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Five Days on the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses with Symon Welfringer

Last February, a team of three French mountaineers (Symon Welfringer, Charles Dubouloz and Clovis Paulin), completed the first repetition and the first free ascent of Directissime de la Pointe Walker on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses (Mont-Blanc massif). We sat down with Symon to hear all about this incredible adventure.

April 18 2023

Rock climbing


  • Name: Symon Welfringer
  • Main activity: Multi-discipline climber
  • Side activities: Meteorological engineering, crosswords
  • Favorite spot: When I need peace and quiet, Céüse is my favorite place, an amazing cliff in the south of France. Céüse is the place that best represents my way of life. It's a uniquely beautiful cliff band, perched high on a hill. I've always chosen my projects there. There's a special ambiance at these cliffs that inspires me a little more every day. I also really enjoy Pakistan. I've traveled there several times. The first time was in 2017 to try Pumar Chhish, then other projects. I love the country's culture and the people I met during my expeditions have remained my friends. I hope I can return soon, maybe next summer...
  • A piece of advice: There's no such thing as bad weather, poor conditions, or bad rock. The only problem is a limited imagination. A change in the weather is enough to recreate ourselves and the world around us. Despite the world and the climate changing around us, every person can find their own challenge, their own project to take on. Our motivation won't change, we'll just reinvent ourselves.


First repetition of Directissime de la Pointe Walker and first free ascent.
February 13th, 10 a.m., north face of the Grandes Jorasses; tomorrow is Valentine's Day and I'm afraid I won't make it in time!!

We've been climbing on this face for the past 5 days, with ups and downs along the way. Now the summit looks close and our hopes to make it to the top are high, but we've had some tough moments. Throughout the entire climb, route finding was the trickiest part. The route had never been repeated, so there was no gear in the wall and no way to confirm we were going the right way. The topos offered short and undetailed descriptions. It was a repetition, but with the taste of opening a route. It was the first time I've had that feeling on a route in the Alps.

My strongest memory of the expedition is from one particular moment: We arrived at an overhanging 200-meter section of rock at the center on the face, with thin and discontinuous cracks. At that point, we didn't know which way the route went.  I was leading and managed to climb some amazing pitches up to 7a on gear, with a 15-degree overhang. At one point, I was completely desperate; I couldn't see any way to move upward. But finally, by going right and left, I managed to find more feasible sections and got back to easier terrain. That was the 3rd day.

Throughout that day, I experienced a lot of different feelings. But I think the fear I felt allowed me to be focused and strong. When I'm afraid, my mind enters full focus mode and allows me to use 100% of my abilities. On the other hand, fear helps me make the right decisions and turn back when I feel the need to. I would say that most of the time, fear is a strength for me. It allows me to fully be myself.

The last 2 days felt easier. But the cold was hard to manage. If the route was south-facing, everything would be completely different. In winter, the north face of Jorasses doesn't see the sun at all. For 5 days, I felt like the sun had disappeared from earth, a strange sensation!

This route brings together everything cool about alpinism, from tricky mixed climbing, to excellent rock and trad sections. 90% of the time, the rock is really solid and beautiful; you can place protection and the pitches are not too exposed. What makes it really special is that the wall is steep throughout the entire 1200 meters. Over 5 days, I think we climbed more than 30 pitches to reach the summit. It's a really big wall on one of the biggest north faces in the Alps.

In a nutshell, it's climbing in its purest form. Plus, it gave me the joy of sharing this moment with two good friends. I would say that's a pretty good combo.

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