Pointe Percée

  • Pointe Percée
  • 2753 m.
  • Primary factor 1643 m.
  • Location: Just west of Mont Blanc, near Grand Bornand
  • Location: North 45:57.347, East 006:33.357 (GPS at the summit)
  • Climbed July 15. 2007
  • Difficulty: (YDS) One route is class 3, another is class 4.


Go see the complete list of mountains climbed in July.

How to get there: The starting point is the resort village Le Grand Bornand. The nearest big city is Geneve, located to the north-west. Hwy. D-4 connects Le Grand Bornand from the north, otherwise one arrives via the small village St-Jean-de-Sixt. This route description starts in the fancy traffic circle in the center of St-Jean-de-Sixt.
Drive 2.8 kilometer towards Le Grand Bornand, you are then at the intersection with the Hwy.D-4 coming from the north across the Col de la Colombière (1613m). Go straight ahead (not up the hill!) If coming down along D-4, then make a sharp left turn here and measure from this point.
Stay at the main road as it climbs gently up the valley, at kilometer 8.0, you have restaurant La Marmotte on your left, the road forks here and becomes more narrow. Stay left and note the sign for Col des Annes. You arrive at Col des Annes at kilometer 14.4, there is ample parking beyond the houses. The road is paved all the way, despite the current map saying otherwise. This is the trailhead, park here. The location is N45:58.209 E006:31.454, elevation 1721 meter.
Route description: From the trailhead, the route first climbs a nearby hill with a skislope on it. There is a small dip, then the trail continues pretty much along a ridge before descending to a local col. From here, the well marked trail traverses a bit right (south) before meeting the trail from the valley. The last section consists of a fair number of zig-zag turns as you climb to the Refuge Gramusset. this refuge is located at N45:57.325, E006:32.652, elevation about 2170 m.
From the refuge, there are two trails that heads uphill.The leftmost trail is marked by red paint and small cairns. This is the normal route. The rightmost trail actually forks right (look carefully for a shallow gully), from the main trail, about 100 meter uphill. This trail is marked with green paint and small cairns. This is a climbing route.
A. The normal route: As seen from the refuge, a rough outline is indicated in this picture. When we were there, the snow could be avoided, however, with more snow (earlier in the year), one should bring an ice axe and crampons. This route heads uphill from the refuge, a pretty obvious trail marked by red paint. The trail heads for a pretty distinct gully that often holds snow in its lower part (at least until late July). Ascend halfway up this snow or scramble just left of the snow if possible. Higher up, the trail leaves the gully as it ascends to the hikers left across easy rock. The route then turns more directly uphill towards another patch of snow (see picture). In this area the terrain gets slightly steeper, but there are nice passages that enable you to climb higher as you traverse somewhat further right. The route now ascends a very distinct gully, staying on its right side in the beginning. This gully may be quite dangerous if rocks are released higher up, possibly by other climbers. Wear a helmet and try to stay as much as possible on the small ridges that runs parallel to the gully. As you top out on this gully, you merge with the climbing route that comes up on the opposite side of the top ridge (from your right side). Continue across as you ascend more left. You reach a top ridge and connect across to the summit area across a fairly narrow section. The rock is pretty polished, so take care as you cross here. What remains is just a few steps to a nice summit with unique views across to the gigantic Mont Blanc.
B. The climbing route: This route starts out the same way as the normal route, but a fairly faint trail forks right after about hundred meter. This trail is marked with some green paint and small cairns. The trail more or less follows various gullies that head upward towards the large basin that is easily seen below the ridge that connects Percée with its neighbor peak further right when viewed from below. If you loose the trail initially, then just proceed uphill as you aim for this basin which is called Combe des Verts. You will easily see the trail that climbs from right to left ascending to the lower part of the ridge above you. Ascend this slope in order to reach the Col des Verts above. The route runs a fairly steep traverse to the left reaching a section with some boken rock. From here.it is a pretty easy scramble to gain the col. Looking south along the ridge you see the neighbor peak Pointe des Verts (2555 meter). Going left, this ridge leads across to the base of Pointe Percée where the climbing route begins.
Proceed along the very top of the ridge until you reach the mountain. The trail continues a bit further below the steep cliffs, then heads straight up. There are arrows painted on the rock and the shorthand "P.P" meaning Pointe Percée. Climb up here. There are pretty good holds for hand and foot, but the terrain is steep and the place is a bit exposed, the terrain below also falls off steeply. After 5-6 meter, the steepness decreases somewhat, but the route continues pretty steeply and directly further up. Higher up, you will se a solid metal ring bolted to the mountain and designed to be a point from where to "abseil" when descending.
The route continues uphill with easier sections and more class 4 terrain in a nice mixture. You enter a pretty distinct gully and climb further upwards. At one point you need to make a nice move around a corner with relatively limited space and steeper rock on your left. Overall, this route is quite enjoyable and keeps your attention until you top out on the ridge where the normal route comes up from the opposite side.
The last section is easier, scramble up to the first top, then traverse across a fairly narrow section in order to access the main summit area. A few more steps and you are on the summit. This summit has perhaps the best view that you can get of the majestetic Mont Blanc right across the valley.
