Petit Dru South Face, Chamonix Mt Blanc

Sunday 6 July 2014, 5:45am -- daniel.joll

Climbing the Petit Dru, Chamonix Mt Blanc

Petit Dru South Face Ordinary Route Approach and Route Beta

The approach to the South Face of the Petit and Grand Drus is best made from the Montenvers Train.  From the train station you should be able to look straight over the Mer De Glace and spot a large white square on the lower cliff face marking the trail to Refuge De La Charpoua.  There are plenty of good spots to camp close to the hut for anyone who does not want to pay the hut fee.  Around 40 minutes below Charpoua hut there are also fully covered rock bivvy's that you could stay in.  This will however add several hundred meters of vertical gain to your day when you head off to climb. 

The the Charpoua Refuge it takes around an hour and a half to reach the base of the Sout Face of the Petit Dru.  We were post holing for most of the way up the glacier so I imagine with firm conditions you could do this faster.  We climbed the route early July and found the Charpoua Glacier quite broken, breaking into several small cravasses on our walk to the face.  For the route itself we had very winter like conditions with lots of fresh snow.  On our way we found many old fixed belays and basically followed the line of least snow eventually joining what we thought was the South Face Ordinary Route number 330 in the snow ice and mixed guide.  For the route we needed a basic rack with a single set of nuts and single set of cams, 6 quick draws and two 60m ropes.  Rock shoes were not necessary but if the route was dry they would probably allow you to climb faster.  I would think for anyone planning climb the route taking some extra cord and two pitons (one angle one blade) so they can re equip any abseil anchors, would also be handy.  We descended the SW Couloir from the Breche Des Drus.  The SW Couloir was fairly ice choked and at least half of the abseil points were covered with snow meaning we had to make our own abseil anchors.  Judging on the quality (or lack of quality) for most of the fixed abseil stations I am not sure how often this gets used as a descent route.  Abseiling in the dark it took us around 6-7 hours to descend.  If the route has snow in the couloir then it might be safest abseiling this in the dark to avoid any wet slides or rock fall during the day.

Overall its a nice climb with crux sections around 5c - 6a.  Due to amount of snow on route it took us much longer than expected.  We departed Charpoua Refuge at 5.30am summitting just before dark around 9pm.  We arrived back at the hut 6am the following morning.