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Europe, France, New Routes in Chamonix: North Faces of Grands Charmoz and Grand Pilier d'Angle

New Routes in Chamonix: North Faces of Grands Charmoz and Grand Pilier d’Angle. During the Rassemblement International, Americans did some fine climbs in the Chamonix region. Steve Zajchowski and I were the representatives of the American Alpine Club. On July 8 with Roger Martin I did the first one-day ascent of the North Face Direct of les Droites. On the 14th I soloed the north face of the Grand Pilier d'Angle. Zajchowski did the Northeast Spur Direct on les Droites with the French climber Xavier Fourger. Zajchowski and I did the third ascent of the Couloir Nord de la Brèche des Drus in one day on July 22; previously the best time was three days. On July 28 and 29 Steve Arsenault and I did the Walker Spur. On the 30th Zajchowski soloed the Swiss route on the north face of les Courtes. On August 7 Zajchowski and I did a new route on the north face of les Grands Charmoz. Grand Pilier d’Angle North Face: The route follows narrow gullies in the pillar between the Fréhel-Dufour route and the Cecchinel-Nomine. It is characterized by mixed climbing in the extreme while on the actual face and by the usual sérac dangers of all the climbs in the area. The bergschrunds could present a problematic crossing. From the Col Moore, cross the plateau under the Great Couloir of the Route Major. Cross the bergschrunds below the Pear, bearing left at the level of the initial rocks of the Pear. This is most easily done at night by climbing the avalanche cone. The actual gully begins with a rock pillar to its left and at about the same level as the first rocks of the Pear. Follow this gully through difficult mixed climbing for over 1200 feet to an enclosed area with rock pillars on either side and two narrow tongues of ice descending from a vertical shield of rock. Follow the tongue on the right for several hundred feet (extremely thin ice) and traverse right onto the pillar via huge ice-encrusted flakes forming something of a chimney. At the top of the chimney is a right-leading ledge system. Follow the ledge to a slightly overhanging 10-foot corner. (The only piton of the route was used here and should still be in place.) Climb the corner and continue by easier, lower-angled slabs for 100 feet. The route here gets on the final snowfield. Follow the snowfield to the Peuterey ridge. The summit is three hours from this point in good conditions. The route is rated the same as the other routes on the face, E.D. sup. and represents a marked evolution over the Ceccinel-Nomine and the Fréhel-Dufour since it used no direct aid. An attempt on this route claimed the lives of two climbers several years ago. Grands Charmoz North Face: The route climbs the east side of the north face of the Grands Charmoz and finishes in the prominent couloir to the right of the Aiguille de la République. It is characterized by sustained high-quality climbing on both rock and ice and represents two ice pitches steeper than the Dru Couloir, the Couloir Chaud and the Grand Pilier d’Angle. There is considerable stonefall danger in certain sections, so the climb must be done rapidly. Approach the face from the path to the Envers des Aiguilles Hut, turning off before the path leads away from the Charmoz. Climb the left side of the Charmoz Glacier (the right bank), cross the bergschrund and start across a snowfield to a rock pillar leading to the base of the small couloir going to the Brèche de 1’Aiguille de la République. Climb the pillar via an obvious chimney system, which is slightly overhanging. Two pitons were used to climb out of the bergschrund onto the pillar. Follow the chimney to the base of the small couloir (F9). Climb the couloir 600 feet to its end (stonefall) and traverse right onto the rock face for 200 feet. Go up a left-facing series of corners and continue up icy crack systems for nine pitches (F8) to easier ground. Get on the final ice slope and climb a narrowing and increasingly steep couloir for four or five pitches to an almost vertical ice wall (very steep ice, stonefall). Two pitches will overcome the headwall; two pitches more on easier ice lead to the final two or three on mixed ice and rock. The climbing here is of extreme standard and is terribly loose. Care should be taken not to dislodge huge, tottering blocks on the belays. A ridge leads to the summit. Zajchowski and I used 22 nuts or pitons for protection as well as four ice screws. We took 13 hours.

John Bouchard