Taming Rolling Stones on Grandes Jorasses North Face by Tom Livingstone

Part One

Grandes Jorasses. Rolling Stones lies on the left side of the Walker Spur ©Jocelyn Chavy

Britain’s Tom Livingstone made a name for himself in 2018 with his ascent of the north face of Latok I in Pakistan, along with Slovenians Aleš Česen and Luka Stražar. Having fallen in love with the French Alps, his goal this winter was to climb several famous big mixed routes on the most iconic peaks. With Matt Glenn, he wanted to climb Rolling Stones on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. Part One of Tom Livingstone’s story : training for this specific Grandes Jorasses winter big mountain route.

In previous years, I’ve spent a few winter months in the Alps, but this was the first time I witnessed the complete cycle of the seasons. I saw the snow line creep down the mountainside and settle in the valley, then watched it recede gently back towards the Chamonix Aiguilles. I stamped my feet in thick boots as the days shortened and temperatures dropped, my van coughing black smoke as it struggled to start…then I basked in the sunlight, feeling its warmth grow. I’ve been here from autumn to winter to spring. Now I watch new sprigs of grass poke their green heads into muddy, pale gardens.

I learned a great deal whilst climbing in the mountains this winter. In fact, I seem to learn every time I go towards these jagged peaks. Is the greatest weapon (and weakness) of an alpinist their short-term memory ? I seem to forget the shiver-bivies and terrifying run-outs, instead remembering the slow, after-burn