On Saturday 16 March, Mark Thomas and Dave Almond made the 1st ascent of 'Jottnar', VIII,8, a new mixed route on the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi. Mark describes their encounter:
After a rather sleepless night in the Cosmique refuge, featuring dread-inducing visions of the next day's project, we set off into the morning glow feeling both excited and gripped.
The day is remarkably still compared to the past three days of buffeting as we abseil into the jaws of the Passerelle Couloir, and soon I'm overcome with excitement as we rap down into the base of the route. Dave joins me at the belay, above us a blank canvas of corners and grooves leading back up towards the top of the Cosmiques Arete. Awesome!
We set off like boys in a sweet shop! Woop, woop, bring it on!
Dave Almond setting off on Pitch 1
Pitch 1 - 50m - V,6
Belay 15m up from the start of the Perroux Route in a small snowy bay, 20m down and to the skiers left from the abseil on the middle rock spur in the Passerelle Couloir. Climb up a mixed snowy bay and into a corner below an overhanging red granite headwall. Reach a groove to the right of this headwall and make an airy, snowy traverse right to a good belay at its end.
Me setting off on Pitch 2
Pitch 2 - 55m, V,5
Move right from the belay and climb the overhanging flakes, exiting right. Follow the vague groove directly up, to the left of the rib, to reach snowy blocks beneath a 15m cracked wall of yellow granite.
Dave Almond torquing hard on Pitch 3
Pitch 3 - 55m - VIII,8
Climb up the mixed corner above and enter the long crack on the left of the wall, to the right of the triangular shaped niche on its left. Pumpy torques up this crack lead to a very balancy and exciting step left into the top of the crack on its left and a snowy niche. Climb the corner crack out of this snowy niche and up to the base of the 50m groove.
Me leading up Pitch 4
Pitch 4 - 60m - VIII,8
Mind Blowing!! Climb the groove direct, using the thin ice seam in its back and some amazing layback torquing high up to exit at the finishing moves at the top of the Cosmiques Arete. Awesome!
Dave seconding Pitch 4
Pitch 5 - 10m
Finish the last moves up the Arete and onto the Viewing Platform at the Midi Station.
A very cool day in the mountains and a roller coaster of emotions resulting in two very smiley mountaineers!
Respect to both and thanks to Mark for sharing the words, blood and face rime.
Mark is a full-time UIAGM International Mountain Guide and is a co-founder and Director of Elite Mountain Guides, a Chamonix-based guiding company. He can be contacted here.