Simon Anthamatten and Ueli Steck from Switzerland have completed the highly prized north face of Tengkangpoche in Nepal to its 21,283-foot summit, on their second attempt this season. The two climbed the 6,500-foot face in a four-day, alpine-style round trip, and they called their route Checkmate (2,000m, VI M7+ (M6+ A0) 85°). Earlier in April, Anthamatten and Steck reached about 19,700 feet on the face in two days of climbing before high winds and heavy snowfall drove them down.
Tengkangpoche, west of Namche Bazaar, was first climbed surreptitiously in the mid-1980s. Since the peak was officially opened to climbing in 2002, it has seen at least eight attempts, mostly by the very steep north face, including efforts by Will Gadd and Scott Semple in 2005, and by Matt Maddaloni and John Furneaux in 2006. In 2004, Britons Nick Bullock and Nick Carter climbed the northwest face to the west ridge at just over 20,350 feet; the two did not continue to the summit, about half a mile away and nearly 1,000 feet higher. The previous year, Bullock soloed a route on the far left side of the northeast face, and then climbed the east ridge to within about 450 vertical feet of the top, before retreating in the face of crevasses too dangerous to cross alone.
For the Swiss climbers, this superb ascent was just a warm-up for the main event of their Himalayan season. The two now hope to complete a new route on the daunting south face of Annapurna. Last year, Steck attempted to solo the route started by Pierre Beghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille in 1992—an attempt cut short when Beghin fell to his death from high on the face. Steck’s own attempt in 2007 ended when he was struck by a falling rock and fell nearly 1,000 feet to the base of the wall.
Anthamatten and Steck showed what they could do as a pair last fall, when they raced up a host of new routes and hard repeats in Canada. This winter, Steck set the speed record for a solo climb of the north face of the Eiger, and Anthamatten and Roger Schäli broke the Eiger speed record for a pair of climbers (though that record was broken again later last winter by a different pair). The two are now en route to Annapurna base camp.
Ueli Steck. Courtesy of Uelisteck.ch.
Date of Ascent: Summit reached April 24, 2008
Simon Anthamatten. Courtesy of Uelisteck.ch.