Tag Archives: Nick Bullock

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/.

18e Piolets d’Or – 2010

Now we know you’re all proud about that super difficult problem you pulled at Les Gaillands last summer and despite all the spraying you’ve done down the Chambre 9 nobody seems to pay any attention to this achievement of yours which is clearly worthy of international recognition.

Well lucky for you my friend, The Piolets d’Or is kinda like mountaineering’s very own version of the Oscars except without all the glamorous movie stars, the bazillion dollar post parties or the hundreds of millions of viewers. OK, so it’s not really like the Oscars at all but the award is widely recognized as recognition of the most awe-inspiring achievements in alpinism over the course of the previous year. The award is presided over by the G.H.M. (Groupe Haute Montagne), editors of Vertical and Montagnes magazines and, starting this year, with help from journalists at the American Alpine Journal. Event organizers describe it thusly:

The Piolets d’Or event gathers together alpinists from many countries; active participants in the most remarkable ascents of the past year on every summit of the globe.

More than recognition for any one performance, the event celebrates the ethic, style and values which take inspiration from the true spirit of a rope party.

For the past 18 years, this international event has publicized the greatest ascents achieved in the mountains the world over, and given recognition to climbers of all nationalities for their individual or team ventures.

To put it in a nutshell the Piolets d’Or are awarded to exceptionally hard men putting up ludicrously difficult routes all for the sake of gettin’ her done. When you look at the lines these guys are climbing you’ll realize we should all be buying these guys multiple rounds of beers for shattering our ideas of physical and mental boundaries. Well, lo and behold we’ll get that chance when the Piolets d’Or rolls into Chamonix and Courmayeur next week.

The action begins on Wednesday, April 7th at 21:00 with the 1930’s film La Conquête des Cimes accompanied by a jazz improv group at Le Cinema Vox. The Courmayeur alternative will be a theater production La Conquista del Cervino performed by The Aosta Theatre Company at the Jardin de l’Ange.

Check out the complete schedule with full details at PioletsdOr.com.

Those of you who are far too enchanted by my lyrical prose to hyperlink

Reinhold Messner

away to learn the actual facts should know the program continues throughout the week and culminates with the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to some guy named Reinhold Messner in Courmayeur at the Cinema Palanoir.

On Saturday in Chamonix the fun and games start at 16:00 with a book fair and film screenings before the main event, the Piolet d’Or ‘Ascent of the Year’ Ceremony, gets underway at 21:00. At this time Piolets d’Or will be awarded to the ascents that most impress the distinguished panel of judges.

The criteria upon which the awards are based are:

– Style of ascent.
– Spirit of exploration: original (previously unclimbed) route and/or mountain, creative and innovative approach.
– Level of commitment and self-sufficiency.
– High level of technical ability required.
– Suitability of route in light of objective dangers.
– Efficient and sparing use of resources.
– Transparency regarding the use of these resources.
– Respect for people, climbing partners, members of other teams, porters and local agents.
– Respect for the environment.
– Respect for future generations of mountaineers by leaving them the possibility of enjoying the same kind of experiences and adventures.

The five nominees for the 18e Piolets d’Or were selected from a long list of 52 ascents by 116 alpinists in 14 countries. It should be noted that Yannick Graziano and Christian Trommsdorff withdrew their first ascent of the South Face of Nemjung from consideration. Trommsdorff is President of GHM and co-organizer of the Piolets d’Or.

And with that said … envelope please…

Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman – Chang Himal, Bullock-Houseman (M6, 1800m). Regular readers of the Insider will vividly remember our own gripping report on this incredible achievement. No? Really?! OK then, click here. 74 represent!

Chamonix's own Nick Bullock, Andy Houseman

Chang Himal (6802m) - Bullock-Houseman

Mikhail Mikhailov and Alexander Ruchkin
Gongga Peak, Carte Blance (6c free, mixed, 75˚ ice, 1100m)

Mikhail Mikhailov, Alexander Ruchkin

Gongga Peak (6134m) - Carte Blanche

Denis Urubko and Boris DedeshkoCho Oyu, Kazakh Dedeshko-Urubko (steep snow and ice, 6b, A2/A3, 2600m)

Boris Dedechko, Denis Urubko

Cho Oyu (8201m) – Kazakh Dedeshko Urubko

Jeb Brown, Kyle Dempster and Bruce NormandXuelian West, The Great White Jade Heist (ice 5, rock 5, M6, 2650m)

Jed Brown, Kyle Dempster, Bruce Normand

Xuelian West (6422m) – The Great White Jade Heist

Vitaly Gorelik and Gleb SokolovPic Pobeda, Sokolov/Gorelik (ED, 2400m)

Vitaly Gorelik, Gleb Sokolov

Brooklyn Decker - inexplicably overlooked for her contribution to alpinism.

