Once again i managed to miss first lift so arrived at the mid-station at about 9.30. I started up the route at 10.30, teetering across the untracked bergschund unroped was as always, pretty unenjoyable, but once across i could get my climbing head on properly. I decided to try and climb the goulotte/offwidth rubblefest created by the meeting of the col du plan serac with the spur's rock, rather than climbing the spur normal route. It was a bit of a gamble as i didn't know whether it would go, but i was forced to as the schrund was more passable at this point. In the end it was mostly nice neve, bulging at 90 degrees. I climbed this for about 100 metres, with the odd spooky section where i could put my foot straight through in to a crack seemingly to the centre of the earth. After a tricky bulge of brittle, black serac ice i gained the huge couloir which splits the spur in two. This consisted of deep powder well bonded for a good foot or two. A steep skiers dream. I dug a trench through this for the next 300 metres up to the col, and in theory the start of the rock crux.
|The dormant Col Du Plan serac, and the goulotte i climbed on its right flank. (phone shot).|
I spent about 30 minutes or more here. Routefinding was a problem; i could see where the summer route went, but i couldn't find a suitable wintery variation on either side that i could take. After much thought i made a 25 metre rap down the west (midi) side of the col. From here i could just make out a way through some ledge systems which looked dry-toolable, after which i could join the crest again. It started with a steep 10 metres of loose flakes and carried on in much the same way for about 50 metres. This felt quite scary. Some irreversible ledge shuffling later brought me to a steep thin crack, good for axes but steep and extremely exposed over the serac-ridden couloir 100 metres beneath. I had a couple stern words with myself then committed up it. It was probably worth 6 in the scottish sense, and once in the right headspace felt great to cruise. This thankfully landed me on some easy ground which i tunneled up to the next notch on the crest, regaining the summer pitches.
Here i had a quick drink and a "block" or two. The pitch straight after this notch was possibly the "5c steep crack with pegs". I climbed it by balancing up a mushroom on the slab to the left, before squeezing myself in to a chimney. I had to take my bag off and haul it from my belay loop on a 120 sling so i could get in the offwidth properly. At the top of this i latched a good chockstone and pulled through. Some awkward powdery gendarmes were then traversed and then i was deposited on to the upper glacier/snowslope. 30 minutes later i was on top. And 20 after that i was in the Midi rocketing down to valley level.
It took 5hours 20. It certainly was an interesting thing to do in winter.
|In the powdery offwidth, hauling bag behind.|
|Top 200 metres.|