Going down to Chamonix this summer, the “giants tooth” or Dent du Géant was definately in the books for me. It’s a 4000 m peak located above mer de glace and visible from the aiguille du midi (and a lot of other places for that matter).
We did this climb in combination with the pyramide du tacul which I have already written an article about here on the blog. We started from the Aiguille du Midi in the morning, doing the pyramide du tacul, then continuing to the Italian side and pitched our tent on the glacier below the dent du geant. We did the route in rock shoes which i think was a good decision. Even though the climbing is never super hard, it still felt nice with a little bit of extra friction.
Our camp with the Dent du Géant in the background
We started from our camp at 6 a.m., which in my opinion is way too late. It turned out to be quite OK, but an earlier start is definately recommended. Starting at 4 a.m. from the glacier or Torino hut would probably be more suitable since you’d then be at the start of the rock at sunrise. Anyway, we headed up the glacier and found the route quite easily. This is a popular route, so there’s a well broken trail to follow. The first gully from the top of the glacier up to the ridge is supposed to be the most dangerous part as it is very loose and the risk of rock fall is quite big. This year it was completely covered in snow so absolutely no problem there. This also made our late start and even later descent quite OK.
The route in detail (not very accurate for mixed ground on the approach).
At the top of the gully you just follow a trail on mixed ground going mostly on the left side of the vague ridge going up to the foot of the tooth itself. The approach is not difficult, but exposed in some places so a fall that is not stopped is very likely to be fatal.
At the foot of the rock spire that is the actual tooth, just follow the snow to its left side to find a short section of fixed ropes. This is the start of the route.
The start of the route. Fixed rope starts down to the left behind the snow.
From here there are two pitches (or possibly one long pitch) on grade 3 rock to reach the start of the main fixed rope. First it’s a short traverse to the left and then straight up. From the start of the fixed rope, the climbing is airy and quite nice. Most of the route is on the west side of the pillar so it might be a little cold in the morning, even in July. For most parts the climbing is pretty easy and I clipped a QD in each of the bolts for the fixed ropes, and then placed one piece of protection in between the bolts on those places where they were a little further apart. The crux on the fixed ropes is a vertical section near the top in a diédre that is quite physical and definitely will get your hands and fingers quite pumped if you pull yourself up on the rope.
Just above the start of the fixed rope.
Near the top, the fixed ropes end. Just follow the ridge to the top of the first summit. The climbing here is easy, grade 3 something. From the first summit, do some down-climbing in the direction of the main summit and then slide down a short rope attached to a piton. From there climb straight up to the top of the main summit.
View to the west from the main summit, secondary summit in the foreground, Mont Blanc in the background.
View to the east from the main summit, Grand Jorasses in the background.
When starting our descent another team reached the summit and asked if we wanted to share the ropes to make the descent faster. From our perspective this wasn’t a very good idea, as it turned out that they didn’t really know what they were doing so we ended up spending a LOT of time helping them to get down safely.
I guess the trick with the descent is to not abseil from the anchor in the col just below the main summit, but to go down to the anchor below the secondary summit, probably about 5 meters to the west. From here it’s pretty much straight down. At the bottom of the second abseil I found myself free hanging in the air unable to reach the bolts, then seeing another set of bolts about 5 meters further down and to the left that I was able to reach after making a pendulum traverse.
We did the whole descent in just three abseils while the guide book said four, so still not sure if we used the “right” anchors all the way. It should be noted that the whole route was re-equipped a few years ago with stainless expander bolts and hangers so don’t abseil of any of the old rusty crap sitting in the wall.
- Double ropes, at least 2 x 50 m (which is what we had)
- Rack of 4-6 Medium sized friends
- Rack of medium and large nuts
- About 8 quickdraws and extendable slings with biners, more if you want to simul-climb the fixed ropes.
- Climbing shoes
- Crevasse rescue gear
Here’s a video from our ascent of the Dent du Géant: