First Descent by Davide Capozzi - Grande Rocheuse


In 2013, which was a memorable year for its incredible snow, Julien "Pica" Herry had begun to talk about a possible descent down the Voie Originale from Grande Rocheuse. This beautiful mountain is next to the famous Aiguille Verte. To imagine the south side of the G. R. as ridable, requires the kind of imagination and an eye for lines, which only Julien has. His skills, experience and ability to find lines have always surprised me and often made me afraid. Julien is a person who loves to share his ideas with those who want adventure, and is always willing to help others, in the realization of even the most ambitious projects.

This year we started talking more often about G. R. and in the end he convinced me that it could be a great adventure.

In mid-March after a heavy snowfall, followed by several cold days, I quickly realized that we had a good weather window to make our attempt. The team was made: Julien and his friend Lambert Galli hiked up to refuge Couvercle the day before to take a last look closer to the face. My partner Denis Trento and me left at night from refuge Torino and joined them later at Couvercle.

The idea of starting with the splitboard from refuge Torino, crossing the Vallée Blanche at night, seemed like a big challenge to me. But thanks to Denis skills and his background as a competitive ski mountaineer, it turned out to be one of the easiest and quickest approaches ever.

At 5:30 am we started climbing the first part of the couloir Whymper, and then turned over to the steep south facing slopes further up. The light snow just slightly covering the rocks made it a tricky ascent, and we lost a lot of time. To find perfect conditions for both uphill and downhill, on a face like this is not easy, but nearly 10 hours after our departure from refuge Torino, we reached the summit of G. R. We were happy but still aware that the most difficult part remained.

All my experience from over 15 years of snowboard mountaineering was needed to overcome the difficulties we were facing on the way down. In the end we managed to complete our dream, and did the descent with only 2 rappels (25 m. And 40 m.)

Besides the beauty of the line, the fact that it was a first descent on both skis and snowboard made it a huge satisfaction. To find a never ridden face down a 4000 m. peak in the Mont Blanc massif, where pretty much everything has already been skied, is not an easy task.