It all starts one winter evening. Inspired by seasoned and legendary mountaineers on the north faces of the Alps since the beginning of the anticyclone, I’ve been secretly dreaming of going there too. I call Thibault Cheval . He and Lorrys Bougnol are keen on a mixed climbing project in the Mont-Blanc massif.
Fairly quickly, we mention the Lesueur route. This mixed route is on the north face of the Grand Dru, a mountain I almost lost my life to a few years ago.
We have mixed emotions: a palpable excitement at the idea of rubbing shoulders with this granite giant, but also the fear of committing myself to such a daring project, especially in the middle of winter.
The idea of returning to the mountains, “for me, without clients, is thrilling – I’ll be touching my limits.
Our meeting with Mr Lesueur, the one and only, and his frank bonhomie recounting the route’s opening in 1952 finally convinced me: I’m boiling!!
Arriving in Chamonix
On Monday evening, I arrive in the Mecca of mountaineering, the car packed with gears. We discuss over a beer the route and the alternatives. After a recent mixed-climbing route, Thibault and Lorrys are certain: Lesueur is way too hard. Meanwhile, Aurelia joins us for a beer. Our discussions draw her attention. After my frantic plea to “put on the mission”, the decision is made. We decide to head for the Pierre Allain Leininger route, the four of us.
This name resonates with me as I had climbed the south face of La Meije, opened by this same visionary mountaineer, Pierre Allain, probably my best tour so far. I had found this route sublime.
On the first day, we take off from Grands Montets at 9 am. We make the approach by the well-named “Couloir of the trash cans” on skis. The snow feels like reinforced concrete; the couloir is unskiable. We skid painfully the 300m without managing to make the slightest turn.
At the foot of the North Face of Les Drus
The bags are heavy, the back suffers (already?!).
We arrive at the foot of the north face of the Drus; it is immense. It is a mix of pillars, corners, slabs, and colossal granite cracks. At 12:30 p.m., we start with the most manageable lengths from the base.
The sunset caresses our faces; it’s a magical moment.
We who thought we would not see the sun for the entire tour, the latter makes us lie by warming our backs deliciously.
Eight hours later, we tumble at full speed to the coveted bivouac at the top of the 19th pitch. We are thrilled to have arrived there. We start cooking and close our eyes at 11 pm.
The cold is relentless; the temperature drops -10°C below. Thibault and Lorrys share one duvet and one mattress for two. The bite of the cold and the rising wind wakes me up periodically until it leaves me awake for good at 5:30 in the morning.
Read more in the next episode: “the Pierre-Allain-Leininger route”