Something that I am starting to see that the Mt Blanc Massiff is great for, and that I am hopefully going to do a lot more of it, is link ups. Meaning that you do regular routes but join them back to back with other routes. The massif is great for this as even though this is a very big and serious place, it's also quite small and very condensed on the grand scale of things. Once you get to know the area and where everything is situated, you can move about the place a lot quicker.
I have never really went for a big link up before so when Dave and I couldn't decided which of the two classic routes, Colton- MacIntyre or Cecchinel- Nomine, to go for we thought that it could be a great idea to link the two together via the traverse of the Jorasses and the Rochefort Ridge.
The Colton- MacIntyre is a major classic on the North face of the Grandes Jorasses, which I have been wanting to climb for ages and would also be my first route up this amazing north face. Dave had climbed this route last year but was willing to get on it again, on the condition that we never had to bivvy on the route! So I was really grateful that he do this route again. Neither of us had done the Traverse of the Jorasses, Rochefort or climbed the Cecchinel- Nomine. So these would all be on-sight.
We walked up to the Leschaux hut on Wednesday morning and spent a night there where neither of us got any sleep, but when the alarm went of at midnight we got up had some burnt porridge (my bad) and then walked in for three hours to the bottom of the Jorasses.
The start of the Colton- MacIntyre is big simple ice fields and runnels that you can climb quickly and smoothly to reach the crux pitch which is a ice smear on rock. When Dave got to the crux first he immediately saw that the crux wasn't in great condition so decided to take a belay at the bottom of it's neighbouring route 'Alexis'. This route does continue a different way after this one pitch but you can join back onto the original route easily enough. The pitch was a groove system that had a ice streak going down it which was quite thin in places. I got a major pump in the forearms leading this pitch and took quite a while on it. After this pitch I traversed over to the last ice field of the Colton- Mac, then it's onto some mixed climbing which Dave took all three pitches in a block as he knew where to go, then I lead the last three pitches that top out and take you to the summit of the Jorasses at 4208m.
|Me on the Alexis variation pitch.|
|Dave struggling to eat a hard Powerbar!|
We topped out at 6 o'clock which was a lot later than we hoped for and expected but hey we still climbed the route. This was the deciding point whether to go down the normal decent route to Italy or continue with plan and Traverse the Jorasses to reach the Canzio hut. Either way it was going to be a long night.
|Chilling at the Canzio|
We decided to carry on with the link up and heading along the ridge. It starts of with easy snow slopes and some fine ridge climbing and then you have to start climbing on certain sides, mostly on the Italian side. Once the dark settled in it got a bit more awkward to see where to go. Then the inevitable happened of getting rope stuck, then the thing that soaked up all our time and energy. We were using the description of the descent but looking at the topo for the ascent, and they go two totally different ways. We followed the topo and reached an area that obviously wasn't the way and so we had to turn back on ourselves which wasted a load of hours. We managed to get back on the right track and made our way through the early hours of the morning down this ridge line with rappels and some climbing. You have to climb one last pitch up to the summit of point young which is the last of the traverse, then from the top of this you continue along a ridge and make your way to the last four abseils which take you to the Col des Jorasses where the Cazio bivouac shelter sits on the border line between France and Italy. We arrived here unbelievably trashed and after some discussion we decided not to continue with the link up into the Ceccinel- Nomie but rather to rest at the hut for the day and continue along the Rochefort Ridge the next day to the Midi station.
|Starting up the Rochefort traverse.|
We had a good munch that evening and woke the next morning, still feeling really tired, and started on the ridge. The ridge has a hard crux of 5c climbing just at the beginning of it which is a really nice wake up call. The ridge is yet another major classic of the Alps, so it was nice to be linking all these spectacular climbs together. The views are stunning of Mt Blanc which is constantly in your face as you make your way along the ridge. We finished the ridge and arrived at the Glacier just below the Dent du Geant. When we got here we knew that we were not going to be making the last bin from the midi down to Chamonix, as it's a fair distance from here to the midi.
On the way back we saw this massive boulder that has detached itself from the Gervasutti pillar area, and has slid down on to the Vallee Blanche. This thing is massive and would have been some sight to have watched it slide down into position.
|Massive new boulder on the Vallee Blanche.|
I know that our plan never happened the way we thought it would but I am still pleased with what we got done and learnt a lot for what to do the next time, read the right topo for a start!