Accompanied by his usual Swiss climbing partner Roger Schaeli, German alpinist Robert Jasper has recently made the second overall and first free ascent of Voie Sébastien Gay on the North Face of the Matterhorn.
With this ascent Jasper has completed a personal goal of making the first free ascents of major routes on all three great north faces of the Alps; Eiger, Matterhorn and Grandes Jorasses.
In 2003, with Markus Stofer, he made the first free ascent of No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses (at M8), and in 2010, with Schaeli, completed a free ascent of the Eiger North Face by a combination of the Harlin Direttissima and an exit via the Classic 1938 Route (M8- and 7a).
Sébastien Gay, up the centre of the Matterhorn's North Face, was the vision of Swiss guide Jean Troillet. He attempted the line in 2006 with the young Sébastien Gay but was forced down by stonefall. The two planned to return in improved conditions, but before the opportunity arose, Gay was killed in a skiflying accident.
Troillet eventually returned in 2008, this time with Frenchmen Martial Dumas and Jean-Yves Fredricksen. After climbing through the steep lower crux, the three continued up runnels to join the classic Schmid route, which they followed until level with Shoulder on the Hornli Ridge
At this point a threatening storm forced them off the face and onto the ridge; a less than satisfactory conclusion to the ascent.
The route took three days and difficulties were quoted as ED2/3 F5, A2 and 85° ice - all on characteristically poor rock.
There was some debate at the time as to whether this was a new line at all. Curiously omitted from the Swiss Alpine Club guides, but appearing on photodiagrams in other publications, is the 1972 Czech Route.
These photodiagrams showed the Czech line to be more or less the same as that climbed by Troillet and his two French companions. However, contact with Zdislav Drlik, who made the first ascent, produced the original topo, and a route line further left from that previously marked.
During his ascent, Jasper noted there was a possible, easier line, further left, corresponding to the topo. He and Schaeli climbed the difficult 400m first section of Sébastien Gay at an estimated M8, continued up the Schmid Route and then finished out left by the more difficult Michal Pitelka exit.
Part way up Jasper and Schaeli were surprised to discover a small wooden box suspended from a piton. Inside there was a small urn. During the first ascent Troillet carried this wooden box containing Gay's ashes, given to him by Gay's wife with the intention that they should be left somewhere on the climb.