Gervasutti Pillar.

Gervassuti pillar

The Gervasutti Pillar is the slender pillar on the right of the obvious ice line (Supercouloir), Three Points Pillar is to the left. Photo taken in June 2012, there is much less snow than this now!

Last week saw James Clapham and I head up to the Gervasutti Pillar on the East face of Mont Blanc Du Tacul.  This is a route that has been on my wishlist for some years and it feels great to have finally laid it to rest.  I think we both underestimated its length and difficulty and it took much longer to climb than we were expecting.

The second Pitch on the Gervassuti Pillar

Our start up the toe of the buttress avoids the horrible gully you can see here.

We stuggled to gain and maintain a fast pace due to snow on the ledges, sections of loose rock and tricky route finding.  We had the Topo from Michel Piola’s pink rock climbing guidebook which seemed to be wrong in so many ways and very misleading with regards to the actual length and difficulty of the route.  It is easy however to blame a book on one’s shortfalls as a climber so the most important thing for me to remember is that it’s not (always) about how fast you climb something but it’s about the experience and what you gained from the climb itself.  In this department the route has given us excellent memories of a grand adventure and was a suitable challenge for us both that pushed us to dig pretty deep.

The first pitch is described by Mr Piola as being a 4+ right to left crack which we couldn’t find perhaps because of the lack of snow on the glacier these days.  We ended up climbing a long and tricky crack right at the toe of the pillar itself which was maybe 6a. We followed on the next few pitches to the third where I came across a massive loose flake which was obviously an integral part of the route due to the wear on top of it and the peg just above.  I decided that I didn’t fancy my chances of swinging out on it without it coming off in my hands so I gave it  5 minutes of concerted wiggling before sending it off down to join the other random blocks on the glacier below.

Trundling blocs is fun. Photo James Clapham

After this pitch we got going up the lower reaches of the pillar passing some superb quality granite on the way.

P4 Gervassuti Pillar. Mont Blanc du Tacul

Getting stuck into the perfect granite on the middle section of the pillar.

Gervasutti Pillar

Happy times, sun kissed granite, photo James Clapham

Pillar Gervasutti Mont blanc du tacul east face

James in the long perfect corner on pitch 5/6.

Mostly we stayed on track the whole way up (we think) but it is difficult to tell.  A few of the pitches go onto the north side of the pillar and were quite snowy and with a bit of a breeze things felt pretty miserable in our rock boot clad feet…

A0 pitch

James Getting stuck into the A0 Peg ladder on the first pitch on the north side.

We thought this was the top of the pillar. Oh no. You do need to do a quick 8/9m ab of this point though.

The look of somebody who hasn’t yet realised the day is far from over. Photo James Clapham.

We got to the top of the Pillar at about 5pm just after the sun had disappeared behind the summit of the Tacul and the change back into our mountain boots was very welcome.  A dicey pitch across the col led us to a short abseil.  From the bottom of this abseil (20m max) a long (loose) mixed pitch brings you to a point where you can see the mixed gully (which is above super couloir) which leads to a col between the tour rouge and the upper slopes of the Tacul.  We moved together all the way through this gully passing some shockingly bad rock and mushy snow and ice.  This section definitely needs some snow cover to make it safe and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in there with any less snow than we had.   From the col it seemed to take a long time to reach the summit, passing a good few hundred metres of mixed and rock climbing to get to the final snow slope to the summit. We topped out at 9.30pm and got back to the Col du Midi an hour or so later feeling pretty spent.

Tour rouge

Showing the tour rouge on the right and the long mixed gully which leads to the col. we though that marked the end of the difficulties but…… oh no.

Last pitch to the last col. James looking pretty happy about getting out of the loose horrible stuff.

The actual final section of climbing.

Diable couloir

……and the actual final move above the Diable Couloir.

Mont blanc du tacul sunset.

Sunset and the summit of the Tacul. Photo James clapham.

All in all it was a great route with sections of amazing quality red granite and sections of horrible choss too (mainly in the mixed ground at the top) but it certainly was a grand adventure and one that I’m very proud to have finally ticked.  Interestingly a lot of people I have spoken to about it since have said the same thing, “It’s pretty long aye?!”.   Yes, yes it is.

Team summit Hi5. I felt like a shadow of my former self.

6 thoughts on “Gervasutti Pillar.

  1. Enjoyed your entry. I did it in 1987 and my pictures look very different. If you want I can email you some along with my diary entry

  2. I did it in 95 and it was amazing. We got the just as the sun came up and heated up the super coloir and shat stones on us to the point I though we were dead. In the interests of safy we moved together in our mountain boot for the first 3 pitches until we were out of the rock fall and onto the pillar. The climbing was amazing and after the 20m ab at the top we did not go into the gully (cause of loose rock) but continued up the rock pillar adding another 8 or so pitches.

  3. Pingback: James and Dave’s trip up the Gervassuti Pillar. | British Talung 2012 Expedition.

  4. I seem to remember starting about 6am and finishing around sundown. When I went back to do supercouloir in winter , the upper section was much faster and secure feeling with snow cover!

  5. Pingback: Gervasutti Pillar, MT Blanc du Tacul EF » Chamonix Topo

  6. I did it in ’73 with Mike Browne (founder of Snow and Rock). We bivvyed in the Midi telepherique station toilets then headed down over the glacier arriving at foot of route about 5am. I think it took us around 9 hours to reach the summit by then in a white out. We were wondering what to do next when momentarily the mists parted and we could see the way down. In our hurry to move before the viz closed in I tripped over my crampon and into Mike sending us both down a 1000ft snow slope. Saved a bit of time but we still just missed the last pherique. Settling in for a second night in the toilets were awakened by sounds of voices and machinery. The rescue were taking down some guy who had fallen into a crevasse. We blagged a lift and enjoyed a memorable night time descent into Cham.

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