February 13th 2011

Les Drus - North Couloir

Down from the West Couloir and the mind wondered over the next climb. I’ve really wanted to get on something really big for the last couple of weeks- the weather has been perfect and my only excuse has been work. Which is a pretty good excuse at the end of the day. The Eiger has been in amazing condition recently so a plan was formulated to get on the North Face but a last minute change due to time constrictions meant that we had to shift ideas again. I received an email from Korra, who most will know as the dry tooling brute from Snell sports, who had just gotten down from the infamous North Couloir on Les Drus. Quite the Chamonix classic some would say…Conditions werent ideal but it was do-able, so with the Drus in mind Will and I headed up to the Grands Montets lift station for the night.

The next morning we left at 4.30 and headed down to the start of the route. At 6.30 we were over the shrund and headed up the initial ice sections to level with the start of the Direct. From here there are four nice and easy mixed pitches to get to the start of the Nominee Crack. The last 15m up to the Nominee crack belay is a little harder but nothing out of the ordinary. I think in normal years this is all covered in a thin streak of ice so very fast. For the moment its easy angled but loose rock.

Heading up the easy angled mixed ground

Heading up to the Nominee Crack, © Will Sim

Heading up to the Nominee Crack, © Will Sim

Swap over of block and Will took the lead on the Nominee Crack which is basically a long aid pitch. There are plenty of pitons to yard your way up and move from one to another. Korra freed this pitch last week which was very impressive; though Steck freed it in the dark last Autumn which is even more impressive. Korra rated it at M7+ (sport grade) if you’re in the mood for cranking that hard in the mountains…

Aiding up the infamous Nominee Crack

After this you get to a rising traverse which leads to the base of the crux pitch.

Will on the second mixed pitch

Will on the second mixed pitch

Will on the second mixed pitch

By this point Will was feeling sick and my contact lenses felt like they had sand behind them meaning everything was blurred so I couldnt see my feet. So Will battled on with the next pitch until I could take over on the ice (dont need to see your feet so well when you’re just smacking them into ice). No.4 Camalot very useful here and definitely the crux pitch.

Up onto the ice finally and its pretty easy terrain up to the ‘S’ bends where there is another short mixed step. The ice never gets steep but its quite grey for the moment. As the ice was very brittle at times we decided that moving together would be pretty dangerous for the second so we opted for the slow but safer approach and pitched it all (300m or so of it).

Traversing onto the ice, © Will Sim

Will arriving at the second ice belay

Will arriving at the second ice belay below the ‘S’ bend

Awesome landscape just after the mixed step on the ‘S’ section

Pulling out of the short mixed step on the ‘S’ bend

A little over 12 hours later and we arrived at the Breche for the raps back down. Full 60m raps all the way down the Direct so very quick. Unfortunately you cant ski down the Pas de Chevre this year so you have to plod all the way back up to the Grands Montets and then ski down the piste to the car. All in all a good day out and a well deserved burger in town at 1am.

The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book