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Thursday 16th 10 2008 12:00:00 AM

Pictures by Andy Main and words by Neil Mackenzie

The Chere on the Cake

chere col II copy

I wasn’t sure if I was still asleep, for some reason the mountain had turned into a never-ending stream of light, as though the martians had landed to colonise our camp. Nick gave me some tea and as my body warmed it dawned on me that I was witnessing the nightly parade of Mont Blanc aspirants trudging there way to the top of Europe! It was 3am and Nick and Warren were almost ready to leave by the time Andy and I realized where we were and for what ridiculous reason we were rising at such an un-godly hour. The reason was the Chere Couloir on the NW face of Mt. Blanc du Tucal.
IMG_0742 chere col copy
We were not particular devotees of the traditional alpine start but I was slightly nervous about both the condition of the ice after sunrise and the descent route in the late afternoon (not to mention the prospect of following some French climbers up the route!). Andy thought such an early rise completely unnecessary and thus moaned all the way to the bottom of the route, such was his pre-occupation with the time that he didn’t realize his bowels were somewhat volatile!

By around 4.30 we were simul-climbing the easy access slopes and, timed to perfection, we gained the technical climbing as it was getting light. Two full rope lengths of steep ice were protected by bomber ice-screws, and the belayer had the pleasure of watching the sunrise over the Chamonix Aiguilles whilst trying to deflect a constant stream of falling ice being deposited by the leader! Such pure climbing can only be spoilt by one thing; the constant, explosive need for a crap! But I was happy! A further two pitches of mixed ground were covered before enough was enough, and my trusty companion required relief. So, slightly off route, a toilet was found and once again parity was restored – we were now both able to fully enjoy this awesome route!
IMG_0721 neil chere col copy
Further simu-climbing led us onto the summit ridge, where a combination of altitude and hunger led me to some confused route-finding and serious faffing! This turned interesting when we hit a bergschrund on a knife edge snow aręte at 4200m, this was no time for faffing! This obstacle safely out maneuvered the path was clear to the summit, apart from the hordes of other people, so we stopped where we were and decided it was close enough to the summit and it was the climbing that mattered.

IMG_0726 now thats wat i call a serac copyIMG_0734 now that what  call a serac II copy

Thus the descent path was located and we joined the stream of folk trying to get off the mountain. We passed down through some immense serac territory, crossed snow bridges and were happy to get off the slopes and back to the Col safely! We then satisfied our hunger, packer our bivy gear and started the ‘slow death march’ to the midi-station wearied but happy!
IMG_0739 snow bridge II copyIMG_0737 snow bridge copy
This was, although we didn’t know at the time, to be our last route in the Alps for this year, and the Chere Couloir was undoubtedly the cherry on the cake!
IMG_0744 yucal normal rout copy

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