Tom Ballard (climber)

Last updated

Tom Ballard
Personal information
Born16 October 1988 (1988)
Belper, Derbyshire, England
Died24 February – 9 March 2019 (2020) (aged 30)
Nanga Parbat, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
Climbing career
Type of climberAlpine, greater ranges, mixed, dry-tooling, traditional
Known forFirst solo winter ascent of the six major alpine north faces in a single season
First ascentsA line above the sky (D15), Dolomites

Tom Ballard (born 16 October 1988; died 24 February 9 March 2019) was a British rock climber and alpinist, best known for being the first mountaineer to climb the six major alpine north faces solo in a single winter season. [1] In February 2019, Ballard disappeared during bad weather on an expedition to Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. His body was discovered on the mountain's Mummery Spur on 9 March 2019. [2]

Rock climbing sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Professional rock climbing competitions have the objectives of either completing the route in the quickest possible time or attaining the farthest point on an increasingly difficult route.

Mountaineering Sport of mountain climbing

Mountaineering is the set of activities that involves ascending mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing, skiing, and traversing via ferratas. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are also considered mountaineering by some.

Nanga Parbat mountain in Pakistan

Nanga Parbat, locally known as Diamer, is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres (26,660 ft) above sea level. Located in the Diamer District of Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan region, Nanga Parbat is the western anchor of the Himalayas. The name Nanga Parbat is derived from the Sanskrit words nagna and parvata which together mean "Naked Mountain". The mountain is locally known by its Tibetan name Diamer or Deo Mir, meaning "huge mountain".


Early life

Ballard was born in Belper, Derbyshire, in 1988, [3] the son of mountaineers Jim Ballard and Alison Hargreaves, who achieved fame both as the first female solo ascensionist of Mount Everest, and for completing the first solo ascents of the six alpine north faces in a single summer season. His mother died in a climbing accident on K2 on 13 August 1995. [4] [5] Ballard also had one sister, Kate.

Belper Town and civil parish in Amber Valley, Derbyshire, England

Belper is a town and civil parish in the local government district of Amber Valley in Derbyshire, England, located about 7 miles (11 km) north of Derby on the River Derwent. As well as Belper itself, the parish also includes the village of Milford and the hamlets of Bargate, Blackbrook and Makeney. As of the 2011 Census, the parish had a population of 21,823. Originally a centre for the nail-making industry since Medieval times, Belper expanded during the early Industrial Revolution to become one of the first mill towns with the establishment of several textile mills; as such, it forms part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

Derbyshire ceremonial county in East Midlands, England

Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire, containing the southern extremity of the Pennine range of hills which extend into the north of the county. The county contains part of the National Forest, and borders on Greater Manchester to the northwest, West Yorkshire to the north, South Yorkshire to the northeast, Nottinghamshire to the east, Leicestershire to the southeast, Staffordshire to the west and southwest and Cheshire also to the west. Kinder Scout, at 636 metres (2,087 ft), is the highest point in the county, whilst Trent Meadows, where the River Trent leaves Derbyshire, is its lowest point at 27 metres (89 ft). The River Derwent is the county's longest river at 66 miles (106 km), and runs roughly north to south through the county. In 2003 the Ordnance Survey placed Church Flatts Farm at Coton in the Elms as the furthest point from the sea in Great Britain.

Alison Hargreaves 20th-century British mountain climber

Alison Jane Hargreaves was a British mountain climber. Her accomplishments included scaling Mount Everest alone, without supplementary oxygen or support from a Sherpa team, in 1995. She soloed all the great north faces of the Alps in a single season—a first for any climber. This feat included climbing the difficult north face of the Eiger in the Alps, in 1988. Hargreaves also climbed 6,812-metre (22,349 ft) Ama Dablam in Nepal.

In 1995, Ballard's family moved near to Fort William, Scotland, before relocating to the Alps in 2009, and then Val di Fassa in the Dolomites. [5] [6] [7] In Val di Fassa he met his fiancée Stefania Pederiva, daughter of alpine guide Bruno Pederiva. [8]

Fort William, Highland town in the Highlands of Scotland

Fort William is a town in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, located on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe. As of the 2011 Census, Fort William had a population of 10,459, making it the second largest settlement in the Highland council area, and the second largest settlement in the whole of the Scottish Highlands — only the city of Inverness has a larger population.

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Alps Major mountain range system in Central Europe

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, separating Southern from Central and Western Europe and stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries : France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).

Climbing career

From an early stage, Ballard began creating new rock climbing, mixed climbing and alpine routes in the Alps, the Dolomites, and in the Himalayas. He climbed a new rock route on the Eiger in 2009, naming it "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and completed the first solo climb of the Eiger winter route "Piola-Sprungli" in 2010. [9] This was followed in 2013 by a first free ascent in winter of "Olimpia – going for gold" on Catinaccio in the Dolomites, and a new route on the Agassizhorn in the Bernese Oberland that he named "If Gengis can, we can!". [9]

Himalayas Mountain range in Asia

The Himalayas, or Himalaya, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has many of the Earth's highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest, Nepal. The Himalayas include over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,600 ft) in elevation, including ten of the fourteen 8,000-metre peaks. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia is 6,961 m (22,838 ft) tall.

Eiger Mountain in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland

The Eiger is a 3,967-metre (13,015 ft) mountain of the Bernese Alps, overlooking Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, just north of the main watershed and border with Valais. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau at 4,158 m (13,642 ft), constituting one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alps. While the northern side of the mountain rises more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above the two valleys of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, the southern side faces the large glaciers of the Jungfrau-Aletsch area, the most glaciated region in the Alps. The most notable feature of the Eiger is its 1,800-metre-high (5,900 ft) north face of rock and ice, named Eiger-Nordwand, Eigerwand or just Nordwand, which is the biggest north face in the Alps. This huge face towers over the resort of Kleine Scheidegg at its base, on the homonymous pass connecting the two valleys.

Rosengarten group mountain range in the Dolomites

The Rosengarten group is a massif in the Dolomites of northern Italy. It is located between the Tierser Tal and Eggental in South Tyrol and the Fassa Valley in Trentino.

From December 2014 to March 2015, during a project known as "Starlight and Storms", Ballard climbed the six major alpine north faces (the Cima Grande di Lavaredo, the Piz Badile, the Matterhorn, the Grandes Jorasses, the Petit Dru and the Eiger) solo, being the first person to complete this feat in a single winter season without a support team. [10] A film chronicling this project, Tom, won several awards at international film festivals. [11] [12]

Tre Cime di Lavaredo mountain range in the Dolomites

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also called the Drei Zinnen, are three distinctive battlement-like peaks, in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy. They are probably one of the best-known mountain groups in the Alps. The three peaks, from east to west, are:

Piz Badile mountain between Italy and Switzerland

Piz Badile is a mountain of the Bregaglia range in the Swiss canton of Graubünden and the Italian region of Lombardy, the border between the two countries running along the summit ridge. Its north-east face, overlooking the Swiss Val Bregaglia near Soglio, is considered one of the six great north faces of the Alps.

Matterhorn Mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy

The Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps, straddling the main watershed and border between Switzerland and Italy. It is a large, near-symmetrical pyramidal peak in the extended Monte Rosa area of the Pennine Alps, whose summit is 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) high, making it one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe. The four steep faces, rising above the surrounding glaciers, face the four compass points and are split by the Hörnli, Furggen, Leone/Lion, and Zmutt ridges. The mountain overlooks the Swiss town of Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, to the north-east and the Italian town of Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the south. Just east of the Matterhorn is Theodul Pass, the main passage between the two valleys on its north and south sides, and a trade route since the Roman Era.

