As part of the acclimatisation process for Mount Blanc we decided to climb Aiguille du Tour. Little did I know, that due to bad weather later in the trip we wouldn’t summit Mount Blanc and so this would be me highest peak of the trip. Aiguille du Tour also turned out to be one of the best peaks I have climbed in the Alps to date. I’m not what you would call a rock climber, in fact exposure gives me sweaty palms and a REALLY good grip! So this climb was a great test for me with a scramble and climb looming at the very summit.
We headed up the lift to arrive on a cloudy day at a typically picturesque Alpine mountain setting, meadows full of flowers and colour skirting the rocky cold heights, with some cloud shrouding the summits. With packs on and boots tied up we headed up the long winding path toward the Albert Premier hut at 3,544 metres, which incidentally is only accessible by ‘trekking-in’. The walking is fairly easy going and very scenic along this route with plenty to take pictures of as you approach the glacier. The plants and grasses start to thin as you gain height and the opportunity to take pictures of each other with huge mountain backdrops was becoming a bit of a joke. Once in site of the glaciers’ awesome cracking towers of ice you start to hear the roaring of the mountain’s waterfalls and this was the first time on the trip where I felt a world away from the hustle and bustle of normal life.
From the glacier you suddenly get site of the Albert Premier hut which towers above you at the end of a steep, zig-zaging path along a rocky ridge. This was the hardest part of the climb that day, but was more about taking your time as the altitude started to just take affect a little. Arriving at the steps of the hut we came across plenty of seasoned climbers relaxing outside, reminding me why pre-booking our bed was so important. Although as we found out later that night you could bivi outside if you really needed to.
We sat watching the sun going down that night whilst playing a very one sided game of chase the queen! We had amazing views of the Alps in the evening light, but disappointing performance regarding the card game!
We were awaken by a mysterious alarm call from Rob’s phone at about 3:30am which to be honest was about 3 hours after falling asleep. Shared dorms are never that quiet, good tip, ear plugs! We filled up on toast and cereal from the breakfast provided, yes they do get up that early to put breakfast on! I have to admit as we put on out extra layers I was expecting the air temperature to be a lot lower, walking out of the hut I was shocked! OK it was cool but not freezing. This meant less layers and more in the rucksack, just incase, you never know! It was then time to go and with headlights on we headed across the rocky terrain up to the start of the glacier.
We arrived at the glacier and quickly put on our crampons and roped up. By this time the sky was starting to lighten up and we could just make out the snowy capped peaks across the valley, stunning! We also got our first good look at the start of our trek up the the snowy path to the first ridge. All kitted-up, we commenced our climb up what was mostly just shallow snow at first with a little ice on the steeper section. You could clearly see where previous avalanches has taken place on this slope, and although they didn’t look that big we didn’t hang about on this section. We had a steep little climb and a bit of a scramble to a rocky ridge by which time the sun had risen and as we arrived we were given a clear and stunning view across the valley towards Switzerland and more importantly for us – our summit.
After a quick break for a snack we were off again up a steep little section which came out on to the final snowy trek to the base of our final rocky climb. There was definitely more enthusiasm between the guys as we got nearer the climb with nerves and excitement flowing through us. Just looking at the surrounding mountains and views was enough to make you think “wow”!
Until now most of what we had been doing was simple snow trudging, but now we had to climb! We placed our rucksacks on the snow along side our crampons and axes and headed to the start of our climb. There were already groups climbing up the standard route and it looked a little crowded so Andy Caird decided to head left up a more exposed but empty route. Now at first I was a little dubious about what he had planned, but as we went along from pitch to pitch, the climbing was not only manageable but amazing! I’m not normally one for exposure, but the climbing was so great that the 300 foot drops were taken in our stride, well almost, still a few wobbly legs but we were loving it. The rock here is an amazing grey colour and you can get a really good grip on it. I found myself stopping and looking about thinking, “this is just amazing! ”
I was last in the chain and was greeted on the rocky summit by three very happy and stunned climbing buddies, we had done it and with style! The views were breath taking, yet again, and it was time to have fun with the summit pictures and take in what we had just achieved. The air on top is somehow fresher and although countless climbers had already climbed this summit, it was still a special moment with great friends. It’s what life is all about, those little moments when you just feel “alive”!
We headed down the same route and after a short break at the hut and resolving a few problems with my boots we were soon in the valley and celebrating a great climb with a bottle of red!
The Alps offers climbing for all abilities and for me personally Aiguille do Tour was the perfect climb. The problem is, whilst up there I eyed up a few more peaks, more money, more gear, so any sponsors out there get in contact asap as I need another climbing fix!
For more pictures from this trip check out the following link: