Aiguille du Dru

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Aiguille du Dru
Aiguille du Dru in 2006.jpg
The west and south-west faces of the Petit Dru, with visible grey rockfall scar (May, 2006)
Highest point
Elevation 3,754 m (12,316 ft) [1]
Listing Great north faces of the Alps
Coordinates 45°55′58″N6°57′23″E / 45.93278°N 6.95639°E / 45.93278; 6.95639 Coordinates: 45°55′58″N6°57′23″E / 45.93278°N 6.95639°E / 45.93278; 6.95639
France relief location map.jpg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Aiguille du Dru
Location Haute-Savoie, France
Parent range Graian Alps
Mountain type Granite
First ascent 12 September 1878 by Clinton Thomas Dent, James Walker Hartley, Alexander Burgener and K. Maurer
Easiest route AD

The Aiguille du Dru (also the Dru or the Drus; French, Les Drus) is a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps. It is situated to the east of the village of Les Praz in the Chamonix valley. "Aiguille" means "needle" in French.


The mountain's highest summit is:

Another, slightly lower sub-summit is:

The two summits are on the west ridge of the Aiguille Verte (4,122 m) and are connected to each other by the Brèche du Dru (3,697 m). The north face of the Petit Dru is considered one of the six great north faces of the Alps.

The southwest "Bonatti" pillar and its eponymous climbing route were destroyed in a 2005 rock fall. [2] [3]


The first ascent of the Grand Dru was by British alpinists Clinton Thomas Dent and James Walker Hartley, with guides Alexander Burgener and K. Maurer, who climbed it via the south-east face on 12 September 1878. Dent, in his description of the climb, wrote:

Those who follow us, and I think there will be many, will perhaps be glad of a few hints about this peak. Taken together, it affords the most continuously interesting rock climb with which I am acquainted. There is no wearisome tramp over moraine, no great extent of snow fields to traverse. Sleeping out as we did, it would be possible to ascend and return to Chamonix in about 16 to 18 hrs. But the mountain is never safe when snow is on the rocks, and at such times stones fall freely down the couloir leading up from the head of the glacier. The best time for the expedition would be, in ordinary seasons, in the month of August. The rocks are sound and are peculiarly unlike those of other mountains. From the moment the glacier is left, hard climbing begins, and the hands as well as the feet are continuously employed. The difficulties are therefore enormously increased if the rocks be glazed or cold; and in bad weather the crags of the Dru would be as pretty a place for an accident as can well be imagined. [4]

The Petit Dru was climbed in the following year, on 29 August 1879, by J. E. Charlet-Straton, P. Payot and F. Follignet via the south face and the south-west ridge. The first traverse of both summits of the Drus was by E. Fontaine and J. Ravanel on 23 August 1901. The first winter traverse of the Drus was by Armand Charlet and Camille Devouassoux on 25 February 1938.

The north face of the Petit Dru (centre, with large snowpatch) in 2008. The west and south-west faces (with fresh rockfall scars) are to the right. The peak on the left is the Aiguille Verte. Les Drus viewed from North West.jpg
The north face of the Petit Dru (centre, with large snowpatch) in 2008. The west and south-west faces (with fresh rockfall scars) are to the right. The peak on the left is the Aiguille Verte.

In 1889 both peaks of the Dru were climbed for the first time from the Petit Dru to the Grand Dru by two parties. One party contained Katharine Richardson and guides Emile Rey and Jean-Baptiste Bich, and the other Mr Nash and Mr Williams with guides François Simond, Frederic Payot and Edouard Cupelin. [5]

The west and south-west faces

These 1000 m-high rock faces have seen serious rockfalls in 1950, [6] 1997, [7] 2003, [7] 2005 [8] and 2011, [9] which have considerably affected the structure of the mountain and destroyed a number of routes.