In 2016, Ballard established several new rock, mixed and dry tool routes. He established a new 26-pitch rock climb "Dirty Harry" on the northwest face of Civetta and a new mixed route "Titanic" on the north face of the Eiger. [13] [14] He also created what was at the time the world's hardest dry-tooling climb, "A line above the sky" in the Dolomites. [15] He attempted the previously unclimbed North East face of Link Sar in Pakistan with Italian climber Daniele Nardi in 2017. [16]


Dry-tooling is a form of rock climbing in which ice axes are used to climb rock that is not covered in snow or ice. It has its origins in mixed climbing, ice climbing and more recently sport climbing. Dry tooling is controversial among many climbers. Some favour it as a new and exciting kind of climbing, while others dislike it for its nontraditional methods and the permanent damage it can cause to certain, generally softer, rock formations.

Pakistan federal parliamentary constitutional republic in South Asia

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

Disappearance and death on Nanga Parbat

In 2019, whilst climbing together again, Nardi and Ballard disappeared [17] during bad weather on an expedition to Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. [6] The last communication with the climbers was made on 24 February. [18] Approximately 148,000 euros were raised by friends to fund a search mission. [6] [19] The rescue attempt, which began on 28 February, involved high-altitude drones, helicopters, and mountaineers on foot, but was hampered by heavy snowfall and the military standoff between Pakistan and India. [20] [21] Although a three-person tent was spotted [22] on the first day of the search, it was not clear if it belonged to Ballard and Nardi. [6] [18] The search was prematurely called off by the media on 6 March without the pair being found. [23]

The following day, Basque climber Alex Txikon, continuing the search, spotted the outline of two bodies in the rocky part of the Mummery Spur on the mountain. [24] After sending photographs to the families, to Agostino Da Polenza, an Italian climber who had been coordinating the search on behalf of the Nardi family, [25] and to Italian ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo, it was agreed that the figures were very probably Nardi and Ballard, and certainly an avalanche had to be ruled out. [26]

On 9 March 2019, it was confirmed that the bodies of Ballard and Nardi had been found [27] "in a place that was difficult to reach but everything possible would be done to try and recover them." [2] Footage of the bodies was published by Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo and Alex Txikon with the permission of the families. [28]


NameDirector(s)ProductionAwards [12]
  • Angel Esteban
  • Elena Golatelli
  • KOTTOMfilms
  • Ruggero Arena productions
Best Mountaineering Film, Kendal Mountain Festival 2015

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  2. 1 2 "Tom Ballard: Bodies found in missing climbers search". BBC News. 9 March 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  3. "Tom Ballard Visiting Rockies for Mixed". Gripped Magazine. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
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  11. ""Tom": il film sull'alpinista Ballard conquista i film festival internazionali della montagna". 14 January 2016.
  12. 1 2 Elena Golatelli. Tom.
  13. "Civetta / New Dolomites climb by Tom Ballard and Marcin Tomaszewski". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  14. "Tom Ballard talks Titanic and the Eiger North Pillars". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  15. "Tom Ballard claims world's first D15 dry tooling climb in the Dolomites". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
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  20. "Search operation for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard on Nanga Parbat continues". Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  21. "Nanga Parbat: still no contact with Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. Alex Txikon also available for rescue mission". Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  22. Leger, C. J. (3 March 2019). "UPDATE: Tom Ballard & Daniele Nardi Rescue". Base Camp Magazine. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
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  25. Kington, Tom (2 March 2019). "Father of lost climber Tom Ballard is reliving wife's death on K2". The Times. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  26. "Nardi-Ballard: il riepilogo della giornata di oggi al Nanga Parbat" (in Italian). 7 March 2019.Cite news requires |newspaper= (help)
  27. Leger, C. J. (10 March 2019). "The Search for Tom Ballard & Daniele Nardi Officially Over. Bodies Found". Base Camp Magazine. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  28. "Nanga-Parbat: "Nardi e Ballard sono morti, individuati i corpi"". (in Italian). 9 March 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2019.