Traverse of the Grandes Jorasses – August 2012

The traverse of the Grandes Jorasses is one of the bigger routes I’ve been eyeing at for a decade now. It’s number 73 in Rebuffat’s book ‘The 100 Finest Routes of the Mont Blanc Massif’. By modern standards the climbing is not hard but it’s exposed, long and committing.

“A magnificent traverse, always at high altitude, on mixed terrain, and taking two days. The place is isolated and you are very close to the mountain, aware of the closeness of wind and cloud, snow and rock. Perhaps too you will feel the satiscation of a true mountain venture, far from hotel-like huts, telepheriques, caravan of climbers which are sometimes all too noisy; your isolation will lend to the air you breath and the light around you. The route should not be attempted except in good weather. It is the most unpleasant to be caught by a storm on the crest of the Jorasses, especially if there is lightning, or if you’re between the Pointe Marquerite and the Pointe Croz.” – Gaston Rebuffat

The route was also featured in Patrick Berhault’s film ‘Sur Le Fil des 4000’. It’s one of the most stunning camera runs ever produced. I’ve embedded it above since I absolutely love that shot!

The camera run starts from Col des Hirondelles and goes over the Grandes Jorasses towards the Dent du Geant. The main summits are:
– Pointe Walker 4208m (0:14)
– Pointe Whymper 4184m (0:29)
– Pointe Croz 4110m (0:40)
– Pointe Helene 4045m (0:47)
– Pointe Marquerite 4066m (0:51)
– Calotte de Rochefort 3966m (1:14)
– Dome de Rochefort 4015m (1:20)
– Aiguille de Rochefort 4001m (1:35)
– Dent du Geant 4013m (1:59).

In the film there’s also a short camera hoover over the steepest bit of the ridge around around Pointe Helene. I get shivers every time I look at that masterpiece of a film.

In 2006 I tried climbing the ridge but the conditions were snowy and we turned back before reaching Canzio hut. We were a team of three and we were simply too slow. Climbing this ridge is all about being efficient on easy and exposed terrain and we certainly weren’t that time. Ever since 2006 the weather has not been good enough while I’ve been around. You’ll actually need a pretty good three day weather window for this route. Imagine getting caught in high winds or lightning on such terrain …

Aretes du Rochefort (AD, ridge) – August 2nd, 2012

In my opinion this climb is safest if you start from the Torino hut and proceed over the Aiguille de Rochefort towards Canzio hut. Doing this clearly tells you if you’re fast enough to continue along the second part of the ridge. The climbing is very exposed and balancy from the very start and it’ll continue being so untill the Pointe Walker.  After having done the first short step to the Aiguille de Rochefort you’ll know if this climb is for you.

For the first part Rebuffat gives 6 hours and Camptocamp 6-8 hours. It took us a little less than 8 hours. We started at 9:30 from the Courmayeur cable car and arrived at the Canzio at 17:15. We started fairly late and we probably should have started earlier but we’ve always been late sleepers.

Traverse of the Grandes Jorasses (D, ridge) – August 3rd, 2012

While hanging out at the Canzio hut we figured it should take us about 10 hours for the route untill the Pointe Walker. We did the first part in more or less guide book time and for the second part Rebuffat stated 6-8 hours and Camptocamp 8-10 hours. From the top we reasoned we had 5-6 hours of daylight left to find the route down. With all this we figured that starting at first daylight should be enough. It’s better to see where you’re going than get lost in the dark.

Teppo was born on August 3rd, 1972 and today he was turning 40. He had a big grin on his face ever since he woke up. You don’t get to climb this kind of route very often and especially not on a day you’re turning round years. He said he’ll be having his 40th birthday reception on the top the Pointe Walker today. I answered with a big grin that there won’t be too many people around!

It was very true since during the day we saw only two people climbing the regular route but they were in the distance. Ever since climbing down the Aiguille de Rochefort untill waking up on the Boccalette hut we didn’t see or meet anyone else. There were some tracks in the snow but it seems the Grandes Jorasses can be quite isolated like Rebuffat said.

Teppo had his reception on the summit at 15:50 later that day and it was roughly 9,5 hours after we left the Canzio hut. The descent took us five or six hours and we reached the Boccalatte hut just as the sun was setting. It was one heck of a day for a birthday!

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