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Asia, Nepal, Malahangur Himal (Khumbu), Teng Kang Poche, First Ascent of the Northeast Face to East Ridge

Teng Kang Poche, first ascent of the northeast face to east ridge. During November 2003 Jules Cartwright and I made two attempts on the 1,600m northwest face of Teng Kang Poche (6,500m), the first of which also included Al Powell. An easy approach of one hour from the lodge at Thyongbo brought us to the start of the climb at 8 a.m. on the 14th. Finding good snow conditions, we climbed unroped up the initial snow cone and continued into a runnel/gully. The line chosen followed this gully system, which was 55-75° névé at Scottish II to IV. At one point a mixed corner had to be followed in order to bypass an overhang in the gully. This proved quite difficult and had short sections of Scottish V, 6 until we rejoined the original line. Slightly above this point, we cut a tent ledge for the first night (ca 4,800m).

The second day continued in the same vein, although we started to pitch the climbing, because despite being more or less the same grade, it was more sustained. At approximately 5 p.m. we cut a tent ledge for the second night. The pitch above proved the hardest so far at V, 6. That evening I fell ill, and was vomiting and delirious for 40 minutes. We decided to descend, and the next day, the 16th, rappelled from our high point at 5,400m and reached Thame by 3:30 p.m.

I recovered quickly but Powell’s time had now run out and he was forced to leave. On our second attempt Cartwright and I made an 11-hour ascent to our previous high point. No food or gas was taken as a stash had been left there. However, the conditions were serious with very high winds and constant spindrift. In addition, a certain amount of stone and ice fall was encountered. Much of the ground we had previously climbed unroped now had to be pitched, as it was uncertain when the next lump of ice or rock would strike.

The night was a fraught affair. So was the following day sitting out the wind in hope of more favorable conditions. We spent a second night at our 5,400m camp but on the 24th we decided to abandon the attempt and escape in an early morning lull.

Well to the left of the prominent granite north pillar is a left-to-right ramp line, leading to the lowest point on the east ridge. I had stared at this line for two weeks and after our failure to climb a new route on the northwest face, decided it was time to have a look. I was now by myself as both Cartwright and Powell had returned to Britain. This line looked the most suitable for a solo attempt.

Starting at 1:30 a.m. on November 27,I climbed the lower slopes via a left-to-right path under the steep rock walls beneath the east ridge. Although the ground was not technical in the lower 600-800m, it was tiring due to deep unconsolidated snow and the laborious nature of traversing the undulating, fluted ground. Below the lowest point of the east ridge I decided to continue right, aiming for runnels that appeared to lead directly to the summit. The shortest line to the ridge above me appeared to finish up mixed ground, which looked difficult in the half-light of dawn. After two previously unsuccessful attempts on the northwest face, I craved success and so opted for a more certain line. Or so I thought.

As daylight approached and I gained height, it became apparent I would have to cross a deep couloir. An active band of seracs on the east ridge towered above and gave me cause for concern. Deciding that crossing below the seracs was too risky, I climbed a rib of mixed ground until directly beneath them (100m, Scottish V, 5). The terrain prior to this had gradually increased in angle, being 60-80°, at a grade of Scottish IV/V, and quite tenuous due to the unconsolidated nature of the snow.

Moving left, I climbed steep, hard ice to reach the crest of the east ridge. I continued up this until ca 200m below the summit, where I bivouacked in a large crevasse as my hands and feet needed re-warming. It was 2:30 p.m. and I had taken 13 hours to reach this ca 6,350m point on the ridge.

The following morning I attempted to reach the summit but found the way above very crevassed and far too dangerous for a solo climber. I decided to go down and followed the ridge to its lowest point, where I made two 30m rappels on the northeast face and then down-climbed directly to reach my traverse line followed on the ascent. By 1:30 p.m. I had reached my starting point in the valley at 4,300m and later decided to name my route to the east ridge, Love and Hate (Alpine D+/TD-).

Nick Bullock, U.K.