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No Tengkangpoche Summit, but Success, on Huge Himalayan Pillar

Quentin Roberts and Juho Knuuttila reached a new highpoint and are down safely

Canadian Quentin Roberts and Finnish climber Juho Knuuttila reached a new highpoint on the huge north pillar of Tengkangpoche (6,487m) in in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. They turned around near the top of the alpine wall due to a lack of ice.

The expedition also included Canadian Tim Banfield, who sat out the Tengkangpoche attempt, but climbed some ground on Cholatse (6,440m) in deep snow. The trip was partially funded by the John Lauchlan Award, which is based in the Canadian Rockies.

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. Other Canadians had attempted routes on the icier walls to the right in the past, including Will Gadd and Scott Semple in 2005 and by Matt Maddaloni and John Furneaux in 2006. There have been a number of bold routes climbed on the northern aspects of Tengkangpoche over the years, just nothing up the pillar.

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You’ll only ever achieve something audacious if you believe you can do it. – @juhoknuuttila and I believed we could climb this epic pillar on Tengkangpoche. We ended up getting turned around the day before yesterday, despite having done tons of hard climbing. The ice that we had seen on the upper slabs had melted over the days we were on the wall… 😭 – The slab would have gone with a hand drill, but it’s an incredible piece of stone to leave pristine. It’ll go in the right conditions… and I’ve already got a list of things to fix for the next attempt!! 🙌 – So many thanks to @inespapert for the inspiration and the helpful photos from @realwillgadd. And thanks to the John Lauchlan Award, ConeTec, @arcteryx and @petzl_official. Couldn’t have tried without you guys!! 🙏

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Big alpine climbs are dangerous and come with a number of hazards, which unfortunately have taken the lives of some of the finest young climbers over the past few years.

One of the leading mentors for young climbers pushing Himalayan alpine climbing, who has continued to push big lines into his 60s, is American Steve Swenson, who just made the first ascent of Link Sar (7,041m). It took Swenson a number of attempts spread over a few years before he reached the top of Link Sar with Mark Richey, Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman earlier this summer.

Swenson said to Roberts, “Cool attempt. I’ve almost never climbed anything big on the first attempt. Having the persistence to go back and incorporate what you learned is part of the process. And what we learn along the way in a lifetime of climbing is more important than any individual summit.”

The John Lauchlan Award also supported a trip to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, where Rob Homer and Sam Eastman attempted to make the second ascent of The Great Canadian Knife VI 5.13, but were shut down in a snow storm. This year’s winners of the award will be announced at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

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 (6,001m) in Peru called The Devil’s Reach Around V M6 5.10 in 2017.

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After studying the face for two days from the village of Thengpo (around 4350m) we packed food for seven days, gas for nine, one single rope, one 6mm rap line and a light tent among other normal alpine climbing stuff to our two 45l backpacks. No portaledge, bolts or a hand drill. This line would go with pure means or not at all. In the early morning of 11th we approached the face and a ramp spotted by Tino and Alan, friendly Americans climbing other peak close by. The ramp gave us easy access the the middle of the face skipping the lower moss covered and snow free part of the wall. Still we did some frozen turff climbing and odd traverses. The ramp goes left from below the pillar where Ueli's and Simon's route goes right. We passed our planned bivy spot early and reached a better one at 2pm at 5400m. A very good start! . . . #finnishalpineaward #Addnature #AdventurePartners #AltitudeJunkies #Aventura #Camu #HelsinkiAdventureNight #LaSportivaFinland #Kiipeilyareena #Partioaitta #SuomenKiipeilyliitto #SuomenAlppikerho

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