Modica-Noury (TD+ / III 5+, 500m), Mont Blanc du Tacul

My Monday morning work alarm sounded beneath the East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. I promptly switched it off and continued to gear up beneath Modica-Noury. Falling into a small crevasse a short time earlier whilst approaching from the Cosmiques refuge had probably been more of a wakeup call but with a tight rope between me and my partner Rob I had clambered out with relative ease. With so much drifted snow spotting all but the largest crevasses was impossible.

We had tried to climb Burnier-Vogler Gully the previous day but the expected 20km/h south-westerly winds had proved to be well in excess. We didn't even make it to the abseil point on the Cosmiques Ridge before signalling the retreat. Relentless spindrift over the North side didn't bode well and by this point much of it appeared to be plastering to my eyebrows as well. We beat a hasty retreat but only after butterfingers Rob let his belay jacket slip from his grasp whilst trying to don. Promptly it whipped over the North side of the ridge out of sight. Colour blue should anybody find it hanging in their back garden in Les Bossons. Later that evening we watched the spindrift pummel the NW slopes of the Tacul and in particular Chèré Couloir.

Rob leading the start of the Cosmiques Ridge the previous day

Fortunately Monday's weather was a complete contrast. Blue skies and no wind. The best day's weather that we would see during our trip. With so such snow having shifted to the Northerly aspects we were keen to avoid descending from the top of Tacul on foot and so chose Modica-Noury with its equipped abseil points.
The East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul

Gabarrou-Albinoni (l) and Modica-Noury (r) in fine condition

Having previously climbed Gabarrou-Albinoni (which shares the same start), and led the initial climbing up the wide couloir, I was more than happy to leave this donkey work to Rob second time around. We moved together in steady fashion to above where the couloir forked and the steep ice began.

Rob above the bergschrund

The first steep pitch proved exhilarating but the second pitch would only get better. Both a full 60m, gradually ramping up the higher we climbed, and always hemmed in by steep walls either side. Despite the steepness the climbing felt relatively easy due to the stepped nature of the ice from previous ascents. Not that this detracted. A solid base for the feet was never hard to find and consequently relieving the arms felt surprisingly easy for the steepness. Axe placements were also inevitably first time, needing minimal effort, and the same could be said for the screws. The hardest aspect was dealing with the cold. Towards the top of the crux pitch the fingers in one hand were numb, which made screw removal clumsy. The onset of hot aches of course followed. Rob made fine work of the steeper climbing, which largely fell to him. Then from below the final mixed section we began our rappels back to the glacier.

Rob leading the crux ice

Final section of steep ice

We passed only one other team during our descent but below the bergschrund lay swathes of skis. We had arrived first and would leave first but our slow trudge to the Midi station would be a walk of pain with so little acclimatisation. The last laugh certainly wasn't with us.

Gabarrou-Albinoni (l) and Modica-Noury (r) both looking fine

Abseiling the wide couloir

Ski city


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