Monday, 3 October 2011



Pretty much a year ago at this time Dave Searle and myself went to climb our first route together, which was the very fine and classic 'Ginat' route on the North face of the Droites situated in the spectacular Argentire Basin. So it was felt quite funny for us to go back up there, a year on, and climb the Ginat's neighbouring route the 'Colton-Brooks'.

Nice view on the walk up.

It also felt quite amusing to climb this route as we had just climbed the 'Colton-MacIntyre' on the Jorasses last week and now we were climbing another one of Nick Colton's great achievements.

getting the first view of the route.

As it has come to the end of the summer season some of the up lifts are shut now which includes the likes of the Grandes Montes which is the lift you would use to approach the Argentire Basin. We knew it was going to be shut and we knew that we were going to have to walk uphill for 4 ½ hours to get their, but it was worth it. The one thing that was on our mind on the way up was if the bottom of the face and the entry runnels would be in god condition, as your able to see the top of the wall from the Col des Montes we knew that it was good up high but you can't see the bottom of the wall until you're in the Basin itself. Luckily it was in great condition and so we dumped most of our heavier gear at the bottom of the wall before heading over to the Argentire Hut.

The Argentire hut is under going construction at the moment, but we did not know this until we got up to it. We thought that it would just be the winter room that would be open, but lucky for us this was the only area not under construction. Also lucky for us the Fred the hut Guardian was kind enough to let me and Dave stay for the night. I wouldn't recommend going up here at the moment as it's just going to cause Fred more hassle and he looks quite busy. He said that the winter room would be open on the 22nd of October.

We woke up at 1 o'clock in the morning and made our way over to the bottom of the face. We saw from the hut that there was a big bergschrund to cross. So when we reached it I started to make my way through it by climbing inside it and then hack away at a cornice for half an hour before making my way up the first slopes.

 Dave then took over and we simul-climbed together up the runnels and ice fields through the early hours of the morning until we reached the rock wall that you traverse under to access to the main ice pitches of the route. It was still dark when we got here so couldn't see the best way to go really and I ended up crossing a load of black ice to get to a easy ice slope that takes you onto the traverse. I then traversed over some hard but really good solid ice to get to the 5 main ice pitches of the route. My calves were aching at this point. (Need to go to more step classes) 

Me on the traverse.

Dave leading the way on the final

 Once I traversed over I just kept climbing up the first pitch and then brought   Dave up. Dave took over and we climb the remaining pitches 4 ice pitches  together which then brings you out onto a sort of snow crest. After the snow crest there's not a great deal still to do, maybe about 300m or so of some really nice ice and mixed climbing. We made it to the summit for 12:00, and were treated to some warm rays of sunshine and a fine view of the massif.

Me climbing up the snow crest, and
then the final slopes.

A fine view of the massif from the summit.

The worst part about this route was the descent. We knew it wasn't going to be pretty, as we had done the same descent the previous year after climbing the Ginat. But there was a lot less snow in the couloir this time. The descent is a dry loose rock gully that your right in the middle of when abseiling down it. If you hear something coming down you can only just hunch upas much as you can, press yourself against the nearest bit of shelter and hope! Not nice place to be.

First abb into the horrible couloir.

The rope got snagged a few times and on one occasion I had to climb back up the couloir to
 retrieve it. 

Me climbing back up to retrieve rope.

Death couloir behind.

View from Couvercle.

So after we got to the bottom of the couloir you still have to abb over a big bergshrund, then cross a snow slope that gets bombed by loads of rocks from the surrounding faces. We were so close to almost being wiped out by a massive rockfall whilst down climbing some black ice. I was climbing first when I heard Dave shout out that something was coming down so all I could do was hunch up and pray that nothing hit me, whilst Dave watched the first rock just miss me another one come down and just sciffed past his face! We were super lucky and were so happy to get ourselves onto the main glacier and out of the danger zone.

A few hours walk down the glacier brought us to the Couvercle hut, where we finally relaxed after a very hectic descent and got something to eat & drink. We watched two little specks of light high on the North face of the Jorasses, which turned out to be two of our good friends Jon & Will who were climbing the route 'No Siesta'. Whilst written this I got a text telling me that they had just topped out. A very fine effort and I'm sure we'll hear all about soon.


  1. easier or harder than ginat?

  2. I think it's a bit easier than the Ginat, but the two are quite similar in the way they have big ice field to start with and then some ice pitches. The finish to the Colton-Brooks is easier than the Ginat.

  3. It looks like the traverse was very fat when you caught it. At the same time in 2010 it was pretty thin and tenuous, even uncertain whether it would be possible, until right on to the ramp. It's less sustained than the Ginat, but difficulty depends on that traverse. Nice 1.