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.
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.
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.
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."
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!"
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: