My winter trip to Chamonix didn’t turn up exactly as planned but still had some good days out. Since Cogne wasn’t a viable option anymore I had to find a closer location. Would have liked to go up to Mer de Glace but couldn’t find any partner. La Crémerie was minutes away from where I’ve stayed therefore seemed the obvious choice. Also easy enough so I could solo some routes.
The approach is easy as long as you know where to go. The signs are somehow confusing and I got lost the 1st time. Ended up above the ice falls on the ski slope. There are 2 ways to get there depending from what direction you come, but both start from Argentière. Take the path down to Grands Montets cable car. It’s signed just before the tunnel that reaches the train station. Turn right through some flats and left to cross the bridge over the stream. Once there, walk for 20m on the ski piste and left to “Restaurant La Crémerie”. Soon you meet a paved road that will take you to the Chamonix Mont Blanc Helicopter (CMBH) – 20 minutes. As you go by the restaurant, keep straight until you get to the helipad. From here a narrow path goes to the base of the climbs. As starts to gain in altitude, it becomes steeper and icy – 10 minutes from the CMBH. Alternatively, from the Touristic Office, walk straight on Route du Village, cross the bridge and turn right on Chemin de la Moraine. Keep the street until you through a tunnel under the old railway. A sign post will guide you to the right through the trees.
La Crémerie has 7 routes between WI2 – 4, all on the right side of a glacier stream. It’s a popular place for guides with their clients and you can easily set up a top rope. Otherwise 2 x 50m ropes and a few screws would be sufficient as there are already belay bolts set up. The sun doesn’t hit the ice directly which was good as temperature in the valley was 10C+. Ice was in decent conditions, covered in snow on the lower angled slopes. Unfortunately on the second day everything started to melt and ice became unstable.
If one wishes, after the climb it is possible to top out onto the ski piste. Though the struggle through knee deep snow, dead branches and trees didn’t seem appealing. Since I’ve made the mistake on relying on other’s ropes, I ended up not having one with me. My first climb was on “La Crémerie” and I was fortunate enough to find a way down to the bottom of the climb through the forest. Rough but fairly quick. Therefore I was kind of forced to stick with it in order to avoid a 30-40 minutes detour every time. Luckily later on a french party joined the climb and offered me the rope for the last pitch and the abseil which I gladly accepted as the abrupt way down became annoying.
“La Crémerie”, and yes the same name as the area itself, it’s the first on the right and the widest of all. Which is good as you can pick a new line every time. Easy angled ice in 3 mixed pitches that varies from WI2 to WI4. It starts with a 60° slope and continues with 45° to reach the first belay bolt on a big boulder. If you plan on setting up a top rope, then climb this section to the right to reach another bolt on a rock right under a pine tree. Otherwise continue right above the belay ledge with a 80° 6m wall. As you climb this slowly decreases in angle to reach a 30° snow slope, and another belay point ( a V thread) that leads you to the final pitch. You have the option of climbing to the right on a grade 2 or left on a grade 4. The last one ends next to the abseil point. a bunch of slings around a tree. As mentioned above, you can continue to reach the ski slope, but that would make an unpleasant ascent. If you decide to abseil, make sure your rope can reach the 1st belay point. We were short by 2m, but I was still grateful for it.
If instead you are soloing and don’t have a rope with you, is better to stop just before the last pitch and make a turn to the right intro the tree line. It’s a rough descent and extra care is required. The snow is deep and covers massive boulders and fallen trees. Very easy to fall in between to your waist. 10 minutes later I joined the approach path just under the climbing area. Still better then the detour on the ski slope.
Nevertheless a couple of good days and my 1st solo climbs on ice. Easier than what was planned but still enjoyable. As the winter comes to an end, the only ice I will be doing is indoors.