A few days lounging the valley resting and waiting for good weather, lead us to do something we had been avoiding - Comiques Arete. A short ridge leading to the Aiguille du Midi, it is extremely popular and we knew there would be crowds... but we wanted to do something relatively high to try and help keep our acclimatisation and the forecast didn't look encouraging enough to head in somewhere for few days. And we had to use our lift passes sometime.
So off we went, in time for the first cable car (6:30)... but not early enough – we only got on the second... not a good start. Chatting to those around us, many seemed to have just day packs... and yes, many of them were headed to Cosmiques.
A short walk from the Midi lead us to the start, and for most of the route, a pleasant mixed rcok and snow ridge, we weren't too pressed... but nearing the end we took the interesting way, instead of the simple route and the bonus abseil that entailed slowed us down, as more and more people flocked up the ridge.
|Looking back at the hordes scrabling down ... and this was just the start of the onslaught!|
Climbing the final slab and chimney system, parties began climbing over and around each other, with many people closing in on the shaking, cramponed feet of a tired second on one of the slower teams in front of them... and the traffic jam further down the ridge looked even worse. The crampon indentations in the rock tell you that this situation is nothing new and many, many cramponed feet have preceded you. (Or is it just that someone has drilled some conveniently spaced footholds in the more delicate sections?)
|Jen was photographed next to a small girl having "gained the summit!"|
|Mark negotiating the treacherous final stretch, with yet another impatient climber behind him.|
|Every summit needs a rocketship, right?|
As we left in the early afternoon we looked back down the ridge and saw it was much quieter. So our advice if you want to do Cosmiques Arete is either to start from the first cable car and get in front of the crowds or wait a few hours and let the traffic jam subside – there's no descent that would be risky late in the day.