The north-west face of the Douves Blanches is a largely unknown but impressive face in Val d'Arolla. A week ago, Silvan Schüpbach and Peter Von Känel were able to climb a - at least partially - new route through the approximately 400 meter high wall. The alpinists call their tour Frigo-Combo.

"I've had the wall in mind for some time, but because it looks so steep and difficult, I was thinking more of a summer climb," says the Swiss professional alpinist Silvan Schüpbach. Since he was with the mountain guide Peter von Kaenel but had a strong partner at their side and the conditions in the Arolla region seemed to be the best, they dared to try it despite the wintry conditions.

Video: Silvan Schüpbach and Peter von Känel on the north-west face of the Douves Blanches

«Some ingenious dry tooling passages»

Early in the morning on November 11, the two alpinists got up and saw the face up close for the first time in the first light of day. They quickly agreed on the line and got on board, said Schüpbach.

"The lower part of the wall offers nice cracks on very flat rock and some patches of snow and ice."

Silvan Schüpbach
Silvan Schüpbach on the north-west face of the Douves Blanches. Image: Peter von Känel
Silvan Schüpbach in the northwest face of the Douves Blanches. Image: Peter von Kaenel

Climbing was never easy and progress was slow. “It got really steep on the upper part of the wall and we climbed some brilliant dry tool passages,” enthuses Silvan Schüpbach. On the other hand, the higher the climb, the more brittle the rock quality changed. "The last two pitches consisted of nested blocks of different sizes."

Peter von Känel on the first ascent of Frigo-Combo (450m, M7/6a). Image: Silvan Schuepbach.
Peter von Känel on the first ascent of Frigo-Combo (450m, M7/6a). Picture: Silvan Schüpbach

Traces of previous attempts

The risks in the top part of the wall should not be underestimated. Nonetheless, the duo found a few grapples - so other climbers have ventured into this unflattering part of the wall.

"A few hooks confirmed that other climbers have already ventured into this unflattering part of the wall."

Silvan Schüpbach
Frigo-Combo is waiting for potential repeaters with difficulties up to M7/6a. Image: Peter von Känel
Frigo-Combo is waiting for potential repeaters with difficulties up to M7/6a. Picture: Peter von Kaenel

In the twilight, Peter von Känel and Silvan Schüpbach reached the ridge. In the light of their headlamps, they abseiled down the face from improvised stands. "After 17 hours we were back in the valley and could look forward to another great adventure."

The route name Frigo combo The two of them explain quite pragmatically: combo, because we were at least partly on an existing route, and fridge, because this corresponds to the average size of the boulders in the upper part of the wall.”

Routes from Frigo-Combo (450m, m7/6a) in the Douves Blanches NWW

Silvan-Schüpbach-first ascent-Douves-Blanches
Route of the Frigo-Combo line opened by Peter von Känel and Silvan Schüpbach.

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Credits: Cover picture Silvan Schüpbach

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