Grandes Jorasses Commentary Alessandro Gogna 1973

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 18, 2008 - 07:59pm PT
Classic survey with luscious photos of this amazing area from Mountain 26, March 1973.



















'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 18, 2008 - 11:06pm PT
A great read! All the heros of alpinism. Thanks, Steve.

P.S. Can you make your scans a bit bigger please? It's hard to read such small letters. Cheers.
Phil_B

Social climber
Hercules, CA
Dec 19, 2008 - 11:10am PT
Steve,

Way cool! Thanks for posting.

Pete, I found that I could change the size of the image onscreen by holding my Ctrl key down and rolling the mouse button up or down.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 20, 2008 - 02:45pm PT
A mood shot from Between Heaven and Earth by Gaston Rebuffat and Pierre Tairraz, photographer, 1965.


On the Midi- Plan Arete; In the distance: the Periades and the Grandes Jorasses.


The backside of the massif. Foreground: Auguille du Plan, behind from right to left: Auguille de Leschaux, the Grandes Jorasses, The Dome de Rochefort and Mont Mallet.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 23, 2008 - 11:47am PT
Just a little bump in the Alps!
Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Dec 23, 2008 - 01:19pm PT
I have that issue of Mountain in a box somewhere.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 23, 2008 - 02:09pm PT
Great article. Thanks for posting. Sort of like the progenitor of the feature articles in Alpinist. It's unsurprising but mind-blowing that just about every notable attempt and successful ascent he describes experienced at least one hellacious storm, and yet they carried on whether up or down, with the crappiest imaginable boots and other gear, little hope of surviving any significant fall given the crummy ropes and pro and many things to hit. Plus, there's practically no sun that hits the Walker or Croz even in mid summer, even less on some other lines, so even under ideal conditions you're jamming your hands into cracks full of ice and snow, and they're not easy cracks either! Pretty damn tough buggers. Also highlights that there were some very burly women climbers already in those early days (Loulou Boulaz being only one of a bunch of them). All this puts the ascents on this side of the pond, at the same era, in a bit of perspective.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Dec 23, 2008 - 02:45pm PT
That article, like so many others in Mountain, sparked many dreams that unfortunately never became reality when confronted with the true reality of my incompetence in the alpine!!!! Mountain, along with Ascent, was in many ways the direct ancestor of Alpinist, and most other modern climbing magazines. I didn't/don't agree with Ken Wilson (founder and original editor of Mountain)on certain topics but he sure produced a great mag. As for the comparison of the climbs in the Alps in the '20s and '30s with those on this continent, it is surely true that in general terms of difficulty and commitment the most difficult in the Alps were significantly advanced compared to most over here, but there were some notable exceptions. In particular, the first (and second, for that matter) ascent of Mt. Waddington was roughly comparable in terms of technical difficulty to the top climbs of the era in the Alps, and because of remoteness, even more committing, though it was a European-trained climber who led the ascent. And the big climbs in Alaska and the Yukon of that era, while not necessarily technically difficult, were extremely committing and serious. Even climbs like the North and West Faces of the Grand Teton, while by no means the equivalent of the routes on the Jorasses or other similar alpine faces, were still pretty significant clims--even if they'd been in the Alps, and particularly deserve respect given the very small North American climbing community of the day and the distance of the main mountain areas from the principal population centers(except for Colorado!!!!).
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
I started climbing young and had lots of time to read and dream of big alpine adventures. I relished articles like this one that allow you to gain a broad, historical sense of achievement. Excellent photo accompaniment further enhances appreciation of the stage and actors.

Setting marks for your own climbing is made more sensible by understanding history and the efforts of others. When just starting out, climbing is limitless and delightfully, for me, it has always stayed that way. My love of grand alpinism has certainly demanded the best of my own efforts when the going gets tough or dangerous.
BASE104

climber
An Oil Field
Jan 2, 2009 - 09:28am PT
Steve,

I also had a lot of time when I was young, and a lot of it was in the town library. They had a copy of The White Spider, which I devoured when I was 14, and my climbing life was born. All of those guys getting whacked made sense to me somehow. The constant dream of adventure, which I continue to do in different ways now. Totally changed my life. Going to Mexico and missing an economics mid-term made perfect sense to me. It was worth making an F.

