Marko Lukic leading the overhanging ice exit on the Dru North Couloir Direct (AI6+ M8). Slovenians Lukic and Andrej Grmovsek onsight free climbed the route in late January. Another Slovenian pair, Tina Di Batista and Tomaz Jakofcic, climbed the route after completing Late to Say I Am Sorry (V 5+ VI A2, 1000m) and Reve Ephemere d’Alpiniste (V 5 6a A2, 800m) in the French Alps. [Photo] Andrej Grmovsek
Over the past two months two Slovenian climbing teams have been busy in the French Alps: Andrej Grmovsek and Marko Lukic onsighted the Dru North Couloir Direct (VI 6+ M8 700m) and Tina Di Batista and Tomaz Jakofcic free climbed Late to Say I Am Sorry (V 5+ VI A2, 1000m) and Reve Ephemere d’Alpiniste (V 5 6a A2, 800m) as well as the Dru North Couloir Direct.
At the end of January Grmovsek and Lukic free climbed onsight the Dru North Couloir Direct (VI 6+ M8, 700m), a line that goes between the Grand Dru and the Petit Dru that Grmovsek described as “one of the ultimate hard mixed climbs above Chamonix.” The first third of the climb consisted of 60-80 degree slopes and some delicate climbing on slabs with only a few centimeters of ice and some difficult dry sections. Jakofcic said that in good winters there is an easy gully leading up, and last year many teams climbed the classic Dru Couloir, and they didn’t notice any difficulties in this lower part. The second part was a steep and sometimes overhanging dry mixed corner that Grmovsek said is the “heart of the direct line and offers five pitches of perfect climbing at quite a high grade.” This section of the climb had some short aid climbing, and Grmovsek said there was probably less ice than in previous deacades. The last third of the climb is in the 60-80 degree ice couloir between the Grand and Petit Drus. Grmovsek and Lukic completed the route in thirteen hours and then rappelled. Grmovsek said it was by far the best mixed climb he had done.
Di Batista and Jakofcic also free climbed onsight the Dru North Couloir Direct, but Jakofcic said that on the crux pitch they climbed straight on the corner and Grmovsek and Lukic climbed a crack a few meters to the left. “I assume that our way was the bit easier but more ‘obvious’ line,” Jakofcic said.
On January 30, 2008, Di Batista and Jakofcic climbed Scotch on the Rocks (IV M7, 450m) on the east face of Mt. Blanc du Tacul and didn’t have good climbing weather until a week later. The same route was also climbed by Tanja and Andrej Grmovsek the last week of December 2007 and was almost totally dry at that time.
On February 9, the pair free climbed Late to Say I Am Sorry on Grand Rocheuse (Aiguille Verte) above Chamonix. When the route was first climbed in 1994 by Robert Jasper and Jorn Heller they gave it an ice grade of V WI5+ and a rock grade of VI A2. Di Batista and Jakofcic didn’t resort to aid, instead drytooling the steep eight-pitch route at M7. Jakofcic said the crux pitch on Late to Say I Am Sorry was long and committing and consisted of a short traverse and thin ice tongues above and below a roof. He said that although it was easier than the crux on Scotch on the Rocks, the commitment and length of the pitch made it M7 as well.
On February 17, Miha Valic joined Di Batista and Jakofcic and they climbed Reve Ephemere d’Alpiniste (V 5 6a A2, 800m), on the right side of the Grandes Jorasses’s north face, first climbed in 1994 by Yvan Ghirardini. It didn’t receive its second ascent until 2005. Jakofcic said they expected harder free mixed climbing, but they only found M5+ and completed the route in eleven hours.
Di Batista leading the thin 60-meter ice tongue after the crux pitch on Late to Say I Am Sorry (V 5+ VI A2, 1000m). Di Batista and Tomaz Jakofcic free climbed the route, grading it M7. [Photo] Tomaz Jakofcic