The Grand Jorasses

Descending into in the Larch forests filling the valley floor, I’m aware of the dwindling roar of the cascading waters from the Freney and Brouillard glaciers and conscious of the birds, the trickling water and soft sounds of my feet on the pine needles of the forest bed. Spending a few days high in these hills, and sleeping in these friendly Italian huts, provides one with such a fine feeling of alpine environments. It’s not until you return to the valley floor that you become fully conscience of the sights and sounds that have been with you.

Vadim is back with more intriguing stories of Moscow, Russia, and trips to South America and more. He is so interested in peoples of other cultures, how they prepare their food, the plants they use, and how they cope with different situations. It’s a luxury for me to spend time with him.

We climbed the Ottoz route on the Aiguille Croux from the Refugio Menzino, a 13 pitch, pure rock route, to get acclimatized for our 4000er, the Grand Jorasses. With a maximum move of 6a, this route has an alpine feel to it, yet with only and hour and a half approach from the hut. Armando, the guardian,  is super nice, and has great tips for doing many great climbs from here, including some of the wild routes to the top of the Mont Blanc.

Conditions on the Jorasses were excellent. The huge area of seracs, which discourages many from heading this way, did not look too menacing. And I’d spotted a line from our previous outing that took us left of the main group of seracs. We climbed to the unguarded hut of Bocalatte in three hours the first day. What a pleasure it was to be completely alone in this part of the Alps. While climbers are scrambling all over themselves on the popular routes, we were all alone in this hut. A tiny MSR stove and a bit of pasta kept us satisfied, eating our dinner looking over the glacial ice tumbling down beneath our feet.

We got going the next day at a leisurely 5 AM, with dawn fully cracked. The snow on the glacier was nicely crampon-able, and the rock on the Rocher du Reposoir was warm and dry. A few moves of 3+ got us up and over towards flatter terrain and then onto a snowy ridge. A little serac blocked our traverse to the second rock rib descending from the Whymper, so I was happy to have my “piolet traction” to help me up this little vertical step. The rest of the route to the top was real straight forward. It was magnificent to look own into France, with all her glaciers winding away. Thanks for the trip Vadim!

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About Hans Solmssen

I am a professional mountain guide living in Verbier, Switzerland. I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii after my father moved to Hawaii to teach at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He created a horse program at this high school, located in the middle of the largest, privately owned cattle ranch in the US. Horses were a major part of my life, even playing polo for a few years. I moved to northern Vermont to go to school, and discovered skiing. Little did I know, this would become my life's passion: guiding friends and clients over the mountains around the world on skis and foot. I moved to Verbier, Switzerland in 1982, and entered the Swiss guide's program in '88. I received my UIAGM "pin" 3 years later in 1991. I have two kids, Anya and Kevin.

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