Charles Dubouloz: A feat from the past on the Rolling Stones route | sports

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Charles Dubouloz, at the top of the Grandes Jorasses.
Charles Dubouloz, at the top of the Grandes Jorasses.

At the foot of the north face of the Grandes Jorasses (4,208 meters), one of the great mountaineering stages, a natural border between France and Italy, Charles Dubouloz hesitates. A huge and sinister wall of rock and ice rises 1,200 meters from the chaotic glacier until it merges with a blue sky resulting from an infinite anticyclone. His aura and his story crush the nerves of the most tempered. The icy wind makes the Frenchman shrink a little more while he measures the weight of fear that now makes him hesitate, wondering if his challenge will not be excessive: climbing the Rolling Stones route alone and in the middle of winter, one of the most demanding of the that cross the wall. Finally, he sighs, bows his head and brings his 35 kilos of material to the start of the route.

Climbing solo is not the same as climbing solo. The integral solo implies not using neither strings nor progression material. A fall means the end but the few who practice it get hooked on the freedom to progress without weight, without pauses, enjoying the flow of their movements and the mental abstraction they obtain. Climbing alone supposes a tremendous job in exchange for finding the desired security: the climber reaches the end of the length of his ropes, sets up a meeting where to fix these ropes and descends to the beginning of the pitch to retrieve his backpack, dismount the previous meeting and trace the fixed line. What it means to climb the wall twice.

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Modern mountaineering is a matter of technique, enormous physical preparation and mental solidity, and Charles Dubouloz (32 years old) is one of its greatest exponents, as he demonstrated last autumn when he climbed the virgin north face of Chamlang (7,319 m, Nepal). ) in just three days, by the hand of Benjamin Védrines. Now he has just shown that he is a total mountaineer, someone capable of using all the techniques of climbing and mountaineering to be autonomous in a huge challenge. Between January 13 and 18, the French mountain guide made history by becoming the first climber to manage the Rolling Stones route in winter and without company. The route was launched in 1979 by four Slovak mountaineers (Kutil, Prochaska, Slechta and Svedja) and had its first winter repetition in 1984 by the French rope made up of Benoît Grison and Éric Grammond.

Dubouloz spent five nights on the wall, lost between five and six kilos of weight, endured temperatures of up to 30 degrees below zero, froze a couple of toes, broke his hands, “totally chapped by the cold”, and Since then, he has not stopped receiving the applause of the mountaineering community. His itinerary runs along lines of ice that die away to make way for a rotten rock, which exhausted him, as he explained: “Having to deal with a doubtful rock [que puede romperse al tirar de ella, o bajo el peso de sus pies] it puts you under nerve-wracking stress while trying to protect yourself as best you can.” It is difficult to enjoy a climb in these conditions. The need to be safe leads to wanting to move forward without losing sight of security, to work from dawn to dusk to sleep on a ledge or in a precarious hammock. Due to the tension, Dubouloz hardly ate: a soup and hot water where he melted some gummies for all diet: “When I’m in the mountains, I hardly eat. It must be because of the stress.”

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It is one of the ironies of mountaineering: years of dreams and the desire to even see oneself in the place of action to, once in flour, wish to recover the lost security again. In this sense, there is no better prize than the warmth of the sun, a true bath of life that Dubouloz experienced at the top of the Grandes Jorasses, after six days without receiving its caress. Up there, he walked three steps and burst into a liberating cry: he could finally relax and hug his friend, the photographer Seb Montaz, who had ascended the Italian slope and who, with the help of a drone, documented the feat.

In times of stopwatches and immediacy, Dubouloz intends to lend a hand to the generations of mountaineers of the past, when slowness and perseverance described the great ascents and challenges were not timed, simply because success was unknown. Before him, great mountaineering surnames such as Ivano Ghirardini (he climbed a route to Punta Croz in winter and alone in 1978 and was also the first to climb two mythical north faces in this way: Matterhorn and Eiger), Jean Marc Boivin (1986), Marc Batard or Catherine Destivelle (1993), as well as Ueli Steck or the Pyrenean Rémi Thivel, plunged into the shadows of this north face without knowing where their adventure would take them. Dubouloz is the link between his references and the present, a mountaineer in tune with the times, one who understands that systematic training can take him very far, improving what others have done before.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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