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Swiss Route - North Face of Les Courtes 

Swiss Route - North Face of Les Courtes 

AI3-4

   
Type:  Ice, Alpine, 2500', Grade III
Original: AI3-4 Steep Snow [details]
FA: C. Cornaz and R. Mathey, 7/31/1938
Season: Winter, Spring and Fall for best conditions
Page Views: 217
Submitted By: Rui Ferreira on Dec 8, 2015

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BETA PHOTO: The North Face of Les Courtes. The Swiss route goe...

Description 

Before the development of modern ice climbing equipment, this was considered one of the most difficult North Faces in the Alps and was number 94 in Rebuffat's list of the 100 best routes in Mont Blanc, these days it is frequently soloed in a few hours by those competent and comfortable with the alpine exposure. Either way it is still one "the" classics and highly recommended.

Cross the bergschrund on the North Face proper and climb the first third of the face straight up to where the couloir narrows: first on steep snow 50/55-degrees and then changing to 75/80-degrees of ice for about 60 meters or so. Depending on ice conditions it might be necessary to go around some rocks through this bottleneck. Above the initial ice crux section the couloir widens and the angle decreases back to 50/55 ice and hard snow with another section of 65-degrees for about 20 meters. There are two possible exits at the top, either go right and join the NNW ridge to the summit or go straight up to the summit for the steeper exit option.

As with other long alpine ice routes this one is a calf burner.

Location 

The face is accessed from the refuge d'Argentiere in about 1 - 1.5 hours by foot to the base of the bergschrund. It is also possible to ski in from the Grands-Montets telepherique. When approaching by skis, carry them up and over and ski down the North East Face to get back to the Argentiere side. For this descent at the summit go left down the ridge (East) and look for a broad snow face to take you back down to the Argentiere glacier. This option includes a short section of 50-degree ice/snow and then backs off significant lower down the face. The more common exit is to drop in the back (South) side via the Normal Route to the Talefre glacier and on to the refuge du Couvercle. This second option requires you to first down climb the summit ridge right West to the Col de la Tour des Courtes and down climb or ski down, always trending skier's right for the line of least resistance. Late in the season it may require up to three rappels to overcome the bergshrunds at the bottom. It is recommended to stay roped on the Talefre glacier to the Courvecle hut due to the many crevasses

Protection 

A few small rock pieces recommended along with ice screws and two ice tools. Typically the route is simul climbed roped or unroped while the ice sections are pitched. For those simul-climbing roped it is recommended to place protection and to consider the use some safety braking device to arrest a fall.


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