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Huge Himalayan Pillar Climbed with Borrowed (Stolen) Gear

Alpine climbing has a lot of unwritten rules, and it seems that on this mega route a few were broken

Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn have made the first ascent of the huge north pillar of Tengkangpoche (6,487 m) in in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. They didn’t arrive prepared so stole fixed gear left by other climbers. Many are saying they broke more than a few unwritten rules in the world of alpinism.

In 2019, Canadian Quentin Roberts and Finnish climber Juho Knuuttila climbed higher than anyone ever had on the striking feature. They turned around near the top of the alpine wall due to a lack of ice. The expedition included Canadian photographer Tim Banfield, who sat out the Tengkangpoche attempt.

While Roberts and Knuuttila didn’t reach the summit, their attempt was a success because of their new high-point, and because they made it back to the ground safe and sound. Then this spring, Roberts returned with American ace Jesse Huey. They were thwarted by bad weather and poor conditions.

Huey and Roberts left a lot of gear as they intended on returning to complete the climb next year. Livingstone and Glenn used Roberts and Huey’s food, gas, ascenders, pitons and more gear, without their permission.

Livingstone posted about their ascent on social media, saying, “More recently Quentin attempted it twice. His first effort with Juho was agonisingly close and impressive. We’re very grateful for their beta. Our line avoided their ‘blank slab’ high point by going up right-trending cracks in the wildly steep upper headwall… We suggest naming it ‘Massive Attack’ – it was a bit of a battle.”

However, in a private message to Roberts and Huey, which Andrew Bisharat included in a story called Poaching Tengkangpoche: A “Slimy” First Ascent, Livingstone said, “We didn’t have loads of food or gas to start with, so although we knew it was a bit if a dick move we decided to use some of your stuff on our second attempt.”

Roberts said on social media, “Impressive effort guys. Congratulations. But [Tom Livingstone] I do hope you tell the full story.” And Huey said that he’ll be commenting on this in greater depth later.

We’ve reached out to a number of climbers who said that because they’re upset about the level of disrespect shown by the FA team toward Roberts and Huey, that they’re going to give it a few days before they comment.

For all of you young and burgeoning alpinists, there are fewer and fewer lines like this, so if you’re going to attempt someone’s multi-year project, be sure to have a conversation with them first about using their equipment. And be considerate to the time, effort and money others have put into a project.

Roberts is based in Canmore and has made a number of bold ascents over the past few years, including solos of Striving for the Moon VI WI5 on Mount Temple and of Grand Central Couloir V M6 AI4 on Mount Kitchener. On Mount Tuzo, Roberts and Alik Berg made the first ascent of Hiding in Plain Sight V M5 AI5. The duo also completed a new route on the east face of Chacraraju Este (6,001 m) in Peru called The Devil’s Reach Around V M6 5.10 in 2017.

Huey, who was based in the Canadian Rockies for a number of years, has repeated some of the most the world’s most difficult classic route, such as The Slovak Direct VI, 3,000 m on the south face of Denali, Freerider 5.13 in a day, The Dru Couloir direct M8 1,800 m, Armageddon 5.12d, 1,000 m FA on North Howser, Original Sin 5.12d 600 m FA on Mount Hooker, and a repeat of The Shadow 5.13 in Squamish.

In 2019, Livingstone received a Piolets d’Or for the FA of Latok I’s north ridge with Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar. The first attempt was in 1978 by Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy, George Lowe and Jeff Lowe over 21 days up 100 pitches. It took Livingstone, Cesen and Strazar five days to reach the summit and three to reverse their route. It was the first ascent of the mountain from the north.

Update Oct. 3: Tom Livingstone responded to people questioning the ascent on his blog here. In it, he said, “We sincerely apologise for using Quentin and Jesse’s out-of-date food and for borrowing their equipment without their permission.”