Roc de la Valette, Die Another Day, New Route. Eleven years ago, Francois Damilano and the late Jean-Noel Roche opened a new route on the Roc de la Valette, a 500-meter face above the village of Pralognan in the Tarantaise Valley. This spectacular ice climb was a focus for many local climbers, but ten years passed before Phillippe Batoux, Benoit Robert and Sebastien Franc repeated the route.
To the left of this line was ice waiting to be climbed. On December 13, 2002, Phillippe Billet, Fred Valet, Ben “The Thing” Jacquemot and I found ourselves at the start of the first pitch.
Fred was the first to try the mixed ground on the first pitch, but after ten meters he decided that The Thing was more adept at this game. Less than fifteen minutes later, The Thing was shouting off belay. For the next 200 meters we moved together in the (according to Ben) easy gully. This brought us to the base of the headwall.
This was the start of the big game, and it was my turn to play. The pitch started with aid climbing in a thin crack, then a pendulum right, a pendulum back left, shit ice, overhanging ground, a poor belay… and after two hours I was still alive!
At this point we went left. It looked easier, it was getting late, we were tired, afraid, blah, blah, blah. And because it was three of us against The Thing, were we able to convince him that left was the correct route. We were wrong! It was not easy, a real WI5+ (on bad ice, no less).
We topped out in the dark and met our friends, Antoine and Thomas, who had just climbed the Damilano-Roche Route (V WI5+, 500m, 1991). We began the long descent together, very happy about having climbed the line we had dreamed about (Die Another Day, V M5 WI5+ A1, 500m) in the style we like.
However, our route did not wait ten years for a repeat. Three weeks later, Phillippe Batoux and Benoit Robert climbed the route and exited via the right branch, a sixty-meter WI6+ pitch that they named Papa’s Variation.
Good effort, men. But unfortunately, because they were afraid of the descent and the avalanche danger, they decided to rappel down the route and bolt every belay! As always, we could argue a lot about this, but it just made me sad that they killed the staying-alive challenge we like to play on these kinds of routes.
— Manu Pellissier, St. Remy, France