Peuterey Integral

Peuterey Integral Mt Blanc 4807m

I received an email from Alexander Petersen asking: “What do you think about the Peuterey Integral on Mt Blanc?  I will be in Alps the end of July.”  Before I responded I did a little research.

This is a route of great magnitude, undoubtedly the finest way up Mt. Blanc (Gaston Rebuffat The 100 Finest Routes).  With a lead sentence like that, in the most referenced guide to the Mt Blanc massif, there can be no question of why.  The only question can be: Are you ready?  The Francois Damilano guide describes 4,500m of climbing, from 5c (5.8+) to 70-degree ice and mixed terrain.  The Integral, as it is known, is not a route for the faint of heart.  The exposure, loose rock, steep climbing with a bivy pack, and extreme commitment conspire to chisel away at confidence.  Broken into sections is the only way to wrap your head around it.

First you have to get yourself to the Borelli Hut 2310m. We took the bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur Italy and then a taxi to the Peuterey camp ground., apparently there is a bus that will take you there as well. It is only a 2-2.5 hr hike from the through alpine meadows and cliff bands with chains and ladders to allow passage.

7/30/12 Day 1 South Ridge of Aiguille Noire De Peuterey 3773m:

Rebuffat: “A name of legendary quality, a ridge profiled against the sky, a great reputation, magnificent climbing- all these are characteristics of the S. Ridge of the Noire, and combine in a route from which dreams are made of.”  

After an hour-long hike by headlamp with the dark silhouette of the S. Ridge looming overhead you arrive at the start of the route.  The climbing is featured with boulder problems to pull over bulges.  The route follows the ridge and surmounts five distinct points along the way as well as several gendarmes with down climbs and rappels.  There are numerous bivy ledges a long the way.  We choose to bivy below the summit of point Brendel 250m below the summit of the Noire.  It was a comfortable bivy but dry, as with most of the bivouac spots along the S. Ridge.  However first thing in the morning, a short distance from our dry night, we discovered snow.  We took the time to melt snow to drink and fill out bottles.

7/31/12 Day 2 From the Noire to the Craveri Bivouac:

Point Ottoz presents the crux of the S.  Ridge.  The ratings range from 5c-6a or 5.8-5.10a.  That is a wide range when deciding how appropriate the route is.  The first ascent was in 1930, so I was inclined to believe 5.8 to be the mark.  On big mountain routes there can be lots of challenges along the way, the biggest is route finding.  Modern topo’s lead you to believe that there is only one way to go.  Fortunately I am not good at following directions.  Pitons fill cracks and slings adorn pinches and horns dotting every weakness along the ridge.  This indicates that the summit via the ridge is the route with no specifics.  The line that Alexander and I choose was in the 5c range and was very featured except for one pitch which had more than enough pitons to pull on when necessary.  After many pitches up, rappels, down climbing and back up we arrived at the summit of the Noire.

From here it is a commitment point.  You must do 12 rappels down the north face of the Noire to continue, after the third overhanging rappel it is irreversible.  The weather was optimal so we had no excuse to not continue.   Once in the south breche you have to surmount the Dames Anglaises.  This is the section of the climb that is truly unenjoyable.  The challenge is the tremendous loose rock.  If you are fortunate to be alone on the route you only have to worry about yourself.  We were shadowed by another team.  Often it was nice to have the company on such committing route.   However when tiptoeing through teetering blocks the fewest number of feet is critical.

After much anxiety and caution we summited Point Casati and skirted Point de l’Isolee to arrive at the Crevari Bivouac.  This a small 5/6 person shelter that one can not stand up in but is comfortable for a night.

 

8/1/12 Day 3 Crevari to the Summit of Mt Blanc and down to the Gouter Hut:

We left the bivouac at 4am a little late but we needed the sleep.

Immediately you are back into the loose rock but the climbing is easy.  A short traverse with a chimney to go up and down followed by another short traverse and a 5m step brings you to the start of a few pitches to gain the Schneider Couloir.  From here you cork screw around Point Gugliermina avoiding the summit in route to the Aiguille Blanche de Pueterey.  This is where crampons and ice tools become necessary.  Steep snow, corniced ridges and mixed terrain dominate the rest of the route.

From the summit of the Blanche you traverse to Point Centrale via a half moon shaped snow col.  From the summit of Pt Centrale four rappels bring you to the flattest terrain since the start of the route, Col de Pueterey.

The Southeast Face of the Grand Pilier d’Angle guards the Peuterey Ridge and the summit of Mt Blanc de Courmayeur.  The climbing is easy mixed terrain and is the most direct if conditions allow.  The final push to the summit along the Peuterey ridge is long and draining up 50-60 degree slopes of snow and ice.

Mont Blanc de Courmayeur 4748m is not the highest point however it is the point at which you release the joys and anxiety reserved for the summit since from here it is only a short walk and 60m vertical gain to the main summit.

From the summit of Mt Blanc 4808m we choose to descend the Arrete des Bosses to the Gouter Hut.

Exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and proud we enjoyed the overcrowded hut despite the lack of any available beds.  Four hours after we arrived to the hut a thunder storm rolled through with hail and wind.  We were very happy to be under shelter!

 

 

 

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