The Scottish team of Guy Robertson and Pete Benson has made the very impressive first free ascent of the thirty-eight pitch „Gousseault“ route on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. Famed, and recently deceased, mountaineer Rene Desmaison first attempted the line with Serge Gousseault in 1971. That attempt ended in tragedy, with Gousseault dead and Desmaison nearly there himself, and a bitter controversy over the conduct of the rescue ensued. He returned to finish the climb in 1973 with Giorgio Bertone and Michel Claret at a grade of VI 6a A1/A2, 1200m.The route has only seen six successful ascents since; the Scots´ most recent is the first to eliminate aid for a new grade of VI 6c M5/M6, 1200m. With the Montevers train closed for the season, the team tackled the long approach on foot. After some questionably sound directions from the locals, the Scots endured a „sphincter-twitching,“ seven-and-a-half hour approach down the Geant Icefall. „Running cramponed across 40 degree hard ice slopes with a six day winter pack; dodging ten ton serac off-cuts“ was a „nice start,“ as Robertson put it. An hour from the face, Benson inadvertently scheduled a rest day for the team with his waist-deep plunge into a pool of icy glacial melt-water. Two hours after leaving the Leschaux hut the next day, Robertson realized he had forgotten his headlamp and earplugs in the hut. „´All good acclimatization,´ I repeatedly told myself as I ran back down the glacier.“Robertson and Benson worked up the route, finding excellent ice conditions, quality drytooling „and even a ´Gogarth-esque´ E3 rock pitch high up on the headwall.“ Though the route has a reputation for a lack of ledges, the team found three adequate, lie-down bivy spots.“Despite a dropped leashless tool which was rapidly retrieved from it´s sloping destination, we reached the top late in the afternoon of day four: not too bad for a pair of Scots weekenders.“ You can read a full report from the team at Alpinist.com>>

The „Gousseault“ route is shown in red