Ascent of Tour d'Ai on 2010-07-04

Climber: Rob Woodall

Date:Sunday, July 4, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Tour d'Ai
    Elevation:7648 ft / 2331 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was the last summit of a 2 week trip. Having plenty of time I included ascents of Tour de Mayen (2326m P180m, only 4m lower than Tour d'Ai) and Tour de Famelon (2138m P80m) - a nice circuit from Le Fer (N46 22 20.4 E7 01 51.9, 1679m, car park, Crete du Fer on the map). Without the extras it would be a 4 mile, 3-4 hr circuit. There are evidently several other approaches, e.g. from the popular alpine resort of Leysin.

From the car park, a well marked path heads for Mayen. Crossing the rib of Combe de Bar involves a short steep simple scramble (fixed cable). From Mayen (refuge) a surfaced road climbs west. Shortly a blue paint marked path branches R, heads steeply up a rocky gully (easy scrambling, cable). The trail ascends the S ridge, narrow at times and involving a ladder and a section with rope handrail. The summit has a cross, a cairn and a triangulation point consisting of a French-style stone block with a red-painted cross inscribed in the top surface. The view was a little cloudy but revealed intermittent views, vertically down to the adjacent cols and across to the impressive near-twin Tour de Mayen. Both summits are protected on their W, N and E sides by vertical cliffs with their S ridges providing the only hiking access. Apparently there is a via ferrata on the W face of Tour d'Ai but there was no sign of it from the summit. It's a popular place: a young lad arrived at the summit ahead of me; a largeish group from the US arrived soon afterwards.

I headed back down the S ridge to Mayen then took the marked path which winds its way via Lac Segray to the summit of Tour de Mayen. Near the summit is a steepish rocky gully with a fixed chain at one point. The limestone is a little slippery but it's a simple climb. Like its slightly taller neighbour, it's a popular ascent: I passed a small group near the summit, which is marked by a cairn. Through the clouds there were intermittent views across the gulf to Tour d'Ai.

On the descent it started to rain heavily. I reckoned it wouldn't last and it was good drying weather so I continued with my 3-summit plan. Skirting above Lac Segray the path crosses a minor summit then crosses an extensive area of chaotic limestone pavement. Without the paint marking it could be a tricky route. On the descent to the Famelon col the rain stopped. The initial ascent to Tour de Famelon was muddy and very slippery. Just before the summit is a steep 2m scramble, slightly technical but not exposed and with a fixed chain, a little easier in descent.

The descent to the trailhead is straightforward, although one muddy section was very slippery after the rain. Just before the car at Le Fer (14:45) it started to rain again, and rained heavily for the next hour. I drove out of the mountains to the sunny lowlands, packed my gear and headed for Geneva airport. This had been a nice way to round off an enjoyable and productive trip.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6405 ft / 1952 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6405 ft / 1952 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Mostly overcast, heavy rain later
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4272 ft / 1302 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2139 ft / 652 m; Extra: 2133 ft / 650m
    Loss on way in:2133 ft / 650 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:south ridge
    Start Trailhead:Le Fer  5509 ft / 1679 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4272 ft / 1302 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2139 ft / 652 m; Extra: 2133 ft / 650m
    Gain on way out:2133 ft / 650 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Tour de Mayen, T de Famelon
    End Trailhead:Le Fer  5509 ft / 1679 m
    Time:3 Hours 50 Minutes

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