I bet that I walked by the Grandes Jorasses ten times. I was there in a very dry year. I hitched alone over to Grindelwald and spent a week in a little shephard's hut at the base of the Eiger, and never even saw anything above the second icefield. The damn thing was storming the whole time, although it was nice and pretty at the base.

I kick myself in the ass for not doing the Walker Spur. I had a couple of strong partners, it had a lot of rock climbing on it, etc. I was in Chamonix most of the summer doing stuff. The chance never came again. I am sure I would have done it if I had seen that article. One of our biggest problems was good english descriptions of routes and the whacko french alpine ratings at the time, which were all over the map.

Walt wanted to do the Croz, which was little climbed at the time, and almost as hard. We had many periods of good weather to do it in, but always did something else. I have some sweet pictures of it, often in the background of some summit snapshot.

Ahhh. Dreams of youth....I dreamed of climbing the Eiger. I was 22 when I was there. Strongest of my life. Not that smart, though.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
Another view of the GJ from Mountains by John Cleare, 1975.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 24, 2009 - 11:08pm PT
Frosty bump!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 16, 2009 - 02:11pm PT
In remembrance of the great Ricardo Cassin.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Aug 25, 2009 - 06:17pm PT
Alessandro's article was based on the material he used for his fantastic (but little know) 1975 book on the history of the NF of the Jorasses. It's a pity it was never translated in English (as far as I know), because is a much better example than "White Spider" on how is possible to write entertaining, inspirational and autoritative climbing history.

Of course some of the material is now dated, but given the informations available in the 70's, it was a wonderful work.
Nohea

Trad climber
Sunny Aiea,Hi
Aug 26, 2009 - 05:04am PT
Fantastic! Today there has been some great bumps. I was teased by this one cuz of the great pics but could not read the small print, so this was my first read once I got home.
As I sat in the ER and a Drís office for a ridiculous amount of time I this on my tiny BB screen. This is fantastic stuff and the reason I am part of this campfire. Thank You! Another great thread!

Aloha,
will
Wee Jock

climber
Aug 26, 2009 - 07:43am PT
Hi Steve
Caption on one of the photos posted is a wee bit confusing to me. Looks like Charmoz-Grepon-Blaitiere-Plan NF...rather than GJ to Mont Mallet....there again senility may have set in and the confusion is just endogenous.
Wee Jock

climber
Aug 26, 2009 - 07:51am PT
Hi Luca, you erudite old beast!! That article by Gogna was probably the main thing that inspired me to go alpine climbing back when I was a sprog ... particularly the fantastic side view phtoto of the Croz and Walker Spurs. It was because of that article that I got 'hung up' on the Jorasses and did several routes there and not one on Mt Blanc. My favourite mountain, the GJ - even more so than Ben Nevis!!
Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Aug 26, 2009 - 11:05am PT
i concur, that photo above is of grand charmoz, aiguille de blaitiere and aiguille du plan, not quite in the same area as grandes jorasses but great alpine features in their own.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 26, 2009 - 11:12am PT
I have some recollection of a correction in the next issue on that caption but I don't have it on hand.

Luca-How common is AG's book on the Jorasses?
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Aug 29, 2009 - 07:08pm PT
Hi Luca, you erudite old beast!! That article by Gogna was probably the main thing that inspired me to go alpine climbing back when I was a sprog ... particularly the fantastic side view phtoto of the Croz and Walker Spurs. It was because of that article that I got 'hung up' on the Jorasses and did several routes there and not one on Mt Blanc. My favourite mountain, the GJ - even more so than Ben Nevis

Hello Gordon,

thanks for the "erudite"! Nice to know you've been inspired by Alex article, I know it was truly a labour of love for him (of course he too has a "thing" for the GJ). Next time I see Gogna I'll tell him, I think he'll be very pleased.



lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Aug 29, 2009 - 07:16pm PT
Steve:

Gogna's book had a last (updated) edition in 1999, for Nordpress. There are still copies around, if you're interested check with:

Libreria La Montagna
V. Sacchi 28 Bis
10128 Torino
Tel./Fax: +39 011 5620024
Email: info@librerialamontagna.it
http://www.librerialamontagna.it

They've an excellent mail service and a printed catalogue with lot of rarities. BTW they speak English. I'll be there next week, I'll see if they still have a copy, otherwise I think they can try to locate one.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Aug 30, 2009 - 12:23am PT
Good to hear from Luca again!

Here are a couple of photos of the backside of the Grandes Jorasses which he sent me some time ago and I thought were interesting. These are the normal retreat routes after attaining the summit but would make a pleasant outing on their own.





and closer up



lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Aug 30, 2009 - 05:55am PT
Hello Jan,

the normal route of the Jorasses (the one seen in the second picture) has been now temporarily closed by the Courmayeur authorities, as the equipment monitoring the movements of the huge serac right below Pt. Whymper (second highest summit to the L) is indicating that the serac itself may collapse any moment. The estimated mass involved could be up to 40.000 m^3 (20.000 m^3 in a more prudent evaluation), and so most of the route above the Boccalatte hut may be hit by the debris.

This temporary ban is of course not physically enforced (i.e. there's no policemen stopping people going up the normal route of the Jorasses!). But should anything happen when people is there, practial consequences (for instance on insurance, rescue costs etc) could be unpleasant.

The route in picture one is the Hirondelles ridge, a beautiful route of grade around D+ (with the crux being F6a), but not a normal route by any mean. Can be used (as we've already discussed in the thread dedicated to Frank) as an escape route for those exiting from the Shroud). Otherwise, and unless one is desperate to get out the summit, it's way too complex to be considered a "normal" mean of descent.

While we're on the topic - I would like to be put in touch with any US climber which may have climbed the Gervasutti route on the east face of the Jorasses. I'm not even sure the east face had ANY "first american climb", so I'm not sure this request may make any sense. Still, if anyone here on ST may help me, that would be much appreciated!

Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Aug 30, 2009 - 09:58am PT
Luca-

Your comments provoked a lot of questions.

If a person wanted to cross from the Glacier de Lescheux in France over to Italy, could they not pass over the col at point B on the first photo and descend via the rest of the marked route for the Hirondelles retreat? And does anyone do that?

Also, is it normal to have equipment on the top of a mountain like the Grandes Jorasses or was it placed there because people were worried about the cornice?

And finally, how are most people descending now if the main route is closed?
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Aug 30, 2009 - 11:04am PT
Hello Jan,

>If a person wanted to cross from the Glacier de Lescheux in >France over to Italy, could they not pass over the col at point >B on the first photo and descend via the rest of the marked >route for the Hirondelles retreat? And does anyone do that?

Crossing into Italy by any other mean than the normal route of the Jorasses has no restriction. The col marked as "B" in the first photo is the Col Des Hirondelles (3491m) on the Freboudze basin. A direct traverse from France to Italy through this col is difficult (as the French side involves some technical climbing) but it's not part of the Courmayeur ban

>Also, is it normal to have equipment on the top of a mountain >like the Grandes Jorasses or was it placed there because people >were worried about the cornice?

The monitoring equipment for the Jorasses serac is a joint project between the Courmayeur public administration (who did the funding and started the project) and the Zurich polytechnic (who's doing the actual data crunching). It was started after, in 1998, the entire serac fell down a first time, triggering fear the village of Planpincieux (at the base of the Jorasses) could be involved. The monitoring system uses reflecting metal poles "stuck" around the serac perimeter, whose trigonometrical position is verified by laser probes.

Keep in mind that the (Italian) Val Ferret has seen some of the most catastrophic avalanches / rockfall ever recorded, including one event (the september 1717 Triolet rockfall) who is believed to have involved something like 20 millions m^3 of debris. So this corner of MB is quite familiar with this type of events.

