Kuffner ridge, scaling Mont Blanc's beauty and history
The Kuffner Ridge (also known as the Frontier Ridge), one of the classic and most beautiful ridge traverses in the Mont Blanc massif, described by mountain guide Thomas Scalise Meynet.
Why talk about a ridge that has become a true Mont Blanc classic? It's not front-page news, cutting-edge stuff, no longer a huge alpine undertaking. But it's this latter term that helps me explain why I want to talk about this small but beautiful adventure. The word refers to the Alps and the first attempts at climbing its highest mountains. The Kuffner Ridge is obviously an integral part of these achievements: from 2 to 4 July 1887, Moritz von Kuffner, Alexander Burgener, Josef Furrer and a porter made the first ascent of this incredible traverse that ends on the summit of Mont Maudit. On 8 December Luca Rolli, a fellow Mountain Guide from Courmayeur, his client Samuel and I stepped into the footsteps of these great pioneers, safe in the knowledge that we'd discover our own little adventure up there.
We encountered typical winter conditions: unconsolidated snow along almost the entire route and impressive snow cornices. I have to admit that the Valle d'Aosta mountain guide training course proved crucial: without efficient short-fixing, good crampon technique, wise belaying and efficient ropework it would have been easy to waste time. There was no room for mistakes and all three of us knew the score and were focused on what we were doing. Luca and I form a good climbing partnership based on few words, clearly defined maneuvers, excellent synergy and mutual respect.
I believe our job, that of a Mountain Guide, is to act as a thread, to bind ourselves with the environment, our skills and values to someone who lives and works far away but shares the same love for the mountains. This thread enables others to enter our world and experience emotions and a love for the mountains so impossible to put into words.
Meeting at 8.00 in the morning to then climb along the Kuffner ridge with Samuel and Luca above a sea of clouds that filled the valley below, with dawn long behind us, will be something I'll find hard to forget. We continued, tired, but with that positive spirit that always leads to a successful outcome. At about 12:00 we topped out, overjoyed, and started the abseils that led to the exit of the Filo d'Arianna gully. From here with a dozen or so 50m rappels led us back to the base of Combe Maudit.
Mont Blanc provided us with an absolutely amazing day, comprised of friendship, hardship and picture-perfect mountains. Sometimes all you need to do is look a little further, just as Kuffner and Co did so many years ago
Thanks Luca for having given me this opportunity to join and work with you. And to Samuele my heartfelt congratulations once again for never giving up and for sharing this great love with us.
Thomas Scalise Meynet – Mountain Guide
8 December 2015
TOPO: Kuffner ridge - Frontier Ridge, Mont Blanc