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Pointe Percée (2752m) via the Sallanches Chimneys

Pointe Percée (2752m) via the Sallanches Chimneys

Postby uk-scrambler » Sun Sep 04, 2022 1:40 pm

Date walked: 30/08/2022

Time taken: 8

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 1700m

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We've been coming to this part of France (near Annecy) for some years now, usually in May when there is still sufficient snow at high altitude to pose a challenge to some routes. The south Aravis chain is most familiar to us (L'Etale and Mont Charvin are firm favourites). Motivation to have a look at Pointe Percée came a couple of years ago when idly looking over a relief map of the region I realised there is a higher peak than L'Etale nearby (without going all the way to Mont Blanc, of course). Actually, there are a few peaks higher than L'Etale in the north Aravis chain. But Pointe Percée is the highest and the one that sees most traffic.

Visiting in Summer meant that there was opportunity to have a go at this peak without any snow hindrance. It's a challenging climb (committed scrambling) whichever route you go, but after much research I decided we would go for a loop and aim for an ascent by the Cheminées des Sallanches and descent by the 'normal route'. Both are a challenge but the Cheminées des Sallanches adds a bit of spice. I believe most people do it without ropes and that would be the way we would do it. I read that when you see the moves you need to do on the first chimney you know right away whether it is going to work for you or not. We were feeling confident having just completed a traverse of the L'Etale ridge a couple of days previous. https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=114520
We decided we were up for the challenge.

Map of the route: IGN 3430ET la Clusaz, le Grand-Bornand (near Annecy). Our route: Les Troncs --> Le Planet --> Refuge --> Col des Verts --> Cheminées des Sallanches --> Pointe Percée --> Normal Route --> Refuge --> Return.

We set off early; aiming to get to the car park at Col des Annes at 0600. We chose that way because the car park has some good altitude at 1723 m. Sadly for us it didn't work out. I'm not quite sure where we went wrong but somehow (in the pitch dark) we ended up on a road towards the col that was clearly unsuited to vehicles of our calibre (Toyota Yaris). Call it a sat-nav failure. We had to change plans and re-route to a lower car park at Les Troncs (1256 m) - sad face emoji. We started off half an hour later than we wanted and the best part of 500 m lower down. We didn't talk much for that first 500 m of the ascent.

Here-we-go. Long slog up through the forest from Les Troncs car park. We had wanted to start much higher (at Col des Annes) but couldn't find the way in the car(!)

The way started off very dark: both in the shadow under the forest at 0630, and in our hearts. It is steep and heavy going but we were putting a brave face on our unexpected set-back so we ploughed on joylessly. Until the views of Pointe Percée and the length of the north Aravis chain started to open up. Here we had to acknowledge that, actually, this is enjoyable. The early morning light on the peaks was stunning. We'd set off early because there was rain and thunder forecast in the afternoon. It meant we kept the pace up as good as we could.

First view of our target in the early morning light.

Another glimpse of Pointe Percée through the trees. It looks a long way to go. Will we really get that far?

Looking down the Aravis North chain.

La Tournette in the distance.

Pointe Percée rises like a big lump of rock up out of the limestone plateau that we could already see was where the refuge was located. Along the way we were working out the arithmatic of how much further do we have to go until we have reached the altitude we would have been at if we'd made it to the correct car park? Ah well - I think what you gain from the Les Troncs start is a more impressive view of Pointe Percée as it looms above the forest.

Soon we were out of the forest and into a grassy section that looked a lot more Highlandish in appearance than Alpine. Here there is a farm with the wonderful name of 'Le Planet' with an enormous mastiff who, thankfully, is secured on a very heavy duty chain. After a brief flat section there is more steep slopes to take in as the greenery gives way to limestone. The views get better and better and we tried to identify all the peaks on the unfamiliar north Aravis chain, all the way down to La Tournette in the far distance. We were determined not to stop for breakfast until we were at least at the refuge: given as a 3h05 slog from Les Troncs but we were determined to see how much time we could knock off that. We did it in about 2h.

Le Planet: briefly the scenery looked a bit like the Highlands.

Onwards. The greenery gradually gets replaced by limestone. Very rocky on this side of the chain.

The gradient levels off as we approach the Refuge Pointe Percée.

A kind of plateau is reached before the refuge and we now had a good view of Col des Verts to the right of Pointe Percée which is where we were heading: the Sallanches chimneys go up the reverse side of the peak from where we were looking. We saw our first ibex at this point. They are much larger and less skittish than the chamoix we are used to seeing on the south Aravis mountainsides. Pretty soon we were at the refuge. We were feeling good so we didn't stop and decided to push on to the col before breakfast.

