La Meije - Grand Pic : Arête du Promontoire (voie normale) puis traversée des arêtes

La Meije - Grand Pic : Arête du Promontoire (voie normale) puis traversée des arêtes

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Map

  • IGN - 3436ET - Meije - Pelvoux - Parc national des Écrins

Licence

General

route_types: traverse
activities:
durations: 2 day(s)
rock_types: gneiss, granit
configuration: edge

quality: great

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Rating

D-  
4a > 3c

    IV    P2 

heights

elevation min/max : 3092 m / 3983 m

height_diff_up: 1000 m

route_length: 2.852 km

height_diff_difficulties: 890 m

difficulties_height: 3092 m

slope: 70° (cables)

gear

glacier_gear: glacier_crampons

Access

lift_access : yes

orientations

E W S N

route_history

First ascent : 16 august 1877 - Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau, Pierre Gaspard (father and son).

description

The normal route, opened all the way back in 1877, is a beautiful itinerary with a high historical significance, yet still relevant today. Combined with the classic traverse of the ridges, it is a lengthy outing, moderate in difficulty but requiring good ropework and fast movement in varied terrain. The whole route is a linkup of two AD routes, which gives it its D- rating (taking into account the 2007 via ferrata around the Zsigmondy tooth).

Arête du Promontoire 4 to 6h

11 and 12 : Arête du promontoire and traverse of the ridges
11 and 12 : Arête du promontoire and traverse of the ridges
Side view of the S face of La Meije, with prominent Arête du Promontoire
Side view of the S face of La Meije, with prominent Arête du Promontoire
Arête du Promontoire
Arête du Promontoire

This descrition starts from the Promontoire hut, reached from either La Bérarde and Vallon des Étançons, or from La Grave and the Enfetchores.

From the hut to the Duhamel Pyramid

From the hut, climb to the Breach of the Toad (Brèche du Crapaud) via broken ground between the main hut and the toilets. At the col, do not follow the cables heading right (E) but go left (W) until you hit a short overhang, the Toad's step (Pas du Crapaud). Climb through it (one 3b move, piton and stuck friend) and reach the edge of the ridge on the left. Follow it in a straightforward way (mostly grade 2, a few 3a moves here and there) until you hit a steep wall, marked with cairns: campement des demoiselles.

Climb diagonally left (W) on easy slabs (2-3), heading to the left bank of the Duhamel couloir (head for the large, recognizable pillar on the right bank of the couloir). Do not cross the couloir but climb ramps and chimneys (two 3a chimneys, sometimes icy) on the left bank until you reach a steep wall. Traverse left on a good ramp until the bottom of the couloir.

Head up the Duhamel couloir, either on its right bank on slabs, or at the bottom on broken ground (lots of loose rock). Once out of the couloir itself, traverse left away from the Duhamel Pyramid (3460m) and climb diagonally to a large ledge (possible bivy). From there, one can see the lights of Alpe d'Huez, and get an idea of the upcoming weather, as storms frequently move in from the NW.

The Castelnau fortress, from the Duhamel Pyramid to the Square Glacier

From the ledge, you can see a giant steep wall: the Castelnay fortress. From the ledge, head right (NE) toward the wall, following a small ridge, then ramps, until you hit a low angle slab at the foot of the fortress. Go diagonally right up the slab until a steep wall (pitons). Follow it right for 4m, downclimb a short step then climb straight up a short steep wall: the Castelnau slab (3b, modern black piton at its foot).

After the wall, head left for a couple of meters (anchor) then head back right on low angle ledges until directly below the Square Glacier (often wet or icy, beware of falling ice).

Climb straight up for 5-10m, then diagonally left until the edge of the ridge (a few 3a-b steps, many pitons). Go up a short overhang, the Donkey's Back (Dos d'Âne) (one 3b move), and traverse right on the ledge, the Notches Ledge.

Traverse right again (recent rockfall, careful not to knock down other parties directly below), head up a short physical chimney (one 3c move) and reach a good ledge with a belay anchor bordered by an overhanging chimney-corner on its right edge: the Austrian Slab (Dalle des Autrichiens). Climb up the chimney, then the corner, to the top of the slab (4a, 3 pitons) which is traversed left (3a) to a good ledge with an abseil anchor.

