Ascent of Dents du Midi on 2010-06-20

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Andrew Tibbetts
Date:Sunday, June 20, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Dents du Midi
    Elevation:10686 ft / 3257 m

Ascent Trip Report

The conditions made this pretty hard work.

Having climbed Percee the previous afternoon in poor conditions, we awoke to a promisingly sunny morning at Chamonix, and drove via Martigny to Van d'en Haut (1394m), SE of the summit, below Lac de Salanfe. We parked at the bridge but realised we could have driven a little further on the N side of the river, or especially on the S side across the bridge.

A good trail leads to the Salanfe dam (refuge at N end) then along the north shore of the reservoir before turning N then NW. After a simple ascent of a moraine slope, the path crosses below steep cliffs (some stone/icefall potential) then an exposed section has chains for protection. These chains were partially buried in deep snow which was in poor condition and a few careful steps were required before we were above the difficulties. An easy snow slope then led to the col. Here the wind was strong, visibility was poor with intermittent snowfall and we were potentially in for a tough ascent.

The ascent is normally well marked but today was almost completely obscured by fresh snow. Initially we headed up an easy arete then trended R on a compass bearing avoiding crags, scrambling up at the RH end of the crags using the GPSr elevation as a guide, with snowfall continuing most of the afternoon. The path was briefly visible but the traverse back L to the ridge was under snow and we kept above the expected line to avoid deeper snow which may have been avalanche prone. Back on the ridge line the path was intermittently visible but deepish snow made for hard going. Near the summit the ridge is well defined with an exposed drop to the R (E). With time pressing we wondered if we would get to the summit, but the final rocks appeared and we reached the impressively exposed summit arete (cross) at 16:10.

I had left the GPSr in tracking mode hence we were able to follow the track down fairly precisely - in visibility down to about 20m this was pretty much essential. The steep initial section required a fair bit of care, but further down we made good progress and were back at the car at 19:45. Then back to Chamonix for a late meal.

In late season this route is reportedly a straightforeard day hike, with a fair bit of scree higher up.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6179 ft / 1883 m
    Extra Gain:33 ft / 10 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route:South ridge
    Trailhead:Van d'en Haut  4573 ft / 1393 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons
    Weather:Snowing, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds
Snowing above col, visibility 10m at times
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes

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