Target ahead (Pointe Percée). We go via Col des Verts (on the right).

Refuge Pointe Percée; with the peak in the background. We stopped for a drink on the way down, but for now we push on...

It's not all that attractive this part of the hike. It is all limestone, boulders and scree. There are good views from the refuge up to Pointe Percée and Chombas and across the other way to the Bargy chain; but the location itself in amongst all that rock is not delightful. The proper signage runs out at this point. The routes are marked with splodges of paint on the rocks (green for Col des Verts) here and there.

Aiming for Col des Verts. A slog over the limestone boulders. Quite unattractive this part of the hike.

After the refuge the signs are somewhat rudimentary. Col = Col des Verts; R = Refuge.

Col des Verts is a sterile bowl of scree from this angle; named very much in the same spirit as 'Greenland' was named, we thought. But there must be some green somewhere because there was a lonesome ibex in the distance nibbling at something he was finding between the rocks. It gets steep on the ascent up to the ridge and we stopped several times to enjoy the view back over the way we'd come and up to Pointe Percée on the right and Pointe des Verts on the left. We could see the sun was lighting the top of the ridge and the skies were clear. We knew there was a good chance of a view across towards Mont Blanc and along down the tops of the north Aravis chain and onwards towards L'Etale and Mont Charvin. We were eager to get up there.

Col des Verts. Not a patch of vert anywhere (the green is all on the other side).

Looking back from Col des Verts over the refuge towards the Bargy Chain. Nice to be in shade for this steep section.

It was wonderfully quiet up there. We'd passed a few people at the refuge but all the traffic seemed to be in the direction of the normal route to Pointe Percée. We were alone in the Col des Verts direction - apart from a pair of ibex we could see on the ridge below Pointe des Verts. They were locking horns every now and then and knocking the odd but of scree down into the basin. There was some scrambling to be done before breaking out into the sun and the views we'd been waiting to see.

Almost at Col des Verts. Looking over to the right towards Pointe des Verts.

Finally, Col des Verts is reached and we hit the sun. Spectacular views open up towards Mont Blanc (ahead) and the full Aravis Chain (right).

On the ridge we took care not to inadvertently take the path down the other side towards the Doran refuge. A yellow 'PP' on the rocks marks the way to scramble across the ridge towards the start of the Cheminées des Sallanches. We stopped for breakfast (BBQ leftovers, baguette, Lion bar).

Stick to the ridge. PP = Pointe Percée (via Cheminées des Sallanches); Doran = path down the other side of the col.

Looking back over the North Aravis chain and, further on behind, the South Aravis chain. Our route up to the ridge via Col des Verts comes up from the right.

Time for breakfast before we get stuck into the chimneys.

Now the fun begins. The green arrow that marks the start of the first chimney was easily located and we had a go at the first few moves. It is straight up on smooth rock and quite exposed. We took our time to find handholds and footholds that worked for us and were soon on a section where the gradient eases off a bit. We decided it was ok for us and we would push on through the rest of the route. Still conscious of the weather forecast for later on, we wanted to keep up the pace.

Chimney I: the green arrow marks the start of the first chimney. Straight up. Here you discover whether the route is for you or not. Some fairly exposed moves with tricky handholds and footholds. It gets easier, until the end of Chimney III.

Continuation of the first chimney... less exposed...

Luca emerging through the first chimney.

The first chimney is said to be the most difficult. We found it ok, taking it bit by bit. The route is well marked by rastafarian splodges of paint in red, yellow or green. At this point we saw another person making their way up Col des Verts, and another couple of guys making their way to the base of the chimneys (the only other climbers we saw on the Sallanches route). Chimney II was not far away and a pretty straightforward scramble on less exposed rock.

Where do we go now? Between Chimney I and Chimney II. Red, yellow and green marks guide the way. Chimney II starts up there...

On the way to Chimney II; Mont Blanc forms the backdrop.

Luca taking on Chimney II. Col des Verts in the background.

Mont Blanc never far away. Sallanches is down in the valley.

Emerging from Chimney II. Looking down the Aravis chain in the background... all the way to Mont Charvin at the southern end...

We were enjoying the preriodic views of Mont Blanc and the length of the Aravis chain and distant glimpses of the mountains we are more familiar with (Sulens, Charvin, L'Etale etc...). The scrambling comes in sections and takes a bit of working out here and there but at no point did we feel that a rope would be necessary. It confused us slightly... because if you are experienced enough to have all the rope gear and know how to use it you would surely be experienced enough to do the route without ropes. I suppose you would use a rope if you were guiding someone less experienced up; or if you were doing it in winter (there are a lot of crampon marks on the rock). In good conditions in summer there is no need for a rope if you take your time, do the research, and are comfortable with Aonach Eagach level scrambling, for example.

