On the 19th January Ueli Steck arrived for first lift at the bottom of the Grands Montets after a long drive from Bern where he had been working in a seminar. Kitted up, he headed over towards the Droites north face and soloed up the classic Ginat route in 2.08 hrs. Compared to his other speed ascents this might not seem like cutting edge but then he wasnt acclimatized and he hadn’t done any alpine climbing of any note for over two months now. This ascent was for “fun” as he put it- not to break any speed records.
Finding some pretty deep snow on the ice fields which make up a good portion of the climb, progress was a times slow. There was no track and the route had not seen an ascent yet this year. Once up on the headwall Ueli picked up speed again and cruised through the difficulties. Thin ice on the final pitch of the headwall forced him to take the harder mixed variation which 1000m off the deck is a serious proposition. As we sat barely 100m away in a helicopter filming even Pascal Brun, the legendary heli pilot from Chamonix who must have seen everything there is to see in the Alps, commented about how amazingly agile and at home he looked on even this hard section.
This is not confirmed as a speed ascent as there have been many solos of the Ginat in the past but the official speed record was from Christophe Profit who did it in 2.30hrs.
Many thanks to Mountain Hardware for their support in the filming (to be released in the next few weeks) and the photos