Tour Ronde, two probable new British mixed climbs in the Mont Blanc massif
British mountain guide Matt Helliker has made what is believed to be the first ascent of two new mixed climbs on Tour Ronde in the Mont Blanc massif: Chancer (M6, 250m) climbed with Jon Bracey and Night Fever (M8, 250m), climbed with Nick Bullock.
Helliker set the ball rolling on 20 December 2014 by teaming up with fellow colleague Jon Bracey; the two set off from Punta Helbronner early in the morning, approached through Combe Maudite to reach the NW Face of Tour Ronde and start up a line to the left of the popular Rébuffat Gully, first climbed by the Frenmen Gaston Rébuffat and Robert Mazars in July 1967. Helliker and Bracey climbed 5 independent mixed pitches with difficulties up to M6 to reach the col, where the route finishes by descending down the Couloir Rébuffat abseils. The line has been called Chancer and is deemed a fine mixed addition to the Tour Ronde.
On 8 January 2015 Helliker then teamed another strong British mountaineer, Nick Bullock, to complete a line up the West Face that Bullock had attempted earlier this winter with Tim Neill. Bullock and Neill had eyed a line up the obvious, soaring overhanging right facing corner between You play with fire (Pascal Chataing, Frederic Gentet 1990) and an unnamed rock climb put up in 1973 but had been forced to retreat at the end of pitch 3.
Helliker and Bullock quickly repeated the first three pitches and then added another three, through the corner that "promised a commitment of a certain kind": read difficulties up to M8 and rock which, if not frozen solid in winter, would be very loose indeed. Weather conditions worsened during the ascent and the two completed the technical and committing outing in the dark, battling against strong winds in white-out conditions to reach their skis at 10.00 and return to the Refuge Torino at midnight.
The climb has been called Night Fever and, incidentally, their headtorches had been spotted high on the climb by local expert Patrick Gabarrou. Given the lateness of the hour and difficult conditions, the Frenchman had alerted the rescue service which thankfully was not needed. Bullock commented "It’s always good to meet one of your hero’s and find he is caring."
19/08/2013 - Patrick Gabarrou, an interview with the great alpinist and Mont Blanc connaisseur
Patrick Gabarrou was born in 1951 close to Paris in France and the routes first climbed by this alpinist, philosopher and mountain guide are integral parts of the history of Mont Blanc. The following interview was carried out by don Daniele D'Elia and Ronald Gumiel during the recent series of evening talks entitled "Passione Verticale" at the Jardin de l'Ange in Courmayeur, Italy.