First Ascent of Tengkangpoche's North-East Pillar by Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn Newsflash

© Tom Livingstone

Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn have made the first ascent of a 1400m route up Tengkangpoche's North-East Pillar (6487m) in the Khumbu region of Nepal. The pair have suggested 'Massive Attack' as a name, but have not yet decided on a grade.

Matt Glenn and Tom Livingstone below Tengkangpoche.  © Tom Livingstone
Matt Glenn and Tom Livingstone below Tengkangpoche.
© Tom Livingstone

Tom and Matt are currently in Kathmandu with poor wifi, but he posted some initial thoughts on Instagram:

"We spent seven days on the route, which is one of the trickier things I've climbed. Hard mixed climbing, difficult aid climbing (bleugh) and a long snow ridge at the top really challenged us. We often wished for easier ground but instead found further cruxes. Snow and ice-choked cracks slowed our progress; plus this was the first time I had seriously had to aid climb — the other occasion was a short sections on Koyo Zom in Pakistan."

Rock pitch on Massive Attack.  © Tom Livingstone
Rock pitch on Massive Attack.
© Tom Livingstone

The pair's first attempt, a few weeks prior, ended when Tom fell off on an aid pitch and sliced open his little finger.  They walked down the valley to find a doctor, rested for a week during heavy snowfall, and returned with a good forecast in hand. Tom commented:

"I could hardly pull a glove over the bandage so mostly used a lobster-claw mitt on the second attempt. Unfortunately my ideal ethic of 'never jumaring on a route' was ruined by Tengkangpoche, but it was the fastest way for the second to follow the steep pitches."

An ice pitch on the North-East Pillar of Tengkangpoche.  © Tom Livingstone
An ice pitch on the North-East Pillar of Tengkangpoche.
© Tom Livingstone

The striking pillar has attracted a few attempts and interest from top alpinists in the last 20 years or so. Tom explained:

"I believe Mark Twight, Jules Cartwright, Ines Papert and Will Gadd have expressed an interest. More recently, Quentin Linfield Roberts has attempted the pillar twice. His first effort with Juho Knuuttila was agonisingly close to succeeding, and was very impressive. We are very grateful for their beta. Our line avoided their 'dead end blank slab' high point by going up a right-trending crack system in the wildly steep upper headwall."

The pair faced strong gusts of wind as they climbed the final monster snow ridge, reaching the summit around 12:15 p.m. on Saturday 30 October. Tom said:

"We descended the east ridge and then back into the Thame valley. Nick Bullock had been on this part of the mountain a few years ago, which was a nice thought as we went down. We reached our tea house in Thengbo at nightfall on Day seven, then feasted on momo (steamed dumplings)."

Hanging out on Tengkangpoche.  © Tom Livingstone
Hanging out on Tengkangpoche.
© Tom Livingstone

The following day, they headed back to Lukla with tired legs. Tom continued:

"We stopped often to rest and eat, and small uphill sections of the path were real cruxes! We enviously eyed our bags, which rode on yaks, and we were overtaken by their lumbering pace every time we stopped for tea, biscuits, tea, lunch, biscuits, second lunch, tea..."

On the naming and difficulty of the line, Tom commented:

"We suggest 'Massive Attack' as the name because it was a bit of a battle. I can't offer a grade beyond what others have suggested. I can just say we're very content. I'll remember brief moments of morning sun; the views of some of the biggest mountains in the world; tricky aid up compact rock; laughing in the tent with Matt as we got slammed by gusts; and also finally aiding through the upper headwall as the evening sun hit my face, an icy wind howling, hanging off a peg with thousands of metres of exposure below my boots, and then screaming back to Matt, 'YEEEAAHH it goes! Also watch me!'

Tom and Matt take a selfie during their first ascent of the North-East Pillar of Tengkangpoche.  © Tom Livingstone
Tom and Matt take a selfie during their first ascent of the North-East Pillar of Tengkangpoche.
© Tom Livingstone

"I think this route was a deeply testing experience, both mentally and physically. We are both very satisfied."

On their return to kathmandu, Tom and Matt learned of the deaths of three friends in Nepal. Tom added:

"This tragic news has changed our experience and we offer our deepest condolences."

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Tom Livingstone is a climber and writer based in North Wales, UK.

He has a penchant for trad, winter and alpine climbing - the bigger and harder, the better.

Tom is an acclaimed outdoor writer, and you can...

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3 Nov, 2021

Yerrrr Tommy!!!!!

3 Nov, 2021
3 Nov, 2021

Ouch! A pretty damming article allthough I've no idea of the accepted ethics of use of gear/camps on these big Himalayan projects by various teams, the use of food and gas seems pretty harsh, especially if they knew the American team would be back out in the spring! I'm still eating energy bars left over from a 2016 trip to Alaska, I'm not sure they go off!

Hopefully a communication cock up rather than the underhand tactics the article says?

3 Nov, 2021


Maybe 'Massive Hijack' would be a more appropriate route name.

3 Nov, 2021

While I understand communication errors might account for this, the text message quoted in the article (no way of verifying, of course!) seems to acknowledge how poorly this was likely to be taken by the other team. And then not to credit the equipment ‘borrowed’ appears a bit off too.

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