Sunday, September 26, 2010

Colton Macintyre

2 days ago Jon Griffith and myself climbed the Colton Macintyre on the Grande Jorasses north face. This was my third route on the face, and although not the best in terms of climbing quality, it certainly meant the most. Over the last two years i've been poised to climb the route so many times, and once i even found myself at the schrund before abnormally warm temps turned us around.
       Jon had a similar history with the route, so we were more than chuffed when we topped out, knowing we'd finally put it to rest.

The North Face of the Grande Jorasses, definitely the most beautiful face in the European Alps.

We made a relatively late start from our bivi, which was located about a kilometre from the face. The schrund was negotiated with no huge drama and after this we moved together for 400 metres up the first icefield. The initial icefield is pretty grey at the moment which means a brutal warm up for the calves.
      This led to the goulotte which disects the first rockband. The ice here is good and although steep in places its really straightforward.

The Goulotte through the first rockband.

         From the top of this section, the ice crux is clearly visible. I was surprised by its appearance- i'd always expected this pitch to be really intimidating up close but it didn't look bad. After crossing the second icefield  Jon sent the bulging ice smear with style regardless of the completely inadequate protection. From here we moved up the third icefield and in to the bowels of the rearing headwall.
     All the times i've climbed on the north face, i've been struck by just how 3D it is. The way the Walker and Croz spurs rear out, they form huge steep flanks which in the case of the Croz, forms the immense monolithic wall and ramp systems taken by No Siesta and Manitua. On the top section of the Colton Mac you really feel like you're entering the face, deeper and deeper you go up the final icefield before launching up the headwall formed by the right flank of the upper Walker spur.

The ice crux

Jon getting committed on the ice crux.

Me heading off to find the third icefield.

Me with the huge walls taken by "Directe De L' Amitié", "No Siesta" and "Manitua" to my side.

The upper amphitheatre drawing us in.
Although by far the shortest section of the route, the headwall is definitely the most technically absorbing part. The first three pitches all feature quite tenuous thin ice/mixed climbing with poor protection. We did a bit of an alternative start to the headwall, starting it lower down and more direct, which Jon assured me would pay off in the long run. As to whether it did save us time i'm not sure, but it made for an excellent first pitch, with a devious little traverse on very small rock dimples with a sling on a loose spike a fair way below.
       We reached the headwall 5hours 30 after crossing the schrund. But the headwall slowed us a little and we topped out 11 hours after starting the route. We made a slight route finding cock up half way up the headwall which cost us time, and we do believe that the headwall is quite dry right now. At least compared to when Jon rapped the route in the winter of 2009 while photographing Ueli Steck.
Starting the headwall. The ice was abit useless after what you can see in this photo, until the top of the route.

Loose, tenuous and a little scary.

After topping out and enjoying some sun, we descended in to Italy via the rocky rib straight from Pointe Walker and ran underneath the ominous serac which heavily threatens the Voie Normale. After a scary all-fours crawl over one very unstable crevasse, we reached the raps to the Rocher du Reposoir and a few hours later the Boccalatte hut, 6 hours after reaching the summit.

A quick stop to melt snow on the descent. Caught in a long exposure image with assistance from a full moon.

No comments:

Post a Comment