The Bigger Picture: Crevasses on the Tour Glacier

'The Bigger Picture' is an occasional series where I share the story behind some of the images in my portfolio.

File reference: chenderson_aiguille_du_tour_1011-166.jpg

UK climber, Alex Haken, peers inside a crevasse during a descent of the Tour Glacier near Chamonix in the French Alps.

The Aiguille du Tour is a 3542m high peak in the European Alps, north of Chamonix, that borders France and Switzerland. It is generally regarded as a simple peak, its normal route graded Facile, or Easy.

A friend and I had chosen Aiguille du Tour as our first attempt at an Alpine summit. We'd asked along another friend, Alex, who was much more competent than us at the time (and still is). When we arrived in Chamonix, the valley residents were experiencing a heatwave and it was a joy to gain height into the cooling air as we took the gondola from Le Tour and followed the trail up to the Albert Premier Refuge at 2706m. This was my first visit to the Chamonix valley and the domed summit of Mont Blanc, which glistened high above the valley, dominated my attention.

The following morning, we left the Albert Premier refuge before sunrise (my first true alpine start) and roped up as we ascended the Tour Glacier. Above our heads we could see the prominent rock table on the Couloir de la Table route. We were headed for Col Superior du Tour, following the first part of the famous Haute Route. At the col, we looked down onto the Trient Glacier in Switzerland. We had seen photos of terrible crevasses on the Trient Glacier but it was early in the season and thankfully the crevasses were full of snow (although breaking through a snow bridge and falling into a hidden crevasse would still be a risk).

I struggled to climb Aiguille du Tour on this occasion, mainly due to illness, and I chose not to continue to the summit. Which disappointed me but we continued with our plan and trekked over the Trient Glacier, with its spectacular views of Aiguilles Dorées, to spend the night at the Trient Hut in Switzerland. In the morning we retraced our steps back to France and took the time to check out the more broken parts of the glacier. In terms of climbing, it was an unsuccessful trip but I’ve learnt not to measure Alpine adventures simply in terms of summits I’ve reached. A lot of the joy I find is in the journey and, especially so, in the moments I can capture.