Ascent of Dents du Midi on 2015-05-22

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Friday, May 22, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Dents du Midi
    Elevation:9600 ft / 2926 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this mountain: I was on a work trip to Milan, Italy and had planned on trying Pizzo Di Coca which was much closer. However the forecast for Coca was poor, so I began looking for other mountains in the area. Dents Du Midi was the best option since the weather forecast was good and the drive was bearable. Also the elevation wasn't high enough to give me altitude problems.

How to get there: I had success by placing Van d'En Haut in my GPS, this is near Martigny, Switzerland. Once I reached this point there were three roads. From left to right a gravel road that crossed a bridge, a barely maintained dirt road, and a narrow but well kept dirt road. Take the one to the far right and in a few hundred yards I reached a parking area with a couple of picnic tables. This is where I started my hike.

The Hike: I began the hike looking at towering mountains around me covered in snow and ice. The first 1.5 miles was steep uphill with no ice. There were a few sets of steel stairs. At the end of this 1.5 miles you reach the dam holding Lac De Salanfe and the refuge that you may stay in during summer months. Through this portion of the climb there were some clouds on the peaks, but overall pretty clear
The next 2.2 miles was a rather easy hike mostly around the lake. Through this portion of the hike the clouds seemed to be lifting and I thought it may completely clear up.
Finally the last 2.2 miles consisted of climbing up steep ice and snow. I was unable to follow the route due to the snow and went up a ravine that felt comfortable to climb. When I reached the top of this ravine I realized I could not reach the top without reconnecting to what my GPS had listed as the route.
Since I had not planned on climbing in snow or ice I had no ice ax or crampons. Since I did not have this gear I should have turned back here, but I'm foolish. I cut left to try and reconnect and moved very slowly over the next 0.3 miles. I was very nervous throughout the entirety of this climb, but made it with no issues. My GPS showed I had reconnected to the route, but it was not obvious at all in the snow and ice.
From here I continued up the mountain as well as I could forming switchbacks in the snow and even crawling at points. Unfortunately during this time I had noticed the blue skies disappearing. Finally I saw a few drops of rain/snow and was pushing my turn around time. I had no gear for poor weather so I turned around at what contour maps show at ~9,600'.
I did not want to traverse the 0.3 miles I had crossed earlier so I was very intent on finding the route down. However I found it impossible to follow in places and got off again. I started to consider going down the way I came up but had spotted a sign for the route a few hundred yards away and decided to try and get there. While trying to reconnect I fell and lost 25-30 feet in elevation mostly in a slide, but did free fall from a rock luckily landing in soft snow. If it had not been for the soft landing I'd likely have been injured. This fall would not have happened if I'd had an ice ax or crampons.
After the fall I was able to find the route again, and it was clear I would not have been able to come up this section without an ice ax. There was a steep 20'+ slope of hard ice I would not have been able to get up. I slid down this slope but again was unable to remain on the route. Through this last bit of down hill I sat down and slid quite a bit.
I was happy to reach the lake again. By this time clouds covered all the peaks around and were a dark grey, but I had seen no more precipitation. From here I repeated the walk up in reverse and finally did see a few drops of rain.
It was a beautiful hike and my first time in Switzerland. Disappointed I did not reach the top, but comfortable with the decision to turn around. I feel that I would have easily reached the peak had I only had an ax.

What I learned: Turn around when necessary, an ice ax is important and can take a climb from nearly impossible to doable.

Excuses: Was traveling for work and didn't have the luggage capacity for any more than I'd already packed.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4735 ft / 1443 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4735 ft / 1443 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.1 mi / 19.5 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Overcast
changing from mostly sunny to cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4735 ft / 1443 m
    Distance:5.9 mi / 9.5 km
    Start Trailhead:Van d'En Haut  4865 ft / 1482 m
    Time:5 Hours 47 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4735 ft / 1443 m
    Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    End Trailhead:Van d'En Haut  4865 ft / 1482 m
    Time:5 Hours 4 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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