Friday, 19 August 2011

Innominata Ridge

On Tuesday morning Jon Griffith and I headed through to Italy to climb the ‘Innominata Ridge’ on the South face of Mt Blanc, a major classic alpine route in what must be one of the most magnificent settings in the Massif. We got a very much appreciated lift from a good friend Neil who drove us through the Tunnel du Mt Blanc and dropped us off in Val Veni, but I’m sure we could have got the car a wee bit further! After Neil dropped us off we had a big slog ahead of us to get to the Eccles bivouac hut, which neither of us were looking forward to that much.

Walking up to the Eccles hut took us about 6-7 hours in the baking heat which definitely took its toll on us and also the fact that neither of us were acclimatized made it that bit harder work, walking roughly from 1500m (Val Veni) up to 4000m (Eccles hut).

Jon going for the
bumbly look!

Just before we started to head up the Glacier du Brouillard, about half way on our approach to the hut, we decided to stop for a spot of lunch that Jon had brought. As we just started to get stuck into lunch this huge boulder the size of a washing machine came hurtling down the glacier towards us! We quickly jumped out of the way and no joke this thing missed where Jon was sitting and his ‘sac’ by two feet at the most. So after we sat back down and finished of our lunch which was so rudely disrupted by this big ass boulder, we headed up the glacier for another few hours to arrive at the already packed out hut.

Jon happy with the sleeping
Waiting for the Italians to get
sorted out.

We shared the hut with five Italians, who were also going to climb the Innominata, and as their was only six beds in the hut it was going to be a cozy night sleep. The Italians were there first so they obviously took the upper bunks which left John and I with one to share on the bottom! We decided the best plan would be to pull the mattress out and put in the middle of the floor and one of us sleep on top the sacs and rope on these wooden planks that were in the hut. After patiently standing and waiting outside the hut for an hour until the Italians sorted their gear and get them selves ready for bed, we finally got our beds sorted out. The only fair way to see who was going to get the mattress for sleeping on was, ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ which I don’t think John enjoyed very much when he lost!

In the morning the Italians were up first and as I was in the middle of the floor I had to get up and let them have their breakfast before Jon and me could jump into one of the empty beds to get an extra hour in bed. Once we properly woke up and had our porridge, we left the hut and set of at about 5:30 am. Jon had done the ‘Freney Pillar’ last year and so knew the way to the ‘Col de Eccles’ which is the start of the Innominata route. When we got here we were welcomed to glorious sunrise that unravels itself over the Alps and highlights every snow crest in sight, the sun blasts this side of Mt Blanc pretty much for the whole day.

The ‘Innominata Ridge’ is quite a short route for the Alps but it’s high up and in such a remote place which definitely gives it a more serious feel to it. The route finding isn’t too bad and with a short thuggish chimney at the start being the route’s crux you know you can just enjoy the rest. You have to cross a massive snow/rock couloir which is obviously best to cross early in the day before it turns into a hell. After the couloir you have to climb a really enjoyable rocky ridge that turns into snow crest higher up and is the end of the ‘Innominata Ridge’. We got to the top of the snow crest just after 10 am to arrive at a ridge line that takes you along to ‘Mt Blanc du Courmayeur’ and then onto Mt Blanc itself. We drank a load of water that Jon melted and had some munchies before setting of for the summit. There was a really good constant cold wind blowing that kept us cool but not too cold for us plodding up to Mt Blanc. I just wore my awesome lightweight ‘Cirrus Windtop’ that I received from Rab which is perfect for something like this, when you’re constantly moving in a cold wind.

Jon exiting the grand couloir.

Jon on top of Mt Blanc

We arrived at the summit for midday and managed to get the top to ourselves. This was actually the first route that Jon and I had done together and what a great route it was. We didn’t hang about long, we just took a photo to prove we were there and heading on down ‘Chamonix bound’. The descent down the ‘3 Monts’ was ok and took us about 3 hours to get to the Midi station.

Pleased to on top of the Blanc again.

 Check out Jon’s website as well.

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