Monday, March 23, 2009

Les Grandes Jorasses

With the remainder of the high-pressure system, and fairly consolidated snow conditions, Maxime Turgeon, Adam George and I headed toward the Leschaux hut Saturday afternoon, for a crack at the famed north face of Les Grandes Jorasses. We left the hut yesterday morning at 3am, and a couple hours later reached the first bergschrund below the Colton-MacIntyre. It took us about 14 hours to climb the 1,200 meter route - so we're only about 600% slower than Ueli! The route is fairly sustained, in that there is almost zero easy snow slogging, but no pitch is extreme. The hardest aspect of the climb was the very cold conditions and strong wind.

The north face of the Grandes Jorasses on Saturday evening:

Max and Adam arriving at a belay a couple pitches above the initial ice field:

Adam leading the Alexis variation, which was in better condition than the Colton-MacIntyre proper. This pitch is a lot steeper than it looks from below:

Max traversing back to join the Colton-MacIntyre proper:

Max starting the upper mixed section:

Max at a belay a couple pitches below the top of the Walker Spur:

We topped out just before dark and started descending immediately - not only to use the last available light, but also because it was incredibly cold and windy on the summit. The descent down the Italia side went fairly easily, but in the dark we somehow missed the Boccalatte hut, and ended up walking all the way down to Courmayeur. Very hungry, thirsty, tired and cold at 3am, we decided our best bet was to bivouac in an information kiosk at the entrance of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Max at the bivy: