The Aiguille du Chardonnet is a close neighbour of Mont Blanc on the south east side of the Chamonix valley. Looking south from the neighbouring Aiguille du Tour, the Aiguille du Chardonnet is the first of three great mountains that rise directly from the valley. The great bulk of the Aiguille Verte is the second and in the background, Mont Blanc. The north face of the Chardonnet dominates this view and rises sharply 2000ft (620m) from the Tour glacier. It's slopes are a jumble of massive ice slopes, crumbling serac cliffs and giant rock walls. The south face is even steeper than the north and precious little permanent snow clings to it's slopes. Instead broken rocky cliffs fall precipitously towards the Argentiere glacier 4000ft (1220m) below. The Forbes arete is formed by the jagged collision of these two huge faces. It's a serrated knife edge ridge about 1 km long that rises fairly gently to the summit.
A continuous series of large rocky towers, like giant broken saw teeth, rise from the ridge crest. These towers make easy movement along the arete impossible. The west face is comprised of steep mixed ground and provides the easiest line of descent from the summit (French alpine grade 'AD-' ). It's normal to make several abseils on this descent through rock cliffs and a big rimaye on the snow slopes lower down may sometimes also require an abseil. Running roughly eastwards the Forbes arete drops eventually to a high col called the Fenetre du Tour (3338m). This col provides an easier place to cross this high rocky ridge and is used by ski parties travelling the area. The most climbed routes are all on the north face. The most famous is almost certainly the Forbes arete. It's become an alpine classic and is graded French alpine 'AD'. The east end of the arete is reached by steep snow and ice on the north face. The exposed arete is then climbed to the summit and descent made by the west ridge. The Albert Premier hut above Le Tour provides an ideal base from which to tackle this climb.
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