Where are they going? The BMC Expedition Grants

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 02/06/2017
Far West Nepal. Ardang seen from the northeast. Paolo Grobel

The following teams received grant aid from the BMC for expeditions taking place during 2017. Most are still to leave the UK; some are currently in the field, and some have recently returned, though the results of their endeavours are presently unknown. In general, only the designated expedition organiser is named.

Pakistan
Bruce Normand is the only British member of a two-man expedition that plans to attempt the twice-tried but yet-to-be-climbed east face of Gasherbrum IV (7,925m). Although they won't be too far from the large base camps of the many expeditions attempting Gasherbrums I and II this season, less people have stood on the true summit of Gasherbrum IV than have stood on the moon.

Pete Thompson again returns to the Karakoram, this time for unnamed and unattempted Peak 6,630m a little north of the Hispar Glacier. This is an attractive pyramid of rock, snow and ice, which will likely need a thorough reconnaissance, possibly from two different valleys, to assess the best route to the summit.

George Cave's five-man team plans a short trip to the Gunj-e-Dur Glacier northwest of Shimshal to attempt one or more unclimbed peaks of ca 5,800m in a valley only visited once previously.

An Imperial College expedition to the Chapursan Valley was recently told that permits had been refused for security reasons, the area being close to the Afghan border. A quick re-think and Tim Seers and friends are now going to the Virjerab Glacier, a three-day trek east from Shimshal, where there are still around 30 unclimbed peaks above 6,000m. In modern times, this glacier has only been visited by a Polish team (2012) and Pete Thompson's 2015 expedition. Neither attempted the attractive Khurdopin Sar (6,310m), possibly the main goal of the Imperial group.

India
The Fowler-Saunders plan for this autumn is the result of skilful negotiation by the man who knows a thing or two about Indian mountaineering bureaucracy. The pair has managed to secure a permit for Chombu, 6,362m, in northeast Sikkim, the first team to do so since 1996 (when a British team failed to get established on the mountain due to persistent bad weather and conditions). They plan to attempt the fine, mixed, northwest face.

After considerable exploration in the 1970s and '80s, after which it was closed due to the Kashmir conflict, the Kishtwar Himalaya has seen renewed and increasing popularity over the last half dozen years. Ben Silvestre and team  head for the rarely visited Arjuna Peaks, where several of the summits remain unclimbed, at least one above 6,000m. The west side of the group has many fine granite buttresses and steep mixed lines.

China
The first of Emily Ward's trips in the autumn is with a mostly female expedition to explore an unnamed group of peaks immediately east of the Xuelian Range in Xinjiang Province. Summits will be below 6,000m but some of the faces look large. The peaks of the Xuelian Range have been visited by several British climbers in recent times, notably Bruce Normand, Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden.

Nepal
Mark Aitken and Andrew Hemingway were awarded a grant to attempt the unclimbed Punchen Himal (6,049m), a remote peak of the Ganesh Himal on the Tibetan border. In 2007 a Japanese expedition reached the 5,962m north top, but the continuation knife edge ridge to the main summit proved slow going and they retreated. The outcome of the British expedition is currently not known.

Emily Ward's second trip of the year takes place soon after Xuelian, when she joins Mark Bielby in Far West Nepal for an attempt on unclimbed Ardang (6,034m) in the Limi Himal. The pair hope to climb this remote mountain from the north.

Kyrgyzstan
An eight-member team (Neil Cox) is hoping to attempt two unclimbed 5,000m peaks at the northeastern end of the Borkoldoy, a little-visited part of a ca 55 mile-long sub-range of the Tien Shan that over the years has been explored largely by British expeditions.

Sally Hudson's six-member team is visiting the Djenghi-Djer, another sub range of the Tien Shan between the At Bashi and Borkoldoy, and which in Krygyz means "new land". A British team visited the eastern end of the range in 2016, travelling on horseback, which gave quicker access and the ability to cross fast moving water. Hudson's team plan the same mode of transport and hope this will allow attempts on unclimbed 4,000m mountains further west.

Peru
Murray Cutforth and Will Kernick hope to make the first ascent of the central couloir on the east face of Caraz II (6,020m) in the Cordillera Blanca, between the Superduper Couloir (and its several variants, TD) and the Australian Route (ED1). This technically difficult couloir has been attempted several times before and is no doubt conditions-dependent.

A grant has been awarded to James Monypenny, who is making a 10-month climbing and paragliding trip through South America. Joined by friends along the way, he hopes to complete new routes from Colombia in the north, to Patagonia in the south. Objectives include the mixed central spur on the south face of Huagaruncho (5,730m) in Peru's infrequently visited Cordillera Orientale, and the rock wall forming the north face of the South Avellano Tower in Chile.

Alaska
Alex Mathie and Tim Oliver were hoping to make the second ascent of The Knowledge, the test piece climbed in 2000 by Jules Cartwright and Ian Parnell on the north buttress of Hunter (5.7 A2+ WI6). The also wanted to climb it free.

The tried and tested partnership of Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker, with eight previous visits to Alaska, were awarded a grant to try one of the few remaining unclimbed ice/mixed lines on the 1,600m east face of Dickey in the Ruth Gorge.

Twid Turner returned to Alaska for his 12th expedition there, this time with various objectives to match prevailing conditions on arrival. If the ice was well formed, the main goal would be the prominent unclimbed couloir on the West Face of Middle Triple Peak in the Kichatna Spires; big, steep and with difficult mixed terrain to exit.

Young but experienced alpinists Joe Fisher and Will Kernick are currently in Alaska hoping to add another line either to the Father and Sons Wall, or the adjacent Washburn Wall, which rise from the Peters Glacier just north of the West Buttress of Denali. The Father and Sons Wall, which rises to the northwest buttress, is home to two previous British routes; by Kenton Cool and Ian Parnell in 2001, and Paul Ramsden and Guy Willett in 2003.

Uisdain Hawthorn and Tom Livingstone are also on Denali with very similar objectives. Livingstone visited the area in 2012, when he was stopped from attempting a new line on the Father and Sons Wall by warm temperatures and poor ice conditions.

Greg Boswell and Will Sim are already home from Alaska having climbed two impressive new routes from the Buckskin Glacier

Greenland
A small team of young rock climbers (Stefan Morris) is planning a trip to the popular "middle section" of the Tasermiut Fjord (Ulamertorssuaq etc) to repeat existing lines and ultimately attempt a new big wall free route.

Molly Thompson and friends will visit the well-explored Staunings Alps for a largely scientific expedition studying changes in glaciation over the past 40 years. However, not all peaks in this extensive range have been climbed, and the team plans to include first ascents in its itinerary.



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