>And finally, how are most people descending now if the main >route is closed?

The most reasonable mean to get off the Jorasses for the people coming up the North Face is now the West Ridge. While is long and definitely not easy, it's still more or less safe. There's now an equipped descent on the Italian side of the Col Des Grandes Jorasses, but with the current hot spell, it's quite stonefall exposed.

This said, given the exceptionally snowy winter/spring/early summer we've experienced, the NF of the Jorasses has not gone in conditions until quite late, and this year is not being particularly frequented. On the other hand the West Ridge has seen a serious surge of traffic (which has sadly provoked some problem at the Canzio bivy hut on the Col des Grandes Jorasses)
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Sep 10, 2009 - 05:19pm PT
Steve:

in case you're interested, the book is available.
Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Sep 18, 2009 - 08:54pm PT
awesome. bump.
b.p.

climber
bishop
Sep 18, 2009 - 09:55pm PT
A small anecdote:

During WWII, my family retreated to their house in Planpincieux, which sits at the end of the trail coming down from the Jorasses. In the course of one of those winters, on a certain day, most of the family had retreated to Courmayeur, for company and a few degrees of warmth. My grandfather and Bonora, (a questionable character who had taken up guardianship duties in the neighborhood), remained in Planpincieux. Around noon, a colossal chunk of glacier detached from the Jorasses, below the hut. My grandfather said day turned into night for a very long time. The avalanche took out the entire forest below the glacier, The "breath" of the avalanche took out the church steeple.
Needless to say, Bonora and Grandpa skied down to Courmayeur asap.
The houses in the neighborhood were spared...now, I wonder for how long.

Luca, perhaps in your erudition, you could find out the exact dates of the event? All the elders in the family are gone now and my memory fails me in the details. Mi farebbe piacere avere i dati. Grazie Paola
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2011 - 02:40pm PT
Classic Bump!

Amazing story, Paola!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 2, 2011 - 03:13pm PT
Wow!

I poured over that article again and again, the stuff of dreams for a teenager. But that story about Bonatti and Vaucher really got me thinking.
Maybe that alpine stuff is a little too dangerous!
(Then the next year I was crippled by rockfall in Eldo, albeit human caused.)

Only a few years ago did I read Walter's account of the Point Whymper climb that provides far more detail (not to mention a disparity in the size of the detached tower.)
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 2, 2011 - 03:20pm PT
Oh, and 6 years before their climb Brad Washburn flew by the Jorasses and took a photo that he told me only 2 years before his death was his all time favorite.

(I have a beautiful signed print of it over the fireplace bracketed by 2 more of his on the walls either side.)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2011 - 11:32pm PT
A Henry Kendall shot of the Jorasses from his write-up of the Walker Spur.



More on Henry at:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=945436&msg=1260235#msg1260235
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 23, 2011 - 01:36pm PT
More full color alpine splendor...

http://www.supertopo.com/inc/postreply.php?topic_id=268159&tn=20
highcamp

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jan 23, 2011 - 09:57pm PT
Great article! Thanks for posting.

I just added some topos on the other GJ thread, so figured I'd just copy+paste the post here as well:
-----------------------------


... Got these from over at camptocamp.org when I was doing research for the Walker. Great site, although sometimes glacially slow. Not all routes there have topos, but the ones for the Walker are superb:

WalkerSpur_topo1
WalkerSpur_topo1
Credit: http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/55210/fr/grandes-jorasses-pointe-walker-eperon-walker
http://s.camptocamp.org/uploads/images/1258104451_534000787.png


WalkerSpur_topo2
WalkerSpur_topo2
Credit: http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/55210/fr/grandes-jorasses-pointe-walker-eperon-walker
http://s.camptocamp.org/uploads/images/1256302133_326310246.jpg

direct link to the beta page: http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/55210/fr/grandes-jorasses-pointe-walker-eperon-walker
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 4, 2012 - 01:07pm PT
Classic alpine bump!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 31, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
And another...
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