Rastafarian route. Anything red, yellow or green on the rocks is a marker for the route.

Chimney III. Hard to see in the photo but there is a tricky move to negotiate under an overhanging rock.

I found the most difficult bit to be on Chimney III near the end where a traverse below an overhanging rock is necessary. I couldn't see a way to by-pass it. It doesn't come out in the photo but the awkward bit was that with a backpack you are quite hindered with movement. I had to take my backpack off. Even then there was a heart-racing moment when you are leaning backwards hoping that the handhold is going to stay firm. That part was more difficult than Aonach Eagach but it was ok and just needed a bit of time to work it out. Luca came after me and found it easy.

IMG_2069 2.JPEG
Luca emerging from the top of the third chimney. Here we pass the gendarme and join the normal route to the summit.

After Chimney III we join the normal route and a scramble up to the summit. It's still pretty heavy going and in places made difficult by the rock on the ridge being somewhat polished by the number of feet that have gone over it. The views get better and better.

IMG_2071 2.jpg
Out of the chimneys and a scramble towards the ridge for the summit. Still some committed and exposed scrambling to get over...

IMG_2072 2.jpg
Stunning view right down the Aravis chain. Wow. For scale there are two climbers on the ridge at the bottom centre; they came up after us through the Cheminées des Sallanches and have just joined the normal route.

IMG_2075 2.jpg
Not far to the summit now. Don't trip - the rock is a lot more polished now we have joined the normal route.

At last we reached the summit. We had a chat with the guys who came up via the chimneys route behind us. Then three others joined from the normal route. We hung around a bit to enjoy the views - apparently (according to Peakvisor) all the way to the Jungfrau in Switzerland is possible on a very clear day (and a very clear day on the Jungfrau). I think we could see the Weisshorn. For sure we could see a ferocious cast of needles and peaks along the Mont Blanc massif. We could see all the way down the Aravis chain and to the north it was quite clear to pick out Lake Geneva.

Mont Buet is also quite prominent to the north of Chamonix direction. This one is one the list for the future.

Stunning view. Many alpine big boys are visible. Peaks in France, Switzerland and Italy.

Mont Blanc massif dominates the view to the east.

After a while we headed back down by the normal route to the refuge. It is a long rocky scramble; and quite busy with people making their way up to the summit. The Cheminées des Sallanches is a bit more difficult, but not much more, and worth it for the variation and a quieter ascent.

Heading back. The normal route winds its way down through the rock towards the refuge.

Long scramble down. There are 3 people in this photo; all on the route that winds down through the limestone.

From quite high up we could see down on the scree that a herd of ibex had settled themselves in the shade of Pointe Percée right next to the normal route. For some reason we have never seen any ibex in the south Aravis (I don't think there are any there?). They are not bothered by people passing close by to them. We passed by and onwards to the refuge where we stopped for a drink.


Ibex herd on the scree below Pointe Percée.

Still there was quite a slog down to Les Troncs. This was a lot of altitude to climb and then descend. We've climbed higher before (Zugspitze, Germany) but back then we had the easy option of a cable car to get back down the mountain. Here it was one foot in front of the other all the way down. A great day out; and one felt in the quads and calves the next day. There are many more peaks in the north Aravis that we will come back for at some point in the future. Mont Fleuri and Mont Charvet look like a lot of fun.
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Re: Pointe Percée (2752m) via the Sallanches Chimneys

Postby Pointless Parasite » Tue Sep 06, 2022 7:39 pm

Nice report uk-scrambler :clap: We climbed Pointe Percée a few weeks earlier than you, although we used the voie normale for both ascent and descent. I uploaded the GPS track showing the route here: https://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=1989205. It's what I call a 'Pavey Ark route' - one that just looks impossible from down below but somehow there's an easy way up.

Have you climbed Pointe d'Arcalod yet? It's a similar level of scrambling to Point Percée and has a couple if viable routes.
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Re: Pointe Percée (2752m) via the Sallanches Chimneys

Postby uk-scrambler » Sat Sep 10, 2022 9:44 am

I know what you mean about a 'Pavey Ark' route! Even when you look at Pointe Percée from the refuge you can't see how there could possibly be a route up that big chunk of rock. We found the red markings easy enough to follow in summer - with a bit of snow around I can imagine route finding can get quite difficult.
I've not climbed Pointe d'Arcalod. I wasn't even aware of it but I see it's just south of La Tournette. Thanks for the recommendation. There are so many great routes around that area; I look forward to getting back there, hopefully in 2023. I also like the look of Pointe Blanche - there looks to be some interesting scrambling routes up there.
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