spending a night sleeping on the cold floors of the lift station. Picking up the pace a bit, I took the gear off Alex and decided I’d have a go at finding a different way onto the route. By pure luck I managed to find the correct start. At the moment, it’s not at all obvious. The warm summer has reduced the snow line by about 10m and turned what should be a simple snow slope into a load of loose mixed.
The first pitch was very dry and difficult to climb following the normal line. Fortunately a slight mixed variation on the right allowed passage and enabled us to get to the belay. The start of the second pitch was also pretty dry, requiring some technical dry tooling to overcome a snow plug at the top of a chimney. After this, conditions improved and we could romp up the rest of the gully, climbing some fun mixed and ice.
Overall, very dry in the bottom half, pretty fat in the second half and good fun throughout. Tomorrow’s the last day the Midi is open so if you’re looking for one last hit up high I’d definitely recommend it. It would be a shame for no-one to take advantage of our track over there. It took a lot of work to make it!
Alex breaking trail on the approach. Fun times!
Alex at the end of a very dry pitch 1 (45, M5+). Usually this pitch is relatively cruisy with just a brief iced up corner barring access to the belay. However, I found only a small amount of rotten ice in this corner and so instead decided to climb up via a mixed variation on the right. This was the crux of the route and required some committing and physical moves to get over an overhang.
The quality of what little ice there was on the first pitch was pretty awful. The pitch is far more exposed to the sun than the rest of the route and in the warm temps most of the ice was soft and rotten.
Alex on the crux of pitch 2 (55m, M5). In good conditions, you can climb an iced up chimney here with relative ease but we found the chimney devoid of ice and so used the cracks on the left to climb it dry tool style. It’s steeper than it looks from below!
Alex at the end of the final pitch of technical climbing. Racing against the clock to get back to the Midi, we climbed pitches 3 and 4 (70m, 4, M4+) in one long pitch, moving together for a bit. Conditions here were far better with a fun iced up corner to climb and some interesting mixed at the end. After this pitch a simple snow slope (30m, 60 degrees) takes you to the top of Pointe Lachenal from which you can easily walk back to the Midi.