The Grandes Jorasses
The most renowned north face of the Alps is the Grandes Jorasses. The route is exciting: climbing Desmaison with one bivouac at the start and one at mid height. Since early fall, my sights were set on its summit.
Jonathan Griffith, a photographer and friend, suggested we try the Grandes Jorasses with Andy Houseman, an English climber, and use the opportunity to get some interesting pictures of the route. Good idea!
Sadly, our start was poor. Andy arrived from England and I was coming from Nice; no time to acclimatize! A 5am start from the first bivouac was difficult and much too slow to reach our goal. A weather check revealed one small 24 hour window of nice weather and winter conditions. Not enough time! We decided to reach the summit instead by climbing a famous ice tobbogan : the Linceul – the Shroud. New objective: to see the sunset at the summit of the Pointe Walker. Keen, excited, the first section was an 800 meter long, obstacle-free, gully with superb ice. Surprising and welcome, as it had been very cold in the previous days and we wanted to move quickly.
In our haste however, 200 meters above the bergschrund, the rope twisted around my piolet and having forgotten a slinger leash, the tool ended its life in the ‘shrund. Not knowing the steepness of the climb above, I flirted with a safe retreat… but in the end I went on with one piolet, securing each move and blowing my calves with the effort. Everything considered it was a fantastic experience that added some spice to our climb. Next time, I will consider bringing a spare tool…
We arrived at the summit just in time for the light show created by the last rays of the sun on the mountains and had a wonderful view of Mont Blanc and its surroundings.
Our bivouac (meaning a hole in the snow) was a few meters below the high point, at around 4050 meters. Sunrise surprised us with a very low temperature; I estimated that it was then -20c. We were back in Chamonix a few hours later, carrying with us memories and some very nice shots of the climb!
Until the next time…..