The walls closed in and somehow I missed the belay bolts to my left, instead continuing up a short snowy step that lacked much substance to latch my axes onto, or to sink an ice screw.
Rebuffat Gully seemed a suitably modest objective to match the forecast, which had predicted light snow but it had looked to be our best opportunity amidst an otherwise unsettled week. As it happened the morning was proving to be a beautiful one with clear skies, little wind, and cloud still lurking in the valleys.
|Descent from the Torino Hut|
|Aiguille Verte in a sea of cloud|
|Ready to climb!|
The second pitch, which fell to Rob, was totally bare of ice. What it lacked in ice it made up with in powder, consequently making slow progress to clear and find hooks and gear placements. Made harder by our puny trad rack of 3 cams and a set of nuts. The climbing felt sustained Scottish tech 6, well constructed with often perfect hooks in the cracked left wall, and a good mixture of delicacy and beef. No doubt the ice would make the pitch easier but maybe less interesting.
|The second pitch|
The difficulties then eased up but there were another couple of icy streaks to keep things interesting for the next two pitches. And some impressive rock architecture overhead to admire. The ice was thin in places with granite exposed but what presented was sound and with and enough spots for adequate protection.
|The fourth and final pitch before the abseils|
Where the gully broadened and eased back we ab'ed off. The snow looked soft beyond and by this point the clouds had rolled in and shrouded everything. It didn't look much fun to continue the top and so we started the rappels. It made the route feel a little contrived with the abseils starting so low but the climbing to this point had at least been great.
With no visibility we followed the ski tracks back to the Torino Hut in a disorientated stated. Unexpectedly stumbling across a newly bashed section of piste in the final stretch to really throw us. Eventually we spotted a crane overhead, used to construct the new cable car to Courmayeur, and immediately we knew the hut was close at hand.
|Abseiling into the gloom|