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Julien Irilii, The Grand Jorasses, and his XXLite

September 18, 2014

Julien Irilli, of France, has completed an amazing mission in Chamonix, using his Ozone XXLite. He flew from the Aiguille du Midi to near the base of the Grandes Jorasses, solo-climbed the North Face via the technical Colton-MacIntyre route in just 3:35hrs, and then launched from the summit and flew all the way back to Chamonix, landing before four o’clock in the afternoon.

In his own words:

“Sunday, September 14, 3:00 PM. I am sitting in the snow at the top of the Grandes Jorasses, crying with pleasure and disbelief at a dream accomplished. I had been waiting for an opening in the weather, light wind, so that I could make an attempt on realizing this dream. The 10 km/h headwind that caresses my face assures me that my patience has paid off. I think back to this morning:

The 15 km/h wind from the north at the Aiguille du Midi take off is not in my favor to fly towards la Mer de Glace. I unfold, with some difficulty, my single surface wing, the Ozone Xxlite, and launch to skirt the edge of Midi-Plan and throw myself over the last pass that gives me access to the south side, while lifting my feet to clear the ground.

A long glide leads me straight to the Leschaux glacier under the refuge. 10:00 AM, and the route is here, sublime. The ice gives way to snow, a highway leads me to the first bergschrund. A meeting with photographer Pascal Tournaire confirmed that the route is clear, no roped team over my head. I am relieved because I would have not tried anything with climbers embarked on the route because of risk of falling rocks and ice. My late start, for such a climb, is offset by the possible speed of a solo ascent. I have the luxury of being alone in the face! It is 11:30 AM when I cross the last of the three bergschrunds, the size of a 10-story high building. Then I’m in it, the tone is set. 400 m of snow field for warming up, a steep couloir, snow field again, photos, videos, sandwich, I am now at the foot of the crux of the route. Concentration is at its peak in the exit of the steep wall, due to inconsistent snow and a slightly overhanging section I balance weight distribution carefully on my hands and feet. It is an ice climber dance move, rather different from a “classic” dance but equally subtle! The summit ridge is approaching, the final narrow gulleys are in sight. The little bit of ice stuck in the open dihedral requires me to climb on eggshells. I hesitate several times about the path to follow but armed with the photo and drawing of Thivel Rémi (Rémi thank you!) it allows me to reach the slopes of the Walker Spur with serenity. I feel lighter and lighter, relieved. It is only when leaving the summit and flying over the route where I was fighting a few minutes ago, that I realized sometimes dreams do come true! After a few clouds, Chamonix opens her arms I return to Earth.”

Check out a short video of the descent… Julien’s elation is palpable! Congrats from all the team.