Dent du Geant (15.08.2017)

Written by hmsv1 (Hannah Vickers) GSM

Start point Torino hut
Characteristic Climbing
Duration 7h 15min
Map
Ascents Dent du Géant (4,013m) 15.08.2017

It’s name pretty much gives the game away. The Dent du Geant/Giant’s Tooth/Dente del Gigante according to one guidebook ”…has bags of exposure and has one of the best and pointiest summits in the Alps”. Definitely a great selling point. Sami had originally suggested climbing this at the weekend, but our trip over to the Torino hut got somewhat postponed because of the dump of new snow at the end of the previous week. But finally we were making our way up to the Torino hut after driving a few hours from Champex-Lac to Courmayeur and I was feeling rather psyched up for the following day’s objective. We arrived in Courmayeur with reasonably good time to catch the Helbronner lift before the last departure and it was around 5pm by the time we’d been ferried all the way up to the Helbronner station at over 3400m. We could see the Torino hut sitting a little way down the mountainside from the lift station so I expected we’d have to walk down a ridge for 10 minutes to get there, but we soon discovered that there was even a lift and underground tunnel all the way from the Helbronner station that went straight to the entrance of the hut!

The Torino hut itself seems more like some sort of budget mountain hotel than a hut, with a rather modern bar and dining area. Only the dorms were a bit of a letdown with creaky bunkbeds and little space between each other. Nevertheless it was rather good value for money compared with some of the Swiss huts we’d stayed at. 50 Euros for half board with a generous amount of food served for dinner. We’d been given some options for breakfast time but in the end we agreed to take the early breakfast at 4am so we could try and get on the route before the getting stuck in the queues of climbers even if it did mean we’d probably end up climbing in the shade for much of the way up. It appeared that quite a lot of teams were on the same plan as us so we were hardly alone in the dining room the next morning!

Sunrise over Mont Blanc
Sunrise over Mont Blanc
Scrambling in crampons on dry rock!
Scrambling in crampons on dry rock!
Austrian climbers behind us
Austrian climbers behind us
Great colours just before arriving at the Salle a Manger
Great colours just before arriving at the Salle a Manger
On the way to the start of the climbing
On the way to the start of the climbing
Quite a lot of climbers already on the tooth before us
Quite a lot of climbers already on the tooth before us
A look down the gully under the Burgener Slabs
A look down the gully under the Burgener Slabs

We got going by around 5am which started with a monotonous trudge across the glacier around the west side of the Aiguilles Marbrees until we’d reached the foot of the steeper ground leading up to the Salle a Manger. It took around an hour at a gentle pace to get there. Since there was still a good deal of snow patches on the way up to the Salle a Manger we kept crampons on and moved together on a short rope, taking a short break by a smallish pinnacle just as the sun was rising. The mixed ground continued from here, but some sections of scrambling turned out to be my idea of a nightmare since there were parts where we were essentially scrambling on dry rock with crampons on. Not my favourite activity but it had to be done. The patches of snow in between the bits of dry rock were quite solid so it would have been daft to take crampons off. We arrived at the Salle a Manger just as the sun was rising over Mont Blanc. All the pretty pink and orange colours in the sky soon made me forget about how blunt my crampons had probably become :) There was a short traverse around some mellow snow slopes to the foot of the tooth itself, where we also got a good view of all the climbers who were already on the route. Looked a bit daunting from here but I hoped that this dauntingness was more of an illusion rather than a reality. We took off crampons and packed them away into our rucksacks while we waited for space to clear at the start of the climb.

Climbers coming up to the platform below the Burgener slabs
Climbers coming up to the platform below the Burgener slabs
The Burgener slabs!
The Burgener slabs!
View over towards the italian side of Mont Blanc
View over towards the italian side of Mont Blanc
View straight down the slabs. Pretty cool!
View straight down the slabs. Pretty cool!
Linda coming up the slabs to the belay
Linda coming up the slabs to the belay
I think this is just before the corner which was hard work....
I think this is just before the corner which was hard work....
Another nice view of Linda!
Another nice view of Linda!
Soon finished with the fixed ropes
Soon finished with the fixed ropes
The gap between Pointe Sella and Pointe Graham
The gap between Pointe Sella and Pointe Graham
Climbers on Pointe Graham
Climbers on Pointe Graham

