New First Ascent on the Grandes Jorasses

It took two attempts, but climbers Giuseppe Vidoni, Richard Tirabosi, and Tommaso Vection managed to put up a brand-new first ascent on the Grandes Jorasses — a storied and heavily-climbed mountain in the Mont Blanc massif.

The route — which the trio dubbed Happy Birthday — ascends the Aiguille de l’Évêque, a 3,258m south-facing flank of the Grandes Jorasses.

Vidonia, Tirabosi, and Vection first attempted the line on Jan. 25. The climbers used a 1,000m couloir as their primary attack point.

“To find out [if a route is possible], sometimes you just have to go and see. And so we did,” Vidoni wrote in an Instagram post. At that point, it was just Vidonia and Tiraboschi making the attempt.

“The couloir [excited us] right from the first pitch, so we continued for another 400m,” the climber wrote.


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A post shared by Giuseppe Vidoni (@bepividoni)

Unfortunately, rising temperatures and sun exposure higher up on the Grandes Jorasses caused drainage and meltwater to funnel into the couloir, forcing the pair to push pause at noon. After waiting for three hours for conditions to improve, Tiraboschi and Vidoni descended safely.

A birthday present

They were back again three days later, this time with Vection in tow. The three tackled the complex route under better conditions. Lower temperatures meant that the couloir wasn’t as much of a waterfall as it had been previously.

But there’s a big difference between “possible” and “easy.” The three climbers rate Happy Birthday at AI4, M6, ED.

After reaching the top of the route — a “last ledge of ice under a snowfield which is located near the ridge” — Vidoni and company descended with what sounds like an arduous program of “19 double belays with 1 fix and pitons.”

Vection turned 30 the next day, prompting the route name.

“Also because discovering a line like this one directly above Val Ferret seemed like a fantastic present,” Vidoni told Planet Mountain.

Happy Birthday lies on the Grand Jorasses’ south face, on the Italian side of the mountain. The north face is considered one of the three great north faces in the Alps (along with the Eiger and the Matterhorn). But as popular as the mountain is, the trio are confident their ascent on Aiguille de l’Évêque is the first of its kind.

“Not finding other known ascents of the couloir and not finding any material on the face, we think it is a new route, a rare thing in the Mont Blanc group,” Vidoni concluded.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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