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New Route and Huge Serac Fall on Busy Grandes Jorasses

© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

The North Face of the Grandes Jorasses has seen perhaps its busiest autumn season ever, with hundreds of climbers tracking their way up the classic North Face routes.

The great conditions on the face have also led to many of the lesser-trod lines being climbed, some link-ups and solos, and now a new route / variation from the strong international team of Julien Désécures, Seb Bohin, Korra Pesce, Jon Griffith and Bertrand Delapierre.

The team climbed an ice line to the side of the existing route the Desmaison-Couzy.

Korra Pesce on the first run out ephemeral ice pitch  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Korra Pesce on the first run out ephemeral ice pitch
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

Here's what they told us:

"The North face of the Grandes Jorasses, Mont Blanc Range, France present on its northern aspect two massive pillars- sort of a twin Sphinx as christened  by Geoffrey Winthrop Young who, with Joseph Knubel, was the first to lay his eyes on the North Face in search of a possible route. A third spur is located on the right side of the wall and was described as a small Sphinx by first ascensionist René Desmaison who made the first ascent on the 5-6 august 1958 with Jean Couzy, it was the third route opened on the face and the last big climb of the great partnership formed by Couzy and Desmaison as Jean Couzy would be killed by a rockfall months later on Crête des Bergers. It went unrepeated until Giorgio Bertone and Lorenzino Cosson made the second and first winter ascent in January 1975 since then it has seen only a handful of ascents.

Julien Desecures on the lower part of the face  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Julien Desecures on the lower part of the face
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

Our team composed by Julien Désécures, Seb Bohin, Korra Pesce, Jon Griffith and Bertrand Delapierre made a repetition of this route not following the original route but ephemeral ice streaks close to the first ascensionists line- a radically different manner to climb this route and reminiscent of a new way to follow some old lines, a fashion introduced by Brits in the seventies.

Korra Pesce on the M5 pitch  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Korra Pesce on the M5 pitch
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Julien Desecures on the last 100m of ice runnels of the route  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Julien Desecures on the last 100m of ice runnels of the route
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

Firstly we climbed the couloir left of the crest of the spur made of bad rock,then we climbed a magnificent ephemeral ice slab. Back on the first ascensionist route we loosely followed it until its end. An icy dihedral offering modern mixed M5 grade climbing, and the exit chimney (originally climbed to the side and with points of aid) was now a series of magnificent ice pitches. We completed our ascent and the descent to the Canzio Hut in a day. This autumn conditions like in 2008 allow alpinists to tackle lines rarely formed like the Bonatti Vaucher or the Polish route, with more ease. Our ascent represents very well this new way to climb in the north face of the Grandes Jorasses."

Korra Pesce topping out from the route  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Korra Pesce topping out from the route
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

And we spoke directly to Jon Griffith who was still buzzing after his third climb on the GJ North Face this autumn.

“This was actually a pretty cool day all round. We not only managed to seek out a very rarely formed ephemeral line and climb it, but we were also doing it as part of a photo and video shoot for Millet​ as part of their Alpine Trilogy. It’s pretty rare to be able to climb something like this on the Grandes Jorasses but even rarer that an outdoor brand takes the big risk and gamble of backing it as a shoot, thankfully it paid off!"

The team at the Canzio the day after. Bertrand, Korra, Jon, Julien, Seb  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
The team at the Canzio the day after. Bertrand, Korra, Jon, Julien, Seb
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

The Original Desmaison Couzy route line in green, the new variation in red  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
The Original Desmaison Couzy route line in green, the new variation in red
© Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures

Huge Serac Fall on South Face

Despite great conditions on much of the North Face, two nights ago (28th/29th Sept) a huge serac cleaved from high on the south side of the mountain between Pointe Whymper and Pointe Walker, potentially affecting a large portion of the Normal Route, which as well as being a popular route to the summit is used in descent by climbers topping out on the North Face.

The Chamonet website states: 

"Glaciologists from the Fondation Montagne Sûre had measured around a 70cm movement in part of the glacier in one day, and overnight this seems to have given way. 

The volume of the serac fall will be measured in due course, but it's known to have fallen down the Whymper couloir and stopped close to the Rocher du Reposoir."

According to the Chamoniarde Website there is now an Italian Bylaw closing access to the Normal Route for safety reasons: "Please, for your safety, follow the Italian by-law forbidding the access to the normal route."

Serac Collapse: Before and after photos:

Grandes Jorasses: Before the serac collapse (2011)  © Tomas Meson
Grandes Jorasses: Before the serac collapse (2011)
© Tomas Meson
Grandes Jorasses: After the serac collapse 29th Sept 2014  © Source Fondation Montagne sure - Courmayeur
Grandes Jorasses: After the serac collapse 29th Sept 2014
© Source Fondation Montagne sure - Courmayeur

 


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30 Sep, 2014
I really enjoyed that, but some of it read like it was lifted directly from Google translate!
30 Sep, 2014
To get off the GJ, always seemed easiest to traverse the crest to the Whymper summit, down the south ridge, then across to the top of the Reposoir. Seen steps going the normal route but always ignored them in favour of the above variant. Presumably this is not affected by the ban. I think this is the same serac that caused a ban a few years ago.
30 Sep, 2014
What's Jon done to his eye!?
30 Sep, 2014
got in a fight with a sherpa...
31 Oct, 2014
any more news?
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