New Aiguille du Midi Mixed Route by Jeff Mercier & Co

by Natalie Berry - UKC May/2017
This news story has been read 8,604 times

French alpinist and Chamonix PGHM member Jeff Mercier has climbed a new line up the North West face of the Aiguille du Midi in the Mont Blanc Massif alongside David Autheman, Lucien Boucansaud and Gérémy Rakowski. The route is named Red Devils (90°/M7/1000m) and was completed in two separate attempts.

Immaculate rock and ice on Red Devils, 234 kb
Immaculate rock and ice on Red Devils
© Jeff Mercier

Looking at the mountain from Les Houches, Jeff spotted a very steep wall that became particularly apparent at sunset. He told UKC:

'Not knowing any of the routes on that section of rock, I asked the editor of the topo François Damilano whether it had been climbed and he had no information, so I started looking for a way up the lower part. After spending a lot of time looking through binoculars I noticed a big black dihedral, but didn't know if the rock was good or if there was a way up. We'd just have to go up and see!'

photo
Red Devils Topo
© Jeff Mercier

Jeff bivouacked on 16th May with two friends (Boucansaud/Rakowski). Waking up at 2am, the party climbed until 4.30pm on the 17th on their first 'recce' attempt. He described the line as follows:

'First a small wall with 100m of delicate rock, then 100m of snow slope to arrive at the foot of the black dihedral. Up close, it was very exciting! Then a thin chute with 90° passages, a little engaging but solid...then a tunnel under blocks stuck with very hard ice! A varied and interesting pitch! However, this took too much time and the next day we had to be at work, so we exited via the West Couloir.'

On the first ascent of Red Devils, M7, 207 kb
On the first ascent of Red Devils, M7
© Jeff Mercier

The couloirs on this face have the peculiarity of being used frequently by skiers, but very rarely by mountaineers and the bottom of Red Devils is exposed to the enormous serac of the Glacier Rond. One week later, the temperature rose dramatically and Jeff needed to find another way to access the route. He returned with David Autheman.

Exposure on Red Devils, 152 kb
Exposure on Red Devils
© Jeff Mercier

Jeff told UKC:

'David and I slept at the Cosmiques Hut and in the middle of the night, we downclimbed the Glacier Rond and traversed across this to reach the West Couloir before heading up to the dihedral. The possibilities were numerous, but we opted for the part in the shade on the right edge. We were rewarded with four very nice pitches of beautiful mixed climbing. Another pitch and a half of easy but steep rock and then you arrive under the North peak and the Midi station, take a cable car crossing and it's done; a new route is born. I reckon it would take 15 hours to climb in a day.'

photo
Having fun in the tunnel
© Jeff Mercier

Commenting on the name of the climb, Jeff wrote:

'While I was the packing my bag for the second attempt, I was watching TV and heard about the terrible bomb attack in Manchester. Red Devils is the name given to players of Manchester United football team, but it’s also the name we could give to those who kill children.'

Watch an Instagram video of Jeff's ascent below:

Jeff is sponsored by: Crosscall, Cébé, La Sportiva, Lowe Alpine, Petzl, Rab and Totem

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