Nick Bullock on Pitch 1 of the first ascent of Brodie’s Patience (WI6, 3 pitches, 75m) with Neil Brodie on January 4, 2008. Brodie had waited for the ice to form, hence the route’s name. The next week with Matt Helliker, Bullock climbed a new three-pitch winter start to the Cecchinel-Jager route on Pointe Lachenal. [Photo] Nick Bullock collection
Before a fractured wrist forced him to return to Great Britain, Brit Nick Bullock was busy in Chamonix establishing a new route on Mont Saxonnex with Neil Brodie and a new winter variation to the Cecchinel-Jager on Pointe Lachenal with Matt Helliker in early January 2008.
On January 3, Neil Brodie called Bullock about a new ice line that he had been watching, waiting patiently for it to form. In spicy conditions on the 4th, the pair climbed Brodie’s Patience (WI6), which the new Batoux guidebook describes as “a dry tool line for the first pitch… nothing goes direct from this.” Bullock countered in his blog: “It does [go direct] now… and it was awesome… three pitches of pure ice.”
Matt Helliker on the first pitch of their new winter start to the Cecchinel-Jager Pointe Lachenal (Scottish VI 7, 3 pitches, 85m), Mont Blanc Massif, France. The original route was described in the Daminalo guidebook as having an M5+ crux, but Bullock and Helliker encountered a VII 8 crux on Pitch 6.
On January 10, Bullock and Matt Helliker scouted the 1968 Cecchinel-Jager route, first climbed in winter by Philippe Batoux and Benoit Robert in December 1998, on the east face of Pointe Lachenal. They noticed a wintery, direct, “more obvious, stunning line” left of the original. The pair tried the alternate start and climbed two sustained 30-meter pitches (Scottish V 6 then VI 7) and a 25-meter third pitch (VI 6) before rejoining the original line for its upper pitches (VI 7; VI 6; VII 8; VI 6).
Bullock and Helliker took a small rack, expecting the difficulty to ease once they entered the established route. Batoux and Robert had reported that the crux was the second pitch, at M5+. “WRONG!” wrote Bullock of his experience with Helliker. “The climbing, all with axes and crampons, intensified with each pitch, the crux being the penultimate 60-meter pitch of steep thrash, overhanging chocks, and desperate gore-tex, friction-aided runout.”
They topped out at 7 p.m. in the dark and skied Valle Blanche to Chamonix by 11 p.m. Despite the unexpected difficulties up high, Bullock said the new starting pitches were “very good quality” and that the climb was “one of the best of that ilk.”
Bullock fractured his wrist at the distal end of the radius drytooling at the end of January, but he continued to climb on it until after an ascent of the Ginat route on the north face of Les Droites. Nick wrote in an e-mail: “Not all bad, movement is supposed to strengthen the break, but I’m told 1000 meters of climbing is a bit too much movement, so I’m back to Britain to get me out of harm’s way.”
Bullock (right) and Helliker on the summit of the Cecchinel-Jager route. [Photo] Nick Bullock