The French Alps are renowned as the birthplace of alpinism; there are few, if any, ranges in the world that feature a higher concentration of superlative routes and peaks. Among the most renowned peaks in the region is the Aiguille du Midi (3842, the North face of which looms high over the town of Chamonix; its hanging snowfields, steep couloirs and striking rock faces give viewers and climbers alike a distinct of grandeur. In spite of appearances, the Aiguille du Midi can be a fairly approachable peak; climbers are able to take a cable car (the Vallée Blanche) up to the Plan du Aiguille hut and Gare du Télépherique, which whisks climbers to the summit of the peak.
Climbers descend the Aiguille du Midi. Michael Powers.
Starting from the summit station, one has easy access to some of the finest climbing in the Alps via a short downhill walk to the base of the routes. One of the best climbs in the vicinity is on the Cosmiques Arête, which features staggering exposure, outstanding views and pleasantly varied terrain. From the South side of the base of the Cosmiques Ridge, climbers move up a snow slope that narrows and becomes a short section of rock slabs as you gain the ridge proper. From there, follow the ridge crest as you move left, right and over the rock towers that dot the climb. A short section of steep climbing on a face leads to several easier, highly enjoyable pitches, and eventually back to the summit station!
A climber stands in the Col du Midi, with the Cosmiques Arête in the background. Tim Connelly.
A climber moves up into the rock sections on the Cosmiques. Tim Connelly.
An AAI guide brings clients up through a blocky section of the Ridge. Tim Connelly.
Dawn Glance moves through one of the steep sections on her way up the Cosmiques. AAI Collection
A climber, silhouetted on the ridge's knife edge, is dwarfed by the terrain. Michael Powers.