This majestic ridge crest east of the bulky Mont Blanc massif though not of such great height, surpasses it in its northern and western aspects, with its wildness and elegance. The south side, though not elegant, is certainly wild, being defended by disrupted glaciers and thrusting bastions of distorted rock. The ultimate in remoteness is surely the gigantic slab triangle of the East Face dominating the wildly crevassed Frébouze Glacier. The show piece of the whole Mont Blanc range remains the huge granite wall on the north side with its slender buttresses. The greatest of these is the Walker Spur, the highest and most unbroken buttress on the face. It ends directly at the highest point and offers the most ideal extreme route in the Alps, continuously difficult, without escape possibilities, but with comparatively few objective dangers in good weather. Its fine position and its sustained unspoiled climbing, high above the Leschaux Glacier completes the aura of a great classic climb set far from the bustle of civilization.
Even the easiest climb on the Grandes Jorasses is a demanding undertaking. It was mastered in 1865 (a few weeks before the Matterhorn tragedy) by Edward Whymper with Michel Croz, Christian Aimer and Franz Biener. They climbed the lower Pointe Whymper because their ascent was made principally to gain the ridge to view the Aiguille Verte. The highest point was reached three years later by Horace Walker with Melchior Anderegg, Johann Jaun and Julien Grange by the Normal Route.
The North-East (Hirondelles) Ridge was first explored in 1911 when H.O. Jones and Geoffrey Winthrop Young with Joseph Knubel and Laurent Croux descended it as a Preliminary to their plan to traverse the whole ridge. It was first ascended in 1927 by a big Italian party led by Adolphe Rey and Alphonse Chenoz. The South-East Ridge (Tronchey Arête), which leads from the valley slopes in a long line of steps and towers, was first climbed directly in 1936 by Titta Gilberti and Elisio Croux.
The epic attempts to conquer the North Face fill the alpine history books. It was first climbed in 1935 (after some forty attempts by various parties) by Rudolf Peters and Martin Meier who followed the Croz Spur in the middle of the face. The first ascent of the Walker Spur was made by Riccardo Cassin, Gino Esposito and Ugo Tizzonj in 1938. Although many more difficult routes have since been added to this great face none improved on the Walker Spur in terms of climbing quality, line and scale.
View: The view to the west, over the Dôme de Rochefort and Dent du Géant, is dominated by Mont Blanc. The Chamonjx Aiguilles are stretched out to the north-west with the Aiguille Verte massif further to the right. To the north-east are the lower Petites Jorasses and Aiguille de Leschaux, Mont Gruetta, and Mont Dolent and in the far distance the Grand Combin. Gran Paradiso and the Grivola are the most prominent peaks to the south-west.