PRE DE BAR

Posted on: June 1, 2003


Pre de Bar, Pointe Raphael Borgis, and Super Integrale de Peuterey, New Route and Major Alpine Enchainment. From February 11 to 15, Patrick Pessi and opened a new route on Pre de Bar (Mont Blanc Massif, at the head of the Argentiere Basin between Mont Dolent and Aiguille de Triolet). The route (ED 5.9 A2+ 80 degrees mixed, 500m) took a logical, aesthetic line. The climbing, characterized by ice, aid, mixed and rock, was difficult and varied. The temperature was -20 degrees C throughout the climb.

The initial part of the route was characterized by a narrow ice gully that we climbed on the first day with points of aid when there was not enough ice. Going fast on one pitch, I took my first fall in the mountains. We bivied three pitches below our expected bivy site.

The next morning I wore my down jacket when I started climbing, and I kept it on for the next four days. The cold was intense. After the initial 200-meter gully we encountered the hardest aid pitch followed by a snow slope where we spent our second night.

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The face was very steep, like a big wall. I asked Patrick, how is it possible to climb this crazy wall in winter? My phlegmatic friend said nothing but found some cracks and continued the ascent.

The third night we spent sitting on a bad ledge. I began the morning with the steepest aid pitch of our route. Patrick then climbed a lovely ice gully for eighty meters. We climbed the ice and hauled the bag, but not for a moment were we warm. We had never felt cold like this, but we were happy to find a new line on this small, but surprising, face.

After the final gully I thought we would finish the route, but the climbing was sustained to the top. We spent one more night two pitches below the summit. We could have finished in the dark, but felt it was better to top out and abseil in daylight.

Point 3683 meters, where our route topped out, had no name. We wanted to call it Point Raphael Borgis, in memory of our friend, a discreet, but very active, alpinist who lived near Briancon and died this winter.

Three days later, on February 19, Patrick Pessi, Patrice Glairon-Rappaz and started the Super Integrale de Peuterey on the south side of the Mont Blanc Massif. It took us ten days to complete this fantastic dream, first envisioned by the incredible Renato Casarotto. None of us had climbed the three routes we chose for the enchainment, making the integrale challenging and wonderful.

With twenty-six kilo packs each, and a trail to break through fresh snow, we needed two days for the approach. The first day we arrived at the Monzino Refuge. The second day we crossed the Freney Glacier to arrive at the bottom of the west face of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey.

On February 21 we started to climb the first route, Ratti-Vitali (TD, 650m, 1939). We expected to do the route in one day and took equipment accordingly. However, the west faces are shady, and there was a lot of snow on the rock. After some fierce climbing combat, dry-tooling on 5.6 and snowy slabs in crampons, the night fell and we lost our way. We spent a winter night in nothing but our climbing jackets. Only once in our lives, we all agreed.

The next morning we climbed the hallucinogenic aid pitches of the 1939 route, followed by some very difficult rock pitches that felt much harder than indicatedby the guide book. This was certainly due to our big mountain boots and the snow? After all our laborious efforts we arrived at the top. Two photos later, we began the normal, but acrobatic, abseils of the Integrale de Peuterey. At 9 p.m we found our stove and our sleeping bags, and we were able to forget this deceptive TD. In some ways it was the most difficult route of the trip.

The next day we rested for two reasons: we were tired, and because we would need to cross dangerous snow slopes to access the Gugliermina Needle. Because of this, we started the Boccalatte-Gervasutti (TD+, 600m, 1938) at midnight on February 24. We took all of our equipment on the route; slowed by the haul bag, we spent two days on the ascent. The weather was fantastic, and we had an incredible view. This is one of the most beautiful routes of its grade in the Mont Blanc Massif.

On the crossing of the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey the weather turned and we lost time finding our way. On the Col de Peuterey we decided to forego a bad night in bad weather and went to the Eccles Bivouac. There we found Patrick Berhault and Philippe Magnin, who were climbing a route a day on the pillars of Brouillard and Freney (see note, pp. 88-89 -Ed.). We arrived at 4 a.m. on February 26, rested a day, and left on February 27 at 5 a.m.

At this point we began to get hungry, because we had brought food for only eight days. We had two days' worth remaining, but it was less than our stomachs wanted. We were very tired as we climbed the Freneysie Pascale (ED- VI 6, 700m, Gabarrou-Marsigny, 1984), and the weather was bad. We climbed the ninth day in a snow storm and spent our last night below the crux ice pitch.

After the two final hard pitches and a 200-meter classical gully, we exited on the Brouillard Ridge, and at 6 p.m on February 28 we were on the top of Mont Blanc. The weather was good, though cold (-20 degrees C), and a sixty kilometer-per-hour wind was blowing. There were clouds under our feet at the 4000-meter level.

Having realized one of our alpine dreams, we were moved and happy. We crossed the three summits of Mont Blanc and returned home, to rest, savor the success and plan new projects.

- Stephane Benoist, Nice, France

Editor's Note: The Integrale de Peutery, first climbed by Renatto Casarotto, enchains the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, Col de Peuterey and then the summit of Mont Blanc de Courmayeur via the crest of the Grand Pilier d'Angle. The Super Integrale consists of more difficult routes on the Aiguille Noire, Aiguille Blanche and Mont Blanc de Courmayeur.

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