An easy ascent to a viewpoint above Chamonix
Standing roughly northwest of Chamonix, the Brevent at 2525m or 8285 feet is perhaps the finest place from which to view the eternal snows of Mont Blanc directly across the valley. Viewed from Chamonix, the peak appears some 5000 feet above the town as a steep rock face with the cable car station perched overhanging its edge. A closer inspection shows a choice of easy routes to the summit from Planpraz station, the mid point on the Brevent cable car.
The easiest is of course the cable car itself but that would be cheating somewhat! The best is probably to head up to Col du Brevent (signposted) and then follow the path along the ridge to the top, descending by the way described here. A full day outing would be to climb up from the valley via the forest paths and possibly continue to Refuge Bel Lachat before descending to Chamonix. There are many choices here, the route described is a quick way up from Planpraz and was the first time I'd climbed this peak.
It was July 2002 and my first time back in Chamonix since family holidays years before. This time I was here to join a guided group attempting Mont Blanc, which we never got up due to the conditions, just climbing the Aiguille du Tour - but that's another story.
The sheer size of the mountains here was awesome, so to get used to the scale of things and help acclimatise, I'd taken the telepherique that morning to Planpraz, with the idea of walking up the Brevent from there.
Weather conditions were, as they say, marginal, so I opted for the shorter route. From Planpraz, I followed a wide stony track across the slopes in a roughly westerly direction towards the summit hidden in grey cloud. Turning off to the left of the main GR5/TMB route signposted to the Col du Brevent, I followed the track up behind some large rocks on the left and on more or less directly towards the steep cliffs I'd seen from the valley.
As the track reached the steeper ground, it zig zagged sharply right and then upwards towards the ridgeline, the crest of which was half hidden by the grey mist hanging across the sharp rock edges. There were patches of snow covering the track in places but it was soft enough to walk through and gave no difficulty. This area would usually be snow free in summer. Approaching the lower part of the cliffs below the ridge, and the path curved round to the right again so I was now going back the opposite way but higher up the mountain. I entered a stony hollow which avoided the seemingly inpenetrable crags now up to my left.
The cable car leisurely descended out of the clouds which seemed to be clearing again revealing the masses of ice on the slopes of Mont Blanc across the valley. I'd felt a few spots of rain earlier but that too seemed to have stopped for the moment. Leaving the hollow via its left slope, I soon gained the crest of the ridge revealing a rather misty view of the Aiguilles Rouges on the far side. Turning left on the top and joining the trail coming up from Col du Brevent on the right, I followed this trail over a few snowy areas to the summit of Le Brevent. From below it had looked as though the ridge involved some rock scrambling but it was revealed that on this far side, the path followed easy ground up gentle slopes to the top.
There is that famous view of Mont Blanc taken from here, the one where people are enjoying drinks on the terrace just under the peak in bright summer sunshine. They weren't today. The upper parts of Mont Blanc were in cloud and a cold wind blew spots of rain and sleet around the closed cafe building on this high and stony summit. It had been a good first day back in the Alps though, and a walk I've done since in better weather than this.
Pete Buckley July 2002