Aiguille Verte, Les Droites and Les Courtes solo in a day by Jon Griffith
On 3 March 2013 British alpinist Jon Griffith soloed the three North Faces in the Argentière basin in the Mont Blanc massif: Aiguille Verte, Les Droites and Les Courtes.
Three North Faces in a day in Mont Blanc's famous Argentière basin. 4148m height gain, solo. This hat-trick is what British alpinist Jon Griffith got up to on 3 March when he climbed, in rapid succession, the North Face of Aiguille Verte, the NE Face of Les Droites and then the North Face of Les Courtes. For those who know the Mont Blanc range, it's superfluous to say that this is a "tour" worth noting.
"I had been waiting for two years to do the triple link up so was psyched to do it" Griffith explained to Planetmountain, adding "and even happier to manage it solo." A solo that came about almost by chance: on 2 March his partner Magnus Kastengren missed the final cable car and Griffith, already poised, decided to give it a go nevertheless.
03/03/2013. A right date for the Englishman who set off early towards Aiguille Verte but "crossing under the seracs in total darkness is always a little scary especially as I managed to collapse a snow bridge on the ski over." Certainly not a great start to the day as he himself states, but fortunately "the Couturier Couloir was in great nick though and I made good progress." A few hours later Griffith summited and descended via the line of ascent.
Stage two was the North Face of Les Droites and the Legarde Direct where Kastengren belayed him as he crossed the Bergschrund. While the lower section was in great condition, Griffith was slowed down by deep snow and hideous mixed. "Things weren't looking good and I was wasting tons of energy gaining very little ground." Finally on the summit Griffith rested for... a few minutes before descending and reaching his skis 10 minutes before sunset.
The final act, the Swiss route up Les Courtes, posed a big question mark but when Griffith reached the start, despite the darkness, he felt on form which resulted in a 3 hour summit. On the top Griffith stopped the clock "It had been a long day..." From the summit the Englishman descended via the South Face; problems with his ski binding hampered progress and he needed another 3 hours to reach Refuge du Couvercle.
"But the triple was pretty big." Griffith explained to us "I had been wanting to do it for a very long time but it is literally impossible to find a partner for it. The best i could do was find someone to join me for a bit of it but even that didn’t work out. It has of course been done back in 1987 by Jean-Marc Boivin who linked it with the Shroud but then he was fully supported and had a paraglider or hang glider waiting for him on the summit of each peak so he didn’t have to carry ropes, kit, or most importantly have to down climb and re-approach every climb. The down-climbing was actually a huge part of the whole thing - it's tiring but also very time consuming."
Griffith's ascent is certainly noteworthy but needs putting in a greater context: the British mountaineer will soon head off to the Himalaya together with Simone Moro and Ueli Steck for Everest, while in July he will return to the Charakusa valley in the Karakoram together with Andy Houseman to attempt, conditions permitting, the Northwest Face of K6 and the North Face of Link Sar. A great program.... intense to say the least!
For a full report and further photos check out www.alpineexposures.com