Tengi Ragi Tau East, first ascent of peak via south pillar. In autumn 2004 a team of young French alpinists attempted to climb a new route on the northeast face of Tengkangpoche. They were unable to achieve this, due to high objective and avalanche dangers, and settled for a new route on Phamlahaka [a.k.a. Tangi Ragi Tau Southeast; 6,187m; first known ascent in 2002 via the south ridge; AAJ 2003, p. 382—Ed.], which they climbed via the striking southwest ridge (Le Sourire de Migma; AAJ 2005, p.389).
The team’s main players returned in October 2005 for an attempt on the neighbouring, higher, Tengi Ragi Tau East and found much drier conditions than they had the year before. Maxime Belleville, Sébastien Corret, Louis Laurent, Julien Herry, and Xavier Vimal, all aspirant high mountain guides from Chamonix, spent time acclimatizing, with an ascent of nearby Parchamo (6,279m), before returning to base camp to prepare for the main objective, the south pillar of Tengi Ragi Tau East (6,650m; the virgin summit between 6,938m Tengi Ragi Tau and Phamlahaka). The team spent several days ferrying loads and climbing rock pitches of grade F5 and 6. That the climbing went free, with some excellent pitches, came as a pleasant surprise; they had expected it to require aid. At 6,200m they were finally repulsed by fatigue and wind, so they descended to base camp, removing all their fixed rope and gear.
With 10 days remaining, Corret, Laurent, and Vimal left camp in search of projects for future visits. Belleville and Herry stayed, motivated by their objective, which now seemed possible, given a recent stable weather forecast. They went lightweight, whittling their sacks down to 15kg, plus a 20kg haul bag. The early rock pitches went easily and, leaving gear at 6,000m on the first bivouac ledge, they set off for the second day’s climbing. After mixed terrain leading to the second tower, they passed their previous high point and were on unknown terrain. A “traverse of the gods” enabled them to avoid an overhanging gendarme and reach delicate mixed ground. Above lay a sharp arête, which had posed a question from the start. Two pitches of fine crack climbing (F6a, 6b) provided the key to this passage and, farther on, they discovered a good ledge for their second bivouac. The height was 6,400m.
Belleville and Herry started climbing again at 2:30 a.m. and reached the snowy summit arête at daybreak. Max led the way to the top, climbing steep snow slopes to a final two-pitch ice gully of 55°-80°. The two reached the flat summit at 11 a.m. on November 20. They named their route Le Pilier du Grand Darbon (1,300m, ED 6b WI4) in memory of Daniel Stolzenberg who, with a group of French climbers, was lost in an avalanche on the slopes of Kang Guru the month previous [see above]. The descent took two days and required 30 rappels.
Hilary Sharp, Vallorcine, France