top of the Aiguille du Fou, John Harlin was captivated by a display in
at last pulled ourselves onto the summit slabs.
Here the summit of the Fou floated
and the towering cumulus all
around at our level reminded me of many
moments while flying.
However, here one could actually
feel the elements and be part of them.
These sculptured forms, ever-changing like life itself, made mockery
of our Fou.
The south face of the Fou, perhaps the hardest climb
yet it could not compare to a soaring cliff
of vapor with cracks and chimneys of translucent
crystals never to feel a human hand.”
(John Harlin, AAJ 1964)
From this summit floating in
the clouds, high above the Vallée
seemingly even above
Jorasses, John obliged me by stepping out for a best ever summit
The ascent of this Chamonix Aiguille was a beautiful experience.
Gaston Rébuffat described the route in The Mont Blanc Massif: The
Hundred Finest Routes.
it has been famous now for several years because of its great and very
sustained difficulty, at first sight the S Face of the Fou does not look
a very attractive route. Situated
as it is above a couloir, in between two great
by the effects of perspective, the
might appear little more than
a training route. But once
you have climbed that steep couloir,
crossed a bergschrund which can sometimes be awkward and gone up gullies
very exposed to stonefall,
and once you arrive at the foot of that great monolithic
wall, under the overhangs, you
soon forget those first impressions.
summit is at 3501 m and the wall itself is no more than 300 m, but it is
of extreme difficulty, a difficulty due to several factors, not least
its unusual structure. All
the other walls in this range are seamed with couloirs, lined with arêtes
and spurs. The Fou is unique
in having a flat, smooth, vertical surface, a simple diamond shape in
red granite; it is bounded by four straight, pure lines, and right up
the centre is the route.
The most outstanding achievement of those who
first climbed it, remarkable American
climbers very well trained on granite and in the Mont Blanc
range, is to have discovered a route which, in its beauty and purity, is
worthy of that wall. It
gives a quite extraordinary impression.
In 1962 Yvon Chouinard predicted:
“Yosemite Valley will, in the near future, be the training
ground for a new generation of super-alpinists who will venture forth to
the high mountains of the world to do the most esthetic and difficult
walls on the face of the earth.” (AAJ
1963) Royal Robbins’ 1962
ascent of the West Face Direct on the Petite Dru, and this route on the
South Face of the Fou, began the fulfillment of Chouinard’s prophecy.
HARLIN ATOP THE FOU, after the ascent of the South Face, Chamonix
Aiguilles, Mont Blanc Massif, Chamonix, France, by:
John Harlin, Gary Hemming, Stewart Fulton, and Tom Frost, July
1963. The Grandes Jorasses