Ah the Grand Course – whether its long ridges, hard rock routes or alpine North Faces, they will lay down a huge challenge to anyone wanting to take them on. Gaston Rebuffat’s renowned book Starlight and Storm iconised the 6 Great North Faces of the Alps into a collectors item; Eiger, Grand Jorasses, Matterhorn, Dru, Piz Padile, Cime Grande. These big routes on austere, foreboding faces with their associated history of success, failure and tragedy have a magnetic draw to the accomplished Alpinist. Success on routes of such a grand scale is not solely linked to technical level, but they will challenge physical conditioning, mental strength and patience for the right conditions and weather. For some these routes will be the culminating point of years of training climbs together while experience, knowledge and efficiency of movement is gained to produce a highly efficient climbing team. For others with a lot of experience it may be a shortage of time and scarcity of a suitable partner that turns you to look for a guide. I personally pride myself on maintaining a very high level of fitness which is required for trenching up deep powder to ski the North Faces in spring, and is based on racing mountain bikes at National level through my teens.
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