GRAND CAPUCIN, VOIE PETIT

Posted on: December 1, 2005


Alex Huber on the Voie Petit (8b/5.13c, 450m), which he redpointed in a single push on July 17. The route is a contender for the hardest high altitude free climb in Europe. [Photo] Heinz Zak

At 3838 meters, the Grand Capucin is not one of the highest summits of the Mont Blanc massif. Nevertheless it has been an attractive target for climbers ever since Walter Bonatti made the first ascent of its east face in the 1950s. In 1997 Arnaud Petit and Stefanie Bodet opened a new route on the 400-meter face. On the easier pitches they used natural protection, while on the hard pitches they equipped the climb with pitons and bolts. On the crux pitch—an almost forty-meter-long, ninety-degree corner with a four-meter roof at the end—Petit managed to free all the moves, but he couldn't link them without rests. Since then nobody had succeeded in redpointing the route.

In spring 2003 I met Arnaud in Yosemite. As we talked about free climbing on El Capitan, Arnaud suggested that his Grand Capucin route was a perfect objective for hard, multipitch free climbing. And he said he would be happy if someday it went free.

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I didn't have the necessary energy to start the project that next summer, but I finally showed up this June. The weather was quite a nightmare this season, yet I was lucky, and I managed to finish the project in three trips. On July 17 I redpointed the Voie Petit (V 5.13c, 450m), free climbing all the pitches in a day from the start to the summit in a continuous ascent. The 450-meter route has some sixteen pitches; the hardest pitch goes at 8b. But even with the crux behind you, near the summit another delicate but beautiful 8a pitch awaits, with the best sort of granite. The route may be the hardest at this altitude in Europe.

Alex Huber, Berchtesgaden, Germany

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