After weeks of working too hard and only a week to go before I return to the UK I managed to squeeze in one last route between exams. Left Lyon Thursday afternoon and after grabbing 3 hours sleep we set off from the Pre de Madame Carle at 1.30am on Friday. Due to cloud cover the snow didn't refreeze very well and the first part of the 4 hour approach was a bit of a struggle!The route itself was quite thin and the face is more of a North East face than a North face so it catches the sun all morning turning it into an oven.
After reaching the top at 3.30pm we set about the very loonnnggg descent back to the valley. The descent took a further 7 hours of wading, bumsliding, glissading and abseiling and we arrived back in the valley 21 hours after leaving the car.
The hard routes on the faces around the Glacier Noir are pretty serious in comparison to many of the faces in Chamonix. The rock is poor and there is no fixed gear (abseil retreat would be a serious undertaking) so you are obliged to finish the route. Once on top there is no easy descent as even the Ailefroide normal route is difficult to find when the rock buttresses are covered in snow and the cairns invisible.
The route itself gets the complicated grade of TD IV 4+ 5b M4+ and apart from the slog up the snowfield left of the hanging glacier is quite sustained.
If you're interested a topo and photos of the route can be found here:http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/56609/fr/ailefroide-pointe-fourastier-face-n
All in all a mega long day and a good route but not the most enjoyable outing! This will be the last alpine route I get on before Pakistan so I'll need to get plenty of running and climbing done to stay fit for Pakistan.
by Hamish Dunn