V, 1100m, 12 hours. One of the best lines on Chamonix's best face, this route was attempted by a number of strong teams before Alex MacIntyre and Nick Colton finally got it done in 1976. The improvement in modern ice climbing gear means that the route is now almost always climbed in one day but it is still a major undertaking and the crux will always be bold and scary no matter how far climbing equipment develops. 1) Cross the bergschrund (often quite large) and head up the long, 60 degree icefield which makes up the lower third of the route, to reach three icy runnels.2) Climb the central runnel for 120m (80 - 85 degrees) to gain another icefield. 3) Drift up and left across the runnel (60 degrees) for 80m to belay 10m below the crux pitch, which is a wide streak of thin but featured ice splitting a vertical wall.4) Climb up steepening ice to reach the wall and place some gear in the rock buttress at the bottom right of it before launching up the wall. After the rock buttress there is not a lot of protection and whilst (in good conditions) the climbing should be steep but steady, this is still a pitch requiring a calm head. After 20m the angle eases and you reach the final icefield.4a) Alexis Variation - The thinner streak of ice to the right is steeper and bolder than the main crux. 5) Go up and right across the final icefield for 120m (initially 65 degrees but gradually easing) to the foot of the summit tower.6) Head straight up the narrow gully that enters the summit tower for 40m (loose in places) and then follow a mixed ramp-line out left for 80m. Shortly before reaching the crest and a junction with the Walker Spur, there is a gully which looks as if it leads directly to the summit - ignore this and keep going left to hit the Walker.7) 4b. Climb the final 100m of the Walker Spur, which will feel quite straightforward (4b rock climbing) if dry but can be awkward and time consuming when snowy.Descent - Down the Grandes Jorasses South Face (page §§§). © Rockfax
Nick Colton, Alex MacIntyre 1975.
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