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Grand Hoche parete N - via Grassi

A few years ago an original volume of the book of "The 100 ice falls" by the legendary Grassi passed under my hand. It was then that I read about this climb on the north face of the Grande Hoche, a mountain in the 'limestone' massif that separates the Montgenevre pass from Bardonecchia, the land of my grandparents. It was not the difficulty of the route that attracted my attention, but the flash that caused me: I saw myself go back over the years, when as a child my grandfather took me to walk underneath, in those magnificent larch woods, with fragrant and soft undergrowth . He told me about the 'feared' via ferrata of the Alpine troops at the Charrá, and showed me nearby the peaks of the Guglia d 'Arbor and the Grande Hoche, made up of a ridge of gray rock, very high in the eyes of a dwarf, impossible. Far beyond my vision. A child sees only an inhospitable wall, a wall.

So when Grassi opened my eyes to that route that crossed the wall, I saw the possibility of confirming the growth of my personal mountaineering vision. Climbing it would have meant defeating the dragon that I saw as a child guarding the fort!

We come to the line!

I reach with Andrea to go up to my grandparents' house the day before, in Les Arnauds, in order to save us a bit of driving early in the morning. It is the first ascent we do together, but in reality we behave as if we have climbed together for a lifetime. We met in Sardinia on the cliff, for a couple of coincidences: he is Tania's boyfriend, the hut keeper of the Pontese Refuge, in Orco Valley, and she is a great friend with Paolo, the Alagna mountain guide with whom I work by AlagnaSkiGuides.

I owe the climb to Andre, because in addition to having pulled the hard pitches of the route, he discovered that this year the ice line is formed and climbable. Not a small thing, given that our colleague Fabio Agnese - alias Attila89 - twice returned home with his hands in the bag for having found only a layer of paper-thin ice to make up the waterfall ... the magic of this route ! From the bottom of the valley you can look with binoculars as much as you want, but as long as you are not under it you are not sure! ... and to get under it you need about a good couple of hours at a good pace!

A couple of hours Andre !! Not an hour and 40 as you made me put with your pace! However, there are 800 meters of altitude difference, with backpack, rope, ice picks, pitons, friend… ou, go slowly!

We arrive at the attack and get ready. I change my sweaty t-shirt and by the time I put the shirt back on, it has become stiff. Cold, Brrrr!

Bim bum bam. Whoever has to open the dance is played by chance. Andre wins and starts on the first pitch which comes with the first 10 meters at 70 degrees, with ice bubbles, a lot of rock but not many cracks.

He protects himself here and there, he moves well, but from below it is clear that he is not relaxed. New belay station.

I follow and I understand why: the ice picks bounce off the rock with each stroke - the ice is thin - while the frends he put in are not very reliable… engagé Andre!From there begins to increase the thickness of the ice, so it goes away better and better.

Two more pitches of softness and pleasure! Too bad that as soon as we start to enjoy ourselves, the ice line ends up making room for a beautiful winding snow channel, in a sort of Dolomite canyon.

We take it easy, take pictures and look at each other attractively. We are very relaxed, we understood that the route is much easier than we thought and the morale that was already skyrocketing is exploding!

A rock bar blocks the passage. Here begins the real route from Grassi. It completes the line started by Luzi and Salino in 1980, which only climbed the waterfall. It is actually just a nice pitch, mostly in rock, that climbs a chimney.

Then the difficulties drop considerably and you continue on a steep, narrow and sunken snowy gully, but in the end almost skiable ... up to the top!

We emerge from the small sommital frame and the sun floods us. We are sweaty from the rhythm we tried to keep in the couloir… beating the track!

We relax in the sun on a square of grass that emerges from the snow and we relax for an hour. You are like royalty!

We close the backpacks, a salute to the summit cross nearby and down there, we set out in a sea of tears, non-load-bearing crust and suffering up to the car ...



Majestic route, but much easier than expected, despite the fact that the first pitch was a nice toughM4.

Excellent companionship and insured solitude.

*At the time of Grassi, who went up with the ski slopes of Beaulard… it was another thing!

Next time I go down by paragliding ...

* I discover the next day, that after my instagram post and gulliver, there will be three teams in line on the route !! Ahahaha I'm an influencer!

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