samedi 18 juillet 2015

Grandes Jorasses,Pointe Croz, Manitua 1100mt (7a,A0) first day ascent

Manitua is a very respected route and one of the most sought after Jorasses Routes is a household name one that made tons of climbers rave about. It was one of the many masterpieces of Slavko Sveticic one of the heads in my own Mount Rushmore of Alpine Climbing. The Slovenian opened the route alone in three and a half days in 1990, it has been repeated some fifteen times ca since, a curious number of these repetitions came in wintertime, which is quite odd as it's pretty much one of the very few Jorasses rock routes.I have been trying to avoid this route for years as it always looked obvious to me that it was a pure climb possibly offering nice free climbing therefor a summer climb. Climbing in summer in the north face of Grandes Jorasses is tricky. For ones the face is often partially covered in verglas, then the few good summer where the route can be dry enough not to be a tricky affair, generally held such a warm weather that made the face instable and pretty dangerous. How dangerous? hard to say. Let's say that is enough dangerous to push people like me  well away for years,to then finally say fuck it, let's do it, for others like the friends who made the 2nd day ascent one day after it was just an aftertought,for most is no hell i'm not going there in summer! i understand them.
Together with Tomas Mueller one of my very favourite climbers we worked on Mont Blanc and raved about climbing something, we packed for Manitua just as i came back from a guiding day on Peigne where i stupidly sprained my middle finger in a way i felt it jeopardize our chance of success.
We jumped on the train at 17h with the new weather report under our eyes, freezing level at 5000mt...daffuq! what we do? we jumped off the train before it even took off it was possibly the lamest most hilarious attempt at a climb on Jorasses ever. We decided to drink something to decide what we do. We catched up with the friends who came down from a slick repeat at Divine Providence on Mt Blanc. We were clearly under pressure we wanted to climb badly the weather was perfect but those temperatures...and what about that swollen finger? i could barely fill my backpack without pain. The following morning up we went. I'm generally quite cold against over ballistic missions and always toughtful about the real motivation beyond going up to climb something hard or dangerous. I felt we were doing it because we had to. I was nevertheless curious about how i was very positive about the outcome ,enough to ignore the fact that i was downclimbing the ladders to the Mer de glace using only my good hand and did most of the approach to Leschaux hut holding ice in my left hand to recover faster. At the hut we observed the face for the whole day try to scope a good reason not to go. Together with Chloe the hutkeeper and his cat we drank and eated, watched and studied the route. We slept well i rarely do before a big route. I knew i could count a lot on Tomas one of the best climbers in the valley and i had to think about that picture i saw somewhere with the print of Tommy Calwell hand with a missing finger and the caption No Excuses. We started some minutes before 2am and took a very leisurely pace to take us to the base, i negotiate the lower choss and we got to the base of the shield when the first sunrays touched the NE orientated wall. Tomas started up some slabbish terrain a well awakening pitch with a section not well protected. I hold my breath as i started to follow, my finger did not like the small crimps but i always had a efficient solution,we were cruising!With Tomas on the lead we climbned nice corners and overhangs occasionally throwing large chunk of rock down the glacier.
I took the lead for a couple of pitches one of them was finally pretty tricky on a vertical  7a+ slab with microscopic holds and fortunately some pegs. We were quickly at the base of a overhanging pitch were we had to choose between an A3 dripping wet or a 7c also wet. Tomas choose the 7c who seemed dryer. At 12h15 we were eating and chilling on the upper neve and getting ready for the upper choss who gave problems to many parties before us. I follow the original Manitua exit and we quickly dispatched an instable section to reach the base of the last tower. We climbed straight up and touched the top at 15h30, it seemed like we would sleep in our bed that night,great. The boring and dangerous descent took some 5h and we finally catched up with Simon and Buschka who were so kind to come pick us up. Another cool day up on the face ended well. Looking forward to the next
Photo Morgan Baduel

Photo Morgan Baduel

Tomas Mueller at the base of the shield of Pt Croz
ChossSome climbing
Awesome climbing
Ajouter une légende

