Five Cutting Edge Climbs for 2021

With their $25,000 Cutting Edge grant program, the American Alpine Club and sponsor Black Diamond are supporting climbing expeditions to “remote areas, featuring unexplored mountain ranges, unclimbed peaks, difficult new routes, first free ascents, or similar world-class pursuits.” Bonus marks for applicants striving to minimize their environmental impact.

The 2021 program is supporting two projects in Alaska and three in Nepal.

In Alaska, Ryan Driscoll will attempt the Medusa Face up the north side of Mount Neacola in Lake Clark National Park. Driscoll and climbing partner Elliot Gaddy conceived the project after a previous trip to the area in 2019. Meanwhile, Matthew Cornell aims for the West Face of the North Horseman and the West Face of Pyramid Peak in the Revelation Mountains.

Alaska’s Revelation Mountains, still wild and isolated, with braided rivers, bare foothills, and razor-sharp peaks. Photo:


The Himalayan expeditions show how much room remains for exploration and new routes on 6,000m and 7,000m peaks. Nick Aiello-Popeo will attempt a first ascent of the West Face of Ganesh I (7,422 m), the biggest of the Ganesh Massif. It was climbed only once, nearly 70 years ago, from its north side, but Aiello-Popeo is heading for a mind-blowing, 1,829m wall that Himalayan historian Damien Gildea describes as “one of the biggest unclimbed faces in the Himalaya.”

Another grant brings Vitaliy Musiyenko to the familiar Khumbu region. But while the crowds go to Everest, he’ll attempt new routes on the North Face of Melanphulan (6,573m) and the South Face of Nuptse. He was awarded this grant last year but had to delay until 2021 because of COVID.

Jannu and Jannu East, in the Kangchenjunga region. Photo: Oleg Bartunv


Finally, Sam Hennessey aims for the East Face of Jannu East, a 7,468m peak in the same range as the main Jannu (aka Kumbhakarna, 7,710m) where Sergey Nilov and Dimitry Golovchenko led one of the best climbs of 2019.

[Thanks to @KrissAnnapurna and @descuentor_com for the heads-up about Jannu East]

Those interested in applying for a grant for 2022 can find information here. There is still plenty of time. The application period runs from October until the end of the year, and grants range from $5,000 to $15,000.