Although at the time of the first ascent of the north face (Pierre Allain and R. Leininger on 1 August 1935), Pierre Allain considered the west face to be unclimbable, the team of A. Dagory, Guido Magnone, Lucien Bérardini and Marcel Lainé succeeded on the face in a series of attempts on 5 July and 17–19 July 1952 using considerable artificial aid. From 17–22 August 1955, the Italian climber Walter Bonatti climbed a difficult solo route on the south-west pillar of the Petit Dru (the Bonatti Pillar); this route – like many on the west face – no longer exists in its original state owing to rockfall, the scars of which remain clearly visible from the Chamonix valley. Seven years later, from 24–26 July 1962, Gary Hemming and Royal Robbins climbed the 'American Direct', a more direct route up the west face than that taken in 1952. On 10–13 August 1965, Royal Robbins, this time accompanied by John Harlin, climbed the 'American Direttissima'. [10] [11] This route was destroyed by the 2005 rockfall. [9] [2]

1966 rescue

In 1966 two German climbers became stuck on a climb of the west face. Attempts to rescue them were made by three teams, including climbers such as Gary Hemming who were in the area and had climbed the face themselves. The rescue extended over seven days and received international press and TV coverage. The two climbers were rescued but a companion involved in the rescue died in the attempt. [12]

Summit statue

On 4 September 1913 a party of climbers led by Camille Simond and Roberts Charlet-Straton attempted to carry a hollow metal statue of Our Lady of Lourdes up the peak. The statue, almost a metre high, weighing 13 kilos and made of aluminium, had to be left in a rocky crevice at 3,000 m because of poor weather, and it was only on 18 September 1919 that the statue was finally hoisted to the summit by a party from Argentière: Alfred, Arthur, Camille, Joseph, and Jules-Félicien Ravanel together with the village priest, abbé Alexis Couttin. [13]

The Aiguille du Dru (left) seen as an extension of the west ridge of the Aiguille Verte (centre top) Drus-verte.jpg
The Aiguille du Dru (left) seen as an extension of the west ridge of the Aiguille Verte (centre top)

See also

Related Research Articles

The higher region of the Alps were long left to the exclusive attention of the inhabitants of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers began to visit these valleys. It is reckoned that about 20 glacier passes were certainly known before 1600, about 25 more before 1700, and yet another 20 before 1800; but though the attempt of P.A. Arnod in 1689 to "re-open" the Col du Ceant may be counted as made by a non-native, historical records do not show any further such activities until the last quarter of the 18th century. Nor did it fare much better with the high peaks, though the two earliest recorded ascents were due to non-natives, that of the Rocciamelone in 1358 having been undertaken in fulfilment of a vow, and that of the Mont Aiguille in 1492 by order of Charles VIII of France, in order to destroy its immense reputation for inaccessibility – in 1555 Conrad Gesner did not climb Pilatus proper, but only the grassy mound of the Gnepfstein, the lowest and the most westerly of the seven summits.

Gaston Rébuffat

Gaston Rébuffat was a French alpinist, mountain guide, and author. He is well known as a member of the first expedition to summit Annapurna 1 in 1950 and the first man to climb all six of the great north faces of the Alps. In 1984, he was made an officer in the French Legion of Honour for his service as a mountaineering instructor for the French military. At the age of 64, Gaston Rébuffat died of cancer in Paris, France. The climbing technique Gaston was named after him. A photo of Rébuffat atop the Aiguille du Roc in the French Alps can be found on the Voyager Golden Records.

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Walter Bonatti Italian mountaineer

Walter Bonatti was an Italian mountain climber, explorer and journalist. He was noted for his many climbing achievements, including a solo climb of a new route on the south-west pillar of the Aiguille du Dru in August 1955, the first ascent of Gasherbrum IV in 1958 and in 1965 the first solo climb in winter of the North face of the Matterhorn on the mountain's centenary year of its first ascent. Immediately after his extraordinary solo climb on the Matterhorn Bonatti announced his retirement from professional climbing at the age of 35 and after 17 years of climbing activity. He authored many mountaineering books and spent the remainder of his career travelling off the beaten track as a reporter for the Italian magazine Epoca. He died on 13 September 2011 of pancreatic cancer in Rome aged 81, and was survived by his life partner, the actress Rossana Podestà.

John Harlin

John Elvis Harlin II was an American mountaineer and US Air Force pilot who was killed while making an ascent of the north face of the Eiger.

Isabella Charlet-Straton

Mary Isabella Charlet-Straton was a British female mountain climber. She made several first ascents in the Alps with Emmeline Lewis Lloyd as well as the first winter ascent of Mont Blanc with her future husband Jean Charlet in January 1876. The peak Pointe Isabella was named in her honour after she had taken part in its first ascent.

Alexander Burgener

Alexander Burgener was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascentionist of many mountains and new routes in the western Alps during the silver age of alpinism.

Clinton Thomas Dent

Clinton Thomas Dent FRCS was an English surgeon, author and mountaineer.

