Blind Faith Tte de Gramusat France

The Tête de Gramusat is the location of several of the longest and most difficult waterfall climbs in Europe. A 1,400-foot-high limestone ziggurat draped in fangs and curtains of ice, its main face was first ascended in January 1991 by Frenchman François Damilano and Scotsman Robin Clothier. They called their route Gramusat Direct. Although the climb does go up the center of the face, it is not actually direct in that it diagonals from left to right to avoid a huge roof 500 feet above the ground. After following the first two and a half leads of Gramusat Direct, Blind Faith tackles the roof directly, then climbs an impressive two-tiered pillar higher up.

The name of the route comes from the fact that 1 blindly followed Thierry Renault to the base of a climb I had never seen Looking up from the bottom at the icy daggers suspended from the big roof, 1 could see none of the wall above and had no idea how big it was or what the climbing would be like, 1 had to go on blind faith that Thierry knew what he was getting us into. This climb was responsible for rewhetting my appetite for waterfall ice climbing, which had been somewhat dormant for over a decade.

Location: The Tête de Gramusat is located in the Vallée de Freissinières in the Briançonnais region of France. From the town of Briançon take the N94 highway in the direction of Gap. Three miles before the village of Roche de Rame turn right on the D38 highway toward Freissinieres. Continue to the village of Viollins, where you will find a small parking lot. In early season you may be able to drive further up the road, thus avoiding a good portion of the approach on foot.

First Ascent: Thierry Renault and Jeff Lowe, January 1992 Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet

Difficulty: Grade V, W16+, A2 (M7+ if climbed free?) Time: 8 to 12 hours on the climb

239 V Blind Faith, Tête de Gramusat, France

239 V Blind Faith, Tête de Gramusat, France

Tete Gramusat

Tfckrry RhknM tç*ar* tW iddfl ot Hh mi of tW roof oa Bfiod ioitk. (Photo: Jeff Lm)

Equipment: Eight to ten ice screws, two or three blade pitons, one or two small angle pitons, a few small to medium Stoppers; head lamps, to avoid a possible bivouac Season: January to February

Comments: Although Blind Faith is relatively safe from the standpoint of objective hazard, the approach slopes directly below the Tête de Cramusat have snow overlaying an ice slab—potential avalanche conditions. In addition, the climb is quite long, so you must move quickly to complete it in a day Although the descent can be made by head lamp (as on the first ascent), it would be much more pleasant to come down in daylight. Approach: From the parking lot walk up the road until you art beyond the main face of Tête de Gramusat. Find a gully coming down below the rappel descent and follow a trail or post hole up this gully to the cliff. Total approach time: I hour 15 minutes to 1 hours 30 minutes, depending on where you park your car, Route: Blind Faith shares the first two pitches of Gramusat Direct, the first pitch being quite easy (W13) and the second being quite difficult (W16-) Where Gramusat Direct makes a long traverse right to avoid the roof, Blind Faith continues directly up the steep pillar (WÏ5) that ends under the roof, The

241 ▼ The Hungo Face of Kwangde, Khumbu, Nepoi fourth pitch turns the roof by way of cracks on the overhanging left wall of a large hanging dihedral about 10 or 15 feet below the junction with the actual horizontal roof. On the first ascent, three points of aid were used to cross the roof (A2), but it could be done completely free at about M7 or 7+. The pitch finishes on hanging spikes of ice leading up and left through another dihedral, through a much smaller overhang, and reaching good ice for a belay (WI6+). Above the roof a long rightward traverse (Wl4) ends at a belay on good ledges somewhat left of the fall line from the upper pillar. A moderate (Wl4) pitch diagonals up and right to a belay on the left-hand side of the base of the impressive pillar The pillar itself is actually two parts, the first half being vertical and overhanging (WI6+ S) to a stance behind the pillar on a good ledge. The pitch continues for the rest of the rope-length up the still vertical and difficult upper half of the pillar to its top (W16-). Three more moderate (Wl3—4) pitches lead up and slightly right to a huge, ice-filled bowl Two final pitches of WS3 and 4 traverse right in the bowl and up at the end to finish the climb in common with Gramusat Direct. Descent: Follow a snow ledge through the trees to the right above the top of the cliff for 500 feet or so to a point overlooking the descent buttress. Six or seven rap pels down the buttress lead you to the approach gully. You should be able to find fixed anchors.

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