Ascent of Tour Ronde (Chamonix) in 1973

Aiguille Verte, Dru.
Aiguille Verte and Dru from Chamonix, September 1973

Returning home to Sweden after my summer vacation in 1973, I was rather annoyed at having failed twice in my efforts that summer (see previous section). However, in late September yet another opportunity presented itself, when I was able to combine a business trip to Paris with a few days off. I flew from Paris to Geneva and rented a car there.

I then drove the relatively short distance to Chamonix and visited the Bureau des Guides, intending to launch yet another attack on Mont Blanc. The weather is often stable and very clear in the autumn in the Alps. Sometimes the valley is embedded in fog, and it is a great experience to see the weather clear as you gain altitude during an ascent.

I was therefore disappointed to learn that the season on Mont Blanc had closed, and that tourists would not be guided there any more that year. However, it was pointed out to me that there still were many attractive targets available at lower altitude. They especially recommended Tour Ronde, a relatively minor peak at less than 3800 m but readily accessible. It could be climbed in a single day, so I would not have to spend a night in a mountain hut. Moreover, it was famous for its splendid view of the surrounding mountains.

I agreed without great enthusiasm and somewhat ungraciously told my assigned guide (I think his name was Lafontaine) that I was really disappointed to forgo Mont Blanc. In retrospect I realize that this was a blessing in disguise, for no matter how fit I was, I doubt that I would have been able to reach the summit without any acclimatization at all.

The next morning, I picked up my guide and drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy. The tunnel is 12 km long. We reached the cablecar station on the Italian side, parked the car, and took the cablecar up to Punta Helbronner. From there we descended to a large glacier.

 

Crevace.
"Unsafe at any speed"

At first we enjoyed fair weather and some impressive panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, but in the late morning clouds started to grow.

The glacier was mostly safe, but there were some places where large crevasses had to be crossed. At one particularly hazardous spot, my guide unroped and cautiously stepped out on a snow bridge to test its strength, while I was trying to guess whether he considered it unethical to remain roped up to his client in such a risky crossing or whether he judged his chances in case of an accident to be better if he could send his client for help.

In fact, I was wondering what I was doing there...

After a while he pronounced the snow bridge safe for passage, and we resumed our trek across the glacier roped up.

 

 

After a long march, we reached the base of the mountain itself. From now on I felt more comfortable, finding myself on solid ground. We scrambled up the granite ridge. The climb was fairly easy and after a while we reached the summit.

Tour Ronde summit.
On the summit of Tour Ronde.

I have no recollection of the return to the cablecar station, but I assume that we took the same route back. (Oxygen starvation at 3800 m? More probably senility setting in!) We took the cablecar down to the parking lot in Entrèves and went back to Chamonix. The weather was now clearing up.

 

A look back as the weather was clearing up.

 

I still felt vaguely unsatisfied. I had missed my primary target, I had not really felt challenged that day, and the unsettled weather had largely ruined what could have been a magnificent view of the Mont Blanc massif from up close. - Next year!

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  Last edited or checked June 23, 2006.

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