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Six Cutting-Edge Alpine Climbs in 2023

The American Alpine Club has announced the recipients of this year's cutting-edge award

The American Alpine Club and Black Diamond Equipment have announced the 2023 Cutting Edge Grant recipients. The Cutting Edge Grant continues the Club’s 120-year tradition by funding individuals planning expeditions to remote areas featuring unexplored mountain ranges, unclimbed peaks, difficult new routes, first-free ascents, or similar world-class pursuits.

Six recipients have been awarded a total of $39,000 for this cycle, with objectives featuring a low-impact style and leave-no-trace mentality being looked upon with favour. This year we are also grateful for the support of big wall luminary John Middendorf.

Jackson Marvell will receive $8,000 to attempt the north face of Jannu in Nepal (7,710 m). This line was climbed nearly two decades ago by a Russian team in siege style over two years. Marvell and his team will be attempting an alpine-style climb of the route. After an attempt in 2021, Marvell felt confident an alpine-style ascent was possible. In 2022, Marvell and his group were turned around due to unfavorable weather. They are excited about another attempt.

Seth Timpano will receive $8,000 to attempt Pik Koroleva in Kyrgyzstan (5,812 m). He has found two unclimbed lines, both of which would be highly technical and require sustained climbing on a rarely climbed mountain. Timpano has first ascents in India, Alaska, and Kyrgyzstan. In 2010, Timpano received the McNeill-Nott Award, and in 2014 he received the Lyman-Spitzer Grant now called the Cutting Edge Award.

Christian Black will receive $8,000 to attempt White Sapphire in Kishtwar, India. White Sapphire (6,040 m) lies near the more famous Cerro Kishtwar. Black is drawn to the peak for its technical challenge, beautiful line, and the opportunity to explore with a small team in good style. Christian Black received the Live Your Dream Grant in 2022 for his expedition to British Columbia to attempt a new route on Mt. Bute. You can read more about it here. Vitaliy Musiyenko (bottom left) and Hayden Wyatt (bottom right) will be joining Christian on White Saphier.

Noah Besen will receive $6,000 to climb in Coronation Fjord on Baffin Island, Canada. Besen wants to attempt an adventurous, human-powered expedition to an area on the remote east coast of Baffin Island containing 1,000-meter cliffs on which there have been no previously documented climbing expeditions. All routes climbed will be first ascents. Through university studies of the Coronation Glacier area, Besen has determined there are several areas with massive rock faces for potential big-wall free climbs. This expedition will require climbing, paddling, and wilderness and safety skills to succeed.

Lindsey Hamm will receive $6,000 to visit the Charakusa Valley in the Karakoram, which has produced cutting-edge climbs for nearly forty years. This will be Hamm’s second trip to the Charakusa. In 2022, she, Dakota Walz, and Lane Mathis established a first ascent on a formation between Spanster Brakk and Naisa Brakk (which they named Ishaqu Brakk): Pull Down the Sky (15 pitches, 5.11 R). This year, Hamm along with Holly Mackin, Stephanie Williams, and Thomas Bukowski will attempt routes on Naisa Brakk (~5,600 m) and Spanster Brakk (height unknown).

James Gustafson will receive $3,000 to attempt Desdemona Spire (2,150 m) on the Stikine Ice Cap of Alaska. The first and only recorded ascent of Desdemona, done in 1975, was completed by Carla Firey, Paula Kregel, Craig Lingle, Jim McCarthy, and Craig McKibben. Their line was largely a glacial route with one rock pitch on the north ridge. After Gustafson contacted the first ascensionists, he realized it is unclear which peak the 1975 team climbed, due to whiteout conditions and conflicting descriptions, meaning Desdemona may be still unclimbed.