Grandes Jorasses- Colton Macintyre
Almost exactly a year since we climbed the Croz Spur on the Jorasses we headed back for (my) 4th attempt on the Colton Macintyre. Conditions have been just edging towards winter out here so we’ve been keen to get on the winter lines but also cautious about the summer heat that is still sitting around.
The Colton Macintyre is an amazing line on the Jorasses north face that follows a series of ice runnels and ice fields that leads you right into an amazing amphitheater headwall. Tenuous and runout mixed climbing then takes you up through the headwall to the very summit of the Jorasses. An awesome line indeed.
We opted for a late start aiming to get to the start of the ice runnels just as dawn broke. The approach is fine for the moment and the schrunds easily crossed with a short steep section of ice to get out of the last one and onto the ice fields. The lower icefield is good too- not perfect nevee but not all black ice either.
An hour later and we arrived at the start of the ice runnels and swapped over block leads. Will took over and we continued simul climbing up to the start of the crux ice pitch. Here there are two alternatives. You can either head up the right hand branch of the Alexis (95 degree ice) or continue up the Colton Mac. The crux can be pretty dicey and thin but this year is good. It’s still a bit hollow and steep and rubbish for pro so you feel quite ‘out there’ as you run it out further and further half way up this massive north face.
Up past that and you arrive onto the top ice field. You really feel like you are entering the heart of the mountain here it’s an incredible amphitheater. Here we decided to take a more direct option to the start of the headwall. We had spotted an ‘alternative’ start last year on the Croz that seemed to avoid a dicey traverse that everyone seems to epic on. Thin brittle ice lead up this section with very poor pro but some fun technical moves, desperately trying not to knock these ice smears off the rock.
After this and route finding often thwarts alot of people. Us included. We started going up the same route that Ueli Steck took 2 years ago but decided against it after some awkward mixed moves and more of the same unprotectable terrain rearing higher up. So Will took a hard left traverse into a much easier ice gully that lead into a steep but fun corner crack.
From the top of this pitch you can bail up an obvious ramp to the last two pitches of the Walker Spur. We would have like to continue up the Colton Mac proper but the ice conditions were very poor and we were getting a bit bored of tenuous runout mixed climbing when what we really wanted to do was get some good quality leads in.