Story by Stephan Siegrist & Jonathan Bamber // Written by Tom Hill
Photography by Thomas Senf / Visual Impact
‘Below!’ I heard the shout but had nowhere to go. I was bound to the rock face by a short length of rope while feeding out the other end to my climbing partner above. I wasn’t in the fall line, but the boulder, maybe the size of a football, hit a ledge and launched itself in my direction. The first sensation was the sound, a sound that would echo through the rest of my life. – Jonathan Bamber
Leaving a trail is not a uniquely human activity. All animals do, from thin sheep tracks to the chemical trail left by a line of ants. Whether we wish to or not, we leave our mark wherever we go. As the world’s population increases, and travel becomes easier, we must journey further, or look more closely, to find untrodden ground or an unclimbed peak. We seek the opposite of the trail’s logical purpose: instead of getting from one place to another as simply as possible, we break trail for no other reason than to find somewhere new and to feed our hunger for adventure.
When Stephan Siegrist, Thomas Senf and Dres Abegglen set off towards Tupendeo in 2015, they have no clue that the peak already has its own story to tell. The locals warn them that tragedy had struck many years ago. As the trio climb up the face, they come across an old rope still hanging along with a rappel device, causing many questions to arise. Who left it hanging there? What happened? They all know far too well how close success and defeat can be on a mountain. Upon reaching the summit, they decide to bring the rappel device back with them and search for traces. They want to know whose story the Tupendeo was hiding.
The film Tupendeo from Hans Ambühl, screening at the Kendal Mountain Festival this year, tells their story.
The climbing was challenging, but within our technical abilities. The rock contrasted starkly with our experience on Bhala – it was solid and trustworthy, giving some of the best climbing we had ever encountered at this altitude. As darkness fell, we lowered down to the base of the mountain, and bivvied for a few short hours, ready to complete the climb the next day. In the depths of the night, we heard the unmistakable cracks and pops of rockfall echoing from our original planned line. My mind kept returning to the fate of the party and the haunting image of that abandoned rope. – Stephan Seigrist
The next two days were the longest of my life. They really were. It’s an overused cliché, but time slowed to a glacial pace. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything except stare at the view and 2,000m down to the valley below. Minutes became clawing hours, and hours became days. Each hour passed as though part of some macabre, unremitting prison sentence. – Jonathan Bamber