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23.07.2011

American Beauty, 8a+ Chamonix

Some years ago I saw a photo of a climber in the “American Beauty”. I was thrilled. The second pitch is such a perfect crack you very rarely find in Europe. The climber placed friends size 0,5 in the completely plain wall. The relatively huge difficulty and the fact that the wall is projecting out of the glacier 3.000 metres above sea level fascinated me. Exactly two weeks ago I was standing beneath this wall for the first time…

With a set of friends on the right and one on the left of my harness I’m climbing in. The first pitch is no problem. I do the second one at my first try too, but I’m just wondering where one should place a friend size 0,5 around here. The third pitch is graded 8a+, but it appears surprisingly easy to me. I’m wondering once again how easy some routes are graded…

The fourth pitch seems a little strange to me. At first I’m climbing 7 metres to the right, until I’m standing in front of a crumbly slab, where you can’t place any gear. I’m climbing back again to try 5 metres left to the belay. Across loose blocs I’m getting round to a chimney, but a vertical face of about 15 metres breadth is separating me from my next belay. How should I get there?

I’m getting down 10 metres again. Then I traverse a little bit to the right and try again across the face. The rock is bad and the climbing much more difficult than it’s described in the topo. Beyond that I can’t find a bolt far and wide, although there are enough of them in other difficult parts. I’m sure that I’m wrong, but don’t know how to get to the belay in other ways. I’m climbing up the face about 5 metres and place a nut I’m not really trusting in. I can’t fix more gear here, so I’m climbing on. I put my left foot on a small quartz crystal and as I want to put my weight on, it’s busting out. I fall, but the nut is bearing my fall. I’m pulling myself up and start to aidclimb. I’m falling into the rope again and again, but in the end I reach the belay.
Together with Florian Klingler, my partner, I climb the remaining pitches to the top onsight. Then we are rappelling down. I take a close look at the fourth pitch again, but I still can’t imagine where the original route should be…

Arriving at the glacier again I’m comparing the wall with the picture in the guide book and notice that the fourth pitch must have been busted out. If you compare today’s size of the crack to the pics in the guide book in addition, you can clearly see that it got 5 to 10 centimetres wider. So the rocks must have been moving in the years after the first ascent. This is also an explanation for the grading of the crux pitches, which have gotten much easier because of the moving rocks for sure.

The feeling that we’ve just climbed through a presumably unstable wall leaves a queasy feeling.  How dangerous the wall really is has to be observed and graded by locals, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a wall comes tumbling down in the Mont Blanc area…


MANAGEMENTFlorian KlinglerSchillerstraße 13
6020 Innsbruck – Austria
+43 664 960 1227
info@david-lama.com
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