|Aiguille du Midi, Frendo Spur|
The Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi must be one of the most looked-at hard routes of the Alps. Not only do climbers, many hoping to climb it, eye it from Chamonix, sipping morning coffee at the sidewalk cafe, so do the thousand or so tourists who daily ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car. From the lift, out the left side of the cabin, they can watch alpinists do battle with the Spur's challenges.
The Frendo Spur is a big route with an easy approach and an even easier descent. To climb it is a study in contrasts. On one hand this is a long route on a cold and somewhat forbidding north wall, but once you top out near the summit you enter a world of restaurants and happy, comfortable tourists. And the route itself is divided abruptly between the rocky lower half and the many pitches of ice that dominate the second part.
Though the technical crux is found in the rock climbing of the initial steep buttress, most climbers find the upper ice pitches more tiring. After a long day, endless pitches of 50 degree ice are exhausting and it is a challenge to maintain focus and climb well and easily.
The route is located on the north side, the Chamonix side, of the Aiguille du Midi. It does not lead to the summit but to a sub-peak just east. But it is the most logical and continuous buttress on this side of the Midi. The approach from the cable car station at the Plan des Aiguilles is short and quick, surprisingly so, given the size of the wall and its big north-face feel. And the descent can't be beat, simply jump back on the cable car and in 20 minutes you are back in town enjoying your beer as the low evening sun sets on the route.
The route follows a long, logical line up mixed snow and ice up to about 50 degrees, and rock to 5.7 in difficulty. For climbers in excellent physical condition, comfortable front pointing on 50 degree snow or ice, and following 5.7 rock in mountaineering boots. This is a great climb, but very long. The recommended strategy is to spend the previous night in the hut at the Plan des Aiguille to facilitate an early start.
|Looking up the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi|
Despite its easy access, this is another big route, and is considered a "must-do" for modern alpinists. A full range of skills is required as there is difficult climbing on both rock and ice. The final ice pitches are long and numerous. Good efficient movement skills on 50 degree ice are needed. We climb the rock sections in boots, even though there is climbing to about 5.8 in difficulty.
An additional challenge is simply the length of the route. This climb is known for unplanned bivouacs, and we will need to move quickly to avoid them.
Very strong rock climbing skills, a high level of fitness and ability to move quickly and safely on exposed but more moderate terrain.
From the Plan des Aiguilles hut at the base of the route, there are many great climbs to enjoy, most of them on rock. The various routes on the Aiguille du Peigne are highly recommended, as is the Charmoz-Grepon Traverse, another long alpine rock route.
|The Aiguille du Midi from the Midi-Plan Traverse|
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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