Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tête Blanche, France/Switzerland border

2014 September: Two day climb to Tête Blanche at France/Switzerland border


This is a 2-day acclimatization climb prior to climbing Mont Blanc.  It is organized by World Expedition.

By the way, photos and an account of my Mont Blanc climb is in my blog: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/mont-blanc-france.html

Tête Blanche

Tête Blanche is on the France/Switzerland border, 3429 meters (11250 ft) in elevation. Together with the nearby mountain called Petite Fourche, they form a good training ground for wannabe Alpinists.

We actually planned to climb Petite Fourche. But just when we are about to climb it, a guy called Paul from England says he is afraid of height. So our mountain guide aborts the climb and takes us to Tête Blanche instead ... an easier climb.

(Paul is weird ... if he is afraid of height, why did he pay up to climb Mont Blanc?  Because on the way to Mont Blanc, he won't be able to handle the steep and scary climb from Tête Rousse Refuge to Goûter Refuge.

As fate would have it, late on the second day, he injures his knee and withdraws from the Mont Blanc climb. Just as well, as he definitely won't be able to handle the steep climb there.)


Day 1:
- Pierre, the mountain guide drives us from Chamonix to Le Tour.
- From Le Tour, take aerial cablecar to Charamillon.
- Walk to Refuge Albert 1er (including a detour to Glacier Du Tour for crampon practice).

Day 2:
- From Refuge Albert 1er, walk to the base of Petite Fourche.
- Due to Paul's acrophobia, we go and climb Tête Blanche instead.
- Return to Refuge Albert 1er to pick up our gears.
- Retrace first day's steps back to Charamillon.
- Take aerial cable car to Le Tour.
- Pierre drives us back to Chamonix.

Distance & Time

Day 1:
- 5.1 km; 5 hr 25 min  of walking from Charamillon cablecar station to Refuge Albert 1er
      • including  50 min  of lunch on the trail.
      • including  2 hr 19 min  of crampon practice.
- Hence, excluding lunch and excluding crampon practice, it is around  4.7 km; 2 hr 20 min  of walking from Charamillon to Refuge Albert 1er.

Day 2:
- I forget to turn on the GPS from Refuge Albert 1er to Tête Blanche summit   :-(
- 4.1 km; 2 hr 16 min  from Tête Blanche summit to Refuge Albert 1er (lunch at Refuge).
- 4.7 km; 1 hr 30 min  from Refuge Albert 1er to Charamillon cablecar station.

(Distance is from Google Earth.)

Pictures: Day 1 - to Refuge Albert 1er

1)  We take the aerial cablecar from here at Le Tour.

2)  Me with my bright rain pants - guaranteed to be noticed if lost in a snow storm  :-)

3) On the aerial cablecar to Charamillon, looking back at Le Tour

4) Charamillon station - this is where we get off the cable car and start walking towards Refuge Albert 1er.

5) Looking back at Charamillon station ~~~
Above Charamillon is Massif des Aiguilles Rouges.
The peak on the right edge of the photo is Aiguillette des Posettes.

6)  Beautiful scenery on the way to Refuge Albert 1er ~~~
- At the centre of the below pic is Massif des Aiguilles Rouges (French for "Red Peaks"). The colour of the iron rich gneiss in these mountains gives the massif its name. Its highest summit is Aiguille du Belvédère, 2965 metres.
- On left edge of the photo and clad in snow is the Mont Blanc Massif.

7) Pink flowers ... see next pic ...

8) ... Zooming in onto the pink flowers ... if you know its name, please let me know.

9)  Mont Blanc is at the centre of this photo. At 4810 meters, it is the highest mountain in the European Alps.

10)  More beautiful scenery on the way to Refuge Albert 1er !
- The snow-capped mountain on the left is Mont Blanc, 4810 m.
- The mountain at the top right hand corner is Mont Buet, 3096 m.
- In between is the Massif des Aiguilles Rouges ... see also photo #6.
- Directly below the Massif are the small towns of Montroc and Le Tour. (Montroc is closer to the base of the Massif.)

11  Lenticular clouds over Mont Blanc ~~~
This is the first time I encounter this type of cloud ... very fortunate.
By the way, the top of Mont Blanc itself is also covered in another layer of the lenticular cloud.

