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Matt on the last hard pitch, p9, Pilier Sud
Le Pilier Sud (the South Pillar) is a route that dominates the narrow south face of Mont Aiguille.
The pitches zigzag, taking advantage of weaknesses while maintaining great, exposed position.
C'est l'une des grandes classiques du Mont Aiguille? Le Pilier Sud is described as perhaps the most beautiful and classic of the routes on Mont Aiguille. Debatable. Almost the entire route gives the feeling of looking out the window of an airplane. Some of the fixed protection is, shall we say, interesting. Sprinkled with a few modern bolts. It seems where the route has little in the way of good protection, at least the rock is dubious (!). A bit of terrain d'aventure.
Pitch 1: Climb up, aiming for a visible bolt and then follow the lower angle ramp above, passing a fixed piton or two. There are a few places to place gear, but, mostly the climbing is fairly secure. 35m. 5.4.
Pitch 2: Continue up the ramp, stopping short of an alcove and wide chimney (while noticing the ledge and tree to the left above). Note that this and the prior pitch can be led as a single 60m+ pitch, helping to locate the belay location which is key to the traverse back left on the next pitch. 30m. 5.4.
Pitch 3: Short up to the ledge, then traverse back to the left, almost entirely horizontally. Pass the pine tree, continue to the next ramp leading up to the right, and belay at a set of fixed pins. 35m. 5.3.
Pitch 4: Up ramp on blocky holds. Similar to P1 & 2. Fixed belay of bolt on left, and piton just slightly lower to the right. 30m. 5.4.
Pitch 5: The start of more serious climbing. Tip toe out right on a shallow ledge for a couple of meters, noticing fixed gear to clip into above. Go nearly straight up, transitioning from gray limestone to more blocky, orange rock. Follow a shallow weakness up and left, traversing well to the left of the belay stance below. Continue over then up, aiming for a shallow ledge on a prow. Several bolts and pins for the anchor. 30m. 5.9 PG/R.
Pitch 6: Traverse to the left, then up to a less steep area just left of a slightly overhanging face. Several bolts for protection. Continue up to a great, exposed terrace. 30m. 5.10a/b PG.
Pitch 7: Last fully traversing pitch. Climb up a short ways, then easy traverse to the right. Up again, then another traverse, passing a bolted belay anchor. Continue right, keeping an eye out for fixed gear, and aiming for the base of a large, left facing corner system above. Belay at the base of a right slanting twin crack system (about a meter apart). Fixed pins and gear options in cracks. 45m. 5.5.
Pitch 8: Crux pitch? Climb up the twin cracks, passing an old wooden block with a cord. After around 4 meters, step left to a small stance, below the steep left facing corner festooned with fixed gear. Head up the slightly overhanging face (straight in crack for a ways and corner crack). Continue up the vertical face, which finally gives way to easier climbing and the belay at some fixed pins and bolt. Physical pitch. 25m. 5.10.
Pitch 9: The seriousness continues. Step left for 3 meters off the belay stance, then slightly up and, exploiting weaknesses, up a dihedral. Pass under the overhang. Slant up to the right (position here will be straight above then slightly right of the belay station below). Aim for a notch in the right-hand skyline. Step up and into the rubble on the low angle finish at a flat, less exposed belay stance with fixed pins and opportunities for protection. Take care with the impossible-to-avoid gravel finish, especially if there is any possibility of people below. 40m. 5.9+ PG/R.
Pitch 10: follow easy steps up. Take care with loose rock. After around 30m, belay where practical. 5.4.
Scramble to the summit plateau. Diagonal up and over (north) to the far west edge of the plateau, look for very large summit cairn and nearby, the bronze 500 anniversary plaque.
Follow standard descent outlined on the main Mont Aiguille page.
An itinéraire d'aventure reminiscent of climbing in the Dolomites. All-in-all, an enjoyable day punctuated by incredible exposure, some loose rock and less than secure positions, a blend of old and new fixed gear, and traversing easier pitches mixed in with steep, harder pitches.
Approach via the main trail to the northwest face of the peak, then, contour around at the base on a good trail towards the south end.
Once directly under the south face (and back in the sun, hopefully), go back around to the north and notice a ramp system weakness slanting up to the right about 15 meters from the edge of the intersection of the west and south faces. 5 meters to the left of the start of the Sud Pilier is the route la voie des étudiants which is painted at the base in red. A few bolts on the student route, traversing up and to the left, should be visible. There is also usually a cairn marking the start of the Sud Pilier.
Note also that the route starts on the west side, and, given a sensibly early start, should be in the shade in the morning. 10 meters or so up the route, a bolt should be visible.
10 quick draws, 10 shoulder length slings (‘biners to match), set of stoppers, set of cams (.3 to 2 Camalots or equivalent).
There’s a number of fixed pitons on the route, a few newer bolts, and a block of wood slung with a cord (dubious at best).
La casque, a helmet, might be the most important piece of protection especially if there’s a party above. Consider another route if there’s a party in front of you? Prudent. Be especially careful on the last couple of pitches (and scramble) up to the plateau; plenty of loose gravel.
BETA PHOTO: Sud Pilier of Mont Aiguille approximate line of ro...
Jon sends the crux p8 of Pilier Sud
Jon gettin' after p5 on Mont Aiguille's Pilier Sud
BETA PHOTO: Le Piler Sud of Mont Aiguille
Following p8 on Pilier Sud. Typical exposure (!)
Matt startin' up p6 of Pilier Sud
Jon tip toes through the gravel at the top of p9 o...
Mar 9, 2010
Fantastic route description (better than I remembered it). It has some spectacular exposure. Dolomite-esque is an appropriate description.
One addition. I remember almost all the belays having good gear - Bolts or pins or both. It helps quiet the mind a bit after leading some of the heads up pitches.