A once-in-a-lifetime route
The route Big tower is watching you on the Pic Sans Nom turns out to be a 700 m long brute force route which we manage to climb successfully, but we would not tackle it a second time.

Big tower is watching you on the Pic Sans Nom

15.08.2020 - In pitch darkness we set off from the parking area. It is a pleasant walk until we have to descend the moraine and cross the Glacier Noir. The snowfield at the base of the wall is firmly frozen, but we can pass it without crampons or spikes because of the many frozen stones on this surface. Finding the exact starting point of the route Big tower is watching you (6a/A0, 22 pitches) on the Pic Sans Nom takes longer than expected. The first few pitches are brittle, but the rock gets more solid afterwards. However, there are still a lot of loose stones and the rock is covered with lichen and slightly sandy. Nevertheless, there are a few great climbing sections.

Something we do not know at this point: In 2015 there was a rockfall in the second pitch. Meanwhile a variant has been established on the left which is much more difficult, but it can be climbed A0. Sigi is quite surprised when he encounters an estimated 7a crux in a supposed 6a pitch. He can free climb the entire route, but he has to pull hard several times. Furthermore, pitch by pitch there is less protection and a few CAMs and nuts would have been helpful.

Above all, steady nerves are required for rappelling over difficult terrain which takes several hours. Even though we choose the recommended neighboring route Une Septentrion Pour Rire for rappelling, our rope gets stuck and Sigi has to get up a 6a pitch to free it. In the lower section of this route many bolts are twisted by rockfall. When we finally reach the base of the wall, the soft snowfield is easy to pass. On the way back across the Glacier Noir it gets dark. We continue using our GPS tracks. Despite the cairns, the final passage up the moraine is hard to find. Sigi scrambles up the steep terrain, which is mainly covered by loose scree, and helps me up using a rope. After that the way to the parking area feels like never-ending, but at least we find a place to refill our water bottles.

Overnight stay: N 44.9171, E 6.4154

Lessons Learned

  • Some routes are physically and mentally quite challenging due to the total package of climbing combined with approach and descent. You tackle and manage to climb these routes, but you know that you will not do it a second time. The climb for this total package was simply not enjoyable enough.
Written by Barbara