12) Looking back towards Charamillon (red arrow) where we got off the cablecar and started walking ~~~
- In the middle of the pic is Lac d'Emosson. It is in the Swiss territory.
- The red horizontal bar marks Dents du Midi in the Chablais Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais. It has 7 distinct summits, from left to right:
  •  La Haute Cime (3257 m, 10,685.70 ft) - highest summit
  •  Les Doigts (3205 m, 10,515.09 ft; and 3210 m, 10,531.50 ft) or Doigts de Salanfe
  •  Dent Jaune (3186 m, 10,452.76 ft)
  •  L'Éperon (3114 m, 10,216.54 ft)
  •  La Cathédrale (3160 m, 10,367.45 ft)
  •  La Forteresse (3164 m, 10,380.58 ft)
  •  La Cime de l'Est (3178 metres, 10,426.51 ft)

13)  Looking backwards at the trail we've walked

14)  The trail looks more scary than it actually is  :-)

15)  Trail to Refuge Albert 1er ~~~
The top right hand corner is Glacier du Tour.

16)  Glacier du Tour ~~~
- The mountain on the left is Aiguille du Chardonnet.
- The snow-clad mountain on the right is Aiguille Verte.

17)  Glacier du Tour

18)  Glacier du Tour ~~~
Instead of going directly on the trail to Refuge Albert 1er, we detour over the glacier to practice walking on crampons.

19)  After crampon practice, we make a bee-line towards Refuge Albert 1er.

Arrive at Refuge Albert 1er

20)  Glacier du Tour from Refuge Albert 1er

21)  Waiting for dinner at the dining room of Refuge Albert 1er ~~~
From bottom left hand corner, clockwise around the table:
  •  Louis - 3 days later, only he and I make it to Mont Blanc summit.
  •  Pierre - our mountain guide
  •  Mark
  •  Quyen
  •  Paul from England
  •  Neil - a bit of his head only - bottom right hand corner

Day 2 - Climb Tête Blanche

22)  We are up early in the morning and walk on Glacier du Tour. The direction we are heading is to the left of this photo.  (Quyen is not joining us. The mountain guide says she is too slow.)

23)  On Glacier du Tour ~~~ The big mountain in this photo is Aiguille du Tour.

24)  Beautiful scenery!!!
The two snow-covered mountain are:
- Aiguille d'Argentière, the flat top mountain on the left
- Aiguille du Chardonnet, the bigger jagged one on the right

25)  Louis is taking a photo of our mountain guide Pierre.
In the background:
- Left arrow points to Tête Blanche - we'll climb it later on.
- Middle arrow points to Petite Fourche.
- Right arrow points to Grande Fourche.

26)  Petite Fourche and Grande Fourche ~~~
Petite Fourche is the mountain we are meant to climb today.  However when we start to climb it, Paul from England confesses that he is afraid of height, so we abort the climb and head to the nearby Tête Blanche instead ... easier to climb than Petite Fourche.

Paul is weird ... if he is afraid of height, why did he pay up to climb Mont Blanc? Because on the way to Mont Blanc, he won't be able to handle the steep and scary climb from Tête Rousse Refuge to Goûter Refuge.

As fate would have it, late on the second day, he injures his knee and withdraws from the Mont Blanc climb. Just as well, as he definitely won't be able to handle the steep climb there.

27)  Abandoning Petite Fourche, we go to Tête Blanche instead - which is the rocky mound in the middle of the pic.

28)  Closer to Tête Blanche

29)  We are at the base of Tête Blanche looking at Petite Fourche.

30)  At the base of Tête Blanche looking at Aiguille du Chardonnet

31)  Climbing up Tête Blanche ~~~ Its summit is in sight.

32)  At the summit of Tête Blanche, 3429 m

33)  At the summit looking at Aiguille du Tour ~~~
Unfortunately, the clouds roll in.  Otherwise this scene would be very beautiful.

34)  Panoramic view from the summit of Tête Blanche

Then it is back down Tête Blanche, back to Refuge Albert 1er to pick up our gears, and return to our hotel at Chamonix at around 2:30pm.

As the afternoon is still early, at Chamonix, I go on to take an aerial cablecar to the top of Aiguille du Midi. Photos and an account of the trip is in my blog:

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