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TOUR RONDE, PETITES JORASSES, TASCHORN

Posted on: December 1, 2005


Spring 1980, with Alexis Long. Christophe Dumarest had just been born, though I didn't yet know it. A vaguely dangerous drifting in the midst of a fog had brought us from the Refuge du Requin to someplace at the foot of the Grandes Jorasses. But we hadn't been able to catch even a glimpse of the smallest portion of the wall in order to orient ourselves. We finally retreated to the damp but welcome shelter of the Refuge du Leschaux. A little disgusted, we went to bed without hope and without even setting our alarm. A bitter cold woke us at daybreak, announcing a superb day. It was a late start, but because good fortune rarely presents itself twice, we threw ourselves joyously toward our first ascent together, which was also the first ascent of the North Face Direct (WI5, 700m) of the Petites Jorasses (3650m). It was a magnificent route, one that inaugurated our rope team and served as the prelude to thirteen years of action, complicity and humor, a rare harmony and a long-term friendship. Thus we became "mountain twins."

Since then, much snow, rock and seracs have fallen, taking away good friends—and my mountain brother, Alexis. Something of the effervescence of their lives and the brilliance of their gaze has been forever inscribed in me, even beyond my awareness. On every summit, I've thought about and prayed for Alex, and through him, for us all.

Spring 2005, with Christophe Dumarest. I returned to Leschaux's intimate safety. Once more, my target was a new route on the north face of the Petites Jorasses. Two years ago a terrible misfortune had struck Christophe. He'd been part of a team of six high-level youth who'd just achieved some splendid routes on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Full of energy and enthusiasm, joking about everything, they had that passion for life that's so strong it seems invincible. And yet, several hours later, as they descended by the normal route of the Grands Mulets, icefall knocked three of them into the glacier's depths. They are there still.

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Christophe and I were climbing in the emptiness of night when he proposed that we dedicate to his friends both the Marshal Spur (TD: II M5 6a/b, 350m)—the route on the north face of the Tour Ronde (3792m) we had opened the week before—and the one we hoped to open today on the north face of the Petites Jorasses. I agreed completely; we called our route on the Petites Jorasses Pilier Tchoua (ED-: IV WI 4 6c, 550m). A weekend later, accompanied by Aymeric Clouet, we achieved a perfectly logical and deeply attractive line on the wild south face of the Taschorn (4491m) in the Swiss Valais. The Taschorn was the last terrestrial summit for Patrick Berhault in his 2004 odyssey to climb all 82 summits in the Alps above 4000 meters. Absorbing ambiance, action and thought marked our ascent, but those dense moments on the top, around 7 p.m., characterized it even more. We named our route Misericorde ("Mercy," V 4 M7 6a/b X, 900m).

Patrick Gabarrou, Saint Sigismond, France

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