The North Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul

Training day 3 (And final day) before heading off to Zermatt.

23rd July 2013

The alarm went of at 05:15 that morning because we had decided to meet at the Aguile du Midi telephrique station bright and early so as to beat the crowds and try to get back into town earlier than yesterday. Ervin had agreed to take Nabil and I up to Mont Blanc du Tacul (which is on one of the routes up Mont Blanc) for a good solid acclimatization day. Mont Blanc du Tacul sits at 4248m and is just what I needed to finish off my acclimatization for the Matterhorn. Today was to be a mixed rock and ice climb with some snow plodding before and after.

Of the many routes on the North Face Triangle we took the Contamine-Grisolle route. The climb is primarily on ice, though it quite often offered some rock climbing as well, especially on the Contamine. The Contamine is much longer, with more of a “mountain” feel. Normally we would climb the Contamine-Grisolle all the way to the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul, which is the logical ending point for this grand outing. But due to time constraints we opted to just pass the slow snow plod up to Tacul but continued the traverse descent back to the Col du Midi and then eventually end up at the Aig. du Midi for our return back to Chamonix. Armed with the following; Two technical axes, a few ice screws and some rock protection we were off!

After the one hour or so crossing of the Col du Midi we reached a bergschrund which needed to crossed. Then we continued to climb a diagonal band of snow in three pitches (50-55°) using belays as required, with Nabil and myself moving together. This went on for some time, hours in fact. The whole process of the guide leading, setting up a belay, us climbing then removing any protection that was put in, just seemed to take forever. The snow slope gradually narrowed to meet a boulder at the head of it which had to be bypassed to its right by climbing a short rock wall. This was the crux move that gives access to the mixed terrain. Follow the mixed ground to reach a band of snow them go up a narrow ice couloir to the rocky ridge (60°). Follow this ridge to the summit of the triangle.

It was a lovely day with plenty of mixed climbing. Id have to admit I think I was the one letting the team down a bit that day. I was tremendously slower than usual and the fatigue in my legs which I attribute to that Mont Buet trail run on the first day, was simply hurting so much. Weak calves and and knife stabbing pain in my quadriceps made for a painful ice climb and an equally slow and painful snow plod all the way back to the midi station; on top of all that we were all out of water. I had resorted to scooping ice from the snow and sadly it was melting. it was an absolute mammoth day which took longer than my summit of the Matterhorn :p which I will get into in another post!

In closing I had set aside a day off after this day as I realized my legs had reached their use at this point unless some rest was given to them. I couldn’t ask more from my sea level legs that have had to relearn the use of certain muscles that are absent from flat terrain training. God bless them! they have got me through so much! a surprise decision was waiting for me when I got back to town, and I was told that id have to leave for Zermatt the next day instead of my well needed rest!

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