Reaching Heaven in the Swiss Alps
Climb 1: Hut Climb
Go from Les Houches by tiliphirique (cable car) up to Bellevue (1790m, station on the tramway from St Gervais les Bains). Take the tramway to the terminus, Nid d'Aigle (2386m). Go south on the path for 200m, then head left (east) in zigzags under a rocky step-up into a scree hollow. At a small hut, go right (southeast) over debris to the ridge that leads up in the direction of the Aiguille du Gouter. On a small plateau on the right is the Tete Rousse Hut (3167m, 60 beds, managed from June to September, tel. 50-582497; if one wants to climb directly to the Aiguille du Gouter, one need not cross over).
Cross the small Tete Rousse Glacier to the rock rib which runs left (north) of a big couloir (the least dangerous way Payot Arete, yellow markings). Keeping on this rib, climb straight up to the north summit of the Aiguille du Gouter. Follow the linking ridge to the Gouter Hut placed on the west side close under the summit (3817m, CAF Paris & Chamonix, 100 beds, managed from the end of June to end of September; in summer generally hopelessly overcrowded, in winter room with 16 beds always open, tel. 50-544093, advance booking advisable).
Gouter to the Summit
From the Gouter Hut head south, then southeast along the broad snow ridge to the Dome du Gouter. Cross the summit (4303m) or turn it on the south, and make a slight descent to the Col du Dome (4240m). Continue in the same direction, up the steepening slope. Pass the Vallot Hut, standing on a rock on the left (4362m, eight beds; squalid). Climb the soon narrowing and steepening ridge (usually a broad and deep track) to two snowy ridge humps (Grande Bosse, 4513m, and Petite Bosse, 4547m) and after that go along a sharp snow ridge, passing the rocks of La Tournette (4677m) on the right, and then heading east, to the last top (4740m) and 300m beyond that, the summit.
Climb 2: Via Grands Mulets
From Chamonix take the Midi tiliphirique to the halfway station Plan de l'Aiguille. From there take the marked path to the south to the Glacier des Pelerins. The bare tongue of this is crossed at about 2400m. Continue on a good path to the derelict tiliphirique station"Gare des Glaciers" (2414m). Ascend on the left side of the Glacier des Bossons, under a big couloir of the Aiguille du Midi (stone-fall danger) to gain the glacier. Traverse this to the southwest to the badly disrupted area of La Jonction (usually ladders over the most awkward crevasses). Now work southward, going up over the crevassed snow slopes, first keeping right (west) of the rock island and then moving onto it where a path with an iron handrail leads up to the Grands Mulets Hut (3051m, private, 68 beds, managed in spring and summer, tel. 50-53 1698).
From the hut, cross the glacier heading obliquely southwest in the direction of some rocks at the foot of the long north ridge of the Dome du Gouter. Near the seracs of the Dome, go left over a steep slope (the Petites Montees) to a flatter ramplike section (Petit Plateau, 3650m, two hours). Keeping well away from the seracs of the Dome, climb this flat section. After that, go up a further steep slope. Higher up, after an especially big crevasse, bear right to the extensive snowfield of the Grand Plateau (3980m). Traverse this west-southwestward and climb the seemingly endless slope to the Col du Dome (six to seven hours from the Grands Mulets Hut). Continue as for Gouter route (see above).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication