Tag Archives: Matt Helliker

Climbing Porn: The Moonflower

The video about Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker’s recent climb of Alaska’s Mount Hunter is due out in August. Here’s a little teaser.


Chamonerds in AK: Bracey, Helliker Boost Fat New Route up Moonflower Buttress. Crikey!

Matt Helliker, Cartwright Connection, Moonflower Buttress, Mount Hunter, Alaska

Matt Helliker, Day 2. The caption sent with the photo reads, "Interesting ground above." Gotta love British understatement.

“…[some of] the toughest days climbing of our lives…”

You can hardly wake up to better news than two of the crew absolutely crushing a bold new objective. On May 19th, Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker completed their new route Cartwright Connection on Mt Hunter’s Moonflower Buttress. Booyah.

Jon Bracey making it look … not in the least bit easy.

The team endured ‘five of the toughest days of climbing of out lives’ through snow, high winds, a collapsing portaledge, ‘very complex and steep terrain full of overhanging snow mushrooms,’ ‘unrelenting snow avalanches’, thinly iced slabs, overhanging cracks, loose rock, and vertical ice.

“After being trapped in the ledge all day we sensed a slight lull in the storm at 9pm and could see glimpses of the sun through the clouds. We were both thinking exactly the same thoughts: this might be our one and only chance so let’s take it. With no food left there was no point in playing a waiting game. We quickly packed a stove, spare gloves, warm jackets and a minimal rack. Our goal was to reach the top of the buttress, 500 meters and 13 pitches of climbing above us. In reality we knew the chances of success were negligible. 
Two pitches later the snow started up again and we were battling hard against forceful spindrift. The cold was almost unbearable but somehow our optimism and unwillingness to give in won through. In a dreamlike state of exhaustion we stood at the top of the face at 5am. With no comprehension of what we had just achieved few words were said. We only knew we had to start abseiling with haste. 38 abseils and 14 hours later we were back on the glacier and collapsed, having been awake for 36 hours.”

Bracey and Helliker named their route The Cartwright Connection in homage to Jon’s good friend Jules Cartwright whose vision it was to attempt the line.

The Moonflower Buttress extends her welcome.

Cartwright Connection, Moonflower Buttress, Mt Hunter, Alaska

The Cartwright Connection (Alaska Grade 6, M6, AI6, 5.8, A2, 1800ish meters)

Read the full story and check out more images on their blog.

Jon Bracey, Matt Helliker, Cartwright Connection, Moonflower Buttress, Mt Hunter, Alaska.

Are we not men? Bracey, Helliker.

Piolets d’Or, anybody?

Annapurna Action: Yannick and Stef Attack The Japanese. Begbie, The Geek and Woof Woof Hoping to Get Lucky

The Japanese Route? Clearly that would be the really steep, super scary looking #3.

Our usual correspondent, François Carrel, has skipped off for some fun and games in the land of totalitarian rule, Iran. Lucky for us, Caroline Allagnat has stepped up and told us that Stéphane Benoist and Chamonix’s Yannick Graziani are back in action!

During a phone call on the 19th, Yannick told Caroline that the bad weather had passed and the team had returned to base camp after waiting out the storm at a tea house a few hours down valley. In the end there wasn’t as much snow fall as they thought.

The team immediately placed an advanced base camp at 5200m and had planned to spend that night and the whole day yesterday at ABC before attempting the Japanese Route on the South Face. The Japanese Route was established by Hiroshi Aota and Yukihiro Yanagisawa on 29 October 1981. In the days following their teammates Haruyuki Endo and Yasuji Kato were moving towards the summit when Kato fell to his death. Nonetheless, Yannick describes the route as ‘fairly safe’ because it follows a spur.


Strong winds have been forecast for the 22nd, 23rd and 24th however the team believes they won’t be affected since they are on the face and a two-day window should be all they need to reach the summit but of course it’s difficult for them to estimate without fully knowing the difficulties they will encounter. The team is feeling strong and their spirits are high.

We’re hoping for more news as the team moves up. Until then, ALLEZ LES FRANCAIS!!!

British Annapurna III Expedition – East Ridge

Pete 'The Geek' Benson. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Nick "Begbie' Bullock, Matt 'Woof Woof' Helliker. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna III, the Brits are waxing philosophical and preparing to climb to their previous high point on the East Ridge tonight. Tomorrow they plan to climb halfway up the 1000m face before heading back to BC.

To get the full story including Nick’s lyric prose check out their blog at British Annapurna III Expedition.

Go the Brits!

Annapurna Action: Yannick, Stéphane, Woof Woof, Begbie and The Greek


Annapurna III (right of center) with the unclimbed southeast ridge descending towards the bottom right corner.


You’d think that a particularly stunning autumn like this in Chamonix would be a good time to kick back and relax but man it’s coming in faster than I can keep up. Yesterday I got more news forwarded to me from François Carrel about Yannick and Stéphane on Annapurna III. Seems as though the boys have summitted on their acclimatization route and are back in BC resting up for the big one. (Read the translation of their phone conversations below).

British Annapurna III Expedition 2010

But first I gotta mention that Chamonix’s Matt Helliker, Nick Bullock and Pete Benson have arrived at Annapurna III for some fun and games on the unclimbed southeast pillar. However upon closer inspection the crew have decided that an attempt on the SE ridge is looking particularly suicidal and have changed their objective to the east ridge. If you have read Nick’s Chang Himal story in Alpinist then you’ll know the man knows how to spin a yarn so you’ll want to be a regular visitor to the team’s blog at http://annapurna3expedition.blogspot.com/.


Annapurna, south face


French Annapurna South Face Expedition 2010

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna’s south face, Yannick Graziani and Stéphane Benoist have summitted Annapurna South via the south arête and have returned to base camp. The team will now rest and prepare themselves for their primary objective on the south face. A rough English translation follows the French.

8 Octobre, Vendredi matin, 12h30 heure nép.
“Petit message rassurant du camp de base à 4330 m, dans l’herbe. Tout va bien, on arrive juste. On s’est quand même pris un petit orage hier sur une arête cornichée, c’était un peu terreur… Mais voila , on est bien là maintenant, on se repose ! Bises à tout le monde !”

7 Octobre – Jeudi 10h30 heure népalaise :
“On est au sommet de l’Annapurna South, grand beau, c’est magnifique. L’alti indique à peu près 7160 m.  On voit très loin autour de nous, et c’est très émouvant d’être là tous les deux. On est bien fatigué, on va redescendre au plus vite. On espère être au camp de base demain !”

6 Octobre – Bonjour à tous,

Yannick vient de m’appeler brièvement, ce mercredi 6 à 17h (heure locale). Les deux grimpeurs s’apprêtent demain à en finir avec l’Annapurna South (7219 m), sommet secondaire qu’ils ont choisi pour s’acclimater.

“Salut ! On est au bivouac à 7000 m, sous le sommet de l’Annapurna South donc. On a pris notre temps, avec deux nuits à 6500 m. Là on est sur un bon créneau météo, sans vent, on devrait arriver au sommet demain matin très tôt. On redescendra ensuite directement au camp de base, au plus court. On espère qu’on aura pas trop de mal à dormir : c’est déjà notre 7eme nuit sous tente depuis le camp de base !
– Quelle itinéraire avez vous choisi ? Est-il plus difficile que prévu ?
– On est sur l’arête sud. On a bien donné finalement sur cette arête, notamment avant-hier où on a bien brassé la neige… La voie fait 1700 m de haut, pour une cotation D. C’est magnifique. De notre bivouac de ce soir, on a a une vue de fou, l’Annapurna South est la première grosse montagne au dessus de Pokara, alors on voit juste en dessous de nous la jungle, les lacs, Pokara…
– Vous voyez aussi la face sud de l’Annapurna 1 ? Vous êtes fixé sur votre future tentative ?
– Oui, on l’a bien observée. On est déterminé à  y aller, on sait maintenant à peu près ce qu’on veut faire. Deux options, dont la voie des Japonais. On va méditer tout ça au camp de base… A très vite !”

4 October – Bonjour,
Yannick et Stéphane tentent depuis hier l’ascension de l’Annapurna South, “petit” sommet de 7219 m du sanctuaire des Annapurnas, en guise d’acclimatation avant de se lancer peut être sur l’Annapurna 1 et sa face sud monumentale.
Yannick m’a laissé hier (dimanche 3 octobre) un message sur répondeur, à 18 h (heure népalaise).

On est au bivouac à 6500 m sur une arête, c’est fantastique, digne de Bionnassay aux dires de Steph. C’est un bivouac quatre étoiles, à l’abri du vent, avec 500 m de vide de chaque côté, wahouuu ! Tout va bien, on a la forme.
On a eu un jour de contretemps, la tente avait glissé derrière un bloc, on l’a pas vue, on a cru qu’elle était perdue, du coup on est redescendu en chercher une autre. Finalement on l’a retrouvée…. Mais tant mieux : ce contretemps, montée descente, nous a permis aujourd’hui de monter très vite jusqu’ici !
Demain on encape vers l’Annapurna South, qui est à 7200 m. On va y aller mollo, tranquille. On te rappellera au fur et à mesure qu’on monte, juste avant et au sommet… si jamais on y arrive ! Bon, ca a pas l’air très très compliqué, mais on sait jamais… Ciao !”