vendredi 17 avril 2015

Grandes Jorasses - Rolling Stones 1200mt 6a-M8

photo Griffith

It's April the winter is gone, in Cham you can tell it's April when you go by the Midi cablecar and feel like the all world is there. Skiers have more gear hanging around the harness they go for steeper stuff. The PGHM avalanche dog work less but  the crevasse dog and the slip-on-a-icy- slope dog works a lot. You can tell is April when sitting outside Elevation you heard the recognizable voice of Marko Prezelj and discover is already that time in the year he complain for the piolet d'or they gave him the Piolets d'Or events starts. This time he came retrieve the price together with Luka Lindic who last year, with Luka Krajnc, climbed Rolling Stones in beautiful style, free ad onsight. It was alleged for years Rolling Stones might as well go drytooled but everyone doing it just reported slabbish terrain and tricky aid on loose rock. The mistery was there. It took me years to convince myself and my partner we could do it, then, when the time came we were beaten by the two young guns coming from Slovenia.
 Since then i had mixed feeling about the route as a part of me wanted badly to finally do it and another pushed me toward other challenges. I did both first the other challenges and then the route.
One of the reasons it take long before we finally gave it a go is that, for virtually everyone beside me and  Martin it was seen as a at least three bivies affair, something who need massive window of good weather. If the winter ascents carried in with a large haulbag and lots of aid took long (4/5 bivies for the 4 winter ascents recorded before the last year ascents),seemed natural, the fact that a onsight ascent took still 3 bivy plus one on top made ourself worried about the route might just taking forever however we climbed it.
 The idea of getting caught by a coming storm up the face  wasn't really appealing.
 Finally Martin and i convinced ourself it was time to go and that three nights on the mountain will be enough.
 Not that we were going to be quicker than the two Luka but we were going to do it in not as beautiful style. Both climbers climbed all the route free.
We will have the leader climbing free if is able to and the second coming up as he like to do.
We also could benefit to some  beta kindly handled right from them.
We packed a double set of cams up to two one three some stoppers,4 icescrews The always useful five pitons who we didn''t use as usual. we both had sleeping bag. two mats even smaller than the smallest ledge we could find and two gaz canisters, of which we used only one. We took double 7.3 ropes and a jumar for the second.
Sunday morning, perfect weather, we step into the cablecar, talking with Martin i look at his harness i see his belay plate and realize i borrow mine to one of the girls of the alpinism team i worked with last few days. Shit. After much thinking and afraid to lose time i finally figured it out ,we would stop at the Requin Hut on the way down and borrow one, thanks Laure!
The awful ski down on frozen tracks was bad and gave us an excuse to enjoy a coffee and some time at the hut after all we had three days of food nothing to stress about. We resume the descent and shortly after we put the skins on and entered the Leschaux glacier.
 Finally we could see the massive face. It was about time.
 Rolling Stones start right off  the lowest point on the face on the left side of Walker spur, we changed from skis to mountain boots and approached the bergshrund who looked not too easy.
 After much cleaning finally Martin could step over it ,size matters. Whe continued with Martin on the lead for all of the beutiful vertical snow and some mixed climbing, then we traversed into easier terrain to start up the vertical compact wall. A first pitch with good ice then a red steep wall, Martin starts up and tried some drytooling,i heard the noise of a piton falling down the face,strange i have the pitons with me.
It was the pick of his ice axe broken neatly! shit!
 Now with what we had left we could barely do some gardening, i thank myself for suggesting the jumar as climbing with a single ice axe ain't easy.
I took the lead the route now is pretty hard and some delicate drytooling was required to overcame slabs and tenous cracks.
The routefinding was not easy and the topo really unclear. It started getting dark while i was on a nice runnel we had seen in a picture from last year.
 I climb another steep crack and found myself on some bad ledges. Martin went looking on the right and started chopping on the snow 15mt right of the route. I organize the gear at the belay and after a while we finally get our meal and sleeping bags.
We were not sure about were we were. We wanted badly to reach R9 and turn out we reached R13.
The night wasn't terrible and some spindrift started early morning. Weather was excellent tho and we even enjoy some morming sun but the spindrift were not fun. after reversing back to the belay  i started traversing a long slab under a overhang, then another difficult pitch to enter a icy goulotte.
We were not worried about going fast as we were certain to reach the bivy ledge of R22 by late afternoon. Martin led his block with some nice ice climbing on it. In the meantime the wind grew stronger and i was pretty much feeling cold. It was with pleasure that i took back the rack for some steeper pitches to take ourselves at the base of  the crux pitch.
A ledge at the base gave us promise of a decent bivy. It was only 6pm but i was cold and was not keen to try that hard dangerous pitch not feeling 100percent.
We spent the remaing hour and a half of daylight organizing the bivy in hope to save time the following day. That nigh it was clearly windy we could hear it howling close to the ridge and i was even more worried as i started develop cough and some chest pains.
When the sun came out it was cached beyond a layer of clouds it was a pretty bad news. I was going to accept Martin's offer to lead the pitch as he's a well gifted free and aid climber. Then while we were getting breakfast the wind mellowed and the sun got stronger than the cloud and warmed us for real. I was back in sending mood.
Another late start but we still have plenty of time left. I climbed carefully taking the time to test holds and jams. Surprisingly i found myself at the belay without much fuss ,great. This pitch is a little bit like climbing at the Zoo only a bit more dangerous ;)
The second pitch i started up a steep crack then traversed a beautiful slab hooking very tiny holds,
maybe it would have easier to climb barehanded but i had sweaty hand and was afraid not being able to put my gloves back afterwards so i tooled it, i searched for a logical place to made a belay but i did not found it so i continued up a steep crack for several meters until i finally reached the hanging goulotte i stratched the rope and made a belay on the upper ramp. Phew. Very happy to be out of those difficulties, i waited as Martin selflessly followed with our packs. From the upper ramp i had contemplate joining the Desmaison route as it looks elegant and with nice ice, but our crampons were dull and it wasn't going to be possible for the second without much jumaring so we kept to the actual route which to be onest is still interesting sporting beautiful rock first, then a nice vertical icy chimney, to finally reach Walker spur at the Cheminées Rouges.
The summit is approaching and as Martin take the lead i started enjoying the view and check if there isn't another line who draw my psyche it took me a few seconds to see one.
 That's always the same with this wall not even the time to enjoy a route and i'm already thinking about the next. It's clearly a special wall for me. Summit time at 6pm then a three hours crawl in awful snow until Boccalatte we finally could rest our bones.
 It was another fantastic trip with Martin who climbed his 5th hard Jorasses route in 14months. It was also my 13th overall in the north face. The most sustained and the one with the coolest free pitches.
Thanks to Luka and Luka to provide the psyche with their beautiful ascent.
 Epic first ascent by the Czech or Slovaks Kutil,Prochaska,Schlechta,Svejda in summer 1979.
Big congrats to Grison and Grammond for their early (1984) first repeat and winter ascent. Karo,Jeglic,Sveticic for the second repeat in summer 85.
 Then to the party Benoist-Thinières. Christophe Moulin's team, Glairon Rappaz and Perillat-Merceroz for their January ascent. And off course to those who have done and didn't bother sharing it with everyone else or those who think secretely that they done it because it's cool to say they've climbed Rolling Stones on Jorasses but they didn't.  And off course thanks to my partner in climbing my gear without with i would be lost. La Sportiva for the Baturas. Black Diamond for all the rest.

