On 18th February British alpinists Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey added what is thought to be a new 250m M7 mixed route to the North East face of the Pyramid du Tacul in the Mont Blanc Massif, named Mastabas. The ephemeral route starts in the area of the summer rock route Le ronfleur paradoxal for a pitch then follows a natural winter line to join the East Ridge to the summit.
After watching the conditions build throughout January on the face, Matt and Jon approached from the Aiguille du Midi on skis on 18th February. The route climbs thin, icey runnels linked by hard steep mixed sections, giving excellent sustained climbing.
They descended off the back in three abseils to the Glacier then skied the Vallee Blanche back to Chamonix. With its easy ski access, this route should give another option to some of the other popular over-crowded routes in the area when in winter condition.
Matt commented: "Jon had spotted the line back a few winters ago, and ever since then we have just been waiting for conditions to bring the ice into good condition, this is definitely a line that doesn't stay in for long, any warm temperatures and its gone!"
He added: "The crux was such a cool pitch - you climb a thin smear of ice up the back of a steep corner to the first steep pull through an overlap to a rest, then step back into the corner pulling on good hooks, but bad feet into a lose cave before questing right through the steep roof on a few questionable hooks and the worst feet ever to the belay, but all on good gear!"
When asked whether it would make a popular new route, Matt replied: "I would like to think so as the quality is super, but people would just need to be patient for the ice to form well enough in the grooves. It's super easy getting to the base, you just ski all the way into it, you don't even need to skin!"