Towards the end of my first week in the French Alps I headed up the Aiguille de la Grande Sassiere (3751m) on my own which made it my first solo alpine summit, this was due to having left the hut to hut walk early due to a member of the group injuring their knee. Choices for the route I was going to do was limited as it had to be a single day route, had to not involve a glacier crossing and also had to not involve any technical climbing. This lead me to an obvious choice of the Aiguille de la Grande Sassiere as it is a simple rock ridge, followed by a snow ridge, snow slope and rock ascent to the summit.
I set off from Le Saut at 4am in the pitch black and managed to find the small path up through the meadows which was a brutal ascent up to the start of the ridge, but thankfully as it was 4am there was no sun and it was very cold, this combined with not actually being able to see how far up I had to go to the start of the ridge made this ascent not too bad. By the time I got to the start of the West ridge dawn was beginning to appear and the views on this part of the ascent were fantastic. I got to snow far earlier than I was expecting which made some of the scrambling more difficult as I was holding my ice axe for the snowy sections, though the rock was great and the ice axe was actually fairly useful! Once I reached snow properly it was nice and frozen which made it easy to walk along and I made quick progress to the steep snow slope near the end of the ascent.
As I was going up the final snow slope to the rock slope and ignoring the burning in my calves due to quickly ascending a steep slope I was greeted by a sneak preview of the view which was going to appear once I got to the top as I could just see an inversion the other side of the col. Once I got to the end of the snow I left my crampons there to save carrying them up the rocky section which was more tricky than expected due to various icy sections and made it to the summit. It was the most fantastic summit I have ever got to as the ascent route was still in the shade so as I appeared onto the small summit I was hit by the morning sun and what can only be described as the best view I have ever seen with an inversion in one direction, crystal clear valley views in the other direction, no high level clouds, no haze it was just fantastic.
I spend around 30 mins on the summit enjoying the lack of wind (though it was very cold) and eating some breakfast as it was still only 7am due to having ascended in 3 hours and book time as 5! Thanks to a convenient cairn I managed to get a self portrait of me on the summit before I headed back down, the descent was very different to the ascent due to being in the sun so the snow had softened ever so slightly so quick progress could be made, but the views were very different due to the sun having risen and it was equally fantastic. Once I got to the end of the main snow section my crampons came off for the start of the rock ridge and some interesting down climbing. Due to the sun having melted the top layer of snow on some of the early snow patches I managed to slip so actually had to make real use of an ice axe arrest for the first time, though I would have been fine without it just slightly bruised!
All too quickly I was at the end of the ridge and descending back down into the beautiful meadows that I walked up 5 hours before (not that I realised they were beautiful meadows at the time) and was back at the car by 9:30 having done 1450m of ascent and descent in 5hrs30mins. After this I headed to Lac de Tignes for some great coffee and croissants where I met up with Joey who had recovered enough to walk there as it was all uphill and that was fine for her knee.