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The northeast face of Pointe Lachenal (3613m), showing Tentation (Scottish VII 7, 260m), established by Nick Bullock and Jon Bracey a few days before Christmas. [Photo] Jon Bracey

Making best use of a spell of excellent weather a few days before Christmas, British climbers Jon Bracey and Nick Bullock climbed a fine new mixed route on the northeast face of Pointe Lachenal (3613m). This small summit, situated in the upper Vallee Blanche glacier below Mont Blanc du Tacul, was named after the great French mountaineer, Louis Lachenal, the first man (with Maurice Herzog) to climb an 8000-meter peak (Annapurna) and who was sadly killed in 1953 not far below the base of the peak when he skied into a crevasse. The formation is best known for its short and highly popular, quality rock routes on the east and southeast faces, such as the classic Contamine (5.10d, 250m, Contamine-Labrunie-Wohlschlag, 1959), Harold and Maud (5.10b, 250m, Afanassieff-Escande, 1979) and Le Bon Filon (5.12a, 10d obl, 200m, Long-Vogler, 1988). Bracey and Bullock spotted their line, a prominent groove around the corner right of the arete taken by the Contamine, the previous day, while making an ascent of the nearby Gouault-Haston route, Scotch on the Rocks, on the east face of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

Nick Bullock getting into some of the business of Tentation (Scottish VII 7, 260m) on the northeast face of Pointe Lachenal (3613m), Alps, France. [Photo] Jon Bracey

After an introductory snow cone, the first pitch gave good Scottish 6 climbing on plastic ice stuck in the back of the groove. However, the next two were Scottish 7, continuing up the groove with an overhanging left wall and difficult dry tooling between thin ice smears. Pitches four and five gave more tenuous Scottish 6 and required moves laying off the single tooth of a pick twisted into a very shallow crack. Two more pitches of 5, negotiating large blocks, an overhanging offwidth and more steep snow, led to the crest of the final ridge rising toward the summit. Torquing and laybacking as darkness fell, Bullock pulled his way through the difficulties of the last pitch (Scottish 6) and the two reached the top by head torch to complete Tentation at a French grade of III/6 (Scottish VII 7, 260m). From there it was just a simple snow walk off the back to the Col du Midi and the sanctuary of the Aiguillle du Midi telepherique station.