With yet another weather window of only one day we decided to head up the Aiguille du Midi cable car and climb the classic Rébuffat Route on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. It was very bizarre being in Chamonix in the morning and an hour later rock climbing at 3800m.
The descent down the arete out of the Midi was spectacular with a massive cloud inversion, with only some of the larger peaks sticking out of the cloud, during the approach to the midi and on the descent it became clear that there had been a large amount of snow in the previous days storm, this combined with the very cold air temperatures made us wonder if the route would be climbable.
As we approached the climb there were two parties in front of us, but it turned out that they were backing off due to ice. We decided that it didn’t look that bad and decided to continue and have a look for ourselves, and I am so glad we did! We decided to climb the route with our boots and crampons at the bottom, with the intention of abseiling back to the start of the route at the end of the day, this lead to an interesting approach to the first pitch which involved cutting steps in neve so that we could move across it in rock shoes!
The first pitch was a tad interesting due to ice, but thankfully after that the rock mostly dried out apart from a few unhelpful snow patches, although at one point I was having to layback off ice and there were multiple times we had to rock over onto neve. After the second pitch we were only behind one party, and due to us being efficient we managed to overtake them which meant that we were the first to the summit that day.
The rock throughout the climb was absolutely fantastic and I was lucky enough to get to lead the classic crux pitch of the ‘S Crack’ which goes at about E1 5b. We were about the only party on the mountain to even attempt free climbing most of the route, everyone else was happily french freeing the route.
Towards the top we went slightly off route which lead us into an interesting aid pitch up an overhanging wet and icy chimney crack, which was an ‘enlightening’ experience which certainly got the adrenalin flowing, it turns out aid climbing is quite hard work! There were a few times where you really didn’t want to think about what you were pulling on (jammed pieces of wood with thin bits of chord).
After this there were just a few more pitches to go and we were soon at the and at this point we really regretted our decision to leave our stuff at the bottom as the Midi station was one easy abseil away, instead we had to complete 5 abseils down the face.
The abseil was actually far more enjoyable than I was expecting as the lower parts of the route were fairly quiet by this point and the abseil line was very steep so with 60m ropes we were able to make really quick progress and we discovered that the sound of 60m of 8mm rope falling past you is really quite outstanding!
As we were abseiling the weather began to close in, but thankfully we were at the base after a quick (1h) descent before it started snowing. The short walk up to the midi felt very long as we are both pretty worn out after three weeks in the alps, and were were very glad when the entrance to the midi station appeared out of the mist and we were able to get out of the snow and relax.