Walker Spur, Grandes Jorasses N Face (ED1, 6a, IV, 90°, 1200m)

posted in: Adventures Abroad | 0

Date of climb: 27 July 2018

Partner: Mihnea Prundeanu

‘’The rock face of all rock faces, the route of all routes: the Cassin route up the Walker Spur on the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses represents a dream for all alpinists.’’ Of course for me was not any different, I am flirting with this route for the past 3 years and I never got a chance to give it a go. Mainly because the route is demanding and due to its length it is better to be climbed when the mountain is in excellent condition.

Mihnea and I were interested in the route since the beginning of the season when we saw that the conditions might be good for it. Instantly when we saw a weather window that perfectly matched with our free days from work we decided to go for it. With only two and half days margin we’d have to be fast. So we decided to pack light for one day climb in the Walker Spur.

In the afternoon of Thursday the 26th of July Mihnea picked me up from my house and we drove to Montenvers train station from where we took the train and then walked on the Mer de Glace towards Leschaux refuge. We arrived in the hut at 17:00 just before an evening storm hit the mountains. The small hut was packed with people including 4 teams who also wanted to climb Walker Spur and among them Dani Arnord who was planning to do a speed solo ascent of the same route. After dinner, the rain stopped and we had the chance to study the wall through the binocular. Meanwhile, we had a better look at different topos and we agreed on an early start in the morning. After organizing the final details I made it to bed for 21:00. Not before setting the alarm. You know it’s going be a long day when your alarm tells you-you’re going to have 4 hours sleep, and that’s at best…

In the morning after we had a breakfast in the terrace, we made our way to the foot of Jorasses. I set off first on some ice and then on the mellow terrain at the bottom of the spur. Loose rocks and questionable protection led us to the base of the slabs. Mihnea then took the lead and he climbed ‘’Dalle Moutonee’’ a delicate slab that felt quite tricky in mountain boots. After that, we changed into climbing shoes and we made our way to the ledge at the foot of two cracked corners (Rebuffat – Allain) just as the sun was coming up. The Jorasses’ big looming walls were starting to become a reality of what we had lined up for the day. This was probably the first main rock climbing pitch. What looked to be great cracks, turned out to be thin seams.

After that pitch we traversed horizontally around on loosish rocks to the 75m ”Ken & Diedre” pitch. Then we took off for the next block of leads/simul-climbing, which took us through the pendulum pitch and then we set off again for some more climbing on loose blocks to the base of the Grey Slabs. That section looked intimidating but there seemed to be really good holds on it. Reading the line there seemed a bit tricky and it took us longer than expected but it felt pretty good to do some nice enjoyable climbing on the route rather than just scrambling around on precarious rock.

Then we reached the bivvy ledge, and we climbed an enjoyable short steep wall (5c) that led us to a long rock spur. We simul-climbed the majority of this. Until we reached the Red Chimney where we changed back into mountain boots and crampons. There we thought that the route finding would get easier but we found ourselves spending a lot of time wondering where we should go. After a bit of debating we finally made our way up the main part of the Red Chimneys and then we traversed right.

We traversed across a slab underneath the Red Tower which brought us to the home stretch, which was fairly steady and quite enjoyable. At that point, I started to feel tired but luckily the very last steps on the Walker Spur are great. A few snow steps and we then pop straight onto the summit of the Grandes Jorasses. We topped out around 20:00. We got our selfie shot, re-arranged gear and we started our way down.

I knew that the descent on the other side of Grandes Jorasses is long and complex and soon would be dark but luckily we had some tracks to follow. We made good progress while we down climbed the first two rock spurs and traversed below the huge hanging seracs. By the time we got onto the Rocher du Reposoir it was dark and we were tired so we decided to call it a day and we bivouacked for some hours. That night we had the chance to admire the Bloody Moon (The longest total Lunar Eclipse of the Century) from our cold and uncomfortable bivouac place. In the morning we made our way down the Rocher du Reposoir and the remaining way to the Italian valley floor with a stop at Boccalatte Rifugio for coffee and food.



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