How mountaineers Dubouloz, Welfringer and Paulin achieved a new feat in the Grandes Jorasses

For the first time in the middle of winter, Charles Dubouloz, Symon Welfringer and Clovis Paulin overcame the north face of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont-Blanc massif on Monday February 13 by the most direct route.

Charles Dubouloz had already caused a sensation last winter by climbing the Rolling Stones route alone, leading to Pointe Walker, which culminates the ridge of the summit of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont-Blanc massif. The mountaineer achieved a new feat on Monday February 13, this time accompanied by two young mountain guides, Symon Welfringer and Clovis Paulin. With bare hands and in climbing shoes, the three of them climbed in five days and four nights the most direct route that leads to Pointe Walker, a very technical route called “Directissime” in mountaineering vocabulary.

«It’s very difficult because the goal is to go straight, without looking for the lines of weaknessconfided Charles Dubouloz to the Figaro the day after their arrival. There was for example a huge shield of 150 meters of rock, without cracks and slightly overhanging, which we could not circumvent“. The rating sometimes reaches 7A on the scale of difficulty in climbing, which constitutes, in the middle of winter and at more than 3000 meters of altitude, a feat for these experienced climbers. Symon Welfringer is a specialist in difficulty climbing, and Clovis Paulin in ice climbing. The three mountaineers had already climbed the north face of the Eiger together in January 2020.

Pointe Walker is the leftmost summit of the Grandes Jorasses. nathan poulin

«We were all very cold, and we slept little, but we managed“, also rejoiced Charles Dubouloz. The climbers slept in the wall of 1200 meters by installing improvised bivouacs. The temperature remained around -10°C during the day, but dropped to more than -20°C in the middle of the night. “The first night was the hardest, I slept sitting on a bag. And the following nights were better, we were able to take down a minimum each time to be able to lie down“. Under these extreme conditions, the body cannot rest completely anyway. “We sleep three hours at the beginning, then we wake up, and we sleep in fractions while waiting for the end of the night».

A bivouac on a snow bank. Yannick Boissenot

The three friends left with five days’ worth of food in their bags, expecting to complete the route in four days. “We stayed in control even if there were moments of tension like in the last pitches where we climbed in a chute, each in the same axis, without being able to protect ourselves from possible falling rocks or ice.».

Patrick Gabarrou at the start of the route

This Directissime had already been opened in June 1986 by French mountaineers Patrick Gabarrou and Hervé Bouvard. It had never been repeated in winter. One of its ushers, Patrick Gabarrou, who transmitted the passion for mountaineering to Clovis Paulin, was present at the start of the ascent last Thursday. “Patrick gave us a rudimentary topo to decipher the route, but we had very little information overall“says Charles.

In 1986, the Walker spur was already climbed by the legends of mountaineering of the last century such as the Italian Bonatti or the Frenchman Desmaison, who associated their name with the myth of this summit. But the most direct route was still untouched. “Climbing the Walker Spur was an unimaginable feat, and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the structures and the straight lines that highlight the beauty of the mountain“, says Patrick Gabarrou at Figaro. The mountaineer then set off with Hervé Bouvard, with on his back all the climbing equipment of the time, much heavier than today.

The three mountaineers with Patrick Gabarrou in blue. nathan poulin

«The route is four times the Eiffel Tower, and I saw them rush into the first veneers of ice, gently and quietly, like little ants on a huge trunk of Sequoia“, rejoiced Patrick Gabarrou.

The 71-year-old guide, who has achieved more than 300 firsts in his career, has always shared the contemplative and spiritual dimension of the mountain to which he is attached. He has also passed on to young climbers “a little summons» repeated every morning before departure: «Holy Guardian Angel, thank you for watching over us and protecting us“. And to conclude:What is beautiful is when the spiritual, being together, contemplating, remains the main vector of mountaineering which is not an end in itself.».

The mountaineers arrive at the summit on Monday in the early afternoon. Mathis Dumas


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