I walked out of my front door here in Chamonix (Les Tines) on Sunday evening with a backpack, some climbing gear, and three days of food. I thought that I might meet up with some pals at one of the high mountain huts on Monday night to do some climbing the next day, but when those plans fell through, I decided to stay out alone. I’ve been wanting to do some exploring on the backside of the Aiguilles Rouges, which is the series of peaks opposite the area’s more famous ones in the Mont Blanc massif. When someone suggested that I climb Mont Buet (3094m), I thought that it sounded like a great idea. Buet’s not glaciated nor too technical, so it was something that I could do alone. And what made the idea even more attractive is that Buet is on the backside of the Aiguilles Rouges, so I plotted a route that allowed me to traverse the range and walk back into the Chamonix valley this morning (Wednesday).
It all sounds simple enough, I know, and even though I spent the first night awake as a massive downpour slapped at my little bivouac from all angles, things dried quickly and nothing major went wrong. The home away from home, a blue North Face trek bivy, was light and functional (despite its poorly-designed pole system; I decided that only the front one is useful):
I spent the next afternoon walking up the Bérard Valley and slept out a short walk from the Buet summit. I would have suffered through ten nights of rain for the view on top—it was spectacular weather, and I could see the peaks distinctly. The sloping summit on the far right is Mont Blanc; in the same range but to the left of it are the Chamonix Aiguilles, and then the Aiguilles Rouges stretch out in front. I love living inside of that valley, but it’s even better to look down on it from above.
Whenever I go into the mountains around here, I hope to see my three favorite local mountain-dwellers (in this order): the chamois (because they’re a rare beauty, long-necked like llamas but fast like deer), the marmots (because they’re wacky, like carpets with legs), and the ibex (because they’re fearless climbers, and I like their horns). I’m a crap wildlife photographer, though, and after catching only this one decent ibex, I have a new respect for anyone who can do the genre some justice.
Getting over the Aiguilles Rouges was tricky, but I climbed down through the Col des Crochues and then slept out above Lac Blanc. I arrived thirsty and tired that evening (having walked up Buet the same morning). Even though I had hoped to meet up with some others to climb (I don’t cross glaciers alone or climb anything technical without a rope), I was glad for the time and space to myself. I’ve known it for a long time, but these last few days were a good reminder: going out alone is good for the soul.