Archive for speed climbing

Les Grandes Jorasses, from 342 to 2 hours

Posted in Mountains with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2018 by xi'an

Last month Dani Arnold, a Swiss climber, climbed the classic Cassin route of Les Grandes Jorasses [in my dreams!] in two hours (and obviously completely free-solo, with no protection whatsoever). This route was opened by Cassin, Esposito and Tizzoni, 1938, is part of the three great north walls of the Alps, with Eiger and Matterhorn, and is graded TD+/ED1, IV, 5c/6a, A1, for a vertical climb of 1200m. It is an extremely challenging and engaged climb, with almost no possibility to escape once started, and climbing parties often take more than a day to complete the climb. On his way up, Arnold passed nine groups of climbers. Here is another video of his in Scotland, when repeating for the first time Anubis, a mixed climbing route on Ben Nevis. (The title of the post is relating to Desmaison’s 342 heures dans les Grandes Jorasses.)

speed [quick book review]

Posted in Books, Mountains, Running with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2014 by xi'an

Ueli Steck is a Swiss alpinist who climbed solo the three “last” north face routes of the Alps (Eiger, Jorasses, and Cervino/Matterhorn) in the record times of 2:47, 2:27, and 1:56… He also recently climbed Annapurna in 27 hours from base camp, again solo and with no oxygen. (Which led some to doubt his record time as he had lost his camera on the way.) A climb for which he got one of the 2014 Piolets d’Or. (In connection with this climb, he also faced death threats from the sherpas installing fixed ropes on Everest as reported in an earlier post.) He wrote a book called Speed, where he described how he managed the three above records in a rather detailed way. (It is published in German, Italian and French,

the three major languages of the Swiss Confederation, but apparently not in English.) The book reads fast as well but it should not be very appealing to non-climbers as it concentrates mostly on the three climbs and their difficulties. The book also contains three round-tables between Messner and Steck, Bonatti and Steck, and Profit and Steck, which are of some further interest. The most fascinating part in the book is when he describes deciding to go completely free, forsaking existing protection and hence any survival opportunity were he to fall. When looking at the level of the places he climbed, this sounds to me like an insane Russian roulette, even with a previous recognition of the routes (not in the Jorasses where he even climbed on-sight).  I also liked the recollection of his gift of an Eiger Nordwand climb with her wife for her birthday! (I am unsure any spouse would appreciate such a gift to the same extent!) The book concludes with Steck envisioning moving away from those speed solos and towards other approaches to climbing and mountains…

As a coincidence, I also watched the film documentary Messner on Arte. A very well-done docu-fiction with reconstitutions of some of the most impressive climbs of Messner in the Alps and the Himalayas… Like the solo climb of the north face of Les Droites. With a single icepick. The film is also an entry into what made Messner the unique climber he is, from a very strict family environment to coping with the literal loss of his brother Guenther on the Nanga Parbat. With a testimony from his companion to the traverse by ski of the North Pole who saw Messner repeatedly calling him Guenther under stress.