Ma Dalton

Ma Dalton Sylvie Drouillat

July 2012. I gazed at the Mont Blanc range from afar as it caught the day’s first rays of sun, my face pressed up against the glass of the large bay windows of the hospital where I worked. My mind wandered to the mountains.

I imagined the beautiful orange granite, and the cool wind that would caress my cheeks. With the accumulated fatigue of the previous days, I told myself that the mountains would have to wait.

That is until I got a call from my Slovenian friend Martina, now a resident of the valley of Chamonix. She suggested that we catch the first cable car the next day to go check out Ma Dalton, a legendary multi-pitch granite line on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi.

The crux pitch is a stunning roof crack that was featured in a number of climbing photos in the 1980s.

Trad climbing

I couldn’t resist the temptation to spend a beautiful day in the mountains. Forgetting my fatigue, I accepted Martina’s invitation immediately!

The next day, after a rude awakening and a rather run out 6c pitch, we found ourselves at the foot of the famous roof. I decided to place the gear first so that Martina could have a go without the stress of placing protection. Hanging on one cam after another, I slowly began to suss out the pitch’s delicate, precise jams. The moves seemed strenuous, but not impossible. Martina had a go, and found a key hold, a small knob that would help us pull over the roof.

A couple of days later we were back at the foot of the roof. Better acclimatized and less tired than the previous day, I placed the gear and decided to have a go right away. Metre by metre, I made my way out the roof. By the time I got to the lip, I was totally out of breath. I attacked the famous crux feeling like I was running out of oxygen. I was dizzy, but I gave it my all, gripping the holds as if my life depended on it. A miracle! I found myself above the roof, practically hyperventilating. I heard Martina shouting “Bravo!” with her Slovenian accent.

There was even some applause from the glacier below. I was so happy to have succeeded! I had never dreamed that I would send this stubborn line between two intense shifts at the hospital, but a generous dose of motivation, the support of my friends, and a little bit of confidence in myself helped make it happen.

Thank you, Martina, for such an amazing day in the mountains, and for all the days that followed and those to come.

Sylvie Drouillat

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