UK Pair Bag the NE Pillar of Tengkampoche

There’s summit news from Tengkampoche, but not from the Italian team that first reached the place. In the end, Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn of the UK finally opened the infamous NE Pillar (often described as the North Pillar). Several have attempted it but until now, none have succeeded.

The British pair climbed the 1,400m line alpine style in seven days. Livingstone called it the “trickiest thing I’ve done”.

“I’ll remember brief moments of morning sun; the views of some of the biggest mountains in the world…” Photo: Tom Livingstone


“Hard mixed climbing, difficult aid, and a long snow ridge really challenged us,” Livingstone wrote. “We often wished for easier ground, but instead found further cruxes. This route was a deeply testing experience, both mentally and physically.”

Ice-clogged cracks required aid climbing. Photo: Tom Livingstone


Tengkampoche made Livingstone break his principle of “never jumaring a route.” Ice filled the cracks on the otherwise smooth, rocky pillar, and the climbers had to aid some sections. It was “the most efficient method,” admitted Livingstone.

Livingstone describes “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!” Photo: Tom Livingstone


High winds, monster ridge

After the pillar itself, the climbers accessed the “final monster ridge” in high winds, summiting at 12:15 pm on October 30. They declined to set a grade for the new route, which they suggest calling ‘Massive Attack’, since “it was a bit of a battle”.

(Note that ‘Massive Attack’ may be descriptive, but a quick internet search reveals at least six other routes with that name on sport-climbing crags around the world.)

Tackling the final ridge. Photo: Tom Livingstone


Two happy and sunscreened climbers on Tengkampoche’s summit. Photo: Tom Livingstone


Tengkampoche features one of the most admired north faces among Nepal’s 6,000’ers. Ueli Steck and Simon Athamatten bagged the first route on the face, but the NE Pillar had become one of the most coveted trophies in the Khumbu for alpine-style advocates in the last 20 years.

Quentin Roberts of Canada twice attempted the Pillar. In 2019, he and Juho Knuuttila of Finland reached 6,000m. And last spring, he tried again with American Jesse Huey but was thwarted by Cyclone Yaas. He has promised to try again, but the first ascent has already been notched.

Tengkamposhe’s NE Pillar. Photo: Tom Livingstone


As for the Italian team, we have heard no news from them since Francesco Ratti reported that they had completed two acclimatization laps and were “ready to go big” on October 26. On Monday, team member Leo Gheza admitted, “Things don’t always go as you think”, under a picture of him paragliding in the Khumbu.