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~ Sunday 28th September 2014

It's been a frustrating summer on the Dent Blanche with 2 earlier attempts ending in failure, the first due to huge amounts of snow, the second due to un-forecast howling gales. There may well be "no success like failure", but the Dent Blanche hut is a long walk for a lesson in humility!

Third time lucky, and with a perfect forecast...fingers crossed.

Dent Blanche NW face

A late-ish after-work start saw us in the car-park at 2.30pm. 15 minutes later we were back up there, this time with 2 pairs of boots, ready for a sweaty 1600m to the hut.

Trying to get to the hut before dark!

We spent a pleasant evening, eating interrupted by frequent dashes outside to photograph the amazing sunset.

Evolene, Val d'Hérens and the Rhone valley from the hut

With only 1 other team and a solo-ist, the route wasn't busy. Weather was perfect, and we were off into a sunrise as amazing as the previous day's sunset.

The South Ridge has been snowy all summer and the lower part is still plastered, covering the usual easy rocks in easy-but-serious firm snow. Not a place to slip. The rock however was dry, so we climbed the direct line over the Grand Gendarme. Great, steep climbing on perfect, red rock.

Starting up the Grand Gendarme

Steep rock on the Grand Gendarme

Near the top of the Grand Gendarme

Airy positions on the top of the Grand Gendarme

From the top of the Grand Gendarme a short downclimb rejoins the normal route at the top of the couloir. From there, it's fine, exposed climbing over more gendarmes...

...before a traverse on the shady west face avoids the final gendarme.

Traversing around the final gendarme

The tricky corner to re-gain the ridge, and the end of the difficulties

Only 150m more ascent...all of it on narrow and exposed snowy ridge.

Getting back down is a mix of downclimbing and abseils.

Abseil off the top gendarme

In a normal summer there are plenty of metal spikes for anchors in the couloir, but at the moment the crucial middle ones are well buried in snow, meaning some cunning was needed to descend the rock-hard snow!

Abseil down the couloir.

After a quick re-fuel at the hut, all that remained was a 1600m knee-bashing descent...