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This Alpine Solo Might be the Boldest of 2022, So Far

A climber just made the first winter solo of a massive north face route on Grandes Jorasses over six days

French alpinist Charles Dubouloz has made the first winter solo ascent of the classic Rolling Stones on the north face of Grandes Jorasses in the French Alps. His climb took six days and five nights from Jan. 13 to 18.

Rolling Stones gets the serious grade of ED WI5+ 6a M8 A3 and climbs 1,200 metres of serious alpine terrain. It’s climbs between the Linceul Route and the Walker Spur on the right of the infamous Goussault-Desmaison. The first ascent was in July 1979 by the Czech climbers Thomas Prochaska, Jroslav Rutil, Ludek Schlechta and Jiri Svejda. The first winter ascent was by French alpinists Benoît Grison and Eric Grammond from Feb. 13 to 17, 1984. The first free ascent was in March 2014 by the Slovenians Luka Krajnc and Luka Lindič.

According to Montagnes Magazine, Dubouloz’s bold solo of Rolling Stones was accomplished using a rope and gear, leading each pitch, rappelling and then jumaring the ropes. He dropped his phone on day four, but knew a few other climbers were on routes not far away. On the fifth day he arrived at the upper headwall tired and with sore hands. One lead took six hours due to the complicated climbing. The temps dipped to -30°C, and he had limited daylight so was always looking for a place to bivi. “As soon as it gets dark, it’s too cold to climb, you can’t push farther, especially solo,” he said. He had to haul 35 kilograms of gear and food divided between two packs. On the summit waiting for him was photographer Seb Montaz who documented the ascent.

Dubouloz is one of the world’s leading alpinists going into 2022. In 2021, he started the year by making a rare solo over three days of the north face of Les Drus via the difficult Pierre Allain route. He ended it with a new climb up the north face of Chamlang (7,319 m) in Nepal with Ben Vedrines.

The list of climbers who’ve soloed the massive alpine wall in winter is relatively short, and includes Ivano Ghiradini in January 1978 up Pointe Croz, Japanese climber Tsuneo Hasegawa in 1979 via the Walker Spur, Jean-Marc Boivin on the Hirondelles ridge in 1986, Marc Batard in January 1992 up a new line called L’enfant et la Colombe, Catherine Destivelle in February 1993 up the Walker Spur, Lionel Daudet in 2002 up Eldorado, Ueli Steck in two hours and 21 minutes up The Colton/MacIntyre in December 2008, and Tom Ballard in March 2015 via The Colton/MacIntyre.