American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

A New Route on the Petit Dru, West Face Direct

  • Feature Article
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1963

A New Route on the Petit Dru

West Face Direct

Royal Robbins

IN July, Gary Hemming and I made a new route on the northwest shoulder of the Dru, one of the most striking peaks in the Mont Blanc massif. This route, about 1600 feet long on a 3000-foot face, terminates when it meets the regular west face route at the famous 90-Meter Dihedral. The route is very direct and involves almost no snow and ice climbing. There is considerable direct-aid work and several areas of difficult free climbing. We placed 96 pitons and removed 94.

One abortive attempt preceded the successful effort. On this occasion we passed a comfortable night at the 1000-foot level only to be awakened in the morning by showers and a strong south wind. Lightning counseled descent, which we accomplished without much fuss simply by rappelling straight down to the glacier, leaving a fixed line over the hardest pitch.

The successful ascent was started a few days later and completed in 2½ days. The weather favored us with two perfectly cloudless warm days. It broke on the third day with strong winds and snow showers, but nothing of real consequence. We reached the Bloc Coincé, a large detached block at the base of the 90-Meter Dihedral, in the early afternoon of the second day, then proceeded up the west-face route to where it meets the north-face route. We climbed the north face to the Bonatti Pillar and followed the Pillar route to the voie normale, whereby we reached the summit at 11:30 A.M. on July 26, 1962. On the Bonatti Pillar we met two young Swiss, Erich Friedli and Hans Peter Trachsel, superb alpinists who gave us a humbling lesson in how to get rapidly off a mountain under alpine conditions.

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