Alpinist 50

Mountain Profile: The Aiguille du Dru Part I (1878-1955)

Posted on: June 8, 2015

The Aiguille du Dru (3754m) in the Mont Blanc massif. Its highest summit, the Grand Dru, was first reached in 1878 during the Silver Age of Alpinism, as climbers began to explore the steep rock of the spirs above Chamonix, France. [Photo] Frank Krahmer

FEBRUARY 2002: SIX INCHES IN FRONT of my face, the waxy grey stump of my thumb, contoured with dirt and dried blood, pokes through a double pair of worn gloves. Fro the past ten days on the Aiguille du Dru, I've traced my fingertips over tiny crystals, plunged my hands wrist-deep into jagged cracks and swung my body across empty walls—searching for that hidden weakness. Only three moves to the end of the route, but I wonder whether I have the energy to make them. Our rudimentary paper topo has long since dissolved into illegible pulp. the straps of one haulbag broke on our second day, dropping half our equipment 300 meters to the glacier. We scraped the scattered grains of our food out of the snow, but the portaledge lay twisted beyond repair. Then came the storms. At first, a gossamer veil of frozen mist. Then each spiraling flake became a bright light blotting out single grains of red granite, connecting like a puzzle until flurries blanketed the wall in a white as impenetrable as any shadow. The emergence of this monochrome world left us on one of the most famous spires of the Mont Blanc massif, in the heart of the Alps, devoid of clues, as if all traces of previous ascents have been erased. We're back with the pioneers, making choices based on desire and survival.

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