UKC

Bullock, Helliker and Benson - Round II on Annapurna III

© Alpinist / Annapurna Expedition Blog
The Annapurna Himal from the northeast, Annapurna III is centre right.  © Leridant / Wikipedia
The Annapurna Himal from the northeast, Annapurna III is centre right.
© Leridant / Wikipedia

Nick Bullock  © pete benson
Nick Bullock
© pete benson
After failing to reach the mountain earlier in the year, Nick Bullock and Matt Helliker (this time accompanied by Pete Benson) are set to try again on the infamous unclimbed southeast ridge of Annapurna III (7555m).

The earlier expedition (reported on UKC News) failed to get to the mountain when the climbers were stopped in their tracks by choss-rubble cliffs barring access to the peak. This time they are going in by helicopter.

The cost of the helicopter flights has been footed by the new expedition main sponsor Samsung, who are hoping to get a promotional film from the expedition.

Nick Bullock, ever in angst about his mountain activities, has written a long blog post on the ethical considerations of taking a helicopter in to base camp. In that post Bullock states:

"The more I think about taking a helicopter to base camp, the more I think it is the correct decision (apart from not going of course). The most obvious argument I can come up with for flying is it will avoid the death of a local and I was under no doubt that this would have happened if Matt and myself had not called a halt to the first attempt."

The use of a helicopter to allow access to the peak has obvious benefits, but also some quite significant drawbacks, one of which is the inability to 'get the hell out of there' under their own steam. If a retreat from base camp is needed, the climbers will have to wait for good enough weather to allow the chopper access to their camp.

Bullock, one of the UK's top mountaineers, is not only deliberating the use of a helicopter, but of the sponsorship that is paying for it. And with sponsorship comes the need for publicity. We reported back in March that the expedition was going ahead, and writing 'news before it happens' is always a tricky consideration for us at UKC.

Alpinist 4 - from the Annapurna Expedition Blog  © Alpinist / Annapurna Expedition Blog
Alpinist 4 - from the Annapurna Expedition Blog
© Alpinist / Annapurna Expedition Blog
This particular expedition ended no-where, as did the much publicised Tahu Ratum expedition - but we flagged them up as the basic fact they are happening is of interest to many readers, and the pre-expedition coverage is helpful for the climbers who want to attract support for their trips. But this doesn't sit easy with Nick:

"I actually hate all of the blogging thing before and during a trip... it's too much like reality TV, and mountaineering aint no reality TV...

Personally it adds too much pressure for me, I would rather just go and quietly get on with my thing, then when I get back report it if it's been a success, or quietly get on with the next thing if it has not.

I feel that there are too many folk who do not appreciate that something like this trip is 99% doomed to fail, and when it does, we look like prats. A trip like this depends on so many things falling into place, fitness, weather, conditions, getting in!, getting onto the climb, getting off the climb, having enough cash, the climbing being at a level that we can move quick enough given the size of rucksacks we will be carrying, and on, and on, and on... so lets say we stand no chance, and if a miracle happens and the planets align, and if Helliker can get by for 10 days without a mirror, we will feel exceptionally privileged and lucky."

But despite his reservations, Bullock is looking forward to what could be the climb of his life. The ridge they are going to attempt was proposed by Alpinist Magazine as one of the greatest unclimbed objectives in the world and, looking at the above photo that was published in the magazine, you can see why.

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Matt’s life has been shaped by mountains and coastlines, from the sea cliffs of Great Britain to Scotland's winter mountains, the European Alps to the Greater Ranges of the Himalayas, South America and Alaska....

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30 Sep, 2010
Good luck guys that ridge looks amazing! Maybe I don’t understand is the helicopter being used due to a difficult/dangerous route into base camp? Is that maybe why no one else has climbed it yet rather than the route is too difficult? I think climbing is/has become reality TV it ticks all the right boxes. Plenty of opportunities for people to have tantrums and a good blend of failure capped with success. That makes good TV viewing. Good for entertainment, good for the sponsors and more money for he climbers a win, win situation. SDB
30 Sep, 2010
I wish you the best of luck guys. I hope the weather is kind to you and that you find the route in climbable condition. One odd thing about this article is that the above quote conflicts with the fact that you have an expedition blog which is updated every few days. Maybe add something to say that you have decided to blog despite your reservations in order to satisfy your sponsors.
30 Sep, 2010
I don't think its possible to get it right. You always wanna ridicule those who go down the publicity route, until you find yourself there and seeing the obvious benefits. I guess the thing to remember, and the thing that makes it justifiable, is whether the team matches the calibre of the objective. And the required ability and mileage to send the thing. This then makes it a genuine, realistic project that deserves to be supported. In this case the team and objective blatantly meet those requirements. Good luck Matt, Pete and Nick and take care. Will
1 Oct, 2010
What I don't get about this is that its clearly an epic approach, so that would sorta be half the challenge. Is this not one of the main contributing factors to the fact that it's unclimbed?
1 Oct, 2010
I think one of the main issues in mind is the risk to which the porters would be exposed. It's one thing to put yourself at risk, it's another to ask others to take the same risks for (relatively) little reward.
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