University students Hamish Dunn, Luke Hunt and Tom Ripley have been given the 2010 Nick Estcourt Award for their attempt on the unclimbed North West Ridge of Tahu Rutum (6,651m) in Pakistan.
The trustees of the Award felt all three climbers to be young, strong and ambitious, and the expedition fulfilled all the criteria.
Despite an age range of only 19-21, the three climbers have already notched up some great alpine classics such as the North Face of the Dru, Walker Spur, Central Pillar of Freney and Peuterey Integral. This will be their first trip to the Greater Ranges.
Tahu Rutum is a spectacular Karakoram rock tower towards the head of the Hispar Glacier, south east of Kanjut Sar. It has only received one known ascent.
In July 1977, Kazuya Mitsumoshi, Kazuto Obata, Yoshinobu Tanaka and Yukio Usagawa, followed a day later by four other climbers, all from a nine-member Japanese expedition led by Nobuo Kuwahara, reached the summit via the technically difficult South West Ridge.
The steep ridge involved mixed climbing in the lower section leading to a 12-pitch headwall, which overhung in places and took three days to prepare using fixed ropes. The ridge rises about 600m above a col the Japanese gained from the south east.
Fast forward 30 years, when Salt Lake City climber, Kyle Dempster, made an audacious attempt to solo the West Face; c650m of steep snow leading to a quasi-vertical rock wall, with the whole face estimated to rise 1,350m from the East Khani Basa Glacier.
Climbing in capsule style and battling frequent storms Dempster spent 21 days on the mountain climbing many pitches up to A3 before exiting onto the final section of the North West Ridge at 6,500m. Exhausted, dehydrated and battered by storm, the decision came easy, and he descended without reaching the summit.
Dempster's appraisal of the ridge is that the granite is high quality and most likely presents ample opportunity for free climbing.
Dunn, Hunt and Ripley will tackle the ridge in alpine-style after thorough acclimatization, which may involve an attempt on the nearby, unnamed Pt 6,100m, a fine snow and ice pyramid.
In the accompanying photograph Tahu Rutum is the rock tower in the left distance, with the North West Ridge forming the left skyline. The West Face lies immediately right and the original Japanese Route follows the steep rock ridge facing the camera.