The Aiguille des Ciseaux’s twin summit stands, splayed akimbo, bang in the middle of the iconic Chamonix skyline. It’s not as imposing as the Blaitiere, or even the Fou, which flank it on either side, but it’s a cool little summit and I’d wanted to go stand on it for a while.
Jack floated the idea of a trip up to the Envers des Aiguilles hut shortly after getting down from the Moine.
‘The approach looks pretty short, we can just yomp up there with 5 days worth of supplies and get amongst it when the weather’s good’. In fairness, the forecast looked decent and the approach had looked less strenuous than that of the Couvercle hut. I was sold. We got the last train up to Montenvers in the pouring rain and donned the waterproofs for the walk in. It was a good two and a half hours’ walk, but we got there in time to get some food on and head to bed for an early start.
|Envers des Aiguilles hut|
We were up at four the next morning, packed up and moving before anyone else was stirring. These days, most people head up to the Envers hut for the top quality cragging on the Tour Verte and Tour Rouge, not for the long mountain routes we’d set our sights on. They’d be sleeping in until nine, ten o’clock, and then heading up for a leisurely day of three or four pitches.
|Good looking bits of rock!|
Meanwhile, we slogged across the Envers des Aiguilles glacier and ended up having a massive mare. Long story short, we ended up on completely the wrong line and after Jack climbed a waterfall and I lead a top-end E1 slab pitch that was almost devoid of any solid gear, we rapped off on some sketchy-ass anchors and ran away back to the hut. The next morning, having scoped out the proper line, we were back with a vengeance.
|Jack, halfway up the waterfall groove.|
We assumed the Troussier would be about UK Severe, given the hardest sections are rated at French 4c. We were told afterwards that the grades in the Envers are nearly all massive sandbags, especially on the slabs, which was consistent with what we found – the route was pretty much UK VS throughout, but nevertheless provided excellent climbing on solid granite. We pitched the whole thing, stretching the rope out as much as we could on every pitch, leading in blocks of 3. This worked well, and put us on top of the Troussier Spur at one o’clock. We quickly located the bolts for the descent and then switched to moving together for the final 200m up to the summit of the Ciseaux.
|Jack starts his block halfway up the spur. Nice, mellow slabs with more friction than you can shake a stick at.|
|Heading rightwards, to the start of the easy 200m.|
The ground here was super chilled but pretty loose, so a fair bit of care was needed. The rock afforded good protection, however, and after a quick changeover halfway up, I lead up the final 75m to the summit.
|Summit shot. I bloody hate holding my camera this far out – scary!|
As our minds boggled at the vertical kilometre of exposure on the other side of the ridge, down to the Plan de l’Aiguille and Chamonix, further below, I rigged up the first abseil and we headed down the gully. This turned out to be a mistake, the raps weren’t steep enough to be efficient and we had to be super careful not to rain blocks down on top of us when pulling the ropes. In retrospect, down-climbing this section is the way to go, even just moving together downwards, with protection, if you’re that way inclined.
From the top of the Troussier Spur the descent is straightforward, though we lost the bolted belays at one stage by going too far right on the crux pitch of Le Festin de Babeth (the line we were descending).
A cool little route, not very strenuous and well worth the effort. It’s a shame it seems to be relatively ignored these days. Get it done!