Monday, 5 December 2011

Grandes Jorasses

A detailed report will follow with pictures from the climbing later...

After the tragic accident on the decent from the “Shroud” route on the Jorasses where a Guide and his client where lost in a fierce storm, the weather cleared up and I felt a desire to go back and try the north face as there was obviously lines in better conditions than the “Bonatti-Vaucher” route where I had had an EPIC a few weeks earlier.

In order to move fast we needed to travel light and try to avoid spending two nights out in the open; so we started from Montanvers just before midnight after sleeping 6h in a warm room. As we knew the Bonatti start we opted to start up the north face the same way as before. It might be worth pointing out that its not super clear to me where the different line are located on that section of the wall at least not to me. Anyway, in my opinion it was the most natural line given the conditions we had during our trip. And its very much the same route as Julien Desecures climbed only we traversed in a few pitches under to avoid some of the lose rock in the dry gully I had been up.

We climbed the start in the dark and as we got to the steeper ground the sun was coming up over the horizon. It’s spectacular to see the magic light over the mountains. No one can have enough of that. I'm not sure exactly how much of No Siesta we actually climbed but it was most likely only the exit. No Siesta and Bonatti are really close to each other, that’s for sure. Anyway after the traverse and the ice ramp we headed out right on the Croz wall and found our way up the steep rock and mixed ground. It was steeper than Bonatti but more importantly the rock quality was better. That said it was still a bit lose and flakey... but still really good sustained climbing.

At around 4pm we reached a good ledge and where pretty wasted after 16 hours on the go so brewing up and getting settled in for the night felt great. It was not the Hilton but compared to the bivy options on Bonatti I'd say we had something better than any Hilton could offer! It was not super cold but given that we had skipped proper bivy gear we did not sleep that well. At 4am we brewed up two liters of tea that warmed us under our jackets. We left the bivy quite late (7ish). We had hoped to top out at around 3pm that day but we were a bit slow and the climbing was really sustained so we toped out just after 5.15 pm. We had climbed without water all day just downing Clif gels and Clif Blooks so the first thing we did was brew up plenty of nuun sparked tee and nourished ourselves with oatmeal and recovery powder, raisins and almond flakes.... Yummy....

Robert Jasper had encouraged me to take 70 meter ropes in order to reach better and safer belays so we did that. We brought one 8.2 mm dynamic rope and a 70m 6mm semi static tagline. We had no jumars but hauled on two pitches and I think that was just a pain in the ass. On one of the steep rock pitches I ended up clipping my pack in to a cam and then it was dragged up.... Going light was the right call even if it was quite cold. With the accident fresh in our minds and having had a rescue from the wall only a few weeks before it was a bit of a gamble to skip proper bivy gear but it paid off to climb with a small 28l pack both in terms of speed and comfort. The forecast was stable and we had "sms service" so we knew we where good. If you gamble on the margins you had better be prepared and know your gear is good for a night out even if the temperature drops below what has been predicted. We had plenty of gas so we kept warm by hydrating during the night. It worked for us.

After finishing brewing we started down trying to find the Bocalatte hut in the dark night. That was not such a great call as we managed to miss the hut and ended up spending a second night outside. That was not part of the plan but it was fine and quite flat and given how tired we where at this point it did matter that much where we had our bivy.

The climbing is for sure harder than that on the Bonatti route but the belays and climbing are better protected and the route had ice in the upper parts so it felt safer and less exposed. Not bad compared to the Bonatti epic. Even if I'm NOT right to claim a repeat of No Siesta it was a really great route we climbed on the great north face of the Jorasses and the way we climbed it, I'd say the grade weighs in at around ED3 (VI WI6 M7 A0) (compared to Jaspers free VI+WI6 M8 E5, I like the idea of an E grade for this type of route).

Climbing this variation of the Desecours variation was definitely a dream come true for me. IN ORDER TO AVOID ANY CONFUSION I'M NOT CLAIMING A NEW ROUTE WAS CLIMBED, JUST A VARIATION OF EXISTING ROUTES. I'm not claiming anything with this, I just want to distinguish it from the original No Siesta that was climbed in far better style by Korra/Mercier Griffith/Sim the Spanish Manuel Córdova/Mikel Zabalza, Robin Reverest and his friends to mention a few who climbed No Siesta this fall. I think this variation is an easier and natural line better suited for what we wanted to do.

Photo: Our approximate line of climbing in red and on yellow our Bonatti attempt with high point and bivy marked.

Another route I had dreamed about doing since I was a kid was the Gabarrou-Silvy on Aiguille Sans Nom north face (VI WI6 6c M9, 1000m the grade of the free Slovenian version), completing a winter ascent in March 2009. At that time I thought it was by far the best route I had ever climbed and compared to Petit (No) Siesta, I'd say Gabarrou-Silvy is much grander and a bit harder. The superlatives I can keep spraying out about that route are endless. Ok, its less exposed so yes its less committing and its less sustained; but the start is super hard and if you do it free I think it can conjure full-on action even for most of today’s hardcore, cutting edge superstars! Back in 2009 we pulled on some gear and did our best and I think the way we climbed Gabarrou-Silvy we said the grade was V WI6 M7 6C A0, at that time.

Two links with some info and photos of Gabarrou-Silvy.

This is a list with links to blogs from teams who all climbed No Siesta as the original or with slight variations.


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