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The remote east face of the Grandes Jorasses (4208m), Alps, France, bounded on the left by the Tronchey Ridge and on the right by the Hirondelles Ridge, which begins from the snow-covered Col des Hirondelles. The far right skyline is the Walker Spur. The green line is the most commonly used approach to the snow terrace at the top of the Y couloir, below the largely compact central section of the face. The blue line is the Boivin-Diafferia (TD: 5c A1, 750m, Boivin-Diafferia, 1981). On March 14, 2007, French guides Julien Desecures and Paul Robach added a partial new route (in red) to the face: Marine Givr?e (V 5+ M5+, 750m: Dececures-Robach, 2007). The ascent marked the first time this aspect of the east face has been climbed in winter. [Photo] Antonio Giani

A little before the end of the winter season, the French guides Julien Desecures and Paul Robach added a partial new route to the remote east face of the Grandes Jorasses (4208m) in the French Alps. The pair climbed the line in a long day, March 14, and reckon it is now the easiest on the face. The new route, Marine Givree (V 5+ M5+, 750m, Dececures-Robach, 2007), is basically a variant to the Boivin-Diafferia (TD: 5c A1, 750m, Boivin-Diafferia, 1981), which slants up the right side of the face.

At the beginning of the 1980s one of the most prominent unclimbed lines on the east face was the big leftward-slanting dihedral leading to a large roof and splitting the compact central section of the wall. In 1981 Jean-Marc Boivin, one of the icons of French alpinism, and Francois Diafferia reached the large snow terrace at the top of the Y couloir and made their way to the foot of the dihedral. They had perhaps envisaged a light, fast ascent of this line but quickly realized it was a major undertaking for which they had neither the gear nor the time. Instead, they moved right and ascended to a leftward-slanting, mixed weakness that marks the right edge of the compact section of wall and runs parallel to the Hirondelles Ridge to the right. The terrain was steep but the difficulties no more than 5c and A1, with easier mixed ground above. They completed the route and returned to Chamonix the same day.

The big dihedral was eventually climbed two years later by two young brothers from Rome, Cristiano and Fabio Delisi, who christened their route Groucho Marx (ED3?: 6b A3, 750m, Delisi-Delisi, 1983). It was by far their most significant route in the Alps.

In 1985, Italians Fabrizio Manoni and Enrico Rosso attempted the big pillar on the left side of the face (which three years later would become the Cavagnetto-Rosso Pillar), but conditions were bad and after a bivouac on the terrace above the Y couloir, they traversed right and started up the slabs between the compact central wall and the Hirondelles Ridge. Here, they discovered a line of pitons, which they followed. The initial terrain was steep with some awkward sections but above the ground became more mixed and much easier. They followed the obvious line to the summit, thereby inadvertently making the second ascent of the Boivin-Diafferia. Manoni confirmed the TD grade, with some 5c and easy aid. It is not known whether there were any subsequent ascents until this year.

Desecures and Robach started their ascent from the Col des Hirondelles (3480m), which they reached from the Leschaux Hut to the north (this is now considered the easiest, safest and most logical way to reach the east face in winter conditions, particularly for climbers coming from the Chamonix valley). They moved left from the start of the Hirondelles Ridge (TD-: 5c A1, 750m, Chenez-Gaia-Matteoda-Ravelli-Rey-Rivetti, 1927) and created a more direct start to the Boivin-Diafferia. Starting up a rightward-slanting ramp, they worked back left across a blunt rib to gain the broken ground and upper ridge edge of the terrace. From here they climbed directly (two pitches: M4+ and M5+) to join the diagonal fault of the Boivin-Diafferia, and followed this (5+) directly to the upper section of the Tronchey Ridge, via which they gained the summit of Pointe Walker. With its easier mixed climbing, Marine Givree appears to avoid the hard free and aid climbing on the lower Boivin-Diafferia, and it is the first winter ascent of the face.

Source: Information supplied by Luca Signorelli