Checkmate (VI M7+ or M6 A0, 85 degrees, 2000m), on the previously unclimbed north face of Teng Kang Poche (6487m), Khumbu Valley, Nepal. Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten chose the objective to acclimatize in preparation for a new route on the south face of Annapurna. [Photo] Ueli Steck
On April 24, Swiss climbers Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten made the first ascent of Teng Kang Poche’s (6487m) northwest face, Khumbu Valley, Nepal. Checkmate (VI M7+ or M6 A0, 85 degrees, 2000m), completed wholly in alpine style, marks the first success of the pair’s expedition to Nepalese Himalaya this spring; Steck and Anthamatten’s main objective is to establish a new route on the notoriously steep and dangerous south face of Annapurna I.
Last year Steck’s solo effort on Annapurna was cut short on May 21 when rockfall sent him on a 300-meter fall to the base of the south face. He miraculously survived (read the May 29, 2007 NewsWire for more about Steck’s accident). “It was a run of bad luck that a stone hit me straight on my head. Otherwise I can say that the expedition was perfect. I feel that I am closer than any other alpinist to climb[ing] this wall. I will try again,” Steck wrote a month after his accident on Annapurna.
The pair attempted Teng Kang Poche’s 2000-meter northwest face on April 10, 2008–in alpine style sans bolts–before heavy snowfall and strong winds turned them around the next day at 6000 meters. Their second attempt, in the same style, began on April 21. Two nights later they reached the top of the headwall at 6350m, bivied on the sharp summit ridge and reached the top at 7:15 a.m. the next morning.
Steck said that “each of the 60-meter-long pitches was an adventure,” and that the climbing involved “difficult rock and mixed [terrain].”
Last year on Annapurna, Steck took his fall on a route that was attempted by Jean-Christophe Lafaille and Pierre Beghin in 1992, when Beghin fell to his death from 7100 meters on the south face (see Lafaille’s “A Climber’s Tale” in Issue 14). Steck and Anthamatten will attempt to climb in alpine style and without supplemental oxygen the unfinished route that claimed Beghin’s life and nearly took Steck’s.
Annapurna is the world’s tenth highest peak and was the first “fourteener” to be climbed. However, it is statistically the deadliest peak in the world, and its south face is the most demanding. As of 2005, there were fifty-three deaths on the mountain and only 130 successful summits.
April 24, 2008: Anthamatten (left) and Steck enjoy the summit of Teng Kang Poche (6487m), Khumbu Valley, Nepal. [Photo] Ueli Steck