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Terror on Le Grand Flambeau. I/VA-012.

Hi,

My apologies for the incorrect summit reference in my Spot on 2/8/22. A typical cut and paste error from the day before. I realised my error almost as I sent the text and thanks to F4WBN, Chris, for the correction.

We successfully activated Le Grand Flambeau on 2/8/2022. Thanks for the 24 QSOs. We climbed the SE ridge from the Helbronner lift station (a stunning lift BTW). There is a small patch of quite flat glacier to cross then onto the ridge, which has old cables lying at the bottom from defunct summer ski tows no longer in use. The ridge is composed of very loose and friable rock which we found was very dangerous to climb. Possibly owing to the melting glaciers all around. The quality of the rock never improved and the ascent was slow taking almost 2 hours to reach the top of this modest peak. There is enough space on the top ridge to carefully rig a 20m long antenna, with some improvisation.

The descent was frankly terrifying. We roped up but there were only 2 places where the rock was stable enough to place a running belay. It might have been safer without the rope? The descent took almost as long as the ascent. Despite taking the utmost care I accidentally knocked off 3 large blocks (larger than a microwave, smaller than a washing machine) but thankfully without harm. Of the two of us I am 30% heavier. If anyone had been below us they would have been killed as the rocks crashed down onto the glacier 200 metres below. I also dislodged 10s of smaller blocks again, thankfully with no harm to either of us.

I/VA-012 is not a summit I recommend, the risk, even with extreme care, is not really worth it.

Our route may be safer (more stable) in winter when the rock is frozen, but that would be a full on mixed ice climb.

Our plans for attempts on a couple of other possible activations were abandoned because of the poor (ie dangerous) conditions.

Please take care out there.

73

I/M0YCJ/P

24 Likes

Wow,
I see you are a regular and accomplished climber, so if it was scary to you it would have petrified me.

73
Ron
VK3AFW

1 Like

Thanks for the ‘interesting’ report, Colwyn. Glad you got off the peak OK.
I was last in that area 20 years ago this summer with a walk down the Vallee Blanche to Montenvers. I also climbed the Aiguille de l’M & the Tete Blanche/Petit Fourche duo over the border.

Coincidently I was looking at view of the Flambeau the other day in a YouTube video. It’s called ‘Scrambles in the Alps- Alex Rambles’. The two guys climb the Aiguilles Marbrees which is nearby. There are views of both Flambeau from memory, as well as beautiful views of the area. Watch it on a big screen if you can!
It gave me itchy feet to go there again, but I’m too past it now!
73 John

1 Like

I was on the summit you activated the day before (I/VA-124) but only in CW so no qso. It had been very easy also on 20m because we were in sight. If you have in mind to activate another summit in I/VA region (where I live) please contact me by mail (QRZ.com).
Nice your descent had a happy end.
73 de Claudio IX1IHR

1 Like

Hi,
Thanks Colwyn for the nice report.
In this days the freezing level is near 5000mt, the heatwave will worsen in the weekend.
73

1 Like

Hi Claudio,

we are now travelling home so my next summit will be in Germany, I hope!

Ciao

Colwyn

2 Likes

Hi,

I think that was one reason why rock on the peak was so loose. The ice has all melted and released any frozen blocks. Nice warm activation on the summit though!

Ciao

Colwyn

2 Likes

I notice the mayor of St Gervais is thinking of taking a deposit from climbers wishing to climb Mont Blanc:

I was lucky to do it in 2002, when the Gouter Ridge was relatively safe. The rock fall in the main gully is now continuous by the sounds of it.
73 Matt

2 Likes