38 pitches, 1300m long. Maximum difficulties 7c (20m), plus four 7b pitches, 7a, 6c, 6b and various mixed sections. 10 days spread out from the end of July to 4 September due to bad weather. The idea: climb a new route on a big mountain face, free, on-sighting as hard as possible. The main actors: Mauro 'Bubu' Bole and Mario Cortese, the duo which had searched a similar objective on 'Women and Chalk' (Shipton Spire, Trango, Pakistan, 2001). The 2005 result: 'Le nez' on Punta Croz, Grandes Jorasses. Put in other words, a new route on one of the symbols of Mont Blanc, on one of the most historic north faces in the world.
The Nose in French, as Bubu Bole has called his new line, crosses other routes, above all high up on the 23rd pitch where it crosses Manitua by Slavko Sveticic (see topo). "We really have to compliment him for the route which he climbed in three days and alone in 1991" is what Bubu wrote in his report on his website. It was a "difficult decision to make, but it was the only solution we had in order to create a logical and direct line, but above all to climb something free, because this was the indisputable reason behind this project."
And it proved difficult for Bubu to publish this news report. He immediately confessed: "I know I'll receive criticism... the fixed ropes and who knows what else." But he also added that he did more than was possible to stay true to his idea of a modern line, one that can be climbed free without aid. Add to this that the weather certainly didn't help matters on the contrary! Bubu didn't achieve a complete on-sight (read his full report below) on two pitches, where he hung off sky-hooks to place the gear. Talking of which: all bolts (there aren't that many to be honest) were hand-placed. He created "a modern route which, despite its classic name, you climb, you have fun and you don't risk too much!" Yes, because it's a route where "you're not worried about those rock and ice falls which are a daily occurrence on the great and beautiful classic routes on the north face of the Jorasses."
We feel we should add that it's a great route. A route which, naturally, now awaits repeats!
The French Nose
Le nez, new route on P.ta Croz, Grandes Jorasses, Mont Blanc
by Mauro 'Bubu' Bole
It was a long, difficult decision, much discussed with Mario Cortese 'Torello', my climbing partner on this route. Should we publish the news about this new line on the Grandes Jorasses? The reason for our doubts were the following: I'm tired of discussions, polemics about climbing styles, about grades, pegs or bolts, etc etc. Mario continued to tell me: "You decide what to do. I'm not well-known, I have nothing to gain or lose... I came along with you because I believe in free climbing. And of one thing you can be certain: had I to pull on pegs, I would have left you there alone on the wall on your aid climb."
After a period racing rallies - great, fascinating... too expensive but very positive, also because those who finish last never get hassled - I decided to embark on this adventure, to return to the line of thought I had in mind many years ago, when I dreamt of mountaineering in the 80's and 90's: that "thoroughbred" style which resulted in incredible speed and enchainment ascents. For years I dreamt of soloing the three great north faces, one after the other. In 1989, after the Matterhorn, I thankfully decided to stop: I was too young, I wasn't experienced enough... I was only foolhardy! Given time though, things changed...
But the three North faces were still there! And so why not climb a new route, free, on those legendary wall? Together with Mario, my partner on "Women and chalk", we headed off for the Jorasses. After a failed attempt last year (my fault) we decided to continue along the road wed begun four years ago in Pakistan: climbing free on the world's great walls!
We reached the summit of Punta Croz on 4 September at 23.30 after almost a month and a half of continuous retreats in snowstorms and torrential downpours. The only thing that Mario and I have in common is the "pig-headedness" and it was this that fed our strong determination to complete this journey, which resulted in 38 pitches, all free, along the 1100m high wall.
Only God - and perhaps the warden of the Refuge Leschaux who continued to control our movements with his binocular - know how hard I attempted to climb the route completely on-sight. But on two pitches I had to hang on gear to place the pegs, despite numerous attempts, all in vain. I think that with greater motivation one could on-sight these sections, too... Slightly further to the right, perhaps; or to the left... but in the end tiredness and the fear of not completing the route in time got the upper hand!
Fixed ropes left in place to descend quickly, drenched and frozen, a few 8mm hand-placed bolts on various belays and five bolts placed on the pitches (3 for fear of flying to far, and 2 for fear or descending together with the dislodged pillar) all gave us the possibility of returning home safely! And this was the most important thing for us. Once safely on the ground we asked ourselves whether that bolt was necessary or not... But when you're there and you don't know whether to continue or not, you only think about not injuring yourself and not about what the others can say or criticise.
And so,,, the decision to publicise the ascent came about because we're convinced that in time "Le nez" will become a "classic" where, on a North Face and at 4000m, one can climb with rock shoes and chalk bag, belays are equipped for abseil descent and, above all, the line steers well clear of the continuous rock falls!
It's important that everyone knows that on the legendary North Face of the Grandes Jorasses theres a modern route which, despite its classic name, you climb, you have fun and you don't risk too much! From the window of our portaledge we sat and watched too many mountaineers whisked away by helicopters... these are images that arent easy to forget!
This is all for now... And if one day we have to excuse ourselves for having used fixed ropes and placed some bolts... well, we'll do that only with Ricccardo Cassin for his Walker Spur!
Mauro 'Bubu' Bole
photos: Bubu Bole during the first ascent; the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, Bubu Bole during the first ascent (ph arch. Mauro Bole).