Leo Gheza makes solo ascent of Central Pillar of Frêney
Italian mountaineer Leonardo Gheza reports about his solo ascent of the Central Pillar of Frêney in the Mont Blanc massif on 6/08/2020. This might well be the first solo ascent in just a single day. In any case it was an amazing experience on one of the most famous faces in the Alps.
I’d been thinking about making a solo ascent of the Central Pillar of Frêney for a while. But it’s one of those things which only come about when you’re properly inspired, at least, that’s what it’s like for me. After some initial uncertainty, I gathered my ideas and, considering the good weather and conditions, I said to myself .. why not!? Let's give it a go!
On Wednesday, after having travelled for 5 hours thinking about all the tiny details that couldn’t be ignored, I arrived in Val Veny; I packed my rucksack and set off at about 6.40 pm, after having lost my precious earphones that would have accompanied me on the approach.
Once I got to the Monzino hut, everything changed. All doubts and uncertainties disappeared and were replaced by waves of motivation! I said hello to Mauro who, kind as always, welcomed me in. I slept for three hours and after a superb breakfast with four refills of coffee I departed. It was about 1.40 am, the sky was clear and the moon reflected on the glacier. There was no one around, no one at the Eccles bivouacs, the only people I encountered were two Italian mountaineers below the col. I headed towards the start and enjoyed the sunrise as I made my way across the long traverse: what a spectacle!
I quickly geared up, changed my shoes and started up. On the second pitch I overtook a team, it was Alex Pivirotto with a client, what a nice surprise! We chatted briefly and I continued upwards, at 10.45 am I reached the Chandelle and I said to myself: why the hell did I bring a sleeping bag, stove, food, etc!? There’ll be no need to bivvy at the base of the Chandelle! In hindsight I could have set off with far less gear, I would have saved so much time and effort...
I caught my breath and with one long pitch I reached the base of the famous overhanging corner that ends in a narrow chimney capped by a roof. There I thought about the first ascentsionists, about climbing up here all those years ago, about their tenacity! Chapeau!
In the meantime the other two joined me, we climbed the last two pitches side by side, without following a particular line. Then all of a sudden we were at the top of the Pillar! One of the most famous walls in the Alps.
Fatigue began to set in and I slowly plodded up the summit ridge, reaching the top of Mont Blanc at 6.10 pm! Unfortunately the wind didn’t let me enjoy the moment too much, so I descended to the Vallot refuge where I are and 'rested' in the company of six Poles...
The next morning I met Alex and his climbing partner below the Gouter Refuge, we dragged out way down to the valley together and then celebrate with a well-deserved hamburger and beer!
My climb was incredibly satisfying; being alone on a route that has made its way into the history of mountaineering, enjoying every single moment, knowing that I could count on no one by myself only.
As I see it, a solitary ascent isn’t a way to 'do more’, simply an opportunity to experience a climb in a different manner. I’m not sure whether mine was the first solo in a day… All I know is that it was an unforgettable adventure!
Thanks to AlpStation (Bs) Montura
di Leo Gheza