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Cosmiques Arete, Mont Blanc Massif.

The Cosmiques Arete is the spiky ridge to the right of the Aiguille du Midi Telepherique Station.  To me looking up at it from Chamonix, it looked temptingly impossible!

It’s not a long route so Ron and I joined the crowd of climbers queuing for the first cable car of the morning. Ian had grunted when I left the apartment – something about turning off the light and disturbing people who wanted to sleep. He had decided to go fat biking with Elaine – apparently it was easier and safer though judging by the amount of bruises that Elaine came back with, I'm not so sure.

Blue skies and sunshine – Alpine heaven!

We left through the little ice tunnel out of the cable car station. The snow ridge leading down to the Vallee Blanche appeared very exposed and steep from the cable car but the snow was good. It was just a matter of ignoring the drop on the left – 3000 metres down to Chamonix. The start of the route is beside an old mountain hut with the newer Cosmiques Hut just five minutes away in an ideal setting at the base of Mont Blanc du Tacul. Arete des Cosmiques

The route snakes up through large rocky blocks then follows the crest of the ridge to a gendarme. We moved to the right along a little snowy ledge then back onto the blocky ridge until we came to the second gendarme – a rock spire with a steep drop – abseil – on the other side down to another snowy traverse. Back up onto the ridge then we came to the steep wall which gives the highest technical move of the climb. The wall is blank with a crack running diagonally across. This looks like it once had little knobbles that would have held a toe but now these are smooth and rounded through years of use. Some tape slings and etriers had been left in place and we had to use these for our feet to reach the ledge above.

Dent du Geant and the Grands Jorasses on the far side of the Vallee Blanche We were getting near to the cable car station. Every ten minutes or so, a voice boomed out times of the next descending cable car. We could hear the buzz of voices from the viewing platforms above. Upwards of a thousand people visit the Aiguille du Midi each day to enjoy the panoramic views. The Cosmiques Arete certainly does not have the feel of a remote, get-away-from-it-all route.

Out of the sun on the left side of the ridge felt very cold and we moved tentatively onwards. Where the sun had yet to reach the rocks there was a thin layer of ice, cold to grip with bare hands, slippery for feet. We kept to the left, it seemed the most obvious way and not far to the ladders reaching up to the viewing platform at the end of the climb. But this pitch felt the longest yet as inch by inch first Ron then I traversed along a narrow sloping ledge relying on the material of our trousers freezing to the rock for some grip. A crack on the right of the ledge gave something to hook a foot into. It narrowed to the point where I could no longer get my foot in just as a little ledge appeared on my left onto which I could stand. A sigh of relief then a fight with a tape sling that had frozen into a crack – it’s still there – then back onto the ridge and into the warmth of the sun. (The next time we did the route we took the 1st chimney/gully capped by flakes which is more pleasant..!)

We sat at the top for a while enjoying the view over the Vallee Blanche and feeding the black Alpine choughs. A few moments of peace before we joined the crowds and returned to Chamonix.

looking onto the ridge from the cable car station


Route information

Aiguille du Midi - South South West (Cosmiques) Ridge

Grade  PD+

Guidebook  Mont Blanc Massif Volume II, selected climbs. Lindsay Griffin

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Copyright Fiona Chappell 2003-2012 (updated Wednesday, 10. October 2012)