The Alpine Club's grant aided expeditions in 2015

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 07/05/2015
Will Sim on the northwest ridge of Deborah. Jon Griffith
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This year the Alpine Club is supporting seven expeditions to the Greater Ranges with grants from its Climbing Fund

The aim of these grants is to support AC members on expeditions that have an exploratory element or are attempting a new or unique project.

Preference is generally given to expeditions comprising students and younger members, and to those who have not previously been awarded a grant.

Two of the teams awarded grants have recently returned after successful ascents in Alaska

As reported Pete Graham and Ben Silvestre built on experience gained climbing in Patagonia to make the first ascent of the east summit of Jezebel in the hostile Revelation Mountains [the west summit, at 2,932m, is the second highest in the range]. Their new route on the 1,200m east face was named the Hoar of Babylon and graded VI WI6 M6 A0.

The Revelations form the final chapter of the Alaska Range and are some of the most climatically challenged peaks in the state, taking the full force of anything coming up from the Gulf of Alaska. Visits have been relatively rare until the last few years, when there has been something of a resurgence in interest.

Another team that has just returned is Jon Griffith and Will Sim, who successfully completed the first ascent of the northwest face of Deborah in Alaska's less frequented Hayes Range.

While the altitude of the summit is around 3,760m, its impressive triangular rock and ice faces rise 2,000m. After being dropped off by helicopter on the upper Gillam Glacier, below the unclimbed face, Griffith and Sim were hit by a violent storm that destroyed base camp and subsequently forced them to live in a snow hole.

Once the weather improved, they climbed three days up the face and along the northwest ridge to the summit, an unnerving experience and one of the hardest three-day periods either has spent in the mountains. They descended the west face in 10 rappels plus down-climbing to the Yentna glacier, then went down this before climbing to the crest of a ridge, which they descended for nearly two kilometres until making about 12 rappels to the Gillam Glacier.

The third Alaska trip to receive an AC grant is that being made by Tim Blakemore and Twid Turner, who are currently in the Kichatna Range with a number of possible objectives.

Choices centre around the 1,200m southeast ridge or west face of Middle Triple, the first hard rock and mixed climbing, the second hard ice to a mixed corner system, and the unclimbed west face of Nevermore, via a splendid 20+ pitch ice line. As always, the weather will prove the deciding factor, but Turner has stacks of experience in this corner of Alaska.

Martin Moran leads a strong four-man team to attempt the first ascent of the northeast spur of 7,434m Nanda Devi East in India's Garhwal Himalaya. This previously unattempted line was a goal of the late Roger Payne, who in 1994 failed to access it from the Pachu Glacier to the north.

With Kenton Cool, Tom Coney and Mark Thomas, Moran has identified a much simpler access from the Lawan Valley to the south, and plans an alpine style attempt on this ca 2,000m ridge during the autumn. The ridge is elegant, long and without doubt one of the most outstanding unclimbed objectives in the region. While the final section is not particularly steep, it is partially interrupted by two serac barriers.

In the Indian Zanskar Himalaya, south of the Padam road at Raru, Calum Nicoll [with Struan Chisholm, Calum McLellan, Sam and Harry Newmark] plans to explore peaks around the Katkar and Nateo valleys, first brought to prominence by a photographic survey produced by Japanese mountaineers in 2009. Summits here rise to just over 6,000m and plenty remain unclimbed. This is another very worthwhile exploratory expedition taking place over July/August, in the same style as the expedition to the Tajik Pamir, noted below.

An AC grant goes to Bruce Normand, a Piolet d'Or recipient currently working at the Renmin University in Beijing. With Brazilian Marcos Costa, who has lived the last seven years in China and is undoubtedly the driving force in the current explosion of new route development throughout the country, Normand will spend much of June and July in the Karakoram, where the pair hope to attempt the fabled unclimbed north face of Baintha Brakk (the Ogre, 7,285m) above the Sim Gang Glacier.

The face has been the goal of many climbers and has many areas threatened by serac fall. However, there is one line that appears relatively safe, albeit threatened in the lower section by spindrift avalanches from a prominent snowfield at around 7,000m. The main difficulties appear to be in the upper part of the face, with hard mixed terrain at the exit.

George Cave [with Clay Conlon, Alistair Docherty, Hannah Gibbs, and Emily Ward] has identified a collection of sub 6,000m peaks in the eastern Muzkol Range of the Tajikistan Pamir that has only seen one previous visit by mountaineers - a small group of Latvians in 2014. The Latvians summited only three peaks, leaving plenty of unclimbed objectives, including an enticing traverse over five peaks on an unclimbed ridge line. The AC team plans to spend most of August in this area.

For further information on the Alpine Club Climbing Fund see the website



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