Rough English Translation

8 October, Friday, 12:30 Nepal time – Just a quick message to let you know that we’re back in base camp at 4330m, in the grass. We have just arrived and all is well. We found ourselves in a little storm yesterday on a corniced arête, it was a little terrifying. But viola, we’re here now, kicking back. Kisses to all!

7 October, Thursday, 10:30 Nepal time – “We’re on the summit of Annapurna south, incredibly beautiful, it’s magnificent. The altimeter says we’re close to 7160m. We’re well tired and we’re going to head down straight away. We hope to be in base camp tomorrow.”

6 October, Wednesday, 17:00 Chamonix time – “Salut! We bivvied at 7000m, below the summit of Annapurna South. We took our time and spent two nights at 6500m. We had a good weather window without wind and we should arrive at the summit tomorrow morning very early. We’ll head straight back to base camp. We hope it won’t be too difficult to sleep. It’s already our seventh night in a tent since we left base camp.

François: “Which route have you selected? Is it as difficult as you thought?”

Yannick: “We’re on the south arête. On a bien donné finalement sur cette arête, notamment avant-hier où on a bien brassé la neige [anybody know what this means?]. The route is 1700m with a rating of D. It’s magnificent. the view is crazy from our bivouac. Annapurna South is the biggest mountain above Pokhara and we can see the jungle, lakes, Pokhara…”

François: “Can you also see the south face of Annapurna? Have you decided on your future tentative?”

Yannick: “Yes, we can see it well. We’ve decided to go. We’re now a little closer to knowing what we’re going to climb. Two options: dont la voie des Japonais. We’re going to meditate on all of it in base camp very soon.

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.


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/.

Alaska: Two Brits, Two Weeks, Two New Routes

Jon Bracey leading the crux pitch of Meltdown (1,300m, ED3 V M6 R). photo: Helliker

Jon Bracey leading the crux pitch of Meltdown (1,300m, ED3 V M6 R). photo: Helliker

OK, so I’m a bit off the back here but hey, a story about two Chamonix locs putting up two impressive new routes in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge deserves space regardless if it’s four months or four years late.

Been trying to get more deets from the boys but trying to pin down a coupla guides in summer in Chamonix is like putting cats in a bag so I’ll just regurgitate what I’ve seen on the web so far.

According to Climbing.com:

On May 10, the Britons climbed a line of ice runnels through steep granite slabs on the north face of Mt. Grosvenor, then followed a beautiful gully to the east ridge, with a crux pitch of M6 on rotten ice and fragile volcanic rock. They reached the summit after 12 hours of climbing, descended the south face to the col between Grosvenor and Mt. Church, and then continued to the glacier, returning to camp 20 hours after leaving. The new route, Meltdown (1,300m, ED3 V M6 R), lies between Once Were Warriors (Walsh-Westman, 2005) and Warriors Way (Walsh-Westman, 2006).

Bracey, Meltdown

Bracey, Meltdown

Helliker, Meltdown

Helliker, Meltdown

Meltdown, Mt Grosvenor, Ruth Gorge, Alaska

Meltdown, Mt Grosvenor (2,575m), Ruth Gorge, Alaska

Two days later, Bracey and Helliker climbed a new route on the north face of Mt. Church, well to the left of the Japanese “Giri-Giri Boys” route Memorial Gate (Ichimura-Sato-Yamada, 2007), the first route on the face. Good snow conditions allowed them to quickly reach a snow-stuffed, overhanging chimney high on the face. After Helliker’s painstaking battle with this crux lead, 250 meters of snow flutings led to the east ridge, where more insecure climbing past big cornices and rotten rock gained the top, 10 hours after starting. They called the route For Whom the Bell Tolls (1,150m, ED2 V WI6 and mixed).

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Mt Church (2509m), Ruth Gorge, Alaska

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Mt Church (2509m), Ruth Gorge, Alaska

Helliker leading FWTBT crux ((1,150m, ED2 V WI6 and mixed)

Helliker leading FWTBT crux (1,150m, ED2 V WI6 and mixed) photo: Bracey

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CHX homeys Helliker and Bracey

CHX homeys Helliker and Bracey

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