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07/06/2013: Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey during the first free ascent of Birthright, Grands Charmoz, Mont Blanc
Photo by Matt Helliker
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Birthright freed on Grands Charmoz by Helliker and Bracey

18.06.2013 by Planetmountain

On 07/06/2013 British alpinists Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey made the first free ascent of Birthright, first climbed in 1993 by Mark Twight and Scott Backes on the Grands Charmoz, Mont Blanc massif.

Making best use of the superb conditions that have formed recently in the Mont Blanc massif, British alpinists Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey took the lift to Plan du Aiguille on the morning of the 7th of June and approached the West Face of Grands Charmoz on skis, reaching the base at circa 11am. They moved together up steep but good ice for the first 3 pitches before switching leads and carrying on for a further 3 pitches up "fantastic icey runnels and ramp lines". Although protection was spaced the ice was good, but conditions then "thinned ou"t for 2 more pitches before the bivi ledge was reached which had been used by Twight and Backes during the first ascent 20 years ago. From here Helliker and Bracey continued up beautiful rock (climbing without gloves even) to reach the halfway ledges where Birthright finishes. In total 3 hours 45 mins after leaving the ski stash. The pair then abseiled the line, dodging falling ice due to the warming temperatures and returning to the Plan du Aiguille in time to catch the lift back down to Chamonix.

First climbed by the Americans Mark Twight and Scott Backes 20 years ago, Birthright follows the large corner system to the left of the Cordier Pillar. It was attempted in 1982 by England's Andy Parkin and France's Thierry Renault but the two were forced to retreat after the first 6 pitches due to poor weather. Mark Twight and Scott Backes completed the line from 19 - 20 October 1993 and originally graded it ED+, 90°, 5.9, A2. In 2008 the Italians Rossano Libera and Claudio Pozzi made what is likely to be the first integral repeat of this difficult and ephimeral route. Birthright forms very rarely indeed and conditions obviously vary considerably from one season to the next, making grading a difficult task. Nevertheless Helliker feels the aid sections were freed by climbing difficulties somewhere in the region of M5.

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