Just what have the BMC/MEF trips been up to this year? Ian Hey, BMC International Officer has the round up of who’s gone where and what’s been ticked.
North America and Canada
British Buckskin Expedition
Changing dates from spring to autumn proved to work against Paul Ramsden and Rich Cross. A huge storm that dumped metres of fresh snow meant no climbing was possible in the central Alaska Range, although plenty of awesome objectives were spotted.
A Slice of Ice - Alaska
After three successful trips to the Kichatnas in as many years, luck finally ran out this year for Stuart McAleese, Nick Bullock and Twid Turner. Extremely low temperatures meant little ice formation and their intended objective; a magnificently thin 1,200m ice line on Middle Triple Peak (2,693m) was actually bare rock. Continuous bad weather further increased avalanche risk in the area and meant little climbing was achieved.
British Ruth Gorge
New routes on the East Face of Mt. Wake (2,755m) and a steep unclimbed goulotte on the West Face of London Bridge were the aims for Tom Spreyer and Mark Walker. Again lack of ice and unseasonably warm weather caused problems, and necessitated a switch to rock climbing mode, with the team making a one-day ascent of Dream in the Spirit of Mugs (1,100m, V, 5.10c) on the West Pillar of the Eye Tooth, and also a repeat of Ham & Eggs (900m, V 5.9 W14) on the Moose’s Tooth.
Scottish Pantheon Range
The main objective of Simon Richardson and Mark Robson was to make the first ascent of the 600m NW Pillar of Athena Tower on Mount Zeus (2,959m), described as the “Bonatti Pillar” of the Pantheon Coastal Range, British Columbia. Unfortunately at about one-third height, they encountered a 50-metre wall which, having no obvious cracks or other features, stopped further progress. They then turned their attention to the unclimbed 2km NW Ridge, which provided an excellent TD alpine route, and the first ascent of the mountain’s West Peak, as well as the first N-S traverse.
Yorkshire Tokositna Glacier
Although attempted by several climbers over the years, all had failed to reach the summit of Peak 11,520’ (3,512m) above Central Alaska’s Tokosita Glacier. Unfortunately, Coley Gentzel and Seth Hobby (USA) made the first ascent whilst the British team of Andrew Saxby and Jago Trasler were still establishing base camp. In attempting the second ascent they were forced to retreat after 300m due to illness. Bad weather precluded further attempts.
When Andy Parkin was forced to pull out, Simon Yates was left with just four weeks to find a new partner and as it turns out a new objective. In stepped Paul Schweizer and with a photo supplied by Mick Fowler the new objective of Mt. Alverstone’s West Face was set. The 6,000ft snow and ice face was climbed in two days at an overall grade of TD+ with another two days required for the circuitous return to basecamp.
Yukon 2005, Kluane
In recent years, the Yukon has received considerably less attention from British climbers than Alaska, but clearly still has rich pickings available. From a Base Camp on the Donjek Glacier in Kluane National Park, Glenn Wilks and Jonathon Wakefield made first ascents of eight peaks between 3,300 and 3,700 metres, including Donjek 3, 4 and 5, at Scottish grades II and III.
Rio Turbio, Lost Valley of the Andes
Leo Houlding, Jessica Corrie, and Kevin Thaw were initially prevented access to this area of big granite crags in Argentina’s Lago Puelo National Park by heavy rain and flooded rivers. Then with insufficient time to attempt the main objective, the 800m Mariposa, they chose to carry out more exploration and plan to return next year.
British Cordillera Oriental
After some initial false starts Tony Barton and Tim Riley made three ascents in the remote and highly unfrequented region around Huagurancho. These included an ascent of the SW face of Nausacocha, 16 pitches, at D+.
The very strong team of John Arran, Anne Arran, Miles Gibson, and Ben Heason (UK), Alex Klenov (Kazakhstan), and Ivan Calderón and Alfredo Rangel (Venezuela) turned their attention to the 1,000m Main Face of Angel Falls. Over 19 days (14 nights on the wall) they made the first ascent of a route which they called Rainbow Jambaia with 31 pitches up to E7 6b / 7c/7c+. The route went all free on trad gear with just a few bolts used on belays for hauling loads or attaching portaledges.
