Vadim and I spent a few days in the Chamonix valley, climbing some classics, and traversing the iconic Drus. This long climb from the Charpoua Hut, goes up to the Flammes de Pierre, across the SE face of the Petit Dru, over the Grand Dru, then down a series of recent rappels to the Charpoua Glacier. We were lucky enough to have good weather, allowing us to do the climb on a warm and calm day. Checking out the Charpoua Glacier the evening before, we found a nice direct line through the seracs, even so late in the season. Traversing the ramp and climbing to Flames de Pierre in the dark unroped, got us to the ridge at daybreak, 2 hours from the hut. Finding the series of chimneys, sandy couloirs, and steep cracks for the next few hours became a fun game of choosing the most appealing line and the easiest way up! The infamous Z up the Grand Drus was not as difficult as expected, but the iced up chimney above was certainly quite a feat with the back pack getting stuck every few centimeters!
The line of rappels down from the East Ridge of the Grand Dru were quickly found, and provided a fine way to get off the peak. They lead to the little gorge which spits out all the debris of the East Face onto the Charpoua Glacier. Knowing this allows you to imagine where the next rappel station is, as they are placed in very logical places, allowing a climber protection from falling rocks as she pulls her ropes. We were lucky to not get any of our ropes stuck!!! (A real good guide book for this and other routes around the Mont Blanc is the Jean-Louis LAROCHE – Florence LELONG “Ascensions au pays du Mont-Blanc”)
We finished our trip with the classic Rébuffat route on the South Face of the Aiguille du Midi. What a contrast to the remote and quiet Charpoua Basin. There were people everywhere: literally crowds on the Arête des Cosmique, people cruising the Valley Blanche, and crowds of tourists gazing at us as we rapped down onto the Midi platform, though amazingly enough, we were alone on our route. A quick cable ride got us to the valley floor in under an hour. Talk about contrasts!