Yannick Seigneur, Michel Feuillarade, Marc Galy and Louis Audoubert made
the first ascent of this route (in winter!), in nineteen days. It has
been repeated at least three times: by an English team in September
1977; a French team in July 1989; and a Russian team in July 1999. We
were aware of several winter attempts, one almost completed three or
four years ago (the climbers were rescued–because of frostbite–not far
under the top).
Patrice Glairon-Rappaz, Stephane Benoist and I climbed the
Directe de l’Amitie (“Friendship Direct”) in six days, from
January 31 to February 5, with five bivies. The weather conditions were
very good, except the last twenty-four hours (clear weather, but with a
strong north wind). Apart from the lower ramp (mixed climbing), the
route is mostly rock climbing. The conditions were so-so: snow covered
most of the cracks and edges. We did a lot of aid climbing and some free
climbing. The itinerary is obvious, because it truly follows the line of
weakness. Some sections have good rock; others are loose. We believe
that the crux pitch is still A3, as described in the original topo.
Several pitches present A2 sections (often harder than the topo’s V A1).
The steepness and exposure impressed all of us. Stephane and
Patrice (who have climbed several difficult north face routes in winter)
consider this route to be the most serious one they have ever climbed in
the Alps. Any retreat becomes highly problematic in the upper half. We
found almost no gear, no fixed lines–and only one bivy where it is
possible to sleep lying down. For the other four bivies, we slept
sitting, with our feet in a hammock. We used only a few pitons, but a
lot of Aliens and Camalots (including large sizes) and also some nuts.
We descended the south side of Grandes Jorasses (4208m) in good weather,
but in deep and exhausting snow. We are not aware of any previous winter
ascent before ours (apart from the first ascent), but who knows?
Paul Robach, Chamonix, France