Pigne de la Lé (3396 m) is a mountain in the Moiry valley, in the Grimentz area of Wallis province in Switzerland. It raises in the southeast end of the valley above Moiry lake. Compared to other mountains in the region, this is the only one that offers possibilities to choose between a glacier climb or a rock scramble.
[Francisco Tárrega: Tango]
Within this page, I am going to give you some details about both of these normal routes. I passed them both, one ascending the mountain and another descending it.
All other mountains south of it imply long glacier walks first, followed eventually by rock sections, like Pointes de Mourti (3564), Pointe de Bricola (3658), Grand Cornier (3962), Dent Blanche (4357).
On the other hand, mountains to the north of Pigne de la Le, like Sasseneire (3254), Garde de Bordon (3310), Becs de Bosson (3149), Pointe de la Tsevalire (3026) are normally free of snow and glaciers in the summertime. So if you traverse this mountain you may experience both glacier and rock routes.
The access road from Sierre in the Rhone valley to Grimentz is rather good. When you are in Grimentz you will look for the sign towards the Moiry lake (2249 m). There is a rather narrow tunnel at the lake and when you pass it you will arrive at the dam with a restaurant.
From there just continue along the lake and you will arrive at parking which is next to a glacier lake. The altitude at this point is 2350 m. You will be surprised to see that there is a post-bus service to this same spot. Many tourists come there every day to enjoy views of the Moiry glacier, or to walk up all the way up to the Moiry hut (2825 m).
From the car parking, you may directly climb Pigne de la Lé, or stay the night in the hut and continue in the morning. The hut is on your way in any case.
It will take about one and a half hour to walk from the parking to the hut. This is a popular touristic route. Above the hut, you will walk toward the beginning of the glacier, and there you may choose any of the two routes, the rocky ridge on your left, or the glacier route on the right. The former is much shorter and direct.
The glacier route is longer, the first part is flat and over an area with crevasses. You go practically around the mountain and approach it from the south. After this flat part, you will have a steep glacier slope in front of you, some 45 degrees, where you must have crampons. The final part is on the terrain with snow or only rock, much less steep and pleasant. It will take you up to three hours from the hut.
For the ridge route, the start point is Col du Pigne (3141 m); the route is steeper and it is mainly rock with some not so complicated scramble. It should be mostly snow-free in the summertime. I do not think you will need any particular equipment if you decide for this approach.
There is no usual cross on the summit, you will fond a cairn instead. There are so many attractive mountains around that you will not know where first to look, so pray for nice weather. I already mentioned some of them above. But you will have also a view to several other 4000ers Bishorn, Weisshorn, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn, and then Besso (3668), Blanc de Moming (3651), Trifthorn (3728).
About the necessary equipment
This is a glacier climb, so here is the list with some items you will need:
Regarding the boots for crampons, please read more in my separate text.
My climb to Pigne de la Le
I started at the car parking at 2350 m at 4:50 am, walked toward the hut and arrived there at 6:20 am. Then I took the glacier route for the ascent, forgot to check the time when I was at the summit (too excited), but I think it was around 9 am. There were many people at the beginning of the glacier, but very soon I realized that nobody was going to the Pigne. They all went to Pointes de Mourti.
There was a guide with a woman on the rope in front of me in the beginning (they also went the other way soon). In one moment the women fell into a crevasse and only half of her body was above the ice. This made me rather nervous, in particular when they went other way and I started the steep section alone.
I spent about 45 minutes on the summit before a guide arrived with one person on the rope. Soon I descended along the ridge and met several groups coming up. They were roped and I think this just made their progress slow and did not serve any purpose.
Very soon the scenery changed and clouds came. I was below the hut when there was a strong rain which followed me till the parking.
In this particular case, I was camping, but you might want to rent some holiday flat in nearby villages. There are many inexpensive possibilities, so for this please visit my post where I give necessary information about very reliable agencies which I used during my other visits to the region. I know exactly that they offer various flats in Grimenz, which is just a few kilometers below the lake, and in other villages around.
To summarize, the glacier route to Pigne de la Le is not particularly long, but there are crevasses and as always on glaciers going solo is not the best option. Otherwise, it is not complicated, orientation is obvious and you will do it without problems. The ridge route is a much shorter scramble, and I would recommend it for a solo climb.
I shall be happy to have your comments below.