The North Face of the Grandes Jorasses with New York City’s Empire State Building superimposed in front of it. The comparison is not perfectly in scale, as the north wall is not perfectly vertical, but it’s relatively close. The McIntyre/Colton route travels almost exactly off the top of the building, then curves left onto the left side of the shadowed dihedral, leading up to the top of the Walker Spur. [Photo] Courtesty Of Luca Signorelli
First, I really don’t think that this was something sensational, it was just my partner and I going really fast and light on the McIntyre/Colton route on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. We went up and down more or less without stopping.
I live in Malaga in Southern Spain, not so close to the Alps, but on September 11, I received notice of good conditions and weather on the way. I had to work that day, reached home at 21:00, gathered my gear, and hopped a plane in Barcelona. I met my partner Manu at 02:00 on the 12th, then drove all night, reaching Chamonix at 12:00.
We wasted no time; preparing the lightest packs we could, we then hopped the train to Mer de Glace and started the approach to the Grandes Jorasses, which we reached at 21:00. The bivy was uncomfortable, as we had only our clothing, down jackets and one summer sleeping bag for the two of us. It was freezing and I didn’t really sleep at all, making this the second sleepless night.
At 01:00 on September 13, the alarm sounded. After a quick breakfast, we were on the route by 02:00. We quickly simul-climbed the first 500 meter ice ramp. Four steep pitches in the first gully led us to another ramp, which we again simul-climbed. The most difficult pure ice pitch of the route began in the second gully. It was steep and sustained, with tenuous tool placements. A few more pitches in the gully, and another ramp of about 150 meters led us to the bottom of the summit headwall, where we encountered the hardest pitches of the route.
The McIntyre/Colton route was not totally formed, so we took the Extreme Dream variant. Three exposed and difficult to protect mixed pitches took us to the top of the Walker Spur. Three more pitches of slightly more moderate terrain took us to the summit by 16:00.
After an hour’s rest, we started the complicated descent of the Jorasses towards Italy. Luckily, we were able to follow the footsteps of a French guide and his client towards the Bocallate Refuge, just above Courmayer. Finally, we were able to get a good night’s sleep, after twenty hours on the route!
We were very happy to have completed the route; just two days from Malaga, Spain, up the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, and down to Italy! On the walk down to the valley, despite the way we smell, someone stops, picks us up and drives us to Courmayer. From there, it was a bus to Chamonix, a good beer, and the drive to Spain. A perfect trip!
[for pictures of the climb, click here.]