Pierre Allain Leininger is the second episode of “Face Nord of the Drus”
After losing a bit of time with the bivouac, we resume at 8 am the ascent where we had left it: at the 20th length. Complaining, Aurelia leads the way. The higher part of the face is much more challenging than the beginning. The wind that caressed our faces at night has only grown stronger, giving us no rest. We are tired. We progress more slowly. The climbing becomes laborious, while each length is nevertheless of great beauty.
Just below the summit, the key pitches are for me; I’m leading the way. Burdened by the cold, I dread my turn. But the appetite comes with eating; the pleasure of lead climbing transcends me, and new energy overwhelms me. Finally, the lengths seem more accessible to me than those climbed by my companions. Go figure!
At 5 p.m., Lorrys finds a hole that allows us to access the south face, just under the summit of Petit Dru. We take advantage of a few moments suspended from the heat in the light of the setting sun, without wind, on the south face. But only a few minutes after this break, we realize that we have no idea how to reach the gap in the northern couloir, which will be the starting point of our descent.
I try to call Jordi Noguere, who knows the place well. Good coincidence, he happens to be at the Charpoua refuge, just beneath Les Drus. “You’re wearing orange, right?!”. Me, I’m sitting on my rock; I smile blissfully: yes, it’s my down jacket that you see from the bottom!! Jordi explains how to reach the breach.
At 8 pm, we join the first abseils. They take place in the northern couloir of Les Drus, an incredibly steep gully that leaves us with the impression of descending on a dark and endless toboggan, worthy of a children’s story.
On the 4th abseil, the rope stub knot gets stuck behind a scale. The disillusioned looks and livid faces of my companions make me understand that the situation is becoming critical at 11 pm in the middle of nowhere. I improvise a last attempt with a big sweeping gesture before cutting the rope, and the knot unblocks, slipping into our hands. Won! Drunk with joy, my rope companions hugged me as if I had scored a goal in the World Cup final!
Pierre Allain Leininger route – the finish line
Four hours later, we set foot above the bergschrund, the last abseil before the difficulties are over. Fatigued, we carve a snow mushroom. Thibault descends; he whistles with joy to have arrived at the bottom. My turn. I test the mushroom and rush into the descent. I pass the lip of the bergschrund when suddenly the rope shears the mushroom. My descent ends in free fall. I crash heavily into the bottom of the bergschrund. Several meters below, I groan with rage at the idea of finishing the race this way.
Stunned but sound and safe, I come out of my hole, Lorrys Bouniol and Aurélia Lanoe join me. We walk around until we find our skis at 1 am. We slide to the foot of the famous “Couloir of the Bins” to climb it painfully. Fatigue grips us; the climb seems endless. Finally, it’s at 4:30 in the morning that we join the cars in Argentière, overwhelmed by our day, which lasted nearly 24 hours.
The Pierre Allain Leininger route – an incredible adventure
The tour was so hard that we kept wondering if it was worth it.
It’s with rest and a bit of step-back that we feel the satisfaction, and we realise we went the extra mile beyond our limits. As if the colours were more intense, the lights more beautiful, the sips of water more refreshing, the snickers tastier – an incredible adventure.
Once again, I am amazed by the audacity of mountaineering pioneers who did premieres of those faces with old equipment. Gentlemen! Congratulations! You have my most tremendous respect.
I want to thank my companions for this magnificent adventure on the north face one more time. I thank their tenacity, passion, sense of sharing, and patience with my sometimes not very funny jokes.
A very big thank you to our guardian angel Jordi Noguere who guided us like a North Star would have guided sailors in distress.