Still on the look out for inspiring new routes in the Mont Blanc Massif, Matt Helliker along with Stu Mcdonald skied into the Tour Ronde West Wall on 20th December to check out a line that Matt has had his eye on for a while - a striking diagonal deep crack line splitting the left hand side of the West Wall, with rock routes Mollier-Payot to the left and You play with fire to the right. Matt returned with Jon Bracey on New Year's Day to complete the line and propose a new M6+ named Hangover.
Following much research, having spoken with local area gurus on both the French and Italian side, Matt couldn’t find any information of a mixed climb in this area, only that of the existing rock routes. The quality of the rock on the buttress outside of the crack was superb, but Matt found it hard to believe that this line had not yet seen an ascent.
The plan was to scope out the line to gain some knowledge, climb a few pitches and get back to the Italian Skyway lift before the last one down. With commitments in the valley that evening, a bivi wasn’t an option, neither was a ‘safe’ ski down the Toula Glacier or Vallee Blanche due to the lack of snow in the alps at this time.
Matt and Stu climbed four pitches, finding excellent mixed climbing with great ice in the back of the cracks, not visible from below, along with one old belay and a peg low down, thought to be from an existing rock route. Matt and Stu descended back to their skis and returned to the last lift back to the valley, both very psyched to return and complete the line.
On 1st January, unfortunately Stu had other commitments (or was that a hangover!) so gave the thumbs up for Jon Bracey to team up with Matt to try and complete the line. Not wishing to spend the night up high, Matt and Jon moved quickly up the first 4 pitches - finding good ice in the back of the deep crack - to the high point. Next, a long 55m pitch above proved to be time-consuming, with then another pitch to join the ridge and belay of ‘Mollier-Payot’. They ended their route at a logical point on the ridge, then descended the line in five abseils back to the glacier, making the last lift back to the valley.
Matt pointed out: "You can never always be sure in such an active area that this route hasn’t been climbed, even after all the local knowledge points to the fact that it hasn’t, which is still hard to believe. But you can only put so much research in and just propose it as a new route if everything points to this. The line really was a hidden gem, giving six long, excellent, well protected pitches and is for sure a route that people should repeat and enjoy. It gives a great alternative to some of the other classics in the area."
If proved to have been previously unclimbed, Matt and John propose the name and grade Hangover M6+.