Manitua - Grandes Jorasses
Even though the rainy weather at the beginning of this summer didn't make me hope for good conditions on long rock routes on big north faces, conditions towards mid-end of August got better and better.
Last year I had heard about a few roped parties that had climbed a route called Manitua on the Grandes Jorasses and the idea of climbing that route fascinated me. Marc Toralles, a spanish friend of mine that I first met a few weeks earlier, told me he had read that the conditions on the Jorasses were quite good and that someone had repeated that route some days earlier.
The route was first climbed by Slavko Sveticic (solo!) in 1991. Afterwards the route got some repetitions, mostly in winter.
Last summer two or three roped parties did a one-day ascent of the route.
Manitua climbs the steep about 350-400m wall on the left side of the Croz Pillar. To get to this wall you first have to climb a snow/ice field then you follow a diagonal snow/ice ramp to the left and then you climb up on mixed terrain (in dry conditions, like when we climbed it, mostly easy and partly loose rock) until you get underneath the hard section of the route. Ten pitches of rock climbing up to 7a+/b, with a last pitch of A3 or (like we did) 7c (6c/A1), lead to the top of this steep wall. From there the climbing gets easier and the difficulties more classical - but still not to underestimate.
The weather for the week of the 22th seemed to be very stable and warm. Marc had to do some guiding work in the Ecrins until the 23th and so we decided to meet the 24th in Chamonix, go to the Leschaux hut and climb on the 25th.
As the weather was to good to just sit around and wait for the day we would go up to the Leschaux hut I decided to climb something the day before and as I didn't find anyone who wanted to do some harder stuff I went to solo the Gervasutti.
Even though I didn't really go that fast all the way, the next day I still felt quite sore and it did't take me that long to realize I felt too tired to climb a committing route like Manitua the day after. Fortunately Marc felt the same way: three days of guiding, rushing to Chamonix from les Ecrins, packing the stuff as fast as possible to get the four o'clock train to Montenvers isn't exactly the best way to start a hard climbing journey.
After two and a half hours of walking we got to the Leschaux hut and yes, we felt tired. We both agreed that it would be better to take a rest day at the hut as the weather forecast for friday was still very good. It would not have been wise to just go for if the next day because we planned to climb the route in one day, what meant that we didn't bring nor sleeping bags nor a stove. We just brought our down jackets and a two men bivi bag.
The rest day on the hut gave us the opportunity to recover and check out the line with the spyglass a bit. Thanks to Chloe , the hut keeper and her cat Jorasses we felt welcome and in good hands.
Contrary to the first night where the hut was completely booked out and therefore we had to sleep outside in front of the hut, the second day we had the hut all for ourselves. Two other climbers arrived to the hut in the afternoon. The funny thing was that I had met those two guys on the Gervasutti two days before. Now David and Misha were going to climb the Walker Spur via the Cassin Route - what a coincidence!
Friday we all got up at about 1.30, had breakfast and started at around 2.15. After having walked up the glacier with Misha and David for a while, Marc and me continued more towards the right in direction of the Croz Spur. We quickly climbed the snow ramp and the diagonal traverse. On the rocky part we tied in and mostly simul climbed to the beginning of the harder pitches.
We lost a little bit of time because at the beginning of the "mixed" section we went to much to the left and then had to down climb one pitch.
Underneath the steep wall we first did not understand exactly where we had to climb up. The first pitch is given 6c/+ but we could not figure out which line we had to follow, so instead of "climbing into the Nirvana" and loose precious time we decided to do the easier variation on the left (5c). Not perfectly ethical, I know, but as we didn't see any pitons nor any possibility to place gear and we were not sure about where to climb up, I didn't like the idea to just go for it.
After this first pitch we opted to both climb without backpacks what meant that we had to tie both backpacks to one end of a half rope and lift them up - incredibly strenuous without a pulley and certainly not the fastest solution......
We were lucky - most of the pitches were dry or at least not that wet and so little by little we gained height. I was quite happy I managed to onsight/flash everything up to the last pitch.
The last pitch did not look like something I could manage to free-climb or at least not without properly checking it out, and as I am not used to aid climb and we just brought one cliff I wisely decided to take the left finish climbing the last pitch of Bubu Bole's route "le Nez". Getting from the last rock piton to the anchor was probably the most tricky part and costed me quite some effort.
We reached the nevé overneath the main difficulties at about 4.30-5 o'clock. I think the rocky part has taken us about 7,5h.
From there we followed the original line of the route climbing a mixed gully on the left of a rock pillar. Then we followed the rocky ridge of the classic Croz Spur including one super loose and almost unprotectable pitch. The last two pitches we climbed a mixed couloir that leads right go the left of the summit. Certainly the upper part was not in the best conditions, so we were happy that we had brought two technical ice axes each, otherwhise it would have gotten quite uncomfortable......
At 20.50 we both stood on the summit.
Abseiling straight from the Point Croz on the crumbly southern side was certainly not the best thing we could do and I can not recommend it. Anyway we came to the top with the last daylight and the glacier underneath us was disappearing in the clouds and the fog. We just had enough time to figure out which direction we had to descend. It took us about 3,5-4 hours to descent those 300m. once on the glacier and back on a good track it wasn't complicated anymore to get to the Boccalatte hut. As it was quite warm and In order not to wake up anyone we just lay down on the terrace in front of the hut and slept for a few hours. The hut is run by Franco Perlotto, a very friendly and hospitable mountain legend. After having drunk two coffees and eaten a breakfast-pasta we slowly descended to the valley and took the bus back to Chamonix.
And the best comes last: "all you can eat dinner" at the Wok restaurant in Sallanches.....:-)
|3th pitch 6b|
|Mixed section in the upper part|