The first pitch had some thinner fixed ropes on it but the climbing itself wasn’t too difficult. There was just a lack of room at the stances - plus unclipping ropes from quickdraws became a bit confusing once we overtook a pair of climbers who had almost the same colour rope as us! From the first belay the route traversed around into a sort of chimney-like feature which didn’t have fixed ropes, but the climbing was quite straightforward. The only problem was that it was pretty cold on the fingers even while climbing with gloves on, so I tried blowing some warm air into my hands every now and then to keep them from becoming numb. After this pitch we arrived at a nice spacious platform below the famous Burgener Slabs from where we had to wait for others to move up the fixed ropes before we could start. The problem with these fixed ropes as I found out quite soon, is that they’re not that easy to use. Not only are they thick and difficult to keep a grip of, but there’s also quite a lot of slack in them so you end up swinging around when pulling on them – which also becomes even more likely if someone else is using the same section of fixed rope at the same time…… So basically it was a better idea to avoid having to use the fixed ropes and climb the slabs where possible! The first two sections went straight up the left hand slide of the slabs, then the third section went right out onto the left edge before traversing in and towards the right again. The views down and across the Mer de Glace from here were amazing! Just after the traverse was what I can only remember as the most strenuous section of the climb and where pulling on the fixed ropes was the only way to get up. The route went up a kind of corner which was devoid of any good footholds on both sides and it was more or less vertical. As Linda and I watched Sami climb up this from the belay it became pretty obvious that it was going to be a bit of an effort! I failed at my first attempt after slipping and ending up at the bottom of the corner again (good thing I was being belayed by Sami above :D) but after being cheered on by an enthusiastic Linda from behind I somehow managed to dig deep and find the arm strength to haul myself up to the next belay. Such a relief to get that over with!

A pair of climbers descending from Pointe Sella
A pair of climbers descending from Pointe Sella
The view to Pointe Sella from Pointe Graham with the backdrop of the Mont Blanc massif
The view to Pointe Sella from Pointe Graham with the backdrop of the Mont Blanc massif
Madonna looking as calm as can be. Rochefort Arete and Grande Jorasses behind.
Madonna looking as calm as can be. Rochefort Arete and Grande Jorasses behind.
Sami and me on the summit
Sami and me on the summit
Traversing across to the start of the abseils down the south side
Traversing across to the start of the abseils down the south side
One of several abseils down to the Salle a Manger
One of several abseils down to the Salle a Manger
Rochefort Arete
Rochefort Arete
Descent down the glacier back to the Torino hut
Descent down the glacier back to the Torino hut
View of the Dent du Geant from the Torino hut
View of the Dent du Geant from the Torino hut

After the epic corner pitch it was all rather straightforward climbing again. One more pitch to reach the end of the fixed ropes and then another pitch along the crest of the ridge to get up to the top of Pointe Sella, the foresummit of the Dent du Geant. From here it was only a short – though somewhat exposed downclimb to the gap in between Pointe Sella and Pointe Graham, the highest point on the Dent du Geant. By now we had terrific views across to the Mont Blanc massif and were enjoying lots of sunshine! A few more metres of easy ground got us up to the top of Pointe Graham and the pleasure of meeting the Madonna which was at the top. Plus we got rewarded with even more fantastic views over the Rochefort Arete and over towards the Grande Jorasses; down the Mer de Glace; all the ridges on the south side of the Mont Blanc Massif and many more serrated, razor sharp ridges which I can’t remember the names of. We had a good long break up at the summit while it was relatively quiet and not too busy, at least 20 minutes or something like that, before carefully downclimbing to the gap again and traversing around to the south side of Pointe Sella to start the series of abseils down to the Salle a Manger. I can’t remember how many abseils we did, but it was something like 4 or 5 before we were fully down to the snowslopes where the Dent du Geant meets the Rochefort Arete. It was warm and pleasant abseiling in any case!

Back at the Salle a Manger we took another break to put crampons back on again and also eat something before beginning the descent back down the mixed ground to reach the start of the glacier. The plod back to the Torino hut on the glacier was very warm now that the time was approaching midday and the snow had acquired a rather mushy consistency, but it didn’t take forever and it was pretty satisfying to take a glance behind every now and then and look up at the fine piece of rock we’d just climbed up!

User comments

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    Wow

    Written by 19topper 08.09.2017 13:14

    For en natur, bilder og tur! Det tykke hvite tauet som sees på bildene..er det "merking" av normal rute? Eller er det tau til bruk om en dropper klatreutstyr??

    • -
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      Re: Wow

      Written by hmsv1 08.09.2017 13:37

      Jeg tror at fast tau er lagt ut på deler av normalruten opp Dent du Geant pga at fjellet er såpass populært at det kan bli mange taulag og kø der, særlig hvis alle taulag skal sette sikring selv underveis. Man må ikke dra seg opp det faste tauet, men det gjør det noe enklere å komme seg opp noen partier hvor det er 5er-klatring (ikke så enkelt om man klatrer i alpinstøvler med kalde fingre!). Jeg tror ikke at det anbefales å droppe klatreutstyr da fast tau ikke er lagt ut over hele tanna.....

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