After climbing M6 Solar with Mihnea, we were both looking for a bigger challenge. The conditions in the big alpine routes are not great at the moment around Chamonix. All is dry. What shell we climb?
We decided to give it a go to Eugster Direct, a winter route that is not so often climbed as other routes in Aig du Midi N Face. Jon Griffith writes about Eugster Direct in his blog : “…it is not a route to be under-estimated as it is very long (1600m from hut to summit) and the difficult section can be very tricky when it is dry.”
As we decided to start the route early, we got the last cable car on Thursday and slept at Plan d’Aiguille Refuge.
Friday morning, we started at 04:30 from the refuge. The approach to the base of the climb took us 2 hours. The bergshrund is very easy to pass. We managed to climbe unroped all the 500 m of easy terrain of the couloir with short sections of steep. We put the rope on as we got to the base of the 6 pitches of proper climbing.
It’s 09:30. The route we have to climb looks bone dry. Well, we are here for the party, so, let’s dance!
First pitch I started on a ramp of ice, but after only 4 meters, all the ice is gone and I have to find my way in some loose rock, navigating from left to the right and then left again to the belay: 2 good pegs tide with a red cord. It was a tricky pitch to climb.
The 2nd pitch starts steep, looks spectacular but is short. It takes you left onto a small ridge on the top of a pillar.
The 3rd pitch was long but not so hard. I’ve climbed more than 60m and stopped to make a belay as I was running out of gear.
The 4th pitch was hard. Mihnea climbed all the way towards the huge wedged block, and, as there was no ice, he could not climb in the right hand side (as it’s says in the topo), but had to pass under the block. There are 2 pegs in the crux. The exit above the block is very physical. I know this for sure, as I took a fall while seconding. Well done Mihnea, strong leading!
Mihnea kept climbing until our 60m rope finished. Then he made a belay just before the last crux.
As I followed him, I realized I have to continue with the direct exit, as we have passed the alternate exit in the left (see the topo).
The last crux was a short overhang and had no ice in it, but sugar snow. All I remember is that I was desperately fighting against gravity to gain 5 m in a very loose terrain with poor rock pro. Finally, it’s done! I felt the pressure releasing from my mind and that put joy in my heart. The route is in our pocket now.
The 6th pitch (and the last) should be very easy with ice, but now is just a low angle scary chimney with loose rocks. Trying to step/hold on something that isn’t breaking is the game that Mihnea is playing on this last pitch.
As we get into the snowfield, we meet a French team that climbed Eugster Diagonal (a “D” rated route) with skis on their backpacks. We saw them in the morning following our track in the couloir.
We finish the last 150m up on Mallory-Porter placing some ice screws between us. It’s 17:30 when we get to the Midi lift. Unfortunately we missed the last cable car down by 30 minutes, so we have to spend the night at Midi’s toilets. Mihnea was supposed to drive back home to Romania that night, now he has to do it next day. But he is very positive and happy to have climbed the route.
Thanks Mihnea for such an adventure!
To conclude: 6 pitches of good Scottish VI,7! or M6…the last pitch is vey loose!
It took us longer than expected: 13 hours from Aig du Plan refuge to Midi top lift! So, plan wise!
Gear: 2x 60m, cams #0-#2 (you may double the #0.4 and #0.5), one set of wires, 4 ice screws. Maybe 2 pegs could be useful as well (we didn’t use).
More photos : here