Nick Estcourt Award goes to Talung North Pillar

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 30/01/2012

The 2012 Nick Estcourt Award has been presented to James Clapham, Gavin Pike and Dave Searle for their attempt on the elegant and unclimbed north pillar of Talung (7,349m) in far east Nepal.

The mountain, which has only seen three ascents, lies on the Nepal-Sikkim border, north of the Kabru Massif and south of Kangchenjunga base camp.

The value of this year's Nick Estcourt Award is £1,500, and there were more applications than normal, with some strong challengers.

Trustee Chris Bonington said, "it was a very difficult decision, but in the end Talung got the vote, as it so nearly fits all our criteria. It really is a superb line. The team has a good mix of technical ability and experience in the Alps and Alaska but this will be a good first Himalayan trip. This is exactly the sort of expedition that the Nick Estcourt Award was set up to support".

The north pillar has two known attempts, both by climbers from the Czech Republic.

In 2002 Alena Cepelkova, past president of the Czech Mountaineering Association, and Petr Koulouch, from an expedition led by Martin Otta, climbed 500m above the base, reaching ca 5,900m before too much unconsolidated snow over rock forced them down.

Cepelkova and Otta returned in 2004, this time bringing along two highly accomplished technical climbers, Marek Holecek and Tomas Rinn. These two tried a line up the right flank of the pillar but retreated from a bivouac at 5,850m, when Holecek discovered several toes were frostbitten.

Holecek planned to return in 2008, an ascent of the pillar forming the third of his Triple North Walls project. However, after success on the first two (in Afghanistan and Pakistan), he had to cancel due to lack of sufficient funds.

Starting in 1920, Talung received a number of attempts by expeditions reconnoitring or attempting Kangchenjunga, some getting quite close to the summit.

It finally succumbed in 1964 when Franz Lindner (Austrian) and Tenzing Nanda, climbed the right side of the west face to gain the southwest ridge, and followed this over Talung South, to the main summit.

The peak was not climbed again until 1991. During their acclimatization program leading up to the historic alpine-style first ascent of Kanchenjunga's southwest ridge, for which they would be awarded the inaugural Piolet d'Or, Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj climbed the left side of the west face.

Prezelj reached the summit in extremely strong winds, while Stremfelj stopped 50m below. This route was repeated in 2002, Petr Koulouch reaching the top alone.
 



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