After a disastrous attempt at getting to the Dru last week with Kenton, Gav and I decided to head off again, and to avoid any possible failures we approached from the Montenvers. Although only 3 hours it feels alot longer as you spend alot of time walking through loose moraine fields. In any case we arrived late in the evening and set about getting some food and sleep.
At 5 the next morning we got up and headed over to the start of the route. It was obvious that we werent the only ones on it though and we soon found ourselves halted in our simul climbing flow whilst a guided party of 4 caused complete havoc on the route and pissed everyone off. By the top there was about 6 ropes teams that had converged on the Pierre Allain all waiting for this guided party to get out of the way as they werent willing to let anyone get past very easily. Add to this the fact that top section is very loose and the whole experience turned into a nightmare of falling rock and long belays just sitting around waiting. We eventually topped out a couple of hours before sunset and set about getting down the South side as fast as possible.
Gav Pike climbing up past the Niche
Gav Pike after the Fissure Martinetti
Gavin Pike about to top out
Two climbers on the awesomely exposed final pitch of the American Direct
Here we joined up with two other brits, Jon and Jay, and headed on down towards the Flamme de Pierre ridge. Inevitably night caught up with us and we spent a bit of a miserable night sitting in a bothy bag barely big enough for two men (we planned on getting up it pretty fast so bought no food, stove or bivy kit). But it has been a while since I’ve caught up with Gav properly so it provided us with plenty of time for random chat.
Full moon over the Mont Blanc and Chamonix from the bivy
Sunrise couldnt arrive soon enough and with half and energy gel each and a slice of cake (thanks Jon and Jay) for breakfast we continued the raps down. At some point Jay lost his pack which proceeded to tumble down the South face with crampons, axe and sunglasses attached. We decided it wasnt going to be wise to get him across the glacier (very crevassed and serac threatened) so the PGHM kindly came and picked him up. One man down and the three of us headed over the glacier, climbed under some nasty toppling seracs and emerged by the Charpoua hut, glad that the descent was finally over.
Jay about to be picked up
All in all if you are first on the route then it is a fine outing on a great peak, just dont get stuck behind other people. It’s too loose to make it safe. For the descent it is heavily advised to keep going to the summit of the Grand Dru and then do the raps from there. They are bolted and much faster to the glacier. The descent from the Petit Dru is really horrible- its not easy to find the rap stations and it is covered in loose rocks all the way down to the glacier floor. It might take another hour to the summit of the Grand but it will save you a huge amount of time and worry on the descent.