At the start of Arpil 2012, Ben Briggs and I climbed Late to Say I’m Sorry which is a stunning line on the north face of the Grand Rocheuse, one of the slightly less famous 4000ers. Jon and Will’s ascent in the winter of 2010 seems to have plucked this Jasper route from obscurity, and begun the route’s transformation into a popular modern classic (testpiece). The route deserves attention and offers the most immaculate granit goulotte climbing I have ever come across.
It is just over 700m to the top of the technical climbing, then another 300 of moderate mixed to the summit of the Grand Rocheuse. This is a great winter route as it can be done in a day off first bin if you rap from the top of the steep pitches. There are good in-situ anchors on rock, then the Coutrier can be v-threaded. If you summit the Grand Rocheuse I think it would be logical (and easiest) to then descend the Whymper or traverse the Verte and descend the Coutrier. This then makes the outing a lot longer and more committing. We skied in off 1st bin and then skied down in the dark.
It was the 2nd time in 2 weeks I had attempted the route, first time Charlie Boscoe and I bailed after television sized blocks came hurtling down the Coutrier, released from the mixed ground to climber’s right on the triangle. When Ben and I began up the Coutrier it wasn’t cold but it was certainly below freezing, and again a couple huge blocks came close to us. However, we decided it was just as quick to continue up out of the danger zone which seemed to be the 60 degree choke near the bottom.
Once up the initial slopes of the Coutrier, you head slightly right into steeper mixed ground.
Start of the crux pitch, M6 roof. After you pass this, you can continue up into a steep corner (M6 usually). There was very little ice in the corner when we were there, so Ben veered right into a steep crack system (M7 or A1). Good effort to Ben for freeing the roof.
On the way down, we noticed it would have been possible to miss this pitch out entirely and instead climb 70-80 placage to the left which connected to the next belay. However, we stuck to the route, and anyway its hard to tell if it goes from the belay below the roof.
After this mixed pitch (M6ish) there are 2-3 pitches of immaculate ice, mostly sustained at 80 degrees maybe vertical in places. There is enough gear in the rock to make it fairly safe, but we were also able to place screws.