Pic Pobeda (7439m) – Sokolov/Gorelik

Bullock & Houseman First Ascent of Coveted Line on Chang Himal

face topo..reduced 2

Chang Himal, North Face, Central Spur. ED+ 1800m

Man, I can’t even tell you how much sleep I’ve lost sitting in front of my computer these last few weeks, checking my emails for news from Chamonix crew sticking burly new routes on formidable faces in exotic places. And just when I think it’s safe to catch a few winks I get hit with something like this from the November 6 Alpinist Newswire:

British alpinists Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman have completed one of Nepal’s most coveted challenges: the 1500-meter north face of Chang Himal (aka Wedge Peak, 6750m) in the Kanchenjunga Himal.

The team confirmed ascent via satellite phone text. The message said the pair had returned to base camp safely on November 3.

The north face of Chang Himal was featured in “Unclimbed,” a feature in Alpinist 4 documenting the most striking unclimbed lines in the world.

A bold new line, climbed in impeccable style. Early photos of the face are stunning beautiful, alluring, dangerous – 100% Grade A climbing porn. So I brew up another pot of chai and babysit my Inbox, anxiously awaiting a report from the hardmen themselves. Like this one I just received from Andy:

In association with DMM, Mammut, Crux, Black Diamond, Mountain Equipment, Scarpa, S.I.S (Science in Sport) and the Lyon Equipment Award.

With financial support from The BMC, MEF, Nick Estcourt Award, Mark Clifford Award, Shipton/Tilman Award.

Thanks also go to Loben of Lobenexpeditions.com for a great service in dealing with all red tape, transport and base camp support, especially in supplying us with the best cook in the world (Buddy). Definitely the reason we succeeded.

For us, the North Face of Chang Himal was an obvious though distant objective. Situated a long way from anywhere it took us a 2-day jeep ride and 10 days of walking to reach the base. The face itself is 1800 uncompromising metres of steep rock and ice that draws the eye and spurs the imagination with sweeping snow chutes, cones and ice fringes, seracs the size of semi-detached houses, bulging rotten rock, flutings and a pointy summit. Trekkers with no aspirations whatsoever sit and stare in awe. Mention that you intend to climb this face and watch their faces crack. They look and then they see you are serious. Expressions change to worry, doubt, concern. It is not that they worry about our physical health, more so our mental stability. Expressions then change once again as they realise they are stood with crazy people.

Please do not misunderstand, this face is not death. It is not the living end. It is not the best, the biggest, the highest, the boldest, not even the baddest. During an autumn where several new test routes have been climbed, here in Nepal and in China, it is certainly not the hardest. What it is, what it was, was a step into the unknown, a challenge to surpass other mountain challenges we have experienced, a step onto the largest mountain face that both Houseman and I have had the balls to walk to the base of and start climbing with just our bags packed. This is a mountain route that is not crazy, but a hard classic awaiting a few more ascents. How about it?

Here is some info for potential suitors.

Night/Day 1 – 29 October

02.30. We set out from our cave/bivvy at the base of the face and gained the large snow cone at the right of the spur via an ice/rock gully. Plunging steps into the more than favourable snow I turned to watch Houseman retching and throwing up. Hmmm, game over before it had started I thought. “Want to go down? Try again in a few days?” “Naa, I’m ok. Shouldn’t of ate that meat.” It wasn’t the meat though, it was Giardiasis [ed. – infected individuals experience an abrupt onset of abdominal cramps, explosive, watery diarrhea, vomiting, foul flatus, and fever which may last for 3–4 days], and I suspected it would get worse pretty soon. But respect to the Youth, 1800-metres to go (or to be more precise, approximately 2400 metres more to go when you add the traversing) and he was still game.

