Lionel Terray’s Conquistadors of the Useless describes the drama that plays out between men and mountains. That a lump of rock and ice, whose conquest can seem absurdly futile, is able to invoke such rich experiences to those that climb it is one of the central themes.
The account of his ascent of the Mer de Glace route on the Grepon planted a seed when I first read it fifteen years ago and although the route's difficulty has been far surpassed by present-day standards, our own ascent last week was absorbing from start to finish. Steep but immaculate granite, airy bivvy ledges, devious route-finding and a delicate descent down the west face.
In this case, images do it better than words:
Not a place to linger: crossing the bergshrund onto the base of the route.
Contentment is a bivvy ledge
The Grandes Jorasses in the early morning
On the lower slopes of the face with the Mer de Glace below
Devious route-finding on immaculate granite
Descending the west face onto the Natillons glacier
1/4 of the way down and bivvy #2
The morning after the night before: continuing the descent onto the Nantillons
Just for starters: safely back in the valley
Conquistadors of something, but certainly not useless.