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An... Ice Surprise - Combe Maudite

First ascent: Enrico Bonino, Giulia Venturelli 2014
By: Enrico Bonino, Mountain Guide
Area: Western Alps, Group: Mont Blanc, Peak: Combe Maudite, Country: France

A very demanding route which requires a good level of familiarity with drytooling and placing gear. It has the potential of becoming a classic route in its genre.


Take the A5 to Courmayeur where you can leave your car at the La Palud cable car station.


From the top station of the Punta Helbronner cable car, make your way on foot/skis/snowshoes (depending on the time of year and conditions) to col Flambeaux. From here descend onto the glacier and traverse west towards the north face of the Tour Ronde which you pass to reach Combe Maudite. Locate the N face of the Androsace. The route starts about 50m to the left of the Surcouf couloir, where there is a steep slope leading to an obvious ledge.


P1: Start on the steep slope which leads to an obvious snowy ledge. 55m M4; Belay on a spike, thread in-situ, descent belay.
P2:  Descend 5m to the left to find a system of cracks which cut through a steep solid wall towards a section of reddish quartz. Climb the small cracks for about 5-6 metres then traverse to the right where there is a large flake. There is a peg in situ to the right of the flake. Climb the reddish quartz pillar and then the corner (thread and nut in situ). Very delicate final moves. 30m M7. Belay on the large spike at the end of the corner, thread in situ, ascent belay.
P3:Traverse to the right for a few metres and climb the system of cracks which take you to a hidden, embedded corner, 30m M5+, belay on the large spike at the end of the corner, thread in situ, descent belay
P4: Aid-climbing pitch. There is a peg in-situ above the pillar, a difficult finish on the icy column, ascend to the left and use the blind crack above the ledge for protecting with short pegs, 1 copperhead and 1 peg in situ, follow the good crack line until the final overhang. Past the overhang there is a precarious peg on the left, a delicate corner to reach the belay, a universal peg in situ, belay with cams on the ledge to the right where there is a detached column. A1+ M6, 20 m. Ascent belay.
P5: Difficult initial section up to a snowy ledge, traverse towards the right and follow the snowy slope to a blue rope on the right. Decent belay. Past the blue rope, move on to a peg belay on the right, 60m, M6 WI4, descent belay.
P6:  Follow the obvious couloir for the 60m rope length, the final vertical/overhanging section is difficult, especially if it's dry, belay on a spike just beyond the steep wall. Belay not set up. Ascent belay. In the couloir the first ascentionists used a V-thread to abseil down.
P7: Climb a few metres and traverse left along an obvious pale crack with broken rocks, get round the spike to reach a narrow icy corner. 45m, set up a belay using cams on the right, about 5 metres before the obvious roof which closes the corner. Ascent belay. Along the pitch, locate an orange thread on a spike on the left: descent belay.
P8: Continue to the roof, a difficult traverse towards the right and exit using a large crack with ice and inconsistent snow, continue to the overhang, get around it to the left and follow the snowy corner to the ridge. 35m M6 Belay on thread and spike. Descent belay.


The first two abseils are off-route. From the top, a short 10m abseil diagonally left (facing the mountain) to locate an orange thread and maillon rapide. A second abseil diagonally right (facing the mountain) takes you back onto the line of the route to an orange thread on a spike (as in the route description) circa 50m, another abseil of 50m takes you to the icy corner where you can create a V-thread, from the V-thread to the pegged belay, from here to the blue thread at the start of the snowy slope (as in the route description), from the blue thread to B3, from B3 to B1, from B1 to the base.


2 sets of Camalot cams from 0.3 to 2, triple set of size 2, 1 size 3, 3 short-bladed pegs, hammer, slings, a selection of nuts could be useful but not essential, 5 ice-screws, 3 of which should be short, 1 aider is useful for the lead climber on the aid climbing pitch.

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Details / Icefall

stella stella stella stella stella


M7, WI5, A1+, III


350m circa


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