The Aiguille Verte

The Aiguille Verte, also known as “La Verte”, is one of the summits of Mont Blanc and figures on most mountaineers’ bucket lists.

There are many ways to climb the Aiguille Verte, but none of them are easy. The Whymper Couloir, the Arête des Grands Montets, the Cordier Couloir, Nant Blanc… Climbers can choose between more than 10 different climbing routes.

Majestic, prominent, difficult to access, the Aiguille Verte has everything to attract experienced climbers.

The Aiguille Verte is not directly visible from Chamonix but can be seen from a little further down the valley, thanks to its towering height of 4,122 metres.

What is the Aiguille Verte?

The Aiguille Verte, or “La Verte” as it is called by the inhabitants of Chamonix, is one of the 82 peaks over 4,000 metres in the Alps, and one of the highest peaks in the Mont Blanc massif, standing 4,122 metres above sea level.

Many experts say that the origin of its name is in the proto-Celtic root “ver” or “var” which means a height. But most people like to say that its name comes from the blue-green hue of the ice at the summit (a large ice cap that slopes down towards Argentière), when the sun shines on it from a certain angle.

This high mountain is divided into three major faces:

  • The South face, with the normal ascent route which includes the Whymper Couloir.
  • The Nant-Blanc face, which overlooks the Chamonix valley.
  • The North face (or Argentière face), where the Couturier Couloir is located, which stands out because it resembles a long slide of snow and ice over a thousand metres high.

Down below the latter two faces, you can find the ski area of Les Grands-Montets.

Climbing the Aiguille Verte

As a true Alpine challenge that mountaineers dream of, many ascents have been made and are still regularly attempted.

Historical ascents of the Aiguille Verte

The first ascent took place on 29 June 1865. It was made by Edward Whymper, Christian Almer and Franz Biner via the Whymper Couloir. This couloir, which remains the easiest route to the summit, had been observed earlier by Edward Whymper, who had made the first ascent of the Whymper Point of the Grandes Jorasses

On 5 July of the same year, the second ascent of the Aiguille Verte, via the Arête du Moine was made by Michel Croz, Michel Ambroise Ducroz, George Christopher Hodgkinson, Charles Hudson, Thomas Stuart Kennedy and Peter Perren.

On September 17 of the same year, the third ascent took place, this time via the south spur of the Grande Rocheuse, by Michel Balmat, Michel Ambroise Ducroz and Robert Fowler.

On 31 July 1875 “La Verte” was climbed via the Cordier Couloir on the Argentière side. Henri Cordier, Andreas Maurer, Jakob Anderegg, Thomas Middlemore, Johann Jaun and John Oakley Maund took part in this ascent.

Albert F. Mummery and Alexandre Burgener made the first ascent through the Y-couloir on 30 July 1881.

The first winter ascent was made by Gustav Adolf Hasler and Christian Jossi via the Whymper Couloir on 15 March 1903.

In 1929, the first ascent by the Nant-Blanc side was made by Camille Devouassoux and Armand Charlet.

Armand Charlet, Marcel Couturier and Jules Simond made the ascent via the Couturier Couloir on 1 July 1932.

And finally, the first winter ascent on the Nant-Blanc side was made in 1964 by Georges Payot.


The ascent routes of the Aiguille Verte

The Aiguille Verte is one of the major summits of the Mont-Blanc massif and is still a dream climb for today’s mountaineers. It has a multitude of routes to climb, all of which are challenging. The descent is also complicated, to the point that it might as well be considered as a second run.

Here are the routes to climb the Aiguille Verte:

  • Normal routes
    • Whymper Couloir: considered the simplest route. It is also the descent route.
    • Arête du Moine: used as a descent route when the Whymper Couloir presents poor conditions (such as melting ice in the warmer seasons).
  • Couloirs
    • Whymper couloir: normal route.
    • Couturier Couloir: a long couloir which leads to the Argentière glacier.
    • Y-Couloir: to the left or to the right, the right-hand couloir is a favourite of steep skiers.
  • Arêtes (or ridges)
    • Arête du Jardin.
    • Arête des Grands Montets.
    • Arête Sans Nom.
    • Arête du Moine: normal alternative descent route.
  • Gullies
    • Bettembourg
    • Thivierge: a variant at the top of the Couturier Couloir.
    • Naïa: a magnificent gully that is best enjoyed in winter.
    • Nant-Blanc: Charlet
    • Platonov route. This is one of the most famous spots for steep skiing.

Many difficult couloirs are renowned for steep skiing. The Arête du Jardin, Grands Montets and Sans Nom lead to the summit of the Aiguille Verte.