Rolling Stones 1200mt M8-6a, 35+pitches 12/14 april with Martin Elias
climbed free the 10 or so hardest pitches but not the entire route.

lundi 23 mars 2015

Gabarrou Silvy Winter Ascent

Gab Silvy winter ascent with the G-Force and Martin Elias

Gab Silvy as of the day we started climbing it 

Winter is gone with an Eclipse and so went all our ideas of true winter ascents. A last window before the official start of the spring see me GForce and Martin packing for the Jorasses. Once again the window shrinked, wind fohn and fresh snow wouldn't have allowed for quick ascents so we chosed the Gab Silvy instead wich was a safer bet. The Gab Silvy is one of the new Cham super classics. There are lots of reasons for that, one of them is that is climbable all year, there's no another north face route in the Blanc that is doable almost in any given months as long as it's good weather  maybe the Pierre Allain on the Drus which has seen his frequentation inflate in the last winters. The Gab Silvy in summer, sports perfect crack climbing at around 6b/6c on cold rock with an uneasy descent. In winter it's a drytool fest at sustained M7 with pitches who might as well feel harder with axes who don't fit correctly the cracks. It was given  M9 ,commercial, as my man J.Mercier would have called it. Climbed free for the first time by Clouet and Dumarest with old fashioned tools it might as well felt that hard now is consensus 7 to 8.
I always wanted to climb this route as i heard it's amazing and i really enjoy it until the 2nd or 3rd pitch when Jon kinda admitted he forgot the Gaz at home. I had with me a grand total of 0cc of water. From there it was clear it wouldn't be a laughable affair. The actual route was quite intimidating with snow here and there.

I've led the first "block" which is another way to say that i hog the rack for the day. Martin has already climbed the lower buttress and he was keen to second showing me the wrong way from basically the first meter on. Note to self: if your partner already climbed the route it does not mean he will remember shit about it and will probably be  keen to climb that other crack on the left or right depending on his political preferences. Jon took a North Face bag on the route, it felt appropriate, and matched the color of his jacket so we let him climb with it, for GForce it's all about training, suffering and being a tough mofo.

