On 8th January, unpredictable weather patterns, unseasonal temperatures and gale force winds didn't stop Matt Helliker and Nick Bullock - who managed to climb what is possibly a hard new mixed line on the Tour Ronde West Wall, Helliker's second new route on this face. The pair set off from the Helbronner lift station with a forecast that was promising settled conditions until late evening when strong winds and snow were predicted.
Nick had attempted the line a week earlier with Tim Neill but they chose to bail after climbing three pitches. Tim was more than happy to let Helliker stand-in for round two! The pair made quick progress to the previous high point and continued to climb the obvious right facing corner for a further 3 pitches. This line is just to the left of the 1973 rock route which takes the cracked wall on clean, solid, rock.
At the top of the corner, Helliker belayed in the dark and worsening weather until joined by Bullock. The climbing was technical and committing and at times there were a few suspect blocks. Thick swirling cloud, strong winds and snow now encompassed the climbers before Bullock set off to lead the final pitch to the top of the West Wall.
The descent following the walls to the right of the line was made 'tricky' due to the driving wind and gusting snow. Skis were gladly dug-out at 10pm and through gales and whiteout, the pair reached the Torino Hut at midnight. Patric Gabarrou, who was also climbing in Cirque Maudit saw their headtorches at 8pm near the top of the West Wall and given the conditions thought it prudent to inform the rescue services they may be needed. Fortunately they were not!
The line is an obvious winter, mixed objective, due to the loose rock which needs a good freeze to make the route safe. The route has been tentatively named 'Night Fever' unless it is found to have been previously climbed.
'Night Fever' M8, 250m, Tour Rond West Wall. FA 8/1/15
30m - From the apex of the snow field, climb steep cracks until a belay on the left.
40m - A continuation of the groove line leading to an overhanging pod which is climbed by back and footing to a big spike. From the spike hard moves right establish you beneath a small roof which is climbed using cracks on the right. Continue up the overhanging chimney and corner to belay after approximately 10m.
15m - Follow the overhanging chimney and belay on a ledge beneath an off-width in a clean slab. (It is possible and probably better to climb this pitch together with pitch 3)
30m - Climb the off-width and at the top hand traverse left (this was climbed to avoid the spikes sprouting from the corner) until beneath the overhanging corner. Climb the corner until reaching a pedestal and small cave.
50m - Climb the corner whilst trying to avoid killing your belayer.
35m - Climb left onto a snow ledge. A rising traverse to the left leads to an overhanging blocky groove in the back of the bay. Climb this and the continuation until the crest.