Mont Blanc, Pilier Central du Frêney (Solo)Mont Blanc, 4810m Central Pillar of Frêney (solo)
Central Pillar of Frêney
Fantastic and committed route. Walter Bonatti, Andrea Oggioni, Pierre Mazeau, Roberto Gallieni, Robert Guillaume, Pierre Kohlman and Antoine Vieille tried to make the first ascent in July 1961 which ended in tragic way.
Friday 16 July: Val Veny 1550m - Eccles Hut 3850m
3am, I leave the car toward the Eccles hut. The sun already shines when I reach the Monzino hut, the trail is followed by the glacier of Brouillard (fog). It is cold but at least the massif seems “frozen” and no rock fall can be heard. I climb to small steps below the Aiguille Innominata to avoid the crevasses. I reach the Eccles hut at 10:30am. There is lots of snow there. (+2300m of total ascent).
Saturday 17 July: Eccles Hut 3850m - Top of the Candle, 4500m
2:45am. I left the Eccles hut. I join the upper part of the glacier of Brouillard toward the Col Eccles. The Frêney side of the pass has a lot of snow and I can climb down without abseiling. I traverse right above a long rimaye and I reach the bottom of the route, at the base of two obvious dihedrals in two hours.
Pitch #1 and #2Pitch #1 and #2 : I never found the “lame détachée» described in the book but there are several options to join the shelf of the second pitch (right of the dihedrals). These 2 pitches had a lot of snow.
Pitch #3Nice pitch with a crack and dihedral (35m IV, V), some pitons, friends useful.
Pitch #4 and #5Two pitches not so obvious. Anyway they join the top of the second step. Nice view over the Innominata ridge on the left and the Grand Pilier d’Angle on the right. Lot of ice covered by 10/20cm of soft snow. I’m still using the crampons and ice axes. Tough section at the end of the 4thh pitch, just before going to the right: small roof to reach snowy slabs.
Pitch #6Great pitch (cannelures and slabs, IV/IV+). The rock was finally dry and I could use the rock shoes. I free solo climb but the rucksack got stuck when I tried to pull it. So I had to abseil anyway and jumar the pitch up.
Physical pitch; dihedral with a small overhang (V/V+). Almost dry except underneath the overhang where the crack was filled up with ice.
Crack / chimney (IV), nice technical climbing. Dry pitch that I climb in free solo. Unfortunately the hauling rope got stuck…one more abseil and jumar.
Pitch #9Snowy gulley, mix, steep and not pleasant.
Crack (IV). Dry pitch.
Crack (IV). No memory of this pitch...
Pitch #12 and #13
Pitch #12 and #13: mix and snow up to the famous horizontal ridge. With the sun, the snow started to melt for 10/15cm and was hard below. This horizontal ridge is relatively short, a few meters, it is first snowy then in rock and then snowy again. In my opinion that was the hardest section of the entire Freney Pillar. I just ride the ridge without any protection…
Pitch #14First pitch of the Candle, short crack (V), several pitons. The only spot for a bivy (80cm x 120cm). Great view over the grand couloir of Frêney. On now on, the rock was dry, compact and nice.
Pitch #15Nice crack leaning to the left (A1), lots of pitons, nuts... Great climb, great rock, what a place! Note that there is another crack a further to the right (less pitons). Both cracks can be free climbed. The anchor is good and the pitch obvious to follow, no issue there. I abseil to clean and jumar up and haul the rucksack. All these hauling are tiring because the ropes froze and became hard to manipulate in the Gri-Gri. When I abseil the heat melts the ice on the rope which smokes…
Pitch #16Horizontal traverse to the right under the overhangs (A1). Enjoy this place… With all the pitons and stuff jamed in the crack, the aid climbing is easy. I made an additional anchor at the end of the traverse which seems more logical to me.
Pitch #17The famous pitch, dihedral, then chmney under the big roof (A1, V/V+). Again lots of funny stuff jammed in the crack. The climb is a bit physical at this elevation but not so difficult (in my opinion). Because of the overhang and the traverse, when I jumar up to clean the pitch, I am at a few meters away from the rock, hanging with 500m underneath. My rucksack hang on the other rope, afew meters away. Magic moments, especially alone in the huge face of Mont Blanc. Unfortunately a storm is raging over the Grand Paradis. I know now that I will have to bivouac somewhere below the top of the Candle…
Pitch #18 and #19After a 5 meters step wall, I join the shelf and cross to the left. Small piece of rope ease the traverse. The clouds are getting closer…
Two small easy shelves lead to a dihedral on the left side of Candle (IV+, V-). Nice view over the Pilier Dérobé, below I can see an anchor of the abseil line between the pilier Dérobé and the Central. It doesn’t look very attractive…
Last pitch, a 30m pitch leading to the summit (IV). It is 11:30pm, 4500 m. I started the climb 20 hours ago. It is almost dark, it is snowing and the thunderstorm has just started (not forecasted). The 10 first meters of the slab are almost dry the end is snow covered and I can see if there are any pitons. I climb with the head torch. I reach a small shelf (40cm x 80cm). I use one friend and one nuts as anchor. The rope is jammed again so I have to go down again. Finally I am ready for this uncomfortable bivouac, seated on the rope, the legs inside the rucksack.
11pm. I just ate my pastas cooked with cold water which I used for a tea, great dinner… It is now snowing with some small hail and thunderstorm from time to time. I try to sleep 5 or 6 hours, seated on this small shelf without moving too much.
Sunday 18 July: Summit Central Pillar of Frêney 4500m - Mont Blanc 4807m - Val Veny 1550m
6am I am a bit cold. The Pillar is white, covered by the snow. It fell 10/15cm of fresh snow. It took me an hour to climb the last pitch with crampon and ice axe on the slab. I had to break the cornice on the top of the Candle and abseil the 15 m. Above the slope is quite steep for 60 meters then there are 140m less steep till the Brouillard ridge then to the Mont Blanc de Courmayeur, the col Major and finally the Mont Blanc. After I descended the Aiguilles Grises for 3300 meters to the Val Veny.