Pyramide du Tacul - July 2016

Description:  

Marcy and I decided to climb the Pyramide du Tacal as we were looking for a moderate climb from the Auguille du Midi. 

The approch is straight forward though is on a glacier.  The route description describes the possibility of serac fall during the final few hundred meters of the approach and I had even commented on the heat that radiated from that section of the approach, but you don't really get to see the seracs - sometimes its important to use that spidey sense.  Shortly after I started leading Pitch 1 Marcy and I heard a large cracking sound and ensuing rumble. We then had time to look at each other inquisitively.  A few minutes later, a large avalanche started to flow past the base of the route and continued for nearly 20 minutes, as a major chunk of the serac calved off.  

Quite un-nerved, but not wanted to deal with retracing our steps, we opted to climb on. The route was really fun with amazing views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers.  We did an alternate crack which was phenomenal and then the rest of the route only had a few moderate cruxes on beautiful granite.  

The real challenge was on the descent when our rope got caught 3 times requiring me to re-climb one of the pitches over and over again.  This delayed us a bit and we were back at the base having to deal with the serac slope at 4:15 with the final tram at 6pm -a typical 2.5 hr return.  We decided to bee-line it across the slope and then descend a more safer slope to minimize the objective danger.  The re-pproach was 2.5 miles and 2000' of uphill travel back to the tram so the race was on.  We put a blistering pace for the first 2 miles, but with a short bit to go I started to bonk.  At 6pm we were at the base of the last ridge to the tram.  At 6:15 we were back at the tram, but saw hundreds of people still at the station.  Apparently it isn't easy to offload all the tourists so there is a couple hour buffer.  At this point we vowed to avoid the unnecessary stress and pressure that the time-limit of catching a tram involves for the remainder of the trip. 

The route is great fun and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a pleasant day in the alpine if the hanging serac didn't exist.   With that though, its a use at your own risk route.  

Stories by Scott Heinz ( Medical Moose Labs)

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