Mt. Ross

Posted on: June 1, 2007


Emmanuel Cauchy on the Traversee de la Lune (ED+), the first complete traverse of the Grand Ross (1850m) and Petit Ross (1721m) on the isolated Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. [Photo] Lionel Daudet

Dreamlike rime formations, a strange light, and the Indian Ocean shining through the gaps in the clouds below it, so close we could almost see the penguins and the sea elephants—Mt. Ross (1850m) is the most beautiful summit I've ever climbed. And it had only been repeated once since its first ascent in 1975. After Emmanuel "Manu" Cauchy, Lionel "Dod" Daudet, Philippe "Tronc" Pellet and I had set up base camp, we'd quickly made the first ascent of the neighboring Pic du Cratere (1181m), via La Panthere Ross (TD-), which we named in reference to our own "Docteur Vertical," the eponymous book writer, guide and mountain-rescue doctor Manu.

A few days later our new route, Le Destin du Criquet (ED-), took Dod, Tronc and me to the top of Mt. Ross. During the descent, as the sunset lit the mountain on fire, I suddenly became aware of our position: on this glacier in the middle of the massif, on this island in the heart of the Indian Ocean, on this Earth in the midst of the galaxy.

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But the main objective that had brought our group to the Kerguelen Islands from late November to early December was the first complete traverse of the Grand and Petit Ross, never before attempted. Dod, however, was sick, the weather was bad, and even the mountain appeared morose. Then one day, the forecast called for a less-violent wind, and we left early in the night. The wind was still there, still brutal; it blew my helmet off my pack. So we opted instead for a round-trip ascent of Petit Ross (1721m) and left light and optimistic, too much so.... We had to stop fifty meters from the summit, because we didn't have enough cord to make a rappel.

Back at base camp, I felt more weary than usual. The weather report wasn't much better for the next day. I let Manu and Dod go by themselves. At the summit, the unhoped-for occurred: the weather cleared; the wind weakened. They seized their opportunity and made the traverse (Traversee de la Lune: ED+). Hats off to them! As for me, I paid dearly for my first "not-so-good" day. Such is life.

Tronc and I had been watching them through our binoculars the whole time: insane. We left to meet them in the dark and it was all together that we returned to base camp, about thirty hours after Dod and Manu left. The next day, we walked for four long days to Port-aux-Francais, Larose Bay, a journey that made us realize the diversity and immensity of the islands' landscapes. We ended our trip nicely exhausted and with our feet well destroyed.

A hot shower, a good night's rest, a successful expedition... happiness itself.

—Sebastien Foissac, L'Argentiere-les-Ecrins, France

Translated from the French by Katie Ives



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