British alpinists Matt Helliker and Andy Perkins have made the autumn season's first ascent of Beyond Good and Evil on the North Face of the Pélerins above Chamonix. They found excellent conditions on a route which probably hasn't formed properly for at least five years.
NEWS UPDATE - We received another report of a major ascent on the North Face of the Pélerins this weekend by Jeff Mercier - blog report (in French)
"Conditions are good and very rare, chance-of-a-lifetime routes are in", said Helliker
Beyond Good and Evil was first climbed by Andy Parkin and Mark Twight in 1992 after 2 previous attempts, Helliker and Perkins climbed the complete route free and rated it as "one of the best routes either of us has ever done".
Setting off from the first cable car to the Plan de l'Aiguille on October 3rd, the two guides arrived at the foot of the route at 10am and found the route to be in good shape. "I'd been watching the diagonal ice streak develop from my kitchen window for the last few weeks", said Matt, "I figured it would be in good nick and sent Andy a text. He didn't need much persuading!"
Solid ice runnels in the back of the grooves made for excellent progress, though the ice was neither wide nor thick in many places, with unconsolidated snow keeping both climbers on their toes. By 3pm, after 10 pitches of top quality climbing, the pair arrived at the junction with the classic Carrington-Rouse route. At this point, many teams have either abseiled off or finished up the easier last 2 pitches of the Carrington-Rouse, however, to quote Mark Twight from his book Kiss or Kill: "Although conditions improved drastically from when the first ascent was made, they were not good enough to tempt anyone onto the last four pitches, which are the most dangerous ones on this climb, so despite numerous claimed 'ascents' they all traverse off after the 10th pitch".
Andy Perkins takes up the story:
"We knew the route had been freed by Marko Prezelj and Steve Koch, so it was certainly feasible but the conditions weren't ideal by any means. Thin ice smeared the left walls of the crux corners, covered with odd blobs of powder. Matt had the bit between his teeth, and while I might have had a bash at it 20 years ago, it definitely looked like terrain suitable for the man in our party with the largest arms. He laced the lower crack and then fought his way up this and the sketchy slabs above, giving himself the occasional talking to. 20m up the pitch, a key reach rightwards with the gear a reasonable way below him took him to the first good ice placement. Massive relief for both leader and belayer!"
Thin ice smeared the left walls of the crux corners, covered with odd blobs of powder.
Above this crux pitch, another full 60m rope-length on thin ice and creaky blocks led to the ridge and the top of the route at 6.30pm. They abseiled the Carrington-Rouse, being overtaken by darkness about 4 pitches from the base of the route, and then walked back down to Chamonix, arriving back at their cars just before midnight.
Andy Perkins rated the route as similar in quality and difficulty to his route with Brendan Murphy on Cerro Kishtwar. "My alpine mojo has been missing for a while. Beyond Good and Evil has been a perfect way to finish off a difficult alpine summer season. Thanks to Matt for the text while I was sport climbing down the valley, and for leading all the hard pitches".
Andy Perkins is a field tester for Lowe Alpine