Le Chapeau

This one isn’t featured in the Rockfax, but gets rave reviews in the local guide: “Site majeur de l’escalade dans la valee de Chamonix”. Unfortunately, my hastily snapped shots of a borrowed topo had my thumb over key bits of the approach map, and the description was a bit vague. To save you the bother of our explorations, here’s a bit more beta…

Head through Le Lavancher and park a km or so the other side after a couple of hairpins, next to a utility building and just before a barrier across the road. Follow the good path up hill following signposts to Le Chapeau at a couple of junctions, and after about 700m a right fork with a footpath sign but no label. After another 200m you cross a stream via a wooden boardwalk bridge and after another 50m or so, just as the main path zigs left up a hairpin, you’ll hopefully spot a small cairned path carrying pretty much straight on.

Just to be on the safe side, here are the coordinates where the crag approach path leaves the main path.

N45.9488244, E6.9144348

… and here’s a map

The approach path goes straight on for 50m giving a superb view of the Oasis sector of the crag

and then drops steeply down (with a couple of iron foot holds) to cross the stream, and then skirt the base of the rocks via a series of iron handrails and footholds to reach the foot of sector Oasis just 5 mins from the main path.

If you miss the cairns then in another 10mins or so you’ll find yourself at the Chapeau buvet / cafe, where your disappointment will be assuaged by magnificent views of the Aiguilles Rouges including La Grande Floria…

Back at the foot of the crag – More climbing is available around the corner (Mur Noir) and below (Hyper-Phandar) but we settled for “Un ilot de loisir dans un oasis de plaisir”, 6a – the original route of the crag whose first pitch finishes in an obvious diagonal ramp / groove feature (near the skyline on the crag picture above). The bolting is very sparse towards the base of the crag, and the rock a bit vegetated, so I headed for my first bolt and set off upwards. I got thoroughly engrossed in the climbing, in the way you only do on slab routes. Tenuous moves are interspersed with tiny holds where you can rest forever (sore toes and burning calves permitting) and contemplate the next teetery move. Some of these were feeling a bit stiff for 6a, but I put this down to my slab-phobia and just told myself to man-up and press on.

Approaching the lower-off @ 40m, Helen finally had the heart to shout up that I’d ended up about 5m right of where I’d intended, on the wrong route (again!) This turned out to be Tour de Vice, 6c, so at least it was an error in my favour in terms of grade.

Back on track, we both enjoyed Ilot…, also a full 40+m pitch which just allows a rope stretching lower on an 80.

There look to be some very fine longer adventures here, and now we’ve sussed out the way we might be back for more!

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