24. September 2005

The Giant's Tooth (13'169 ft)...

La Dent du Géant (4'014 m)...




Arrived at the Aiguille du Midi cable car station, we meet few paralpinists aiming for the Mont Blanc. The weather is promising today, and the last three weeks of bad conditions made several alpinists hungry of heights. For us, the objective will be the "Giant's tooth". Overlapping the French-Italian boundary, this rocky spur culminating at 4014 meters (13'169 feet) over sea is an awesome itinerary allowing us to ally mountaineering, rock climbing, and hopefully paragliding.  

At 9a.m. we are reaching the Aiguille du Midi, and we can see the panoramic cable car going to the Helbronner peak slowly activating. Crossing the glacier offers us a beautiful view on an already autumnal colored landscape. From here, the Giant's tooth is frightening. This granitic piece of rock on it's profile seems sharp as a razorblade, and its name becomes suddenly obvious.

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At the Helbronner's Peak station, we take time to enjoy a small italian coffee. It's in fact unnecessary to be too early as we want to benefit from sun exposure on the rock, and also because we're hoping a quick airborne descent...  

Walking across the Giant's glacier let us appreciate the magnificent landscape. Some cumulus growing on italian mountainsides are getting our attention. The wind is unfavourable to let us consider a comeback to Chamonix as planned. After a 3:30 hours hike on mixed terrain, we reach a small snowy shoulder announcing the last and difficult part. We leave our wings here and get ready for climbing.

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The low frequenting of this area and the softness of September's climate allow us to benefit from optimal conditions for this ascent. The first length reveals to be harder than announced, but Fabrice is the leader on this one, avoiding me some thrills. This way is guiding us at the bottom of the S-W wall, an enormous granitic surface aimed straightahead at the summit. The way is equipped with permanent big ropes making the ascent very efficient, even if killing a part of the charm. The last dozens of meters aren't equipped at all and need a special attention.

We're on the summit at 4pm, alone to enjoy this stunning sight. On a tiny area defined by vertiginous walls, the Holy Virgin carries the trace of thunderstorms, being constantly used as a lightning rod. We are feeling insignificant facing the Giant on this very special place.

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Rappelling the south face let us quickly come back to our backpacks. Evaluating the aerological conditions, we face a delicate situation: the wind is still coming from south and we are on a crest creating significant turbulences. The tiny takeoff is steep and there's no place for error. We'll have to be accurate to launch ourselves when a crenel occurs.

The sun goes down quickly and we have to hurry up. After some unsuccessful trials, i'm breathless. The air is rare at this altitude, my wing refuses to inflate. Suddenly I feel the wind oscillating, I know I'll have a handful of seconds to manage taking off. Deadahead, Italy valleys are extending to horizon. I run toward the edge, until an invisible force tears me of the ground.

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I fly for a while in front of the wall while my buddy takes pictures. I begin sinking down and am forced to go towards the "Mer de Glace". Fabrice has to wait for another crenel. Being blocked up there during a moonless night would be critical. The closest refuge is several hours away, and the Giant wakes up sometimes... Fabrice finally takes off at sunset, with an enormous relief. Flying in a so breathtaking scenery at twilight is a unique experience in a life.

 - Simon's flight pictures -
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 - Fab's flight pictures -
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The eyes full of unforgettables images, we enjoy a little restaurant in Chamonix for ending this great journey.

Thanks Fab for theses exceptional memories.

"To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." ....  Bertrand Russell



Pictures : Simon Perriard - Fabrice Brun © Skyandsummit.com