Skiing - My gear for The Aiguille Verte by the Washburn route (the Z) by Charlotte Barré and Alexandre Pittin
Published on 9.04.2021
The Verte is probably one of the peaks of Mont Blanc that makes the mountaineers dream most. It is often said that its name would come from the blue / green hue that hits the ice that covers the summit cap when the sun lights up its profile. But the origin is to be found in the pre-celtic root "ver" or "var" designating a peak. In Chamonix, we call it "la Verte". No easy routes to reach its summit, hence the famous quote of Gaston Rebuffat "before the Verte we are alpinists, at the Verte we become mountaineers".
Aiguille Verte - © David Ravanel
Out of the confinement in May 2020, we set our sights on the Aiguille Verte by the Washburn route (the Z). To get to the top of the Aiguille Verte via this itinerary, the ideal is to make a bivouac or one night at the refuge of Argentière. The next day, it will then be necessary to count between 3 and 6 hours to climb the 1000m of this face. It is climbed roped, crampons on the feet and more or less technical ice axes depending on the conditions. The descent can be done skiing on the same route but if the ascent is on foot you will have to come down before the sun by the Whymper where relays are installed.
Living at the foot of the Grands Montets, we leave in the sneakers from the house with all the gear on the back. We head to the Col des Rachasses, 500 meters under the top of the Grands Montets where we set the bivouac. We are not far from the foot of the face and it's at 5 in the morning that we leave the camp. Approaching the Verte, we have doubts about the possibility of passing the Bergschrund. A few minutes of observation allow us to glimpse the best way to attack it. So here we are, skis on the backpack and crampons on our feet for the 1000m of the Washburn route. After a few thousand steps and 3 hours of climb, we are happy to reach the well-ventilated summit. In 1929, the pioneers, despite their much less evolved gear, had made the feat of climbing it in 4:20.
We do not hang out at the top, because a big descent awaits us and the sun already radiates on this mythical face. After a few turns to take control, we embark on the steepest slopes of the route where concentration and determination will not leave us anymore.
a) Duetto helmet, dual Certification mountaineering and skiing, ideal for this type of terrain
b) 2 Ghost Evo ice axes (one adze and one hammer): great performance even in steep and delicate passages. Importance of the hammer for pitons if necessary
c) Mistral harness: lightweight and compact
d) Ski-tour crampons: effective binding system and safety
e) Raid Pro 25 backpack: compact and functional thanks to its opening in the back
f) 2 ice screws (one 360 and one Helix)
g) 2 Plume Nut K3N carabiners: compact and lightweight
h) 1 Master Pro, versatile tool for rope maneuvers
i) 2 Alpine Rings 120 cm
j) Rappel kit (a 60m rope in 5mm, a Scream plate, a Magic Ring and two carabiners): one of the skiers has the Rappel Kit and the second a single rope for safe rappels if necessary
k) Trail One poles: ideal for the steep slopes, they offer adaptability of hands' position thanks to their long grip
- 1 Abalakov hook
Charlotte Barré, born in 1986 and based in Chamonix, is part of Grivel Team since 2018. She is rock climber, mountaineer and Mountain Guide. She collected some expeditions around the world and she opened some new rock climbing routes in Greenland and Pakistan. Favorite Grivel products: Dark Machines, crampons G20 Plus.
Alexandre Pittin, born in 1983 and based in Chamonix, is part of Grivel Team since 2018. He is steep skier, mountaineer and Mountain Guide in Chamonix. He collected some steep descent in the Mont-Blanc Massif and he opened some new descent in the Italian side; he repeats two times the Nant-Blanc descent. Favorite Grivel products: Dark Machines, Mistral, Ghost Evo, crampons Ski Tour.