Swiss alpinist Dani Arnold has set a new solo speed record on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc Massif. At the end of July, the 34-year old climbed the Walker Spur (4,208 metres) via the Cassin route in 2 hours and 4 minutes. He now holds speed records on two out of the three hardest great north faces in the Alps - the Matterhorn (1 hour and 46 minutes) and the Grandes Jorasses - with the late Ueli Steck's Eiger north face record (2 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds) yet to be broken.
Dani had focused on the Grand Jorasses north face project over three summer seasons. In 2016 and 2017, weather conditions made any attempt impossible. On 27th July, Dani caught a good weather window and decent conditions to set a new record.
Dani told his sponsors, Mammut:
"I am feeling unbelievably happy and very proud of my achievement. Looking back, waiting such a long time for the right moment really paid off, despite the fact that this was quite a struggle for me – as patience certainly isn't my strongest skill. However, everything needs to be right: little details, such as whether I should climb two metres more to the right or to the left, sound ridiculous when you're talking about a 1,200 metre face, but in the end, these details make the difference."
Dani prepared meticulously for his attempt. He climbed the Cassin Route three times with different partners in the weeks before the actual record attempt. However, to attempt a speed ascent, he required optimum conditions. For a successful solo climb, the rock had to be free from ice, but if it was too dry, the rockfall risk would prove too high.
He told Mammut:
"Around 80 percent of the Cassin route on the Walker Spur consists of rock, which is more difficult terrain than ice for a speed ascent. The most demanding section was the steep and technically complex Rébuffat corner, since this part was very wet due to meltwater."
In 2013, Dani set a new speed record for climbing the North Face of the Eiger with a time of 2 hours and 28 minutes - although he made use of the fixed ropes on the Hinterstoiser Traverse, unlike previous record-holder Ueli Steck. Steck returned in 2015 to reclaim the Eiger record with a time of 2 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds. The previous record on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses was also held by Steck, with a time of 2 hours 20 minutes on the Colton-Macintyre route.
Watch a video of the ascent below: