Chamonix Hellmen to Charge Unclimbed Southeast Ridge of Annapurna III

7555m Annapurna III (center). The southeast ridge descends (left in shadow, right in sun) from the highest point on the peak.

“Every mountain has a line that defines it; this line becomes the goal for climbers. For Annapurna III this is the unclimbed 2300m southeast ridge.” -Conrad Anker

Way back in the day, back before a petulant volcano in Iceland brought the aviation industry to its knees, two Chamonix hellmen, Nick Bullock (with his 2009 Piolets d’Or firmly in hand) and Matt Helliker, boarded a plane headed for the Annapurna region of the Himlaya. Their goal? An alpine-style ascent of the 2300m southeast ridge of Annapurna III, a line that Alpinist magazine has called “one of alpinism’s greatest unclimbed objectives.” Although attempted five times the actual ridge has only been reached once.

Okaaaaay.

In the team’s blog Nick Bullock explains,

“The objective is secluded and guarded by rock walls the size of the cliffs of Yosemite Valley. Towering and dark and intimidating.”

Well, well, well. Sounds like a lovely day out.

And as if that’s not enough, the team has been plagued by misfortune from the beginning. First there was an abrupt, last-minute change to the team when Jon Bracey was replaced by Pete Benson. Then Pete, along with two of the support group, became stuck in Europe by the volcano fiasco. Bugger.

There are not many specifics on the route but from the blog it appears as though the team is planning for what could be a seven-day push to the summit without a clear idea of the descent.

“Why, oh why?” I hear you ask.

In the blog, Nick eloquently describes his thoughts on attempting such a difficult route in the most aesthetic style possible:

Successfully climbing, or, successfully failing on the Southeast ridge will be a deeply rewarding and soul seeking experience, it will bring about spiritual growth, it will make the climbers (Pete Benson, Matt Helliker and me) reliant on each other as soon as the first step is taken. There will be no Sherpa’s, no helicopter rescue, no other teams to run for to help, no oxygen, no fixed rope to easily slide back to safety and no bolts for certainty. Memories will last for life and the lives and character of those who have attempted (my mates and me!) will be enriched and changed for ever. This is what attempting to climb in a style where the mountain holds most of the cards is about. It is about putting yourself out there and seeing what you are made of, it is not about desecration, it is not about success at any cost, it is not about ruining the dreams and a finite resource for future parties.

Now that’s the spirit. Good on ya the Brits! To follow the team’s adventure log into their blog at http://annapurna3expedition.blogspot.com/.


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