Mont Blanc du Tacul, North Face Triangle


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Combine with:
Midi-Plan Traverse
Cosmiques Arête
Mont Blanc Traverse

Michael starts the Contamine-Grisolle

It is hard to imagine a more friendly setting for big-mountain mixed climbing. The North Face Triangle contains many, many routes of a wide variety of grades, access is amazingly easy, about an hour's walk from the top station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the rock is beautiful solid granite, and the descent from the summit is a pleasant walk down the normal NW Face Route of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

There are few places in the world where you can get up in your hotel, enjoy a fine breakfast, be whisked up 9000 feet to the chilly alpine world, do battle with a fun (or desperate) mixed route, and descend to town for a great dinner, hot shower and comfy bed. In fact, I can really only think of one, and this is it.

Of the many routes on the North Face Triangle there are two routes we do with some frequency, the Contamine-Grisolle and the Chèré Couloir. These climbs are primarily on ice, though they can often offer some rock climbing as well, especially on the Contamine. The Chèré is technically the harder of the two, but the Contamine is much longer, with more of a "mountain" feel.

Normally we climb the Contamine-Grisolle all the way to the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul, which is the logical ending point for this great outing. The upper part of the climb, that section above the Triangle, consists of moderately steep snow and glacier climbing, finally joining the regular NW Face Route on the Shoulder close to the summit.

In contrast, the Chèré is usually done as a "crag" climb, where we climb the best part of the route, the lower 4 or so pitches, then descend on rappel to the bottom of the couloir.

The North Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul
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David in the entrance couloir of the Contamine-Grisolle



Both of these routes are technical ice climbs. Though the difficulty can vary with conditions, normally The Chèré Couloir has about 4 long pitches of ice to about 80 degrees, usually Grade 4. The Contamine-Grisolle is less steep, but does have more rock climbing (done in crampons) and is quite a bit longer, with perhaps about 10 to 12 belayed pitches.

It is advisable to start these routes early, and the best strategy is to begin the day early from the Cosmiques hut. There are two main reasons for the early start. If the weather is warm, it is a good idea to get up and down these climbs before the day heats up too much. Crowds can also be a bit of a problem on the Chèré and it is nice to be above other climbers in this tight gully. But if the weather is cool and there are no other climbers ahead of us, we can do either of these climbs from an early cable car from town.


Climbers need to have experience with steep, two-tool climbing and frontpointing and should be comfortable following Grade 4 waterfall ice.


The Refuge des Cosmiques at the Aiguille du Midi is quite close by and makes a very good hut from which to base yourself for several days. Other good routes from the hut are the Arête des Cosmiques, the Midi-Plan Traverse and the Traverse of Mont blanc over the 3 summits.

Scott on the Contamine-Grisolle
Frank on the Chèré Couloir

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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