Rondoy West Face
Gareth Hughes, Tim Darlow, Myles English and Oliver Metherell (UK) teamed up with Robin Deplante (FRA). Their prime objective of a new route up the obvious ice funnel on the West Face of Nevado Rondoy (5,879m) in the Cordillera Huayhuash had to be curtailed, as dry conditions made both the approach and route unjustifiable. A number of existing routes in the area were climbed and a thorough exploration of the East side of the Copa Massif was undertaken, identifying various new route opportunities.
CUMC Centenary Expedition – Kangerdlugssuaq
James Sample led a team for some fantastic ski touring in the area around the Hutchinson Glacier south of Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord. Ten new peaks were climbed with routes from PD to TD, mostly on excellent granite. A leg injury to one of the party on the penultimate day required evacuation to hospital in Iceland where a full recovery was made.
KMC vs Tornarssuk
Dave Bone, Marylise Dufaux, Dan O’Brien, Carl Pulley and David Whittingham headed to Tôrnârssuk Island, off SW Greenland, and a little further east than the usual Cape Farewell venues. A number of new mountaineering routes were achieved mostly in the lower grades but the team was hampered by a series of active depressions with much rain and strong winds.
North Wales Changabang
Nick Bullock and Stu McAleese had the intention to create a new line on the West Face of Changabang (6,864m), in the Garhwal Himalaya, but this had to be abandoned due to the amount of powder snow over granite slabs and a lack of ice build up. Instead they attempted to make the second ascent of the 1976 Boardman Tasker route. Despite a 72-hour storm that put down 1.5m of fresh snow they eventually established a camp on the Bengini Ridge (c6,000m). Over the next five days they crept upwards, but eventually continued extreme cold and lack of food forced a descent. The pair returned full of admiration for the sustained and difficult nature of the climbing achieved by Boardman and Tasker!
Having borders with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan means that all visitors to Sikkim have to obtain an ‘inner line’ permit. Thankfully this is not difficult, and the authorities there have recently designated a number of peaks in the area around the Talung Glacier as ‘trekking peaks’. Julie-Ann Clyma and Roger Payne (UK) plus Kunzang Gyatso Bhutia and Sagar Rai (India) took advantage of this new system, and despite poor weather throughout the trip two peaks were climbed. The North summit of Lama Lamani (c5,650m) received its first ascent via the NW Flank & W Ridge (AD+), then Tinchenkang (6,010m) by its NW Ridge at D-, which was its third overall and probable first alpine-style ascent.
British Kero Lungma
Peter Holden, Bill Church and Colin Morton returned to the Kero-Lungma Glacier to explore its NE branch and climb some of the principal peaks at its head. They were successful in making the first ascent of Peak 5800, but twice had to retreat from high camps on Peak 6123 due to poor weather and dangerous conditions.
Ak Su Free and Clean
Likened to “Yosemite Valley in the 1930s with terrorism” the granite spires above the Ak Su main and subsidiary valleys of Kyrgyzstan have become a popular destination for technical rock-climbing teams. And despite plenty of rain three big new routes were achieved by Mark Pretty, Dave Pickford, Ian Parnell, Niall Grimes, Donnie O’Sulliven and Sam Whittaker. Grimer and O’Sulliven produced the 1,000m E3/4 Amazing Grace. Parnell and Pretty found a way up the wall right of Wall of Dykes to create Shortcut, 500m E4 6a and thanks to “the hardest bit of onsight climbing I’ve ever done” by Sam Whitaker, he and Dave Pickford added From Russia with Love, 450m, E7 6b on the pillar between the Central Pyramid and the Russian Tower. And none of them got shot at or kidnapped either.
Paul Knott, Grant Piper and Graham Rowbotham’s main aim was the first ascent of the highest peak in the area - Pik 5697m, nicknamed Grand Poohbah in 2000 by Mike Libecki. This had to be scrapped due to access problems through overhanging seracs but they were delighted to find the area populated by elegant spires and steep granite walls, and succeeded in making the first ascent of Pik Neizvestniy (5,240m).
Exploration of the area of Alan Dickinson and Tom Lambert’s main mountaineering objective revealed the ridge that they had intended to traverse to be a rather tamer than it had appeared from satellite photography. Instead they climbed the adjacent Monkh Khairkhan Uul (4,202m) before relocating to the Tavanbogt region. There, bad weather caused a retreat from Mt. Huiten, (4,374m) when only 150m from the summit. When conditions improved, a successful ascent was made of an unnamed summit (c3,800m) possibly by a new route.
