Mary Poppins – North face of Aiguille du Midi (Col du Plan) – 700 m, TD+, 5
Beeing back in Chamonix after a short climb of Mont Blanc with my girlfriend, I was waiting for good weather and suitable conditions for some rock routes. But this summer season was quite unusual with strong winds up on the mountains, cold temperatures and fresh snow on the faces. Cosmin Andron and Cristina Pogacean had climbed a few days earlier the Frendo Spur in serious winter conditions and other climbers were saying there was good ice on the north face of Grand Jorasse. Having only just two more days to stay in the region I planned to go with Alex Prigoana on the Mallory Couloir on the north face of Aiguille du Midi because the access and the descent were fast and easy.
But reaching the Plan de l’Aiguille early that morning we realised it was a better idea to change the plan. The first half of the couloir had no ice, only scrambled and very loose rock. Beeing mostly equiped with ice screws and no rock protection we opted for an ice climb nearby.
The “Mary Poppins” route under the Col du Plan seemed a reasonable option. This line was first climbed by Francois Damillano and Jean-Francois Gellon in 1993 and since it was quite a new and modern route we were expecting some technical sections of ice climbs. The large seracs we had to pass by made it obvious objective dangers existed and that we had to commit and climb fast the lower sections. Luckily we were on a north face and the sun was not showing its warmth yet.
The scenery was nice, we were climbing covered by clouds most of the time. However, when the sky cleared for short moments, we could enjoy the view of the entire valley underneath us.
At half way up we reached the crux of the climb: a slightly overhanging serac with it’s hard glacier ice completely uncovered by snow. I figured that in winter conditions this section would be mostly filled by snow and the climbing would have taken place on some kind of ramp. The overhanging ice was intimidating but I felt in good mental shape to lead this section. I felt my hands pumped and reached my physical limit but I did not really care about a potential fall. The ice was strong and I fully trusted the icescrews that I placed. Once this crux passed, Alex continued to lead the next part.
We reached the ridge between Col du Plan and Aiguille du Midi at sunset and continued the final part before the cable station at headlamps.
Below you can see a short video about this climb and how we enjoyed the next day on the beautiful Cosmique Ridge.
Equipment used: one 60 m rope, 5 ice screws (6 would have been better), 4 medium sized offset nuts.