British duo fly away with Zephyr first ascent on Mont Maudit

Posted by Tina Gardner on 02/04/2015
Skinning up into Cirque Maudit
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Highly active British alpinists Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey have climbed what is thought to be another new route on one of the 3 gendarmes (c4050m) on the East Face of Mont Maudit in the Mont Blanc Massif.

Leaving on the morning of 13 March from the Aiguille du Midi, they approached on skis up into Cirque Maudit. The line had been on Matt’s mind for quite some time.

Wanting the route to be in a particular condition, the climbers had held off an attempt until the lower buttress had enough snow on it to be mixed climbed and the upper pillar dry enough to be rock climbed - the other concern was the state of the rock on the upper pillar, knowing that this area has both its good rock but also its bad!

The lower pillar was climbed up icy cracks and corners giving some great mixed climbing before crossing a snowfield and some unsettling snowed up slabs to belay at the base of the upper pillar. The sun was still warming and the winds calm due to climbing on the lee side of the forecasted prevailing 65kph north winds, so gloves off rock climbing was possible.

Things soon changed… as the sun dipped in behind the East Face, the strong cold north winds found its way round onto the face, making the remaining excellent rock climbing pitches brutally cold. After much gloves on, gloves off, gloves on, re-heats and total body shakes the duo topped out on the pillar.

All research by the alpinists points to this as a first ascent. If that is the case they have named the route ‘Zephyr’ M5+, 6b, 400m.



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