There are some Alpine routes that when climbed in winter, far outshine the same ascent in the summer months, and there’s one that stands out a mile; the Arete des Cosmiques on the Aiguille du Midi, far above the Chamonix valley. With a coating of snow and ice, this transforms from a summer mountaineering scramble, to a winter uber classic with Himalayan levels of exposure.
Many of the holds and ledges that are obvious in the summer season, are covered with snow and ice, and the lack of crowds on the route during the winter months adds an air of remoteness and challenge, which makes it all the more special.
A couple of our Alpine winter climbing courses have the opportunity to climb this route, and it offers everything to a mountaineer; snow slopes, abseils, rock in crampons, mixed climbing, moving together, and belaying. As such, it’s a veritable playground on which to learn skills and develop your techniques.
There a few moments of jaw dropping “squeaky bum time” exposure, but the route is easy to protect well, so you are always secure. The technical grade of AD (Assez Difficile) is the same as that of the Matterhorn Hornli Arete, but whilst some of the moves may be hard, the route finishes at the viewing terrace of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, so it’s an easy descent back into town.
The photos above were taken during our most recent Winter Alpine Intro week, featuring John and James, guided by Gilles. You can view the full photo gallery of the week – click here. Currently the conditions are excellent on this route, with our most recent ascent being yesterday by Jo, David and Fred.