Comments: I did this climb with my son Pål Jørgen, age 18. As we unloaded from our car at the trailhead, we made a quick decision with respect to what gear to bring. Based on the experience from the previous days, it was pretty clear that we should use our mountain boots, not Nike shoes that had been used on the two previous (lower) summits. I asked Pål if we should attempt the climbing route, in which case we needed to bring our rope, harness, slings, biners etc. Already aware of the heavier boots, Pål replied that we should take the "normal route", since he knew that this alternative most likely would involve some fun scrambling. We further agreed to leave the crampons behind, but carry a single ice axe between us.
Right as we were about to leave, another car with three girls and a guide pulled up, they were headed the same way and each of them carried an ice axe. Upon asking, the guide replied that the route included a section of steep, very hard snow, that crampons and axe were absolutely needed. OK, so we loaded up with two axes and two pairs of crampons, happy to learn this just before leaving.
We started out at 0710. It was a very fine morning and pretty soon the trailhead was behind us. We reached the nice, Refuge Gramusset, in one hour at 0810. After a 15 minute break we continued towards the mountain. There were two paths, one leading straight up somewhat left of a vertical rock face, the other climbing gently into a larger basin, then traversing up to the ridge connecting Percée with its neighbor peak. We gained the basin quickly and crossed some rather easy snow, then traversed more steeply up the ridge. On top of the ridge, I took a careful look at the mountain slopes ahead, no snow could be seen. I told Pål that the guide had misled us somewhat with respect to the snow. He fully agreed and while he continued ahead, I cached two axes and one pair of crampons behind some few rocks. The last pair was inside my pack and is pretty lightweight, so I just did not bother. We continued a short section, then noticed the "PP-sign" (Pointe Percée) pointing fairly straight up on pretty steep rock.
I remarked to Pål that this had to be among the steeper scrambling routes we had ever seen, then started climbing up. The climbing was not too difficult, but rather steep and sustained. I noticed Pål advancing slowly and carefully below me as I reached slightly easier terrain. We both concluded that this was indeed (YDS) class 4 terrain, minimum. Looking down, I realized that the terrain was indeed very steep also just below where we had started climbing, definitely no place to fall. Higher up, we arrived at a solid metal ring bolted in the rock, no question that this was a ring for abseiling. We gave the ring a hard look, reminded ourselves that the climbing gear, in particular the rope was back in the car at the trailhead. Still, we were now convinced that we had picked the wrong route from the refuge, this was the climbing route and we had hopefully, just completed one of its harder sections. We continued upwards and the climbing was fun and varied. The narrow section was navigated quite elegantly and before too long we arrived at the point on a ridge were the normal route links up, coming up a somewhat broad gully. We talked to a few others coming that way and they readily confirmed that we just had completed the "route plus difficile" while the "route facile" was the other one. Clearly, we should explore this route as well on descent. Another climber then pointed out that the normal route was indeed much easier, but it had somewhat steep and hard snow further down. Voila!, - everything now came together - we needed our ice axe and crampons on the easier route just as advised. The only small detail was that this equipment was nicely cached at the base of the climbing route on the opposite side of the mountain. Well, well - somewhat confident that this problem could be handled, we proceeded the remaining short distance up the ridge and across a connecting ridge to the proper summit.
We arrived at the summit at 1010, quite satisfied with the unexpected adventure that we just had behind us. The view towards Mont Blanc is just awesome. I can see the trail and the tracks in the snow where the normal route ("voie normale" across Gouter) runs.
We rested and had "lunch" as well as just looking at the extremely nice views all around. Still, Mont Blanc is the single view that captures your attention. We left at 1040, after a very relaxed and nice 30 minutes. We navigated down the normal route without any problems. I did notice that the upper gully seems prone to rock fall and that one should be extremely alert here. Part of the route can be done by staying out of the main gully, but one must cross it a few times. Further down, we easily climbed just left of the upper patch of snow. Further down, it turned out that enough snow had melted to facilitate a route that just went down along the right edge of the snow (as seen from above).
We were down below the steeper rock around 1200, noon. We moved all gear to Pål Jørgen, in order for me to have a light, empty pack. Pål carried everything tied together with a few slings down to the refuge. I headed back up in order to retrieve the cached axes and crampons from the high ridge. It was hot to do this reascent, but I kept a reasonable pace and reached the col around 1230. I packed the crampons and my axe, while keeping Pål's axe in my hand for a somewhat quicker descent along the many patches of snow. I reached the refuge at 1255 and a well deserved beer did taste just about as good as possible. We left the refuge at 1310 and reached the car by 1350. A very nice and memorable trip had come to conclusion. In some sense, we got everything confused and inverted. Still, this is exactly what contributed to making the day a really perfect one. We climbed the climbing route without any gear. We descended the normal route without the ice axe and the crampons. Thanks to Pål Jørgen for good company, when moving past that metal ring, we knew that we should have to complete the climbing free style without any form of protection. As it turned out, this was well within our level of comfortable climbing.
The next event on our schedule was the 6th. ICIAM math. conference in Zürich. After this, we planned to return to Milan, making a stop at lake Como and (hopefully) climb Grigna Settentrionale.