I was quite concentrate climbing as i had a quite slim rack, and the two lads making fun of me at the belays were threatening to made me fall,laughing while laybacking doesn't make it safer. 
The bivy atop of the lower buttress is one of the reasons why this route's so popular, it's just so comfy, it definetely take real mountaineers to do something dumb like leaving the gaz at home to make it a bit badass.
Thanks to the Spanish combo of Jamon and Tobacco the night was still amazing as we watched people having it descending the neighboor Dru north face. The next morning Jon took us to the base of the upper goulotte. There i've lost one ice axe as it just unclipped from the leash, how ironic, those leashes are made to avoid these things happening.
I had already miss the free ascent when my axe got so jammed into a crack that i had to stop to pull it off , AND, when i  took the wrong dihedral higher up and had to hammer a axe into a thin crack then stick 2 of 8 cm of our only piton into a seam, equalize the shit with a sling and get lowered in loath back to the good line, to then climb the right dihedral which by the way is the left dihedral, remind that when u will be there.
By losing a tool at the base of a vertical goulotte i had to resolve to 50shades of aid to get up quickly enough  to made my dumb tooldrop  irrelevant. Thanks to the good conditions we were safe and sound on the top later in the afternoon. There we decided to descend the North couloir the Couturier,as we had skis stashed atop of Grand Montets cablecar. We discovered that our Vthread hook was partially fucked and the couloir too, a big nasty serac loomed above our heads in our combined 10+ times on this couloir we never seen it so bad. In the end we were happy to cross the shrund and get back to our skis stashed. The descent was funky with Martin who didn't bother to use the lightest thing into a climbers pack ,the energy contained into the battery of his headlamp. His headlamp probably lighten the bottom of the backpack for two days and was dead well before dusk.
Chamonix always have something to teach climbers. Always take some Jamon.

