Le Meije looking wintry

Georg ready to climb!

Enjoyable but exacting scrambling

Wet rock didn’t help

Michael and glacier

Careful routefinding required!

Georg on the approach

Having fun

We were excited to traverse La Meije, a beautiful mountain in the Dauphine. We seemed to have a decent weather forecast, so we reserved a place at the Promontoire, the beautiful refuge.

We took a lift up to alpine country, then descended and traversed to get on a rocky buttress below a glacier. First we tried to start by a fixed rope, but it was really difficult with wet rocks. In general, things looked pretty wintry at the moment! Later we realized we should descend around to the east side of the buttress where a trail climbed back up to a point above.

Now we scrambled for a long ways very enjoyably. Sometimes there were pretty exciting moves to do unroped, but overall the ledge system was remarkably accomodating…it was hard to believe it was a natural feature.

Once done with the scrambling, we climbed snow for a few hundred meters to a point below obvious crevasses. Here we added crampons and got out the rope. More climbing through fresh snow got us to a high pass. The final climb to the pass was pretty interesting. After crossing the bergschrund, I traversed fresh snow over rocks rather delicately. We reached the crest with some relief then started down the opposite side. We could see the Promontoire Hut below at the base of an incredible rock buttress leading to the summit of la Meije.

Le Meije and the pass

Georg at the pass.

Climbing down a novel way.

The normal route on La Meije

The route from the hut

Inside the Refuge

Michael gets above the ‘schrund.

Ready for snow shovel duty!

There was actually a line of bolts to protect the descent, but we didn’t know that so we took the protectable line in a rotten gully choked with snow, ice and loose rock. We downclimbed three delicate pitches to reach snow, then easy walking to the hut.

The hut was marvellous. A little boy with a sword greeted us. The view was incredible. The warden made a special hot cider liquor for us which was delicious. We also ordered a crepe made on the small stove.

Before dinner we took a single rope and scrambled up a few pitches of the climb. I fell in love with the amazing rock. I was so excited to climb the next morning! The forecast seemed pretty decent. We knew we’d have an enormous day, but that was fantastic.

All that fell apart at dinner. Two guides arrived, then communicated to us that the route was not in condition. There would be a tremendous amount of wind the next day. We would need to make a double rope rappel from one of the summits, and in high wind it is apparently a common occurance that the climbers rope gets stuck in this case, requiring rescue. The rocks would be verglased as well. I found it hard to believe. Here, I could wear short sleeves outside!

Georg on a scouting trip.

Heading down.

Michael making the best of it

Michael scrambling.

The entire scramble buttress

To the lift station

I grumbled and argued with Georg about it for a while. I think I realized this was the last chance of the summer to do something really good, and I was feeling bad for passing up an opportunity to extend my four day hike from a few days before for an extra week. What a waste climbing can be sometimes. Down we would go, under blue skies.

After the warden and the guides delivered this message, it was funny to see the warden say something to the effect of “do whatever you want, don’t let me influence you!” when we said we were going down. Sigh.

But don’t get me wrong, the people who run that hut are pretty wonderful. We were just disappointed, that is all.

In the morning we reversed our route, finding the line of bolts for a much easier time. Down to the lift station, then the car, then a drive to Ailefroide where it began to rain and rain and rain…in disgust we quit for Munich.