Les Drus

Les Drus


Location: French Alps Map

Height: 12,316 ft (3,754 m)

Ofice du tourisme


Tel. 50 53 22 08

Weather conditions:

Tel. 50 53 03 40

winter 50 53 17 11


Description of Les Drus or Aiguille du Dru

Les Drus or Aiguille du Dru is a mountain in the French Alps in the Mont Blanc masiff. Les Drus or Aiguille du Dru consists of two peaks. One Grand Dru (Grande Aiguille) reaches an elevation of 12,316 ft (3,754 m) while smaller Petit Dru or Small Dru (Petite Aiguille) reaches a height of 3,733 m. The first people who reached it summit were Clinton Thomas Dent, James Walker Hartley, Alexander Burgener and Maurer on 12 September 1878. Today thousands of hikers and climbers attempt different routes to make it the peak. The best time of the year to complete this feat is Summer and western routes, although steeper than other routes, usually is preferred due to relative lack of snow. No permits is required for climbing, but you might want to inquire with the local officials about weather forecast and avalanche dangers if you decide to come here.



History of ascents
1878: first ascent of the Grand Dru by Clinton Thomas Dent, James Walker Hartley, Alexandre Burgener and K. Maurer, September 12
1879: first ascent of the Petit Dru by Jean Charlet-Straton, Prosper Payot and Frédéric Folliguet, August 29
1887: François Simond, Émile Rey and Henri Dunod make the first crossing from the Grand to the Petit Dru using long ropes held from the top and instead taking the northern slope, on August 31
1913: September 4, a caravan of climbers tries to hoist on the Petit Dru a metal statue, reproduction of the Virgin of Lourdes, in hollow aluminum, measuring almost a meter high and weighing thirteen kilos. The terrible weather forced them to place the statue some 3,000 meters away in a crevice in the rock. It was only after the war, on September 18, 1919, that the statue was finally hoisted to the top
1935: first ascent of the north face by Pierre Allain and Raymond Leininger, on August 1
1938: first winter crossing of the Drus by Armand Charlet and Camille Devouassoux, on February 25
1938: premiere of the south-east face of the Grand Dru by Laurent Grivel with Mr. and Mrs. A. Frova, August 16
1952: south pillar of the Grand Dru by André Contamine and Michel Bastien
1961: first winter of the Bonatti pillar by Robert Guillaume and Antoine Vieille
1964: first winter of the north face of Petit Dru by Georges Payot
1967: extremely direct on the north face, in winter, by Yannick Seigneur, Michel Feuillerade, Jean-Paul Paris and Claude Jager4
1969: first solo on the north face of the Grand Dru by Joël Coqueugniot
1971: solo ascent of the Hemming-Robbins direct route by Jean-Claude Droyer
1974: first ascent and first winter of the northeastern couloir of Drus by Walter Cecchinel and Claude Jager, from December 28 to 31
1976: first winter ascent of the north face of the Col des Drus by Walter Cecchinel and D. Stolzenberg

The west face of the Drus
Pierre Allain, during the ascent of the North face of the Drus, estimated that it would undoubtedly be impossible to one day climb the West side. However, from 1952, the challenge was taken up by A. Dagory, Guido Magnone, Lucien Bérardini and M. Lainé, in two successive assaults (July 1 to 5 then July 17 to 19, 1952). This attempt requires the intensive use of artificial climbing techniques. From then on, a new episode in the history of the Drus begins.

From August 17 to 22, 1955, the Italian Walter Bonatti climbed, alone, the South-West pillar with five bivouacs in the face. This ascent is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of mountaineering. In 2001 Jean-Christophe Lafaille opened a new solo route through the technique of artificial climbing.

Seven years after Walter Bonatti, Gary Hemming and Royal Robbins, two climbers from the United States, inaugurate a very important variant leading directly from the base of the face to the stuck boulder, in the upper half, where it joins the route of 1952. Open from July 24 to 26, 1962, this route is called the American direct and subsequently became a great classic. This is not the case with the other direct, still American, drawn right in the center of the face by the same Royal Robbins, this time accompanied by John Harlin (August 10 to 13, 1965). Extremely difficult, both in the field of artificial climbing and free climbing, this American rule was relatively little repeated.

