IV, 850m, 2 days. A long, serious and superb journey through some staggering terrain. A real testpiece at the grade. The route takes in tricky sections of rock climbing plus delicate mixed ground on an exposed ridge, not to mention a long and involved descent. As if all that wasn't enough, the rock is not always completely solid, and reversing the line is difficult (but possible in extremis) so commitment is quite high too. All in all, this is a meaty route!
Start by climbing The Rochefort Ridge (p.277 - a classic route in itself) from the Helbronner lift. This route description begins from the summit of the Aiguille de Rochefort.
1) Descend from the summit to the col at 3895m then climb back up to the Dôme de Rochefort, turning any difficulties en route on the left.
2) Descend from the Dôme just off to the left of the ridge crest then get back onto the ridge crest as the snow peters out and the ridge becomes entirely rock. Scramble up to the Calotte de Rochefort and then over three small towers right after it. From the final small tower, make 2 x 20m abseils to get to a small col. From here, continue scrambling on rock and snow along the ridge crest to a point where you can look down onto the Col des Grandes Jorasses. Make 6 x 25m abseils, on bolted anchors, to reach lower angled ground and then scramble down this to reach the col and the Bivacco Ettore Canzio. Sleep at the hut and continue the next day. Scoping out the start of the line when you arrive at the hut is well advised and will allow you to get going early without worrying about finding the initial section of the route in the dark. If the weather turns overnight when you are at the hut, it is possible to make a series of 12 x 30m abseils down the south side of the Col des Grandes Jorasses and to descend the Glacier de Planpincieux from here. These have been recently bolted and trend gradually to the right of the abseil line.
3) 5a. Cross to the far side of the Col des Grandes Jorasses to the foot of a rocky couloir with a ledge at its bottom left end. Get onto the ledge and climb up for 3m before traversing horizontally 20m left to gain a ramp heading up rightwards (4b, bolted anchors, 20m) and then steepening to a groove system heading back up and left (sections of 5a, pegs, bolted anchors). This leads to a ledge that takes you into a broken, mixed couloir that is followed by the easiest line to the ridge crest. Go along the ridge, initially on the left then on the crest itself, to the summit of Pointe Young. This should take roughly 2 hours from the Bivacco Ettore Canzio.
4) Drop down from Pointe Young on the left side of the ridge to reach a shoulder on the ridge crest. It looks tempting to drop off the ridge rightwards (there are some old fixed ropes leading down) but carry on down along the ridge crest to reach a small but distinctive notch (abseil possible).
5) 3c. Carry on along the ridge, over a steep tower (easier than it looks, 3c) and then follow a ledge system onto the right side of the ridge. Downclimb/abseil from the end of the ledge system to the foot of a mixed couloir, coming down from Pointe Marguerite. Climb this couloir to reach Pointe Marguerite's southwest ridge. Follow this to a small notch between the two summits and climb up easily onto the east summit.
6) From here the ridge is technically quite straightforward but exposed and loose in places. Follow it as it descends gradually to the bottom of Pointe Hélène, passing a few (very welcome) pegs on the way. Climb 70m of easy but exposed ground onto the summit of Pointe Hélène.
7) Scramble eastwards down the exposed ridge and then circumnavigate two towers by passing to the right of them. Once past these, follow the ridge crest over steady but exposed terrain all the way to Pointe Croz.
8) Continue over more easy mixed ground to the summit of Pointe Whymper. Avoid anything tricky by dropping off onto the right of the ridge then coming back onto the crest.
9) Drop off the top of Pointe Whymper and cross the snowy saddle that separates this from Pointe Walker.
Descent - Down the South Face (p.170). © Rockfax
UKC Logbook Description
Can start from either the Bocolatte Hut on the south face or the Torino Hut east of the Dent du Geant. Most parties begin from the Torino Hut.
Climb up under the Dent du Geant onto the Rochefort Ridge and to the Aig. du Rochefort. Continue to the Col des Jorasses via the Dome de Rochefort and the Calotte de Rochefort along snowy ridges, two, diagonal (towards the Col), abseils down to the Col des Jorasses (50 meter ropes were ok). Bivy at the Canzio Hut (blankets, not much else, room for 8).
From Col, climb up Pt. Young, staying on the northern side, two, wet/frozen 5a pitches mid way up before 2 more steep mixed pitches lead to the ridge. Keep to the north side and traverse to the summit of Pt. Young. Descend into a notch with an in situ belay and climb directly above the belay and then around on the south side heading towards just above the couloir that descends from the SW ridge of Pt. Marguerite. Rappel or down climb to start of couloir and then two pitches of II/III ice/snow lead to the SW ridge. Up another pitch into the notch between the summits of Pt. Marguerite.
Very exposed ridge descent leads to Pt. Helene, climb up a few pitches to summit and then descent again towards Pt. Croz past two gendarmes. Stay on the south side on rock and snow to Pt. Whymper. From here, follow snow slope down to col and then up again to Pt. Walker.
Descend via the normal route on the south face; the Pt. Whymper rock arete on the south face; from the Canzio Bivouac Hut down the south face (not recommended!); or from between Pt. Croz and Pt. Whymper down a desperate gully to the Glacier des Grandes Jorasses (subject to rock fall and poor rock)
Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes in the Mont Blanc Massif , Batoux's 100 finest routes in the Mont Blanc massif , ROCKFAX Chamonix: Top 50 , Big Routes , Alpine Dreamz , Big Alpine Routes , Alpine Progression , A mix of routes to the summits of great Peaks in the Alps via standard'ish routes , Alps 22
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