by Malcolm Bass

Thanks to a generous donation from a club member, combined with Alpine Club and Montane recurring funding, we are currently able to support more expeditions than ever before. But we are getting more applications than ever before, and most of them are for appropriate objectives. This is good news in that it shows that exploratory alpinism within the Alpine Club is in rude good health. But it presents problems for the grant giving sub-committee in deciding how best to use the Fund, and sadly we were not able to support a number of interesting expeditions. Before the autumn 2018 deadline the sub-committee will be producing some revised guidelines on how we prioritise expeditions for funding. 

I stood aside from chairing the sub-committee this round as I made an application. Paul Ramsden stood aside for the same reason. Susan Jensen kindly took on the chairing role. Eleven expeditions have been supported, across a wide range of disciplines, ages, altitudes, and countries. 

One big wall trip (John Crook, Will Sim, Paul Swail, John Mcune and Ruth Bevan) was supported, and they returned having climbed a magnificent 1000m route up the east face of South Avellano Tower in Chilean Patagonia. Every pitch went free, several at E5. 

Hopefully there won’t be too many E5 pitches on the 8047m Broad Peak where Sandy and Rick Allan, along with two Polish friends, are attempting a new route on the west-south-west face. This is an exciting development as we don’t get many applications from teams attempting very high objectives, and it is worth noting that you don’t have to be attempting a new route to get MACCF funding for objectives above 7000m, we will support early repeats of technical lines on these high peaks. 

Paul Ramsden and Nick Bullock are another team aiming high, despite Nick having made some noises about retiring from the Greater Ranges after his last outing with Paul. The immense 2200m south buttress of the infamous Minya Konka in western China is their target and it looks like hard climbing all the way. 

Flat Top on the left with top half of Timothy Elson's proposed route poking out in the middle of the north face. Photo Chris Bonnington 

The mountains of Zanskar and Kishtwar in north west India have recently become more open to foreign expeditions. Generally good rock, a jagged topography, and relatively dry weather make them an attractive target for technical alpinism on both rock and ice. There is still a lot to be done. The steep mountains are tightly clustered in these areas so teams are setting out with a selection of objectives on their minds. Tom Livingstone, Will Sim and Uisdean Hawthorne have the steep, icy north east face of the 6370m Barnaj II in their sights as their primary objective, but have three other tasty objectives lined up as alternatives. Alex Mathie and Matt Harle are focussing on the unclimbed 6253m Chiling II , either by the north face or the east ridge; the latter turned back a US team a mere 80 vertical metres from the summit. Tim Elson (AC) with Richard Measures and Steve Fortune (New Zealand) will be prioritising the superb looking north spur of the unexcitingly named Flat Top (6100m) in nearby Kishtwar:  it might have a flat top, but its sides are much more dramatic. This team too have a great looking secondary objective. 

In a slightly different vein, but in the same area, Derek Buckle, Mike Fletcher, Adele Long, Tony Westcott, and Gus Morton will be exploring the mountains around the Mulong Tokpo glacier in Zanskar. This is a highly exploratory expedition: it seems no one has previously explored beyond the snout of the glacier. The team aim to bring back a combination of first ascents and photographs hitherto unknown mountains. 

Much further west in the Himalayan chain Julian Freeman-Atwood, Nick Colton, Bruce Normand, and Ed Douglas will be continuing their explorations of the far west of Nepal, this time exploring the Takphu Himal, on the Nepal/Tibet border, and attempting one or more of a series of unclimbed 6000ers. 

The Pakistan Karakoram seems less popular than in previous years, with only two applications for trips to the area, Sandy Allan’s Broad Peak and Lee Harrison and Murilo Lessa’s expedition to the Ghidims Valley in the North Ghujerab Mountains, not far from the Chinese border. The highest peaks in this valley remain unclimbed and are Lee and Murilo’s targets. 

The group of young alpinists who will potentially be re-invigorating the Alpine Climbing Group, and who have been instrumental in the Slovenian and Polish exchange meets, have also organised their first greater ranges expedition, an open expedition (open to the young that is!) to the Borkoldoy range in Kyrgyzstan. Aaron Hodgson is leading this, and seven other young members are taking part.

And finally Guy Buckingham, Paul Figg and I have just back from an extremely enjoyable expedition to the Gangotri glacier in India where we made the first ascent of the 6805m Janhukot right at the head of the glacier: I for one will be avoiding moraine for some time to come.