The Midi Arete – in cloud

I posted an item about the Aiguille du Midi Arête several month ago which included an image of the Aiguille du Midi as seen from Chamonix in Summer, and another of skiers descending the infamous Arête in winter. You may like to view the images in that post for background information. Click the link that follows: ‘Descending the Midi Arête’.

Today’s image is of the Arête under rather different conditions [click to enlarge image]. This is a scan from a transparency taken a few years ago when my son and I went up the Aiguille du Midi lift in summer with the intention of climbing the Midi-Plan traverse. The Aiguille du Midi was in cloud early that morning but usually it burns off and there was plenty of blue sky in evidence to support that outcome in the direction of Mont Blanc itself. So we took a chance that the cloud would lift.

We were wrong! The cloud did not disperse. We descended the Arête and hung about for an hour or so hoping and hoping. No change. These were not the conditions to venture out into the mist , so we retreated back up, leaving behind us a cluster of climbers many of whom were having similar discussions to ours.

If you look to the left of the image you will see a rope snaking down into the void where there is a dimly seen climber. Bad weather doesn’t stop everyone: these climbers are just topping out after climbing one of the classic climbs on the North side of the Aiguille du Midi – The Frendo Spur.

For those keen on mountaineering the Frendo Spur can be seen clearly (click here) in this image. Look left of the summit of the Midi to the rocks that break the skyline and follow down from there towards seven o’clock on a watch dial to the major rock buttress that reaches down to the forest. Between those two rock zones you will see a sharply delineated curved snow Arête. That is the central section of the Frendo Spur. The climb emerges on the skyline after ascending the rock sections below and above the snow slope. Needless to say that is something I have not climbed!

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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21 Responses to The Midi Arete – in cloud

  1. andybeel says:

    Hi Andy this is really great loads of tension and atmosphere thanks for sharing. Andy

  2. oneowner says:

    Still, without that cloud cover you wouldn’t have taken this great photo.

    • LensScaper says:

      That is absolutely true Ken, but I can tell you that in glorious sunshine, views ahead are spectacular. So: one image captured, but quite a few lost to view. I must get up there again on a good summer’s day!

  3. Great image Andy, and good use of black and white to create real atmosphere.

    I had somehow missed the “Descending the Midi Arête” post the first time round, so I followed your link, and from there went to the images on Flickr – what a great day you had! I’ve done the conventional Vallée Blanche route several times, but your variation looks really good!

    Coming from a mountaineering background I’ve never really bothered much over the descent of the arête – the only time it was anything like hairy was in a strong wind (they closed the téléphérique just after our ride) with me leading the descent on a rope of two extremely frightened young women, with the guide at the rear – the guide kept urging me on, “Allez, allez!”, and I had to tug and cajole the two lasses to keep them moving. They were not happy!

    Most amusing descent was with a mate and his daughter and two ‘hot-shot’ boarders – the boarders made us like like a bunch of stumbling numpties, as they shredded the higher slopes, but I knew what was in store for them lower down – they were both knackered after ‘scooting’ the length of the Mer de Glace finish. Oh how we laughed!

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Paul, I’m glad you followed the links and enjoyed them. I will get round to doing a post on the Vallee Blanche descent sometime this winter – it was quite eventful! I’ve never found the arete difficult, but a lot of downhill skiers who have little or no experience find it very unpleasant in downhill treadless boots whilst shouldering skis and poles. It’s certainly not a trip for Boarders! Loved the anecdotes in your comment. Many thanks.

  4. This is an incredible image Andy which you probably wouldn’t have gotten if the conditions were better. A little scary but you came away with a fabulous photograph.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you so much Edith. It’s strange how the clouds confine that image. I must unearth one of the distant view and you will see how huge that view is.

  5. ABarlow says:

    wow that thing looks intense!

  6. ehpem says:

    Great shot – there is more than enough to look at here without whatever background is lost to the clouds.

  7. Wow, Andy. This looks like something out of a movie. There is a great sense of danger captured in this shot.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Jimi. You can’t see it but on the left side there is a very steep drop of nearly 9000ft straight down to Chamonix. This is not the place for anyone with a fear of heights!

  8. seekraz says:

    Love the photo, Andy…sounds treacherous out there…but it is so beautiful and those mountaineers on the ridge add so much to it.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Scott. Some time this winter I will get round to posting images from my descent of the Vallee Blanche, the most famous off-piste ski run in the alps, that starts from here. Then you will really see what an amazing place this spot is, for starters.

  9. athyfoto says:

    Top shot Andy!! I really like the light here and the way the scene fades into the distance in the mist.

  10. janina says:

    Not sure I could do what you do, but I applaud you for having a go! I’m a huge fan of Nature and am ever respectful of her. An excellent post and pic.

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks for your comment. Since I was in charge both of myself and my son, the wise policy was to stay safe on a day like this. We were relieved when we got back to Chamonix to discover that the cloud lingered long into the day. But very annoyed that the area the other side of the Auguille du Midi up to Mont Blanc had brilliant sunshine – but that wasn’t where we had been headed.

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