Wenger Ambassador Ueli Steck decided to end his short climbing hiatus, to quite literally climb above the clouds, by ascending Intégrale de Peuterey. Though the expedition was not a "simple idea", as he had originally believed, Ueli made quick work of the mountain by summiting and descending it in just over 16 hours. Read Ueli's journal entry which details the expedition below. (Image: Mont Blanc du Courmayuer)
Intégrale de Peuterey is the longest ridge of the Alps. At 4,500m and a climbing time of 2-3 days, this adventure piqued my interest.
- TD/ED1.....quite long
- + 4500m height gain
- Approximately 2 to 3 days
After a closer study of the situation, I chose to attempt the ridge. I thought to myself that I would still need to attempt the ascent from the valley - which added an additional 1,000 meters - then descend directly into the valley, to Les Houches. A simple idea.
- 1,000m ascent
- Climb 4,500
- 3,800 descent
- Horizontal distance: No idea!
(Image: map of Intégrale de Peuterey.)
However, the ridge itself was anything but simple. It contained a lot of rock climbing and a difficult route. I decided to do some research. (Image: climbing with Caroline George on Aiguille Noir.)
Matteo Pellin and Arnaud Clavel:
It took them 28 hours. They began via the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de la Guerison in Val Veny, and climbed to the summit of White Peuterey Integral. On the way down, they went through Refuge Gonella.
The young Slovene recently climbed the ridge in 15 hours.
Jonathan Griffith and Jeff Mercier:
They climbed the route in 2012 from the Borelli hut, on the summit of Mont Blanc, in 29 hours, 30 minutes.
More information is available at www.alpinexposures.com.
Inspired by these achievements, I started thinking about the project. I've never been on the south side of Mont Blanc. The route is not easy to find, but it is quite climbable without ropes. I was convinced that it could work. Now I just needed some good weather,. But my time was running out: it was already Monday, the 12th August 2013 and my wife and I planned a trip to Canada the next day!
On Tuesday I was in Peuterey at the campsite. I dumped my backpack at the entrance of the south ridge of the Aiguille Noir, and reduced my materials to a minimum. I didn't much. (Image: Climbing with Caroline George on Dames des Anglais):
- 60 meters 6mm Dyneema rope
- Harness to abseil
- Ice ax
- Climbing shoes
- Sun glasses
- Thin down jacket
- Hard-shell pants and jacket
The night before we started, I enjoyed the abundant spoils at the campsite. I was relaxing and enjoying the hospitality.
Matteo offered me a double shot of espresso at four in the morning, then I began jogging. By 5:10 I had already completed the first 1,000 meters. I was a little faster than I had initially thought. It was still dark, nevertheless, I continued to climb.
Slowly the day broke, and I enjoyed my climb. After descending from Pte. Welzenbach, I allowed myself a short rest, and changed my shoes. I replaced them with mountain climbing shoes.
During the night, the light was visible far to the south. Now the sky was cloudless. The air seemed dry. From here, the descent began. Pitch by pitch. 16 times I rappelled, until I was at the foot of Les Dames Anglais'm. A brittle couloir led me to a cross member, which transitioned to a descent into the Schneider gully. Even when you're secured to a rope, you must always be careful that no one breaks any stones loose. (Image: Bivouac Caveri.)
I was completely alone, so I was able to go at my own pace. My rhythm - my day. It was simply awesome. For me, those types of days are the most beautiful. Just the mountain and me.
Under the Points Gugliermina I heard voices. I make a wide circle around the two climbers, so that I would not trigger rocks to fall. Everyone goes at their own pace.
I filled my water bottle one more time. The sun was shining, and the snow and ice melted, which offered me plenty of drinking water. As expected, a few clouds formed. It was slightly less warm, but I was well below the cloud layer. (Image: scoping the route.)
On the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey Pte SE, I buckled on my crampons. The sharp ridge lead to Pte Central, from where I had to rappel again. After three times abseiling, and climbing down a little, I reached the Col de Peuterey. At this point I was wrapped in thick fog, and I could not see my own two feet.
I traversed back and forth three times until I decided to go for it. I needed thirty minutes to determine where it went. I had no choice: I had try it. Fortunately, I went the right way and easily reached the Grand Pillier d'Angle. The summit didn't seem far off. It had some old tracks. I would have liked the bottom of the Col de Peuterey...
Slowly I began to tire. My gloves were wet, and but at over 4,000m, they froze again. I always have dry gloves for descents.
Shortly before 15:00 I reached the summit of Mont Blanc du Courmayeur, where I was above the clouds. Madness. It was a wonderful moment. I enjoyed my moment, then made the descent into the valley. (Image: Aiguille Noir summit.)
I enjoyed the late afternoon on Mont Blanc. At 15.35, as went across to Mont Blanc, then down to the Dome de Gouter. A wide track ran along the normal route.
I jogged down. Far below me I saw the Chamonix valley. It was still far, about 3,800m. The valley began moving closer as I went down. Below the Tête Rousse hut, I passed a sign post. Then another at Bellevue, which said: 2 hours and 20 minutes to Les Houches.
16 hours and 09 minutes after I said goodbye to Val Veny at the campsite by Matteo, I reached the church in Les Houches. I decided to go further, so I went to Les Bossons. I briefly wondered if I should have called someone to pick me up.
It's such a beautiful night that I decided to walk comfortably through Les Bossons. An hour later I was sitting next to my tent. (Image: Aiguille Noir south ridge.)
I treated myself to a nice shower and a drink before I retired to my sleeping bag.
I fell asleep with a smile on my lips. I had a great day!
See more pictures from Ueli's expedition of Intégrale de Peuterey below.