British mountaineers Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller have been awarded a 2023 Piolet d'Or for their ascent of the previously unclimbed Jugal Spire (AKA Dorje Lhakpa II, 6563m) via a 1200m route on the north face called The Phantom Line ED+, which they climbed in May 2022 (UKC News). The annual Piolets d'Or awards (golden ice axes) recognise significant new ascents in mountaineering, taking style, innovation, commitment and respect for both the environment and local people into consideration. This year, the jury chose to honour three ascents and give a special mention to a fourth.
Alongside Paul and Tim's ascent, a golden axe was also awarded to Alix Berg and Quentin Roberts of Canada for a first ascent of the south-southeast spur of Jirishanca, Cordillera Huayhuash, via Reino Hongo (1,000m, M7 AI5+ 90°) and a French first ascent of Pumari Chhish East, Hispar Muztagh, via The Crystal Ship (1,600m, 6b A2 M7) on the south face and upper west ridge by Christophe Ogier, Victor Saucède and Jérôme Sullivan. A special mention was awarded to an all-female sailing and climbing team's first ascent of the east face of Northern Sun Spire (1,527m), Renland, East Greenland, by Caro North (SUI), Capucine Cotteaux (FRA) and Nadia Royo Cremer (ESP) via the Sedna route.
Situated in the Jugal Himal range to the north-east of Kathmandu, Nepal, Paul and Tim's line up the north face follows a line of weakness up a sweep of granite. The pair climbed over an eight day period with five days spent on the face. The line involved thin ice and mixed climbing, with a number of 'blank' sections which proved challenging to navigate. They named the route The Phantom Line (ED+) due to its "ability to appear and disappear when viewed under different light and weather conditions."
Writing shortly after the ascent, Paul told UKC:
"The climb is a product of too much time spent on Google Earth during the lockdowns. The mountain itself is actually one of the closest to Kathmandu and its north face is one of the biggest and steepest rock walls in Nepal, but this appears to have previously gone unnoticed.
"The route itself shouldn't really be there, as it's no place for an ice route. However after many hours of studying the wall we managed to piece together an almost continuous line of snow and ice. One noticeable problem was a blank piece of rock in the centre of the wall, however when we got there we found a hidden squeeze chimney that climbed inside the rock for about three pitches making the whole thing possible. The chimney was a sack hauling nightmare."
Paul now has five Piolet d'Or awards to his name, having previously earned recognition alongside Mick Fowler for first ascents of the North Face of Siguniang in China in 2003, the Prow of Shiva in India in 2013, Gave Ding in Nepal in 2016 and the North Buttress of Nyainqentangla South East in Tibet in 2016 with Nick Bullock.
Tim is an instructor and IFMGA mountain guide with winter ascents up to grade X and first ascents in the Greater Ranges up to 7,000m prior to this latest summit.
Paul and Tim are currently on another expedition together in Nepal and were unable to provide comment on their achievement.
Read more about the awarded ascents on the Piolets d'Or website.