On Sunday 8 March Tom Ballard got one step closer to his goal of climbing the six great North Faces of the Alps in winter, alone and in just one season by rushing up the Colton - Macintyre route on the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses in a mere 3 hours and 20 minutes. Ballard’s ascent came about after his recent solo ascents of the Matterhorn, Pizzo Badile and Cima Grande di Lavaredo which means that, to complete his Starlight and Storm project, the mountains still to be climbed are the Eiger and Petit Dru.
On Friday 6 March Ballard made his way to Rifugio Boccalatte on the Italian side of Mont Blanc to leave some food and drink, while on Saturday afternoon he and his friend Ruggero took the train from Chamonix to Montenvers. Talking to planetmountain.com he explained: "We then skinned up, trying to avoid the hordes of 'skiers' coming down the Vallee Blanche! We spent the night in the Leschaux hut."
Ballard had never climbed the Colton - Macintyre route before and neither, for that matter, the Grandes Jorasses North Face yet the decision to try his luck at this legendary outing put up in August 1976 by the 22-year-old British alpinists Nick Colton and Alex Macintyre seemed obvious: “Looking at the face, this line seemed to jump out at me. It seemed to be the obvious way to the top quickly!
Ballard began skiing up the glacier at 7.45am on Sunday morning and commenced climbing two hours later, at 9.45. And then in a blink of an eye, at 13:05 to be precise, he reached the summit. "The route conditions were quite good" he explained, adding "The ice crux was more than 90°, an overhang. Albeit brief. It was ice all the way to the headwall. The rock on the final pitches was free of snow. But a few small 'runnels' of ice to be used delicately!"
Ballard descended down into Val Ferret - a return described as "horrible, wet heavy snow. A mixture between porridge and cement" - where he was met by his father. The two then drove to Chamonix, where they joined up with Ruggero.
thanks to planetmountain.com for twxt and pictures