The climber René Desmaison is particularly illustrated in the history of the West face of the Drus:

fourth ascent of the original route, with Jean Couzy (23-25 ​​July 1955);
first winter ascent, always with Jean Couzy, from March 10 to 14, 1957, one of the first large enterprises attempted in this season;
first solitary ascent, finally, July 28-29, 1963, still by the classic route.

The 1970s, and especially the 1980s, were marked by a different approach: it does not matter whether the route of the open route is justified by geometric criteria, the forerunners are now and above all concerned with the intrinsic quality of the climbing inaugurated.

The strangest is undoubtedly the “Thomas Gross” way. The climber spends around fifty days in the west face of the Drus, in several times, in order to force the passage at all costs. It is said that he took his guitar with him to amuse himself at the bivouacs. Its route went up the right part of the face. He opened it from April 20 to May 8, 1975, after trying it in June and September 1974, and from March 10 to 20, 1975.


Other "lines" are added to these. Thus, the Rémy brothers (Swiss) won the “folding seats of paradise” (1980), and Nicolas Schenkel and B. Wietlisbach the “way of the Genevans” (1981). The following year, a “French directissime” was drawn to the right of its American version by roped parties from the High Mountain Military School. Christophe Profit takes part in this enterprise with Michel Bruel, Hervé Sachetat and Hubert Giot, opening a remarkable route because at the same time direct and new on 600 of the 1000 meters of vertical drop of the face (September 1982).

Michel Piola, author of several hundred new routes in the Alps, and Pierre-Alain Steiner draw in 1984 and 1986 a remarkable line in the left part of the face, called “cardiac passage”.

In 1991, Catherine Destivelle entered the history of mountaineering by tracing alone a route of high difficulty and which took her name, to the right of the Thomas Gross route. A little later, two other routes were opened by soloists: Jean-Christophe Lafaille and Marc Batard.

The landslides have erased most of these routes, with the exception of those located to the left of the wall. This ultimately allows a new generation of tracks. However, mountaineers will have to wait several decades for the rock to stabilize, even if some daring people like Valery Babanov and Yuri Koshelenko set out a few months after the 1997 landslide in the critical zone to chart a new path as quickly as possible and which turned out to be ephemeral (“Léna”, early 1998).

Following the second wave of landslides (2003-2005), a face again virgin of any route is offered to the openers. This is how from January 28 to February 4, 2007, Martial Dumas (Chamonix guide) and Jean-Yves Fredriksen (French high mountain guide) opened a new path in this compact and vertical face. During the eight days in the wall they had to make the stones fall in balance and resort to artificial climbing techniques. They are to date the only ones to have opened a new way in this face.

The west face of the Drus forms a gigantic triangle over a thousand meters high, which is affected by intense erosion which results in frequent massive landslides: nine in total between 1905 and 2011, for a volume greater than 400,000 m3 of collapsed rocks . This bottom-to-top erosion probably begins with the end of the Little Ice Age in the 18th century. The Bonatti pillar, which was 500 m high, has thus disappeared2. The 2005 landslide represents nearly three-quarters of the rockfall volume in this century and a half, the 1950 and 1997 landslides representing less than 30,000 m3 each.

The first landslide of the period was caused by the Chamonix earthquake of August 13, 1905, with a macroseismic intensity felt by VI on the MSK5 scale. The 1950 landslide occurred during the period of very hot summers from 1942 to 1943, climate change possibly being responsible for the size and frequency of the landslides.

Recently, it experienced significant landslides in 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2011, in which again warming may have played an important role. These have considerably affected the structure of the mountain and made many historic routes disappear. That of 2005 is caused by the combination of a hot summer accompanied by abundant rains, on a wall already weakened by the scorching summer of 20032. It is the largest of the period studied: 265,000 m3 on the 29th and 30th. June (the volume announced takes into account all the purges and collapses that followed until the end of September). The collapsed rocks cover an area of ​​90 to 95,000 m2, with a thickness of 5 to 10 meters, on the Drus glacier. Lesser landslides, but nevertheless with a total volume of 10,000 to 12,000 m3, occurred on September 10 and 11, 20117,8 and also one of 60,000 m3 on October 30, 2011.