On May 31, I met Hakon Kongtorp, from Norway, for three days of training and alpine climbing. Hakon was on his way to Broad peak (8047m) in Pakistan, and wanted to get up high to jump start his acclimatization for the Karakorum.
We chose the Cosmiques hut area, because it was high, the weather forecast was bad, and approaches were short. Did I just say the weather forecast was bad?
On the first day we climbed the Arete Des Cosmiques in a rowdy, snowy, windy whiteout. Hakon had never done the route before, so we figured it would be a good warmup for him - and with puking snow falling thigh-deep on the glaciers, plus high winds and zero vis, we figured we didn't have much of a choice.
After a four course meal and a night of sleep at the Refuge Des Cosmiques, we climbed the often-crowded Goulotte Chéré (D, 80° AI4). A Goulotte is similar to a couloir, but usually steeper, so that it holds only ice rather than snow. The best part about ice climbing during bad weather is that you usually have the route to yourselves. Hakon and I had the route to ourselves. Upon arriving at the seventh or eighth pitch, the wind started to be a bit much, so we started our first rappels. We eventually stumbled back out of the whiteout and in to the hospitable refuge for one more night of high-altitude eating and sleeping.
For our third day we had tentatively planned to wake early and do a few pitches of the Contamine Mazaud (also on the Triangle du Tacul) before taking the lift down mid-day so that Hakon could catch an afternoon flight back to Oslo. But a last minute suggestion by a french guide sent us sniffing around the base of the notoriously sandbag Cascade de Cosmiques (85°ish, AI5). The couloir was in splendid shape, considering it was the first day of June. Hakon and i picked our way up vertical curtains of water ice, stemmed off of granite, wiggled nuts and cams into cracks, and dodged spindrift avalanches. We made it to the midpoint of the Arete des Cosmiques with just enough time to sprint to the observation deck, catch a lift down, and order a salad at Chambre Neuf before Hakon's shuttle whisked him off to Geneva for his flight. Excellent work Hakon! Good luck on Broad Peak!
Gear I took:
double 60m ropes for the Chéré and anything else you might want to rappel. 50m would probably work too.
6 or 7 screws. The belay anchors are usually fixed (good bolts) on both the Chéré and the Cascade de Cosmiques.
2 tech tools (cobras) and some more agressive crampons than my usual dull G12's.
A moderate sized set of stoppers and some cams for the Cascade de Cosmiqes. The Chéré couloir takes rock gear too, although you probably won't be placing any until the fourth or fifth pitch.
Don't climb the Goulotte Chéré with people above you unless you are willing to be hit in the head with ice. Our strategy was to climb it in lousy weather to avoid this. It worked splendidly.
Don't climb the Cascade de Cosmiques in high avy danger or if its really warm or if you just plain suspect that pillars of ice might be falling over. When you finish the fourth or fifth pitch of the Cascade de Cosmiques, you can run out a 60m rope and pretty much make it to the first rap ring on the Arete de Cosmiques.