As the summer winds down, and I begin to transition into the fall rock climbing season and further on to winter, it’s nice to reflect back upon all the summer’s challenges. Three countries, a handful of different ranges and sub-ranges, and dozens of objectives would nauseate even the most enthusiastic reader, so I though it better to report on my season in the Alps based on huts visited.

I reported earlier on a July characterized by unsettled and unpredictable weather, leading to changed plans and odd activities like glacier biking. But eventually, the weather sorted itself out and August arrived with stable, warm summer goodness.

Anyhow, below are the huts that I visited this summer, and memorable moments in photographs from each of the huts.

Refuge d’Argentiere (Argentiere Hut):

Argentiere Hut

Argentiere Hut
 

I’d previously visited the Argentiere Hut in the spring (it makes a great first night for the Haute Route), but never before in the Summer months. The Argentiere’s friendly and knowledgeable guardians, paired with some great rock climbing routes on the Aiguille de Refuge and others on the Plateau du Jardin, not to mention the big ones across the valley, make it a great destination for a summer visit. My colleagues were beyond tired of my broken record recommendation by the end of the season, but the ones who took my advice were psyched on the wild setting and the variety of climbs.

Refuge Couvercle (Couvercle Hut)

Situated in the true heart of the Mont Blanc range, below the mighty Grand Jorasses is the spectacularly positioned Couvercle Hut. A true alpinist hut.

 
 
 
 
Couvercle Hut Ladders5.7 ladders to the Hut

On this particular visit, the journey up the Mer de Glace glacier and the night at the hut, was an end in itself. As tame as that may sound, the expedition involves nearly 250m of via ferrata style chutes and ladders to reach the hut. The climbing directly off of the glacier includes vertical to overhanging ladder climbing!

 

Generally this hut serves a great starting point for routes on the Aiguille du Moine (the Moine Ridge looks no less than spectacular) as well as mega classics on the Aiguille Verte and Courtes. A great itinerary could include two nights at the refuge including one of the many objectives above with some ice climbing on the Mer de Glace Glacier.

Refuge de l’Envers des Aiguilles (Envers Hut)

If the Couvercle is a true “Alpinists’ Hut” than the Envers Hut is absolutely the “Climbers’ Hut” of the range. Like the Bugaboos but bigger and more splitter, or an alpine version of Yosemite. The Envers offers a lifetime of long, multi-pitch crack climbing routes. Oh and the hut is only a 2.5 hour walk from the Montenvers Railway. The Envers has long since been at the top of my list as THE climbing destination and I finally made the pilgrimage with Keith Garvey of All Mountain Adventures. Keith and I were relishing in the “scarcity” heuristic trap, having only two days off from work and badly wanting to go big. So, naturally, we went for a huge route in the Envers. Aiguille de la République: Republique bananière.

 

We ended up sending all 25 of the pitches, and since I was due to work the next morning, settled in for the long walk down to Chamonix. As the French climber we passed on the descent expressed, “this is not normal”. 23 hours later we arrived back in town.

The Envers is my top choice for Alpine Granite Climbing in the range, and would make the perfect place (possibly in the world) for hut based multi-pitch granite climbing.

As usual, I spent a few sleep deprived nights at the Tete Rousse, and Gouter Huts, a necessary evil for climbing Mont Blanc.