Over three days in August 1938, Italian climbers Ricardo Cassin, Ugo Tizzoni and Luigi Esposito toiled away on a massive buttress of rock jutting out from the north face of the Grand Jorrasses—a 13,806-foot peak in France—before finally reaching the summit. They named their route the Walker Spur. Just over 80 years later, on February 19, two teams of alpinists repeated the Walker Spur in a style that would have been unimaginable to the original Italian team: in a single day, in the dead of winter.
The Walker Spur had previously been climbed in single day in winter, notably by British hardman Stevie Haston, who soloed it in winter in just 8 hours in 1993. But two teams accomplishing the feat on the same day—that’s something new.
One teams was comprised of the Frenchmen Sébastien Ratel, Benjamin Védrines and Léo Billon, members of the High Mountain Military group, in Chamonix; the other of the Swiss climber Caro North and the Argentinian climber Carlos Molina.
North shared the news of her and Molina’s success, along with the French team’s, on Instagram: “The same day as a french Team from the [the High Mountain Military Group] – we were the first parties to manage to do a one day winter ascent of the Walker Pillar on the north face of the grandes jorasses. But for me it was primarily a great climb with a great friend.”
According to a report on Planetmountain.com, the two teams ran into each other the night before their climbs, until then not realizing that another party had the same objective. Billon, Védrines and Ratel climbed the Spur first the next morning, and summited in just 12 hours. North and Molina followed the three-man team afterwards.
Correction: The title and body of this article originally stated incorrectly that the two parties who climbed the Walker Spur on February 19 were the first to have accomplished climbed the route in a single day in winter. Others, notably Stevie Haston, had done so previously, as the article now states.