It's April the winter is gone, in Cham you can tell it's April when you go by the Midi cablecar and feel like the all world is there. Skiers have more gear hanging around the harness they go for steeper stuff. The PGHM avalanche dog work less but the crevasse dog and the slip-on-a-icy- slope dog works a lot. You can tell is April when sitting outside Elevation you heard the recognizable voice of Marko Prezelj and discover is already that time in the year
Since then i had mixed feeling about the route as a part of me wanted badly to finally do it and another pushed me toward other challenges. I did both first the other challenges and then the route.
One of the reasons it take long before we finally gave it a go is that, for virtually everyone beside me and Martin it was seen as a at least three bivies affair, something who need massive window of good weather. If the winter ascents carried in with a large haulbag and lots of aid took long (4/5 bivies for the 4 winter ascents recorded before the last year ascents),seemed natural, the fact that a onsight ascent took still 3 bivy plus one on top made ourself worried about the route might just taking forever however we climbed it.
The idea of getting caught by a coming storm up the face wasn't really appealing.
Finally Martin and i convinced ourself it was time to go and that three nights on the mountain will be enough.
Not that we were going to be quicker than the two Luka but we were going to do it in not as beautiful style. Both climbers climbed all the route free.
We will have the leader climbing free if is able to and the second coming up as he like to do.
We also could benefit to some beta kindly handled right from them.
We packed a double set of cams up to two one three some stoppers,4 icescrews The always useful five pitons who we didn''t use as usual. we both had sleeping bag. two mats even smaller than the smallest ledge we could find and two gaz canisters, of which we used only one. We took double 7.3 ropes and a jumar for the second.
Sunday morning, perfect weather, we step into the cablecar, talking with Martin i look at his harness i see his belay plate and realize i borrow mine to one of the girls of the alpinism team i worked with last few days. Shit. After much thinking and afraid to lose time i finally figured it out ,we would stop at the Requin Hut on the way down and borrow one, thanks Laure!
The awful ski down on frozen tracks was bad and gave us an excuse to enjoy a coffee and some time at the hut after all we had three days of food nothing to stress about. We resume the descent and shortly after we put the skins on and entered the Leschaux glacier.
Finally we could see the massive face. It was about time.
Rolling Stones start right off the lowest point on the face on the left side of Walker spur, we changed from skis to mountain boots and approached the bergshrund who looked not too easy.
After much cleaning finally Martin could step over it ,size matters. Whe continued with Martin on the lead for all of the beutiful vertical snow and some mixed climbing, then we traversed into easier terrain to start up the vertical compact wall. A first pitch with good ice then a red steep wall, Martin starts up and tried some drytooling,i heard the noise of a piton falling down the face,strange i have the pitons with me.
It was the pick of his ice axe broken neatly! shit!
Now with what we had left we could barely do some gardening, i thank myself for suggesting the jumar as climbing with a single ice axe ain't easy.
I took the lead the route now is pretty hard and some delicate drytooling was required to overcame slabs and tenous cracks.
The routefinding was not easy and the topo really unclear. It started getting dark while i was on a nice runnel we had seen in a picture from last year.
I climb another steep crack and found myself on some bad ledges. Martin went looking on the right and started chopping on the snow 15mt right of the route. I organize the gear at the belay and after a while we finally get our meal and sleeping bags.
We were not sure about were we were. We wanted badly to reach R9 and turn out we reached R13.
The night wasn't terrible and some spindrift started early morning. Weather was excellent tho and we even enjoy some morming sun but the spindrift were not fun. after reversing back to the belay i started traversing a long slab under a overhang, then another difficult pitch to enter a icy goulotte.
We were not worried about going fast as we were certain to reach the bivy ledge of R22 by late afternoon. Martin led his block with some nice ice climbing on it. In the meantime the wind grew stronger and i was pretty much feeling cold. It was with pleasure that i took back the rack for some steeper pitches to take ourselves at the base of the crux pitch.
A ledge at the base gave us promise of a decent bivy. It was only 6pm but i was cold and was not keen to try that hard dangerous pitch not feeling 100percent.
We spent the remaing hour and a half of daylight organizing the bivy in hope to save time the following day. That nigh it was clearly windy we could hear it howling close to the ridge and i was even more worried as i started develop cough and some chest pains.
When the sun came out it was cached beyond a layer of clouds it was a pretty bad news. I was going to accept Martin's offer to lead the pitch as he's a well gifted free and aid climber. Then while we were getting breakfast the wind mellowed and the sun got stronger than the cloud and warmed us for real. I was back in sending mood.
Another late start but we still have plenty of time left. I climbed carefully taking the time to test holds and jams. Surprisingly i found myself at the belay without much fuss ,great. This pitch is a little bit like climbing at the Zoo only a bit more dangerous ;)
The second pitch i started up a steep crack then traversed a beautiful slab hooking very tiny holds,
maybe it would have easier to climb barehanded but i had sweaty hand and was afraid not being able to put my gloves back afterwards so i tooled it, i searched for a logical place to made a belay but i did not found it so i continued up a steep crack for several meters until i finally reached the hanging goulotte i stratched the rope and made a belay on the upper ramp. Phew. Very happy to be out of those difficulties, i waited as Martin selflessly followed with our packs. From the upper ramp i had contemplate joining the Desmaison route as it looks elegant and with nice ice, but our crampons were dull and it wasn't going to be possible for the second without much jumaring so we kept to the actual route which to be onest is still interesting sporting beautiful rock first, then a nice vertical icy chimney, to finally reach Walker spur at the Cheminées Rouges.
The summit is approaching and as Martin take the lead i started enjoying the view and check if there isn't another line who draw my psyche it took me a few seconds to see one.
That's always the same with this wall not even the time to enjoy a route and i'm already thinking about the next. It's clearly a special wall for me. Summit time at 6pm then a three hours crawl in awful snow until Boccalatte we finally could rest our bones.
It was another fantastic trip with Martin who climbed his 5th hard Jorasses route in 14months. It was also my 13th overall in the north face. The most sustained and the one with the coolest free pitches.
Thanks to Luka and Luka to provide the psyche with their beautiful ascent.
Epic first ascent by the Czech or Slovaks Kutil,Prochaska,Schlechta,Svejda in summer 1979.
Big congrats to Grison and Grammond for their early (1984) first repeat and winter ascent. Karo,Jeglic,Sveticic for the second repeat in summer 85.
Then to the party Benoist-Thinières. Christophe Moulin's team, Glairon Rappaz and Perillat-Merceroz for their January ascent. And off course to those who have done and didn't bother sharing it with everyone else or those who think secretely that they done it because it's cool to say they've climbed Rolling Stones on Jorasses but they didn't. And off course thanks to my partner in climbing my gear without with i would be lost. La Sportiva for the Baturas. Black Diamond for all the rest.
Rolling Stones 1200mt M8-6a, 35+pitches 12/14 april with Martin Elias
climbed free the 10 or so hardest pitches but not the entire route.