Stewart Fulton

Stewart Fulton was a mountaineer from Scotland who climbed in the heyday of the "wild ones" in the sixties. This group was credited with putting up many new routes in the Alps during that time, most significantly the first ascent of the south face of the Aiguille Du Fou a smooth wall of sheer rock long deemed to be unclimbable.

Aiguille du Grépon

The Aiguille du Grépon, informally known as The Grepon, is a mountain in the Mont Blanc Massif in Haute-Savoie, France. The Grepon has a Southern and Northern peak, which are the highest points of a sharp granite ridge to the east of the Glacier des Nantillons above Chamonix and northeast of the Aiguille du Midi. A madonna statue is situated on the Southern peak.

Catherine Destivelle French rock climber and mountaineer

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Jean-Marc Boivin

Jean-Marc Boivin was a French mountaineer, extreme skier, hang glider and paraglider pilot, speleologist, BASE jumper, film maker and author. The holder of several altitude records for hang gliding and paragliding, the creator of numerous first ascents and first ski descents in the Alps, a member of the team that broke the record for a sub-glacial dive and the first person to paraglide from the summit of Mount Everest, Boivin was a pioneer of extreme sports. He died from injuries incurred after BASE jumping off Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world.

Armand Charlet

Armand Charlet was a French mountaineer and mountain guide.

Loulou Boulaz Mountain climber and alpine skier (1908-1991)

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Emmeline Lewis Lloyd

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Josef Knubel was a Swiss mountaineer and mountain guide. He made many first ascents and other climbs in the Alps during his career. He is best known for his ascents as a guide for Geoffrey Winthrop Young.

Émile Rey Italian mountain guide and mountaineer (1846-1895)

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Tour Ronde

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Chromolithograph by Helga von Cramm, with F. R. Havergal prayer, hymn or verse, late 1870s. Aiguille du Dru, chromolithograph, by Helga von Cramm, with Havergal verse, 1870s.jpg
Chromolithograph by Helga von Cramm, with F. R. Havergal prayer, hymn or verse, late 1870s.
  1. "Aiguille du Dru, France". Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  2. 1 2 "Climbers face more risks as Alps crumble". Reuters. May 21, 2007. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  3. "Are the Alps Crumbling?". Men's Journal. Archived from the original on 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  4. Clinton Thomas Dent, 'The History of an Ascent of the Aiguille du Dru', Alpine Journal, Vol. IX, reprinted as 'The First Ascent of the Dru', in Peaks, Passes and Glaciers, ed. Walt Unsworth, London: Allen Lane, 1981, p. 61. Dent describes the scene on reaching the summit: 'Our first care was to level the telescope in the direction of Couttet's hotel. There was not much excitement there, but in front of the Imperial [Hotel] we were pleased to think we saw someone looking in our direction. Accordingly with much pomp and ceremony the stick (which I may here state was borrowed without leave) was fixed up. Then to my horror Alexander produced from a concealed pocket a piece of scarlet flannel like unto a baby's undergarment, and tied it on. I protested in vain. In a moment the objectionable rag was floating proudly in the breeze.' pp. 59–60
  5. Alpine Journal , 1888–89, vol. 14, 511–512
  6. Ravanel, Ludovic; Philip Deline (2008). "La face ouest des Drus (massif du Mont-Blanc) : évolution de l'instabilité d'une paroi rocheuse dans la haute montagne alpine depuis la fin du petit âge glaciaire". Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement . 14 (4): 261–272. doi:10.4000/geomorphologie.7444 . Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  7. 1 2 Victor Saunders, "Flight from the Hornli", Accessed 12 September 2011.
  8. Lindsay Griffin, "West face of the Dru re-climbed", Accessed 12 September 2011.
  9. 1 2 Jack Geldard, "Major Rockfall on Les Dru, Chamonix Valley", Accessed 13 September 2011.
  10. Harlin, John (1966). "Petit Dru, West Face Direttissima". Feature Article. American Alpine Journal. New York City, New York, USA: The American Alpine Club: 81–89. ISSN   0065-6925 . Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  11. "Petit Dru, West Face Direttissima", Accessed 16 February 2012
  12. MacInnes, Hamish (2003). The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters. London, England: Constable & Robinson Ltd. ISBN   978-1-780-33269-7 . Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  13. Account of the hoisting of the summit statue (in French)