University of Bristol Tajikistan
Simon Spencer-Jones, Ed Bailey, James Byrne, Ian Hatcher, Rob Lavin, Amy Marshall, Stevo Nicholls and Sam Smith formed this team of past and present Bristol University students planning to explore the southern end of the 70-80km long Fedchenko Glacier in the High Pamirs. They soon made first ascents or new routes on Peak Volodiya (5,847m), Peak Bronwen (5,550m), and Tanymas (5,900m). Hatcher and Spencer-Jones then set off to attempt the expedition’s principal objective - a multi-day traverse of Peak Bakinshikh Kommisarov (6,834m) and Peak Revolution (6,948m). Unfortunately the weather rapidly deteriorated, with strong winds and heavy snow, and the pair were never seen again, despite a number of air and land searches. The BMC would like to express its deepest sympathy to their friends and family.
British South Georgia
Julian Freeman-Attwood, Rich Howarth, Crag Jones and Skip Novak sailed 1,300km from Port Stanley to land at Larsen Harbour, and managed to complete a very committing 17-day south-north traverse of South Georgia. En-route they were successful in making the first ascent of Pk. 5680 (1,727m), but were defeated in their attempt on the N Ridge of Mt. Baume (1,912m).
British Antarctic Peninsula
Phil Wickens, Alan Geer, Alastair Gunn, Tim Hall, Alun Hubbard, Andy Kerr, Colin Souness plus Nico L’Homme (FRA/POL) sailed from South America on Alun Hubbard’s yacht “Gambo” to Anvers Island, where they hoped to complete a traverse of Mt. Francais (2,825m) via its SE & NE Ridges. A 1,000m new line on the SE Face took them to the S Ridge, but from here they retreated due to Category 5 avalanche danger. Moving to Wiencke Island, they made three attempts to climb and link the challenging Seven Sisters of Fief (c1,430m), but again bad weather prevented success. However, they climbed a new gully route on the NW side of Noble Peak (c760m) at AD+ and a new route on the SE Face/N Ridge of Mt Wheat (1,095m) in the Wall Range at AD-. As an expedition within an expedition Hall made the first successful paramotor flight in Antarctica (foot-launched powered paragliding).
With a change of crew this was effectively a continuation of the above, using Gambo to access South Georgia. The line up was now Alun Hubbard, Tom Chamberlain, Alistair Gunn, Tim Hall, Dan Haywood, and Rory Williams (UK) with David Fasel (SWI). In 13 days on Mount Paget (2,996m) they only experienced two weather windows, each of about six hours. Both attempts to reach the summit were unsuccessful, but they did achieve the first ascent of its subsidiary peak (c2,100m), which they named Buzen Point.
China & Tibet
Imperial College Shar Kangsum
The Shar Kangsum range is situated in West Central Tibet. Daniel Carrivick, Benjamin Gready, Naomi Bessey and Joseph Johnstone reached the summit of three un-named mountains: Pk. 6603m by its South Ridge, Pk. 6390m by the West ridge & North Face, and Pk. 6210m by the SW Ridge, all at around PD. An attempt on the SW ridge of the areas highest peak Shar Kangsum (6,822m) was abandoned due to avalanches.
Dick Risherwood, Dave Wynne-Jones, Peter Rowat and Toto Gronlund visited Western Sichuan for early exploration of the objectives, and found a feasible way to the col between Kawarani I & II (5,992m & 5,928m respectively). They got as far as establishing a camp at 4,800m before being approached by monks from a local monastery that had earlier blessed the expedition. They were now changing their minds in belief that the expedition had been the cause of recent thunderstorms in the area. The monks refused to give way, showed no respect for the official permit and became very confrontational. In the face of so much hostility the team switched its attention to an ascent of Haizi Shan (5,833m), but unfortunately poor weather defeated them.
Ed Douglas, Duncan Tunstall and Tom Prentice made headed to Western Sichuan to make an alpine style first ascent of the North Face of Xiashe (5,833m), via their route Don’t Cook Yak in Anger (1,300m, Scottish IV/V).
Still out there
British Habuqung Shan
Welsh Western Patagonia