Climb up a short ridge straight above the ledge for 5-10m (3a, steep), then go left around a big block to a big ledge on the W flank of the main ridge: the Cat's Step (Pas de Chat, one exposed 3a move). From this point on, the rock turns from granite to gneiss. Head up a wide, low angle gully, keep a good bivy ledge on your left, go up a steep but featured grey slab to reach the S face, traverse right for a couple of meters, downclimb 5m in a crack on a large slab to reach the good ledges at the bottom of the Square Glacier.

From the Square Glacier to the Grand Pic

If refreeze is good, it is possible to head directly diagonally up the Square Glacier, but it is most often preferable to follow rocks on the ridge edge (35°) to the Pic of the Square Glacier, then traverse horizontally right to the Col (up to 40°).

The slabs of the W face are taken close to the W ridge at first, then increasingly to the right of it, possibly using the abseil anchors, until a less steep area is reached. Aim for a short slab of red rock on the skyline: the famous Red Horse (Cheval Rouge). Climb up the corner on its right edge (a few moves of 3c), then straddle the slab (and take a picture). Straight above it, climb up the overhanging ridge, called the Capucin's Hat (Chapeau du Capucin, one 3c move). Follow the easy ridge to the summit of the Grand Pic and its wooden virgin.

Traverse of the Ridges 4 to 5h from Grand Pic to the Eagle Hut

It is possible to go down the Arête du Promontoire, but the full Traverse of the Ridges is the classic link-up. Most of the difficulties are around the Zsigmondy tooth, but it is now equipped with a via ferrata cable.

From Grand Pic to Doigt de Dieu

From the summit of Grand Pic, downclimb 20m on the NE side to gain an abseil line to the Zsigmondy Col (bolted anchors: 40m, 40m, 30m). Depending on conditions, it can be useful to don crampons from the top of the first abseil.

From the col, follow the ridge to the foot of the Zsigmondy tooth (3 pitons, broken rocks) and the beginning of the cables around it. Just follow the cables: a short descent, horizontal traverse, then an ice gully (70°, mixed exit) to the col between the Zsigmondy and the second tooth. In early season, the cables are buried, so you may have to actually climb!

Follow the ridge either on its edge or slightly on the N side. Downclimb 15m to the N (3c or a short abseil) to reach the col of the 3rd tooth. Follow again the edges of the 3rd and 4th teeth, occasionally downclimbing snow covered slabs. Finally, climb to the summit of Doigt de Dieu on easy broken ground (a few moves of 2).

Descent from Doigt de Dieu

Downclimb 30m on the N side (though there is an anchor, abseiling is a bad option) then traverse 5m E to find an abseil anchor allowing to reach a small col in 35m. Alternatively, downclimb the whole way (4a, pitons).

Follow the ridge heading E for 30m to the foot of a broad tower and an obvious bolted anchor on the N side. A first abseil leads to a not so obvious second anchor on the last rocks before the snow. A final 45-50m abseil should get you across the bergshrund of the Tabuchet glacier, which leads easily to the Eagle Hut

Descente from the Eagle Hut 3h

To head back to La Grave, follow the right edge of the Tabuchet glacier along the Ridge of Bec de l'Homme. Reach on the right the Amieux ledge (cable) and follow it slightly upward to the small glacier-neve of the Beak. Head down the neve and reach a faint path marked with red paint. Follow the numerous cairns until reaching the good path to Pont des Brebis (Pied du Col), a few kilometers and easy hitch-hiking away from La Grave.

In early season, it is possible to head back to La Bérarde by descending the Serret du Savon couloir, traversing under the N face and going back up the Brèche de la Meije.

remarks

  • Most of the traverse takes place close to 4000m, previous acclimatisation can be a good idea.
  • Thunderstorms are particularly severe on the Ridges, so a good forecast and fast movement is crucial. It is better to turn around at Grand Pic if in doubt.
  • There are many bivy sites along the way: campement des Demoiselles, the Duhamel Pyramid, the Square Glacier ledges, the summit of Grand Pic (room for 4), the col between the 2nd and 3rd teeth.

Sensitive areas
There are sensitive areas on this route. Please refer to the map.

gear

  • There are relatively few cracks: a couple of medium nuts and cams can be useful.
  • There are many pitons all along the way, take a few long quickdraws.
  • 2×50 m for abseils from Grand Pic and Doigt de Dieu.

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