Important new route on Mont Blanc

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 05/08/2011
South Face of Mt Blanc. Antonio Giani

Italian Hervé Barmasse and the Spanish-Basque brothers Eneko and Iker Pou have climbed a new route on the South Face of Mont Blanc, finishing on the summit.

The three added a second route to the very rarely climbed Lefthand Pillar of Brouillard.

The smallest of the four pillars on the Brouillard Face of Mt Blanc was first climbed over two days in August 1971 by the Poles, Ryszard Kowalewski, Janusz Maczka and Wojciech Wroz.

These three climbed the left flank of the pillar on rock that in parts was quite friable. There were two pitches of UIAA VI before reaching the top of the 350m pillar, from where another 300m of mixed terrain on a broad rocky spur, common with the upper section of the Red Pillar, led to the Brouillard Ridge at Picco Luigi Amedeo (4,470m).

For many years it was realized that the most elegant line - up the true crest of the pillar - remained unclimbed, but the remote situation, which involves one the the most lengthy approaches in the range, and suggestion of poor rock, had kept parties at bay.

Due to the heavy snow cover that has resulted from unseasonably cold and unsettled weather in the range over the last few weeks, the Italian-Spanish team took two days to reach the Eccles Bivouac Huts, spending a night at the Monzino.

A strenuous wade through knee-deep snow took them across the upper Brouillard Glacier to the base on the pillar, where on the 1st August they climbed more or less directly up the crest, right of the Polish Route and overlooking the ephemeral ice couloir, Brouillard Givant (Eric Bellin and Jean-Marc Boivin, February 1985) that separates the lLefthand from the Red Pillar.

The three climbed 11 pitches up to 6c, using only natural gear for protection and belays (four pegs were used) before reaching the mixed ground. They continued up this to the Brouillard Ridge, and then onwards to the vicinity of Mt Blanc de Courmayeur (4,765m), where they settled down for a chilly bivouac.

Next morning, after a night of -10°C, the three followed the ridge to the summit of Mt Blanc and descended to Chamonix.

The route has been named La Classica Moderna, as their style of ascent resembled that used by Walter Bonatti on his historic climb of the neighbouring Red Pillar in 1959 with Andrea Oggioni - the first ascent of any of the Brouillard Pillars.

As Barmasse points out, in those days the pioneers had to reach the summit of Mt Blanc in order to get home.

There are four pillars on the Brouillard Face; the Righthand and Central first climbed by Rusty Baillie, Chris Bonington, John Harlin and Brian Robertson (1965), and Eric Jones (solo, 1971) respectively.

The photograph shows the South Face of Mt Blanc with the four Brouillard Pillars lower left and the Freney Pillars up to the right.



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