A First Ascent On The Balme Wall

In the Summer of 2014, Tommy Caldwell, Emily Harrington, Hazel Findlay and Alex Megos came to visit us at our home in the Chamonix valley. Over four days, they climbed at four different climbing areas with four very different styles of climbing. We kicked off the Epic Climber event with the most exciting proposition of the week; a potential first ascent on one of the area's most impressive limestone walls.

A 150 metre multi-pitch climbing through the Balme Wall's imposing roof, 'Le Concile de Pierre' was the obvious challenge for our four visiting climbers. The route was graded 8a/A0, with previous ascensionists aiding their way through the crux roof. Reports suggested that the roof pitch would likely be around 8b+/8c in difficulty and we were hopeful that our teams would be successful in freeing it even with the limited time span of just one day.

Le Concile De Pierre, 8c/5.14b
Ted Endo

The route breaks down into an easy 6a+ entry pitch, followed by a more trying 7a+ with some good climbing. The real difficulties start at the 7c+ third pitch with sustained, technical climbing to just below the roof.

Getting Gripped | Epic Climber, Ep. 1

Here Emily Harrington battles for purchase on an undercling mid-way through the third pitch. Emily and Tommy were the first pair to attempt the route, climbing easily to the roof.

With previous ascensionists electing to aid through the roof pitch, the rock had been left dirty with patches of black moss over much of the crux. Tommy had to search out the useable holds from amongst the dirty rock. As you can see from the video above, he wasn't wholly successful.

With the crux holds broken, Tommy was left with a wild sideways dyno as the only method of completing the route. It was anything but easy, but after a few tries, Tommy stuck the dyno and continued onto the headwall above.

Finding The Line | Epic Climber, Ep. 1

The first free ascent of the pitch was within reach, but unfortunately the blank, technical climbing on the final portion of the pitch got the better of Tommy and after an unexpected fall, he and Emily continued to the summit with the crux pitch still unfreed.

The Difficulties Begin | Epic Climber, Ep. 2

However, the day wasn't over yet and there was still a chance that the route could go free. Enter Hazel Findlay and Alex Megos for their attempt on the line. 

Alex Megos Sets Up To Dyno
Ted Endo

After easily dispatching the first three pitches, Hazel and Alex arrived at the roof. Having seen Tommy tackling the dyno from the ground, the pair knew what was in store and Alex set off, eager to flash the route. While Alex didn't manage the flash, after numerous attempts, he did eventually succeed in redpointing the pitch.

Plain Sailing To The Summit | Epic Climber, Ep. 2

With the crux pitch complete, Hazel and Alex made short work of the final pitches, (6c and 7c respectively), to complete the first free ascent of 'Le Concile de Pierre' (8c). 

Stay tuned for more Epic Climber challenges, including hard repeats and first ascents, in the coming weeks.

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