Sunday, February 10, 2013

Glacier de Leschaux to Les Grandes Jorasses

Yesterday I went out with Jean Claude Mettefeu (a 100% bonified winter and mountain nut) to the Mont Blanc massif to ski the Glacier de Leschaux. The main attraction with this destination is one, we were the only two people in there, and second that’s the staging ground for all the ascensions of the climbs up the mythic north face of Grande Jorasses (4208 m). An alpinism feat was the winter ascent of this face in the 1960s. The first winter ascent on “Le Linceul” (the Shroud) a steep hanging ice-climb was successfully achieved by René Desmaison and Robert Flematti in 1968. However Demaison’s prior attempt with the young aspirant guide Serge Gousseault, turned into a two-week battle for survival as stone falls cut both their ropes and Gousseault developed frostbite and could not continue. When help finally came, Gousseault had been dead for three days, and Desmaison was informed by medical staff that "according to your medical check-up, you are dead". The incident led to bitter recriminations between Desmaison who suspected Maurice Herzog, the famous Annapurna climber (first man above 8000 m) who was mayor of Chamonix, of obstructing a prompt rescue as "punishment" for his impetuous actions during a 1966 Dru affair in which Demaison performed a, by his guiding company “unauthorized”  rescue, allegedly in order to court publicity… In any case on Les Grandes Jorasses has claimed a lot more victims (and still does) this is one of those places where mountain Darwinism is present in its most brutal form.
Our outing was just about exploring the glacier and ski the Jorasses only as high as it would hold snow. We only had to skin up about 3,000 feet but as we were lift aided, the ski down was close to 12,000 feet. Seems like a reasonable effort to reward ratio… The snow conditions were phenomenal and helped us escape any potentially ill-intentioned crevasses.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

This tour starts at the same point as last the one; the tram
of the Aiguille du Midi up to  12,600 feet and the ski the
Vallee  Blanche down to about  7,000 feet to catch  the
entrance to the Glacier de Leschaux heading south. 
Jean Claude at the Mer de Glace seracs
Le Petit Rognon is an important marker down the Vallee Blanche
Yours truly in front of a gaping crevasse but not to fear I got
 my Whippet in hand...

There are so many "aiguilles" (needles) in Cham that a whole slew
of them are just commonly referred to as the "Aiguilles de
Chamonix"; you're in a good place when there are so
 many you can't even name them all...
Me at the entrance of the Glacier de Leschaux
Jean Claude breaking trail into the Glacier de Leschaux
The kind of hole you rather stay away from.
This is the winter Refuge du Couvercle (a hut) on the ridge line
between the Glacier de Tallefre  and the Glacier  de Leschaux.
"Couvercle" means lid and that thinbg on top is not a roof, its
actually a rock that's sticking out like that hence the name.
Well into the Glacier de Leschaux you can catch the first glimt
 of Les Grandes Jorasses to the right and les Petites Jorasses to the left.

Les Grandes Jorasses up close
Almost all the way in now...
If you only click to enlarge one picture of this post, this
would be  the one...

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