Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cretier route- South face Mt Maudit

The weather and temperatures in the mountains are starting to gradually decrease which is helping the high faces come into condition for this autumn, but at the moment most things are stuck in a sort limbo. Whilst the upper slopes are looking in ok shape, the lower slopes with crucial entry slopes are flagging behind and are needing some snow help 'bridge' the gaps. Literally! Some of the snow bridges are looking quite scary and needing beefed up a little.

A route that I thought might work in favor of these conditions was the ' Cretier Route' on the South face of Mt Maudit. I thought this would be good choice as it has rock climbing in the lower half and then some snowier mixed climbing in the upper half.

Last Thursday afternoon Jon and I headed over to a very quiet Fourche Bivouac. Normally this hut is ram packed with people going to climb the very classic 'Kuffner Ridge', but as the summer season is coming to an end the hills are starting to calm down. Nice!

We woke up in the morning and headed down to the bottom of my route. I say 'my' route because Jon had the choice of the last two routes we were previously on, and also Jon wasn't even convinced that this route existed. Not many people go onto this face in the summer probably due to it being south facing so you'll be it with any fallen ice being melted off the rock, which we experienced! I would defiantly recommend climbing this route with a bit more snow and in cooler temps.

Once we negotiated our way through the crevasses and bergshrunds to get to the start of the route, which took way too much of our time, we were able to get on with the rock climbing. The climbing was on really nice rock which climbed mainly up this chimney-crack system for three pitches. The crux pitch is given 5c, but as the guide book states 'The rock climbing at the start of the route has often been under-graded' I would agree with this and would say 6a for this pitch. After the rock pitches the route climbs a ridge/buttress and arrives at a snow crest which you cross and then turn a tower on the right hand side. At this point you traverse under a neighboring ice route called the 'Dom'. The danger of crossing here is the fallen ice & rock, which we definitely seen our fair share of to see us through for a while!

In the upper half of the route their was hopefully going to be a lot snow and ice for us to climb and make some time up that we lost earlier. Their wasn't! Jon lead this mixed pitch which hardly had any snow on it and there was quite a bit of loose stuff. After this we climbed a 250m buttress of easy rock which brings to a snow ridge. the top was well corniced so I traversed out right where it lead us to the top of our route. I now say 'our route' because Jon now believes the route exists and I also think that he actually enjoyed it!

Me traversing out right after the snow crest.

 We topped out at 5:30 which was very late and as we knew earlier that we wouldn't be making last lift down, Jon said he'd make a few calls and managed to arrange for some food and sleeping bags to await our arrival at the station. The boy did good.

Very much appreciated sleeping
bag. Thank you Mr. Geldard. 

Once we both knew that we had missed last bin, we took it easy on the walk down the Tacul and enjoyed the magnificent sunset over the Massif. Then in a very zombie like state plodded up the bitch that is the 'Midi ArĂȘte'.

See what Jon's thought were of the route;

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