Supported by a BMC Expedition Grant, Chamonix valley-based alpine guides Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker have put up a demanding new route on the North Buttress of Hunter in the Central Alaska Range.
Their new line was envisaged by the late Jules Cartwright. One of his ambitions had been to climb two new routes on the North Buttress of Hunter opposite Denali, an almost ideal location for cutting-edge modern mixed alpinism.
In 2000, with Ian Parnell, he climbed The Knowledge (ED4), just right of the classic Moonflower Buttress, completing the climb at the top of the 1,200m face, a point known as the Cornice Bivouac.
His second proposed line lay parallel to, but this time just left of, the Moonflower, and appeared a more sustained proposition.
Although noted for their light and fast alpine climbing, Bracey and Helliker concluded that, for them, the obvious high level of difficulty might be more achievable if they took along a haul bag and portaledge.
This proved to be the case, with Helliker reporting it the longest and hardest climb of his life.
On their fourth day, after climbing through very steep terrain, which featured overhanging snow mushroons, thinly iced slabs, loose rock, aid, impending cracks and a pitch of vertical ice, the two joined the Moonflower below the pitch dubbed The Vision.
After sitting out most of day five through a bad storm, they sensed a slight lull, so feeling this was their only chance, cached most of their gear and set off on the remaining 500m (13 pitches) of the Moonflower leading to the top of the buttress.
Climbing through the night, they reached the top of the face at 5am on day six, and 14 hours later, after 38 rappels, were safely back on the glacier, having spent the previous 36 hours with no food. They have named the route, The Cartwright Connection, and more details will be published when available.
Bracey and Helliker have impressive training regimes and a notoriously high level of fitness.
In the excellent conditions that prevailed in the Mont Blanc Massif during late April, the two went for a "preparation day" in the Argentiere Basin. Here, they climbed together, unroped, up the Swiss Route (TD-, 800m) on the North of the Courtes in just one hour and 42 minutes, down-climbing the North East Face (AD, 800m) to regain their skis.