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First round of female recipients announced for Grit & Rock First Ascent Expedition Award

The jury panel recently announced the first recipients for the Grit and Rock First Ascent Expedition Award. [Photo] Grit and Rock Foundation

The jury panel recently announced the first recipients for the Grit and Rock First Ascent Expedition Award. [Photo] Grit and Rock Foundation

The UK-based Grit and Rock Foundation has announced four teams that will receive grant money for climbing expeditions. The award was created last September to “encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks. The award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority female participation.”

Out of 28 applications and 15 different countries, the four awards are distributed between three categories:

The Performance Award ($4,000) goes to Marina Kopteva, Galina Chibitok and Anastasia Petrova (Ukraine/Russia), who will try to climb a new route on Cameron Peak (5873m) in China’s Sichuan Province.

The Exploration Award ($2,000) goes to two teams: Natalia Martinez, Ines Dussaillant and Camilo Rada (Argentina/Chile) to explore and map the Cordon Aysen on the icecap of northern Patagonia; and Cristina Pogacean (Romania) and Nasim Eshqui (Iran) to climb a new route in alpine style on the unclimbed peak H17 (5845m) in Zanskar Valley, India.

The Special Prize ($1,500) is being awarded to Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Dawa Gyalje Sherpa (Nepal) who plan to try a new route on the east face of Chukkima Go (aka Chugimago, 6258m) in Nepal.

The selection panel consisted of Grit and Rock Founder Masha Gordon, Lydia Bradey, Catherine Destivelle, Victor Saunders and Lise Billon. Bradey was the first woman to summit Everest (8848m) without supplemental oxygen in 1988. Destivelle did an eleven-day solo first ascent on the Petit Dru (3732) in 1991, the Destivelle Route (VI 5.11b A5, 800m), and the following year she became the first woman to complete a solo ascent of the Eiger Nordwand, which she did in winter in 17 hours in 1992, among many other climbing feats. Saunders is still blazing new routes in alpine style at age 66. Last autumn, he made a first ascent of the north face of Sersank Peak (6050m) with Mick Fowler in the Indian Himalaya. Billon is a 2016 Piolet d’Or recipient for the second ascent of Cerro Riso Patron (2550m) in Chile via a new route called Hasta las Webas (AI5+, M5, ED- 1000m), which she climbed with Jerome Sullivan, Diego Simari and Antoine Moineville.

According to the press release:

“The jury was extremely impressed with the wealth of the applicants’ experience and the creativity of climbing objectives displayed in the applications for the award,” said Brady. “The winners of the three categories had matched their own considerable skills well with their chosen goals. This match between confidence and ambition, skill and objective, was a criteria for the jury’s choice.”

Gordon said: “The quality and the number of applications in this inaugural year for the award goes to show extraordinary ambition and skill in female alpinism. In the fall of 2017, we will be watching these four formidable teams make attempts on their chosen objectives. These journeys will no doubt inspire others to dream up a formidable first ascent goal for the 2018 award.”

The Performance Award goes to a team of accomplished high-altitude alpinists. Marina Kopteva and Galina Chibitok won the Russian Golden Ice Axe Award in 2011 and Karl Unterkircher Award in 2012 for their first ascent of a route on Great Trango Tower. They also were honored with the Steel Angel Prize for being best female alpinists in 2009, 2010, and 2013 (with Petrova).

The two Exploration Awards go to teams that have put together projects that look to further our understanding of unclimbed peaks and, as individuals, have demonstrated capacity to execute in demanding environments.

Natalia Martinez and Camilo Rada have worked extensively on exploring remote corners of Patagonian icecap with…first ascent projects [documented as] “UNCHARTED: Cordillera de Darwin” and “UNCHARTED: Cordillera de Sarmiento. UNCHARTED contributes to the mountaineering community by making all research and maps available free of charge. “UNCHARTED: Cordon Aysen” will take them and Ines Dussaillant to the icecap of Northern Patagonia.

Martinez wrote a story for Alpinist 52 titled “Uncharted” about climbing tallest named and unclimbed peak in North America at the time. Their website by the same name explains their mission: “UNCHARTED is a project that seeks to achieve some of the most challenging virgin summits in Patagonia and, at the same time, and perhaps more importantly: To rescue the historical heritage left by the first explorers through the preparation, printing and free distribution of maps of the areas of Patagonia where mapping is nil or deficient. For this, UNCHARTED is carrying out a detailed cartographic and historical research work. In addition, it will carry out expeditions to each place mapped in order to validate the map, solve geographic doubts and also try interesting summits to write a new chapter in the history of these remote regions.”

The press release continues:

Cristina Pogacean and Nasim Eshqui are from Romania and Iran…. They chose a beautiful objective of the unclimbed peak H17 in remote Zanskar Valley in India.

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, who received the Special Prize, are a brother-and-sister team that has summited 15 8000-meter peaks.

The jury wanted to support their further development as they are looking to put up this new route alpine-style on the east face of Chukkima Go, a mountain next to a village they were grew up in.