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Canadians Head to Nepal for Big Alpine Walls

The north pillar of Tengkangpoche is a huge rock wall between two glaciated faces that have been climbed

Canadians Quentin Roberts and Tim Banfield and Finnish climber Juho Knuuttila are in Nepal and are preparing to head into the alpine. The team received the John Lauchlan Award for their initial plan of Chamlang, but their plan changed after that objective had been climbed earlier this year.

Roberts said their new permits are for the unclimbed north pillar of Tengkangpoche (6,487m) in the Khumbu Valley and for potential ice routes on Cholatse (6,440m). The massive northeast face and north face of Tengkangpoche (also written as Teng Kang Poche) have had a few ascents over the years. In 2003, Nick Bullock soloed a new route to the east ridge and then descended a line to the east, before reaching the summit. In November 2008, Hiroyoshi Manome and Yasushi Okada made the long-awaited first ascent of the northeast face to the summit via Moonlight, a 1,900-metre grade-VI.

In 2013, Russians Galina Chibitok and Anastasia Petrova and Ukrainian Marina Kopteva made the first ascent of a 1,900-metre line on the northeast face they called Battle for Love VI 5.10 A2. They said the lower face was moss-covered cracks and ice, which they climbed over 18 days in capsule style. From camp nine, the three women climbed in a 52-hour return trip from their portaledge. They had heavy snowfall most days.

The north face of Tengkangpoche was first climbed in 2008 by Swiss climbers Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten via their 2,000-metre route Checkmate VI M7+. They climbed it in alpine style and Steck said after, “Each of the 60-metre-long pitches was an adventure that involved difficult rock and mixed.”

Top climber Ines Papert had considered attempting it once, but wrote in a blog post, “There was a really perfect line on a mountain we wanted to attempt on the north face of Tengkangpoche.

“The line looked hard, but possible. But on top of the mountain there was a huge hanging serac. And I don’t know if I would have attempted that route if I didn’t have a child, I don’t know. But it was just obvious to me. Already, two Russians had died there two years ago. On the same face, same situation. And that’s not worth it.”

Tengkangpoche’s north pillar with the northeast face to looker’s left and north face to the right. Photo Ines Papert

Tengkangpoche, which is west of Namche Bazaar, was first climbed in the mid-1980s and was officially opened to climbing in 2002. The north face had at least eight attempts before Steck and Anthamatten, including by Canadians Will Gadd and Scott Semple in 2005 and by Matt Maddaloni and John Furneaux in 2006. In 2004, Bullock and Nick Carter climbed the northwest face to the west ridge but did not continue to the summit.

Gadd said in a blog after Steck and Anthamatten’s ascent, “We were rejected due to poor ice, danger and perhaps a lack of understanding about how the Himalaya worked. Make that a definite lack of understanding about the biggest mountain range in the world.”

The north pillar line follows steep rock and ice and avoids the large seracs prevalent on the northeast and north faces. Follow Roberts, Banfield and Knuuttila on Instagram below for updates to their stories and posts.

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Greetings from rainy and very humid Kathmandu! Past three days we have been getting prepared to spend next six or so weeks on the mountains. Big thanks goes to Climbalaya whom helped to sort out all the permits and logistics needed. Though, we are going to base ourselves on tea houses which might be a bit more comfortable than having a classic tent base camp. In Namche area this kind of a set up is a common thing to do. Tomorrow we try to fly to Lukla, but monsoon is still strong, which means very cloudy and wet weather here in Nepal. Fingers crossed! . . . #climbing #himalaya #kathmandu #thamel #climbalaya #expedition #alpinism #climbingpicturesofinstagram #petzlgram #unbreakable #finnishalpineaward #johnlauchlanawadr #austrianalpineclub

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