We soloed the 30° – 60° narrows on the left side, sensing the seracs above, until level with the top of the first buttress. A 70° unconsolidated slope/runnel was then followed and we eventually reached the first rock buttress. Rope out, and we climbed a 60-metre, M4+ direct line to the right of the spur followed by a further 120 metres of simul-climbing. It was now approximately 3pm, and we were at about 6000m and knackered. A fin of snow and some digging provided a reasonable step for us to recover and spend the night. Houseman was carrying a light single skin tent. Waste of time, I thought, and I was right. Never pitched it once…

Day 2 – 30 October The second rock band (make or break time).

chang himal route pics etc...1 054.reuced for web

Day 2 - Andy Houseman leaving the bivvy, starting on the 1st techy pitch of the rockband.

A rejuvenated Youth took the lead from the bivvy stating, “It looks ok.” Little do you know, I thought, as he climbed a steep runnel with sack and an unprotected bulge at the top. (M5 / 55 metres).

“Take your pick,” was the Youth’s only suggestion as I pulled the bulge and looked up at three possible overhanging continuations leading through the rock band. “None,” was my reply but eventually I took a shallow overhanging corner line sprayed with a sheen of ice. Not the best with a big bag and above 6000m. Huffing and hanging on, I pulled the exit mush with relief after 60 testing meters. M6.

Pitch 3 of the rock band included traversing right to belay beneath another vague, shallow, rotten snow runnel. (M4 / 55m).

Pitch 4 was fortunately not as steep or as rotten as Pitch 2 and went ok. (M4 / 65m).

The biggest roof on the route was traversed beneath while hunting for a bivvy site that never materialised (M4 / 70°) and in the dark a snow slope was reached on the right of the roof. (70m). A final 30 metres of 70° was climbed until back on the crest directly above the roof and at 7:00 pm a 30cm step was cut for ‘Oh what a comfy’ evening. The approximate height on the face was 6200m. (Slowed us down a tad then, that section!)


Day 2 - Nick Bullock starting up the crux pitch.

Day 3 – 31 October

The day started well with a 2.5 hour simul-climb following a broad, right-slanting, 60°-70°snow ramp to rejoin the crest beneath the final headwall where a rising traverse was taken. Oh deep joy, loads of rotten snow eventually lead to snow flutings on the right of the face. M4 / 80m. Youth took it away crossing two flutings and climbing a particularly rotten bulge of M4 rock until ensconced deep inside a fluting that gave no particular support. Well levitated, I thought as I followed. (50m). The day was finished with a flounder up the fluting with no protection and a possible dead end at 6550m. The best bivvy of the route was dug out with a fine, albeit chilly, view.

Day 4 – 1 November

A steep flounder directly out of the top of our bivvy (made easier without the weight of rucksacks which we had left at the bivvy) brightened our slightly cold and breezy day, when, with a bit of Peruvian/Nepal unprotected jiggery pokey, we entered the guts of a continuation runnel which we hoped and prayed lead to the summit crest. (70° / 180m).

And it did… A final 100 metres of 50˚ wind-scoured ice lead to the knife-edge summit at midday, directly above everything we had climbed.

After half an hour on the summit we downclimbed to our bivvy where we stopped for the evening.

Day 5 – 2 November

A tour de-force (from Youth) in constructing abseil anchors from very little indeed had us down in a one-er without too much drama. Setting off on one of the abseils, directly down the very steep rock band did have the old man puffing slightly but 13 hours later we hit and downclimbed the initial snow gully and cone and ice runnel to nestle back into our cave feeling very happy with our lot, 15 hours after leaving the high bivvy.

Game over…

The weather throughout the climb was very favourable, albeit a tad windy and slightly cool. The rock encountered on the climb was generally poor not favouring easy-to-place or easy-to-find protection for either running belays or belays. The ice was sometimes good and sometimes bad, and the snow was often rotten. All in all we had a pretty amazing time.

chang himal route pics etc...1 163.reduced for web

Andy Houseman, Nick Bullock - summit of Chang Himal.

Once again thanks to all of the grants, organisations, etc for the invaluable financial help, this by no-means was a cheap trip and it really would not have happened without support. Thanks again to both Andy and my sponsors, named above; including SIS and Lyon, your support is very gratefully received.