Omega 2.5

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Nick Bullock - 14/01/2005

A route description of the first British ascent, possibly the first free ascent and the third overall ascent in eleven years of Omega on the Petit Jorasses.

Partic Gabarrou and Feran Patrick Latore first climbed Omega on the Northwest face of The Petites Jorassess in 1994. Giving the climb the grade of 1V/6. UIAA6. A2/3.

On Wednesday March the 3rd 2004, John Bracie and myself were attempting the 2nd ascent of Omega. I took a fall resulting in a broken ankle, which brought a sudden end to our attempt and a helicopter flight.

On Monday the 3rd of January 2005 Stuart McAleese and myself skied into the Leschaux Hut with the intention of climbing Omega. Last years attempt appeared to wake people to the possibility of making the second ascent and a possible free ascent. The race was on, and at this time there had been no record of a successful second ascent. There had been two failed attempts that I knew of.

At 5.30am, on Tuesday 4th we left the hut and skied to the base of the route arriving at 8.00am. The weather was very cold and clear and expected to remain this way for the following three days.

Fortunately the difficult mixed line that Bracie and myself had climbed the previous year was not followed as a drooling ice encrusted wall to the right was the most obvious way, and as it turned out the correct way.

Pitch 1. 60 m. A corner of thin neve 80 Deg. 1V/4

Pitch 2. 60 m. An 80-90 Deg pitch of neve leading to the snowfield. An exciting thin and rotten exit onto the snowfield was made more exciting by a powder avalanche hitting McAleese as he fought for purchase with the rotten stuff. V/6. A bolt from the first ascent was discovered at the top of this pitch.

Pitches 3, 4, 5, and 6. A direct line was climbed, wallowing deep snow for approximately 60m until the continuation gully was climbed into and followed for a further 180m. 111.

It now became apparent that another party had very recently attempted the climb as every 60m a newly fixed abseil point in the left wall of the gully was found. At the time we were not sure of the outcome of this attempt although we were sure that they were not British because of the make and type of gear left. Half way up the gully there was also evidence of a bivie and footsteps were still visible.

Reaching the top of the gully, the site of my bivie from the previous year, we continued as it was only 12.30pm, having moved much quicker due to the ice on the first two pitches.

Pitch 7. 60m. An overhanging V-groove, which proved much easier than on the previous attempt with the addition of ice on the right wall. The pitch still proved very exciting with poor protection, back and footing and thin precarious ice climbing. V1/7.

Although it was still only 2.30pm, a great bivie site on the left, above the belay in the second snow gully was dug on top of a rib of rock. The weather still appeared settled with no cloud and very cold temperatures.

Wednesday 5th.

At 8am the 60m-snow gully was climbed until beneath a second overhanging V corner.

Pitch 8. 60m. Once again a pitch for the tight and thrutchy back and foot, chimney expert but with no ice this time on the sidewall. V1/6.

Pitch 9. 45m. A quality, heavily iced mixed pitch. 80 Deg. V1/6.

Pitch 10. 20m. The broken ankle pitch! A bulging chock stone split by a very narrow thinly iced cleft. Fortunately, ice below the chock made it possible to stand and place five pieces of protection into crumbly, rotten rock. The chock was surmounted by using the thin ice in the cleft, cutting loose with the feet and hip jamming while carefully placing picks higher into the thin ice. V11/8. A single bolt belay was found on the left. Led by Bullock putting ghosts to rest!

It now became apparent that there was still a little way to go with what may be tricky climbing! Bracie and myself had obviously been mistaken on the previous attempt thinking we were on the final hard pitch.

Pitch 11. 60m. A crumbling, poorly protected corner 70 Deg and thinly iced slab 80 Deg, passing another overhanging-chock stone. One for the Fowler connoisseur, led by McAleese. V11/8.

Pitch 12. 50m. The A2/3 pitch. Starting up a pleasant iced corner capped by yet another large jutting flake of rock blocking the overhanging chimney. A bolt on the 80 Deg wall to the right was clipped and then the flake was laybacked and mantled with caution. Had the block/flake pulled loose it would, without doubt have killed the belayer. Moving right from the top of the flake onto the wall, a second bolt was clipped before climbing a very technical section of creaking flakes by laybacking on torques and smearing with crampons. The bolt, clipped 10m before, was the only protection. Hanging from a moving fang of rock, two knife-blade pegs were placed before surmounting an overlap by rocking over onto a poor foot placement and laybacking from very poor torques. Thin ice in the top of the overhanging corner could now be reached and using this the third bolt was used for a belay. V111/8. Led by a very relieved Bullock.

Pitch 13. 60m. The final pitch finishing at the col on the summit ridge. V/5.

At 2.45 pm we began to abseil using anchors left from the first ascent and improved by the party who had beaten us to the second ascent. We also improved on some of the anchors.

At 4pm we reached our bivie spot where we had left our sacks. It was decided with a good forecast and the remaining 6 abseils in place to bivie again to make the ski descent easier in daylight. A mistake! Inevitably, through the night the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and the snow started. After a miserable night we completed the descent on Thursday 6th, fighting spindrift to reach the base of the climb and begin our interesting ski out, returning to Chamonix at 3pm.

Although I have checked in the Leschaux hut book and in the Guides Office route book in Chamonix there is no record of the party who obviously climbed Omega before us. Therefore I cannot say for sure that our ascent was the first free ascent. Going by the equipment left to construct abseil anchors both Stu and myself are sure that our ascent will be the first British ascent and most definitely the third overall ascent of Omega.

Omega will now no doubt receive the attention it deserves with the spell being broken and with abseil anchors being in place. Rightly so! Omega is one of the most technically rewarding climbs in one of the most outstandingly beautiful and hostile mountain areas in the world. Get on it, give it a go; it's a credit to the first ascentionists.

Finally Nick Bullock would like to thank Mammut and DMM for gear.

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