vendredi 16 janvier 2015

Dru Couloir Nord Direct

Cet automne on a pu bénéficier de conditions exceptionnelles pour les face nord.
 Quasiment tout le monde s'est concentré sur la face Nord des Jorasses mais d'autres itinéraires sont encore vraiment au top en ce  moment. Le couloir Nord direct du Dru est une ligne majeure.
 Tout d'abord il s'agit d'une goulotte vraiment raide ce qui est assez impressionnant.
 Les rocher y est tantôt excellent tantôt suspect ,la glace toujours verticale est même dans ces conditions pas abondante parfois tout juste pour s'elever en serrant un peu les fesses.
 Quand Sorenson et Accomazzo ont fait la première de cette voie très audacieuse en 1977  lors d'une été référence en matière de mauvais temps un peu comme celle qu'on a traversé en 2014,la voie était quasiment entièrement couverte de glace.
 Manque de bol cela ne faisait que 6 ans que le piolet traction était apparu dans les Alpes et le matos n'était pas à l'hauteur de celui qui a permis les belles réussites en glace dans les années 80/90,
 ce même matos lui même très inférieure à celui qu'on a utilisé pour cette répétition en 6h de la voie. Bref leur matos faisait pitié et la voie est vraiment raide.
Ces deux Américain étaient connu pour leurs prouesses en rocher mais lors de cette ouverture ils prouvent si jamais le fallait leur niveau de compétences en matière Alpine.
Ils nous pondent une voie en un jour et demi,cotations: 90 degrés en glace et quelques mètres de A2 (quelques mètres sur 700 de voie).
Ensuite la voie tombe aux oubliettes, cependant le couloir Nord devient classique grâce à la quantité de pitons presente dans les longueurs rocheuses et des passages en glace pas dépassant les 80 degrés.
Bizarrement le directe fut peu ou pas parcourue.
Depuis l’éclosion du dry tooling avec les voies Jasper et Haston en montagne une possibilité qui venait de s'ouvrir aux grimpeur était celle de éliminer les portions de escalade artificielle sur les grands itinéraires Alpins. Evidemment le couloir Nord direct était l'un des objectifs les plus évident et c'est ainsi que la première en dry ce cette ligne fut attribué à Jeff Mercier accompagné par Philippe Batoux en 2004. Cette ascension fut mené en conditions séches. Ensuite quelques années plus tard fut completé par les Slovènes Lukic, Grmovsek qui cotèrent la voie WI6+ M8.
 Il s'agit la des cotations très élevés que l'on retrouve plus souvent dans des voies extrêmes à Fress ou à la Breitwangfluhe. Il faut dire que les premières voies qui se sont vu attribuer une cotations mixte comme par exemple les voies Haston proposaient des côtes à partir de M6+ or ces voies repetés dans des conditions correctes ne presentent pas de telles difficultés.
Il suffit de prendre en exemple le M7 de Late to say i'm sorry une voie qui a eté repeté des dizaines des fois dans des conditions décentes et dont la difficulté est d'un niveau et demi inférieure. Forcement ceux qui n'ont pas pu grimper beaucoup de voies de mixte reference ont eu du mal à comprendre cette échelle de difficulté en montagne.
 Il y a aujourd'hui beaucoup de confusion et certains itineraires comme le Couloir Nord direct et la Gabarrou Silvy coté respectivement M8+ et M9 dans le livre topo de Batoux sont des exemples d'un grand n'importe quoi en matière de cotations, on peut dire la même chose de la Lesueur coté M8+ par Steck.
 Cela est du à plusieurs facteurs le premier étant que un grand nombre de voies de mixte à été ouvert alors que la voie n'était pas en conditions.
 Il faut dire aussi que certaines voies raide en coincement de lames avec des prises de pieds inexistantes sont beaucoup plus dures à gravir avec les piolets des années 90.
Ensuite il y a le facteur mode les côtes semblaient être comme une sorte de calendrier chinois à la place de l'année du Serpent nous voila avec l'année du M7  ainsi  dés que l'on effleure un caillou par manque de glace on attribue la fatidique côte.
Puis à force de se foutre de la gueule du monde un Slovène qui à jamais fait un mètre de dry dans sa vie s'approprie de cette côte pour un solo d'une parois de 4000 mt en Himalaya.
 Du coup l'année d'aprés c'est l'année du Chien ,au faite, du M8 et c'est ainsi que quiconque se voit affronter la dure tâche d’aligner deux mètres de réglettes peu espacés avec un bon vide sous les fesses nous voila avec un bel M8 des familles.
 Du coup c'est un peu con à dire mais la verité est la entre M5 et M8 en montagne il y a que très peu de différence tant les côtes ont eté posé à l’arrache.
Pour ce qui est de cette voie je me vois mal à conseiller de prendre des étriers à qui ne fait pas de dry de haut niveau. Bien sûr c'est difficile et parfois un poil engagé si on a pas l’œil pour se protéger mais ça reste de difficulté honnête en tout cas c'est pas plus dur que l’itinéraire classique pour ce qui concerne le mixte. Les parties en glace sont parmi les plus raides du massif mais ça reste de la glace et de bonne qualité bien protegeable.
Avec Martin on a voulu grimper une nouvelle fois ensemble après notre ascension de la directe de l'amitié italo espagnole.
Il me propose le Couloir Nord mais je l'ai déja fait avec Tomas Muller et j'ai donc lancé l'idée d'aller au Directe.
Une sortie au préalable à la petite Verte histoire d'emmener deux Pépites dans la voie dite la Pépite me permet de jeter un oeil à la voie qui à tout l'air d'être en condis.
Bien motivé à profiter de la trace de Simon et Andrea partis le soir même on prend le luxe de partir avec la première benne. Le manque de neige de cet hiver nous pousse à choisir un approche léger sans skis il faudra tout de même revenir au Grands Montets après l'ascension.
Une heure et demi après nous voila aux pied de la bête, très vite on avale les premiers 250 mètres et on s’équipe pour le début des hostilités.
Martin se charge d'attaquer une longueur et demi après je prends la relève en lui promettant de lui rendre le matos une fois rejoint le couloir supérieur.
On rejoins la cordée Andrea-Simon le leader mal engagé dans le crux,on l'incite comme on peut à toute voix en l'appelant Giancarlo maestro de la glace à l'Italienne mais Giancarlo en chie comme pas possible. En sa défense il grimpe avec une paire de piolets espagnols à manche quasi droit, peut_être pour se rapprocher se son maître spirituel aux bandana-moustache la terreur des glaces des 80's, il fini tout de même sa longueur il confirme lui la cotation des premiers ascensionnistes A2. Je pars dans la longueur demente surmonté d'un bombé de glace au sommet de ce crux je récupère Martin puis je pars vers un dernier mur glacé, Martin me suggère de tirer une grande longueur et je l'ai pris à la lettre. On se revoit trois cent mètres plus haut à la brèche des Drus plus que content d'avoir réussi dans la difficile tache de me débarrasser de l'ensemble de mon jeux de friends,broches,et câblés une sorte de Scrabble appliqué à la haute montagne.
La descente on regroupe nos deux cordés des frères et peu à peu on redescend la voie en rappel, petit entrainement d'abalakow et quelque morceaux de cordelette pour remplacer les vieux et nous voila en bas prêts à remonter au Gd Montets.