Words by Nina Caprez. Photos by Arnaud Petit.
Climbing in the mountains is an interesting thing. It’s like a mirror to yourself and you can’t hide real emotions. That makes you feel alive.
This spring, I hurt my ankle and when I was able to walk again, the only desire I had was to move in the mountains. I started a progressive rehab on my weak ankle and leg and the best option was to walk and climb in mountaineering shoes. That’s what I did.
I made the best of my injury and climbed many of the classics I always wanted to do. From very easy ridge climbing to more solid crack climbs. Most of them are a combination of a beautiful approach, an outstanding bivi and a outstanding climb. The ones I would definitely recommend are « Fidel Fiasco » at Blaitière, « la Reprise » at Flammes de Pierre, and « Sale Athée » at the Moine.
It was very interesting to see how different my climbing was after my little crack climbing internship in Indian Creek. I’m a total jam addict now and I can move freely in splitters.
One route which really showed the progress is « Madalton » at the South Face of Aiguille du midi, a perfectly horizontal 6-meter long roof crack. I tried it last summer and I got my ass thoroughly kicked! And this time I climbed smoothly and almost effortlessly trough the big 7b+ roof. Such a great feeling to feel the improvement!
We all have to admit that this summer hasn’t been the best for extreme alpine or mixed climbing. The Mont Blanc massif has been severely affected by the big heat waves in June and the permafrost started to get hit early this year. Lots of rock falls, accidents in classic routes where entire belay stations came off. Not really a year to go push hard at the edge. I spent lots of time observing the « Pilier d’Angle » where the route « Divine Providence » is. The enormous seracs under which we crossed last year with Benoit were falling down at a dramatic rate. Lucky for us that got on it last year.
Back to rock climbing. My good friend, Arnaud Petit, asked me earlier this summer if I would be on board to check out a big overhang on the Grand Capucin. He’d had a line in mind for long while and wanted to see if it could be free-climbed.
Ten days ago, he called me and we went up there with on mission « overhang ». We climbed up to the middle of the wall through an existing route to reach the top of the crucial overhang section. He first sent me down on toprope, equipped with a ton of gear and a drill machine. I spent two and a half hours in the 40m pitch to check out the moves, clean some holds and drill 4 bolts where you can’t protect with gear.
It was so exciting to open that pitch and to see that everything worked! It was the first time that I opened a multipitch route in such an alpine environment.
It was a long day and once back in the valley, our motivation was very high to go back as soon as possible and open the entire line.
Watch Video Of Nina on L’or du temps
A new window opened a few days ago. We packed our stuff in Chamonix for a three-day mission on the wall. Luckily, it had been snowing the days before so we did not have to carry water up the wall. Loaded like Sherpa’s, we left Chamonix with huge smiles on our faces. The approach was hard with 35kg backpacks and I was happy that to have gained solid legs earlier in the season.
We climbed back up to a little ledge in the middle of the wall where we left a bag with our bivi stuff. From there, we traversed into our line and started to open “ground up”. That’s always very exciting! I love picking the line with your partner at the belay station and then leaving for the unknown. I was totally fearless, the commitment was complete and I was totally in my element. Arnaud has 20 years of experience in opening routes, so he taught me a ton and I was happy to take in and put it into practice.
We spent two nights on a very smartly picked bivi ledge. It’s funny to see how simple life is when brought down to essentials. We had good food, fantastic conversations about life, and from time to time the company of people rappelling down.
On the last day, we opened on our way down, which is very different from opening ground up. The fear factor isn’t so high, but here, the pitches were harder overall and so we were more occupied by checking whether this new line is possible or not.
I was very impressed by how steep and straight our line is. It has the character of a steep sport crack line… but in fact, we opened a 12 pitch long route with grades up to 8a, at 3’600 meters, in the middle of the Mont Blanc massif! The name of the route « l’or du temps » (for English speakers, this means the gold of time, but sounds like outside of time) means a lot to us and perfectly captures the disconnect with reality that you will experience up there on the Grand Capucin.
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