Helias Millérioux and Robin Revest, members of our team of elite ambassadors, are among the most talented guides and alpinists of their generation.
Helias recently returned from the summit of Nanga Parbat, while Robin has spent the summer guiding clients on long, committing routes in the Mont Blanc range.
In a couple of days they will be heading off for an expedition with friends and fellow guides Benjamin Guigonnet and Fred Degoulet. Two years ago, this same team of alpinists made an impressive first ascent on the south face of Siula Chico in Peru (Looking for the Void…).
Can you tell us a little more about your upcoming project?
Robin: We’re heading to the Khumbu region of Nepal. Our goal is to put up a direct route on the south face of Nuptse (7,862m). We’ve picked out a fairly direct unclimbed line to a summit that is located east of the main summit (the Nuptse summit ridge extends for about 2km).
Helias: There are only three routes on this face:
– the original Bonnington route
– Valery Babanov’s route
– Steph Benoist and Patrice Glairon-Rappaz’s route
What kinds of challenges are you expecting to encounter?
Helias: Benjamin Guigonnet and I actually tried to climb the face last year (Robin and Fred weren’t available), but we weren’t able to get very high on the route. The weather was bad, with a lot of wind.
We’re expecting to encounter some very technical climbing, not to the same extent as in Peru, but quite difficult for this altitude.
How are you preparing for the ascent from a logistical point of view?
Robin: We’re going to climb as a team of four in order to share the work, since that has functioned well for us in the past.
Helias: Since the ascent is going to be long and technical (the face is 2,300m tall) with a high altitude summit, it’s safer to climb as a party of four.
Climbers go to the area almost every year, but they often fail. Colin Haley and Ueli Steck, for example, were there last year at the same time as we were. They wanted to climb the Babanov route but it didn’t work out, nor did it for us. We ended up attempting the Bonnington route together but we failed there as well.
Nuptse is hard, it’s big, and there are a lot of factors to deal with, like avalanches and wind.
What are your requirements when it comes to gear?
Robin: One of the key requirements is that the gear be light, since we’ll climb like we do in the Alps, without too much hauling. We’ll all be carrying packs and enough gear and supplies to be self sufficient for about a week, so we’ll have tents, sleeping bags, fuel, food, etc.
Helias: We’re able to go pretty light when it comes to technical gear because we can divide up the gear between us: ropes, quickdraws, cams, pitons…
The climbers who are following just have food, supplies, and extra clothing in their packs.
Robin & Helias: We choose the lightest gear possible. We have 800g sleeping bags, a 1kg tent, and powdered energy shake mixes. We’ve entered the age of factory-farmed alpinists! (laughs) We use the Choucas harness and a customized version of the Yeti 50L pack (with a couple of straps removed) that weighs just 900g.
For this kind of altitude, you’re bumping the technical difficulty up a notch. What are your thoughts on this?
Robin: It’s a little bit of an unknown for part of the team because up until now we’ve only climbed to 7,000m. Helias’s experience on Nanga Parbat two months ago is an important asset.
Nonetheless, since things have gone well up until now, we’re relatively confident and we’ll manage the ascent according to our abilities, as we’ve always done.
Helias: Beyond just going light and climbing well, the most important factor is going to be our tactics. The location of our bivi sites is going to be important; so is organizing our days to have enough time to rest and set up sheltered bivis. The location of our last bivouac will be key as well, since we’ll want to be as close as possible to the summit (300m at most) in order to be sure to make our summit push at the best time of day and avoid getting caught out in the cold and the dark, which is always a problem at altitude.
Wow can we follow your climb?
There is Internet service at the lodge closest to the face, so we’ll be able to send out updates.
We also have a satellite tracker, which will allow you to follow the ascent live and which we can use to send text messages from the mountain.
The team’s return is planned for the beginning of November at the earliest, but they’re willing to extend their stay if necessary to improve their chances of success.