Today we climbed the Mont Blanc du Tacul. This is the first of the giant trio of ‘stepping stones’ to Mont Blanc via the 3M route, and sports several complex faces. Our original plan had been to climb the Left Edge from the Cosmiques Refuge, but we could not book the hut so decided to try the easier normal route up the massive NW Face instead. This face is about 750m high and mostly Scottish Grade I snow (up to 40 degrees), but features several precarious bridges over HUGE crevasses. Luckily, these were filled in. There was also debris from some truly enormous avalanches. On this mountain, the key is to be off it as soon as possible before the avalanches begin and the snow bridges soften.
We climbed fast. Both of us are now acclimatised to the high altitude, so we were on the summit in under two and a half hours–well within guidebook time. Others were still plodding up the face hours later, and we even saw some people set off from the Midi station after mid-day … a very bad idea, given how hot the day was and the dangerous nature of the face when it starts to melt.
We are still tourist attractions! As we returned up the arete to the Midi, tourists were taking snaps, even video footage, of their heroes: roped mountaineers they no doubt imagined to be returning from Mont Blanc herself. James even got a small cheer from the assembled crowd when he spoke to one of the camera-wielding women (cue swoon).
Anyway the huts are all full, and we have exhausted the single-day possibilities we want to do from Chamonix, so tomorrow we shall be moving on to Zermatt.