Peuterey Integral by François Cazzanelli
Published on 13/09/2019
A great dream that comes true. I had been dreaming of climbing this immense ridge for several years, without bivouac, going light and fast. I didn't know if I could do it but I wanted to try.
The Peuterey Integral is that long ridge that, starting from the Val Veny, climbs to the summit of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey (3,773 m), descends from its north face into the couoir leading to the Brèche south of the Dames Anglaises and crosses it. It continues going up to the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey (4,112 m), goes down to the Col de Peuterey, then climbs Pilier d'Angle (4,234 m), to reach eventually the Mont Blanc summit in Courmayeur first (4,765 m) and Chamonix (4,810 m) at the last.
It all started when, as a child, I watch the video by Arnaud Clavel and Matteo Pellin in which, 19 years ago, starting from the church of Notre-Dame de Guérison, they climbed the Peuterey Integral and returned to the starting point going down from the Italian normal route that passes through the Gonnella hut.
Arnaud was my instructor at the course for mountain guide and when I was young I hung in my room the poster of his climb on Divine Providence together with Mario Ravello and Maurizio Rossetto. I have always been inspired by him and his immense activity. I had the pleasure of knowing Matteo Pellin during our stay at his Peuterey campsite "La Sorgente", during our project. A beautiful friendship was born; Matteo is a mountain guide and an experienced mountaineer and when he talks about Mont Blanc his eyes light up.
Last winter I proposed the project to Andreas Steindl - a strong Swiss mountaineer - who immediately accepted enthusiastically, so before my departure for Alaska we planned everything in detail.
With Andy there is a great friendship that was created by sharing many projects in the mountains, including the record of chaining the 4 ridges of the Matterhorn (Hörnli, Furgen, Zmutt and Lion) in 16 hours and 4 minutes on 12 September 2018 (beating the previous record of Hans Kammerlander and Diego Wellig of 23 hours by 7 hours).
At the end of the preparation, finally, on Thursday 18 July, we met up in the Matteo’s campsite, to prepare the gear and bring our backpacks to the base of the south ridge of Aguille Noire of Peuterey in the afternoon. This is to allow us to run the 1000 meters of path up to the attack of the light ridge, without getting too tired.
In our backpacks we decided to put:
Mountaineering material: 1 half-rope of 60 m, a series of friends from 0.2 to 2, 4 quickdraws, 4 long slings, 2 short slings, 2 ice axes (for each one), Grivel Air tech Hybrid crampons, helmet, 3 carabiners with screw gate (for each one), a belayer (for each one), a prussick sling, a short ice screw (for each one) and climbing shoes.
Food and liquids: 0.7 lt of salts, 0.7 lt of Coca-Cola, 6 gels, 3 bars, 3 Kit Kat, dried fruit and 4 apricots.
Clothes: 1 light duvet, 1 Gore-Tex jacket, 2 pairs of gloves, neck gaiter and headband.
We carried all the material on our shoulders during the whole project up and down.
I slept little that night, in my head there were a thousand thoughts, the most insistent: "Will I be able? Will I make it?"
Then finally at 2:45am the alarm clock rang, I immediately got up. Matteo was waiting for us in the campsite bar for breakfast. Luca Rolli, a dear friend and Mountain Guide of Courmayeur, also arrived, he kindly decided, together with Marco Camandona, to follow us to take some photos and videos.
At exactly 3:30am we left, one hour and five minutes later we were at the base of the South Face of Aiguille Noire. We started looking for our backpacks (which we brought up the day before); it seems impossible but in the dark we struggled to find them, a few minutes passed before finally being able to spot them. We changed ourselves and finally started climbing!
We were coordinated and precise: climbing the Noire is a pleasure and in just 5 hours we were at the top (where the “Madonnina” is).
We drank something, we changed our clothes and started the long descent on the north wall. To go down the Noire it takes as many as 17 rappels, about 25 meters long: you have to be very careful because mistakes are not allowed. Everything went smoothly and in just over an hour and a half we started to get around the Dames Anglaises. This stretch has proved to be very delicate because we found some other people and the rock there was very friable. They were not easy moments because we were afraid of being hit by some stone and in turn of hitting someone else. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and when we reached the eastern side of the Aiguille Blanche we were able to breathe a little.
We started climbing faster and in a short time we were on the beautiful ridge of the Blanche and immediately we were at the top. From here with another 7 rappels we reached the Peuterey Col surrounded by a theatrical fog.
There were many rocks falling down but because of the fog, we could not identify where, we thought about it for a moment but there was no other solution: we had to go looking for the easy way and be fast.
We arrived at the peak of the Pillier d’Angle and finally came out of the fog. The conditions of the ridge were not good, there was a lot of ice and lots of bad snow. We did not give up and we left, several stones passed close to us. Despite this we remained focused and carefully continued to climb. Finally, after 11 hours and 50 minutes we passed the corniche and reached the summit of Mont Blanc of Courmayeur, the tension broke up, we no longer heard the sound of stones.
Just behind the corniche we met our friends Teto and Jerome: it was a beautiful moment, we hugged each other! Teto and Jerome left two days before also climbing the Integral: they were very good. We set off again immediately and after 12 hours and 12 minutes we reached the summit of Mont Blanc.
We took some photos, put our jacket on, drank and ate something: about ten minutes passed. We set ourselves down from descent and started towards the Gonella hut.
We arrived at the shelter with nothing left to drink, so we bought a can each and a bottle of sparkling water. We alldrank in one gulp and set off again. We arrived on the Miage and fatigue began to be felt. Finally, we came out of the glacier and Andreas began to run with an incredible rhythm, I struggled to keep up with him, I just watched where to put my feet and finally in the distance I saw the campsite. I gritted my teeth for the last hundred meters: it was finally over, we stopped the chronometer and we fell to the ground.
Matteo met us with a bottle of white wine, we uncorked it and drank it all! We were very happy, it was a fantastic moment: we looked at the clock 15 hours and 55 minutes, we couldn't believe it!
We jumped into the pool, drank two beers and the tension finally passed. I took the car and went to meet Teto and Jerome at Combal lake to go have dinner together at Matteo’s camping, where we uncorked a couple of bottles, relaxed and talked about the mountain. The moment was beautiful, shared with great friends.
Now is the time to sum up ... it is difficult to compare the timing and performances of the various climbers, especially on an itinerary like that. Everyone interprets it in its own way: “solo”, in team, going down to France, Italy and so on ...
What remains is that we have lived an awesome adventure shared with special friends and that in 15 hours and 55 minutes we climbed the Integral and got off through the Gonella hut returning to the starting point. Going up and down a total of 4.276 meters with a development of 45.37 km. All this in total autonomy, bringing all the gear and everything we needed up and down on our back.
This performance is certainly an important step forward because we have significantly raised the expectations of our speed ascents. In the future, we could use this experience for our next projects in the Alps but especially in the Himalayas.
I want to thank all the people who contributed to this crazy climb, in particular Marco and Luca for taking and shooting the wonderful images that you can admire, Matteo and his family for hospitality in the campsite. Also a special thanks as always goes to my sponsors who allow me to be able to pursue my dreams!
Article by by François Cazzanelli, August 2019. Pictures by Marco Camandona and Luca Rolli.
François Cazzanelli, born in 1990 and based in Cervinia (Italy), is part of the Grivel team since when he was a child. Mountain guide, mountaineer and member of Società Guide del Cervino since 2012, he collected many extra-European expeditions, from Patagonia to Himalayas, to the unknown massifs of Sichuan, opening many new routes.
Favorite Grivel product: North Machine Carbon ice axes.