Winter Ascent of Walker Spur for Livingstone and Graham

© Tom Livingstone

Tom Livingstone and Pete Graham recently made a winter ascent of the Walker Spur on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. Finishing on the last calendar day of alpine winter, the pair took three days to complete their ascent and found sustained difficulties and tough conditions on the 1000m route.

Pete Graham and Tom Livingstone  © Tom Livingstone
Pete Graham and Tom Livingstone
© Tom Livingstone

Tom and Pete took three bivis on the route and were relieved to reach the summit of Pointe Walker after a short storm forced them to sleep just one pitch below the top. Tom told UKC:

"Each bivi was slightly worse than before, with the first night a Mick Fowler 4 (sitting comfortably on a large snow ledge) and the last night a Mick Fowler 2 (barely sitting on a sloping lump of snow)!"

One of three challenging bivies...  © Tom Livingstone
One of three challenging bivies...
© Tom Livingstone

The route featured consistent and sustained mixed climbing up to Scottish 7 or 8/M5 or M6 and 6a. Tom described the condition of the route:

"With very little ice and lots of snowy mixed climbing, the highlights were the route's famous crack systems. The Rebuffet Corner, 75 metre diedre, Grey Tower and Red Chimney were all noticeable features."

Making progress on the Walker Spur  © Tom Livingstone
Making progress on the Walker Spur
© Tom Livingstone

Although Pete had climbed the Walker Spur in summer seven years ago, and Tom had attempted the route last July, the pair commented that the route felt considerably different to their previous experiences.

They skinned into the base of the Walker Spur on Thursday afternoon. The following day the pair made good progress, passing the route's alleged technical crux (the Rebuffat corner) and reaching the Cassin bivi just after the 10m pendulum about half way up the face. Pete jumared a few pitches for the last time, and rock shoes stayed in their pack during the entire climb. They finished at 2am and woke at 6am.

"The second day featured plenty of technical rock climbing and we passed the notorious Black Slabs around midday and finished on the second Cassin bivi at 2am again. The 6am alarm was not welcome on the third day, but we made good progress and reached the final pitch around 8pm."

A comfy bivy?  © Tom Livingstone
A comfy bivy?
© Tom Livingstone

The weather quickly deteriorated and began to snow, with wind swirling around the final buttress, riming up the rock and making conditions very Scottish. Opting out of a long, stormy descent in the dark, they bivied on a small sloping ledge of snow, just one pitch below the summit of Pointe Walker and finished the route the following day.

A successful winter ascent  © Tom Livingstone
A successful winter ascent
© Tom Livingstone

Tom also had a successful previous week, making a winter ascent of the Allain/Leninger (aka Classic Route) on the North Face of Les Dru with Kim Ladiges.

UKC Chief Editor Jack Geldard recently interviewed the pair for a series of Alpine Podcasts, due to be released on UKC in the late Spring. Jack said "It's great to see some young British Alpinists making the most of what are very dry conditions in the Alps this season. Choosing a dry, rocky objective like this was a great idea. Nice one guys!"

Visit Tom's website.

Visit Pete's blog.

Watch a video of their ascent below:

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Tom Livingstone is a climber and writer based in North Wales, UK.

He has a penchant for trad, winter and alpine climbing - the bigger and harder, the better.

Tom is an acclaimed outdoor writer, and you can...

Tom's Athlete Page 13 posts 4 videos

30 Mar, 2016
Pete's blog is very good and well written, particularly on the topic of suffering. Definitely worth some of your time.
30 Mar, 2016
Clearly an impressive personal achievement but is this news? The first winter ascent was done in 1963 by Bonatti and Stevie Haston did the first winter solo in 1993 in eight hours. I can see how an article about this might be interesting and inspiring but newsworthy? Not trying to be a bastard about this but just asking a question. James
30 Mar, 2016
Impressive achievement from the 5 year old Haston.
30 Mar, 2016
You say it's interesting and inspiring and I agree I would say newsworthy aswell! Multiday winter alpine is getting done less and less in my estimation. It's hard and difficult to find conditions especially if your not based in the alps! Take a look on Camp to Camp and find how many people are logging mutli-day winter alpine ascents on routes like the walker! I know they get done but less than before. When I read about there ascent first on facebook I noted they received congratulatory messages from a number of leading activists from the current and the preceding era which is a measure of noteworthiness / Newsworthiness in my opinion. In summary for me it doesn't have to be a first ascent or repeat to be newsworthy. This rare winter ascent of the walker will inspire others and for that reason I think it is very newsworthy! p.s. the forum post the ascent prompted on alpine winter grades is quite amusing
30 Mar, 2016
Unroped on a glacier, don't let that other thread see this one!
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