NW-Flank, Voie du Gardien | Alpinism | Combin de Grafeneire | Swiss Alpine Club SAC

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Disclaimer

Hiking or climbing on routes in alpine terrain requires good physical health, meticulous preparation and technical skills in mountain sports. The routes presented here are undertaken at one’s own risk. If you want to safely practice mountain sports, taking training courses run by experts is highly recommended by the SAC. All the contents of the SAC Route Portal are put together with utmost diligence. However, the Swiss Alpine Club and the authors cannot guarantee that the information provided here is up-do-date, correct and complete. Therefore, the SAC and the authors cannot be held liable for possible errors.

NW-Flank, Voie du Gardien (Normal route) Combin de Grafeneire 4314 m

  • Difficulty
    PD
  • Ascent
    7–8 h, 1688 m
  • Descent
    23 m

This obvious route was established very late. After a series of accidents involving ice-fall in the 'Corridor', it developed into the normal route after 1980. Today, however, we'd like to draw your attention to increased dangers: This route has also become significantly more threatened in recent years. Ice-fall from the serac zone on the edge of the summit plateau is possible at ANY TIME. Depending on the conditions, the situation is, at best, only slightly better than in the largely avoided 'Corridor'. This is especially the case during the late season when the glacier is largely blank. There can also be avalanches on the NW flank early in the morning during summer, with high temperatures already making the snow soft and heavy. From the Cabane FXB-Panossière you climb over the Glacier de Corbassière to the plateau of Maisons Blanches. There you turn to the 35-45 ° steep NW flank and climb to the summit plateau of the Grand Combin and the Combin de Grafeneire.

Route description

Cabane FXB-Panossière - Glacier de Corbassière

From the Cabane FXB-Panossière (2641 m), follow the lateral moraine (north-east side) of Glacier de Corbassière to the junction of the path that descends from the Col des Otanes (foundations of an older hut). Continue on the moraine ridge to the ruins of the oldest hut (2672 m). Here descend to the glacier, reaching the ice at about 2640 m.

Glacier de Corbassière - Plateau des Maisons Blanches

Cross the glacier diagonally to reach the base of the eastern-most rocks of Combin de Corbassière, ½ hour. Continue on up the left (western) edge of the glacier. Doing this, you will avoid the worst of the crevasse zone, but be careful; there could still be a couple of 'big buggers' lurking. Meander south, following the flattest parts of the glacier, before turning west in a wide arc around P. 3156 (now facing the Combin de Boveire). Continue, to the northern end of the next steep crevasse field, before bearing south below the wind bowl at P. 3310. Now cross over the wide glacier plateau of Maisons Blanches (about 3320 m), 2½ hrs.

Plateau des Maisons Blanches - Combin de Grafeneire

Now climb direction ESE towards Le Corridor and reach the Plateau du Déjeuner (about 3500 m), ½ hour. Instead of ascending into the corridor, turn right and go below P. 3763 to the foot of the ridge that separates the NE from the NW flank. Depending on the circumstances, you can cross the ridge itself (grade 2) or move right on the glacier beneath it (usually some tricky ice steps). There you can climb up to about 3900 m to below the serac zone (3977 m). Find a favourable place to bypass the seracs; normally possibe by means of a 45 ° steep ice couloir, often leading rightwards under the ominous walls. Continue to trend right, overcoming the steepest part of the NW flank and reach the summit plateau, 2½ hours. Steer southwards, at first towards the col at 4128 m (crevasses in the direction of travel!). Around 4100 m, bear left (east) to climb the final firn slopes and gain the ridge a little north of Combin de Grafeneire (4314 m). Continue to summit. 1½ hrs.

Descent

Down the route of ascent.

Additional information

Departure point
Difficulty

Besteigung nur empfehlenswert, wenn die Eisbrüche am oberen Rand sicher sind.

History

Henry Bruchez, Hilaire Dumoulin (le gardien), Louis Maret, René Michaud, 8. September 1958.

Author

Bernhard Rudolf Banzhaf

Bernhard Rudolf Banzhaf has climbed countless peaks at home and abroad, including all 4000ers of the Valais Alps. He has been organizing trekking trips in the Himalayas and in Europe since the early 1980s. He was a member of the SAC's central committee between 1995 and 2003.

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