Aiguille d'Argentière 3898 m Alpinism
The Aiguille d'Argentière is an impressive, shapely mountain - its form unmistakeable beside its neighbour, the alluring Aiguille du Chardonnet. (Falling just shy of 4000 m, both of these magnificent peaks receive less attention than they deserve). Separating the pair is the deep Col du Chardonnet.
The Aiguille d'Argentière especially is a very complex mountain. In addition to the main summit (3901 m), it also has a NW Summit (3878 m), the Pointe Sud (3841 m) and the Flèche Rousse (3879 m). Various auxiliaries branch off from the main ridge and give the mountain its stately size. The ESE ridge (Arête de Flèche Rousse) leads towards the Col du Tour Noir. The Flèche Rousse (3879 m) also has secondary ridge (Arête des Flèches), which leads down to the Glacier des Améthystes.
The SW Ridge (Arête du Jardin) leads to the Pointe Sud (3841 m). Initially a firn ridge, it later turns to rock and has numerous side peaks and gendarmes. These are called the "Satellites d'Argentière". A second SW Ridge (Arête Charlet-Straton), running parallel to the Arête du Jardin, leading down from the W summit (3878 m). This is pure with (also) numerous gendarmes. This SW ridge is also one of the "Satellites d'Argentière". The two SW ridges enclose the narrow Glacier du Milieu, over which today the normal route leads to the summit.
The NW ridge leads down from the W summit to the Col du Chardonnet. From P. 3680, the slightly curved WSW spur splits off, dividing the upper part of the Glacier du Chardonnet. Finally, there the massive NE Pedestal, which stands N of the main summit and plunges into the Glacier de Saleina.
In the ENE flank is a striking, very steep couloir called Couloir Barbey.
The S-flank is rocky with the exception of the characteristic Y-couloir.
The Aiguille d'Argentière is surrounded by a grand glacier landscape, most notable is the Glacier d'Argentière with its three tributaries (Chardonnet, Milieu, Améthystes) on the French side, and the Glacier de Saleina on the Swiss side. All these ridges, flanks and couloirs offer the mountaineer a wealth of varied ascents with varying difficulties. Therefore it should not be surprising that the outstanding alpinists of their time were drawn to this unique mountain.
One more thing: the name. "Argentière" is derived from the Indo-European "arg"/ Latin "argenteus"/ Gallic "arganto". These terms mean "silver-colored, or like silver flashing" and refer to the glistening glacier flanks of the mountain. In France, there are also different identical place names, which are due to a former silver mine.
FA: A. Adams Reilly, Edward Whymper with Henry Charlet, Michel Croz and Michel Payot, July 15, 1864 (W flank and NW ridge).