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TRANGO II, SEVERANCE RIDGE
Posted on: March 1, 2006
Trango II (6327m) is the major snow-capped peak immediately north of the Trango Towers massif. On August 15-19 Samuel Johnson, Jonathon Clearwater and I made the first ascent of a 1600-meter ridge on its southwest side and named it Severance Ridge (VI 5.11 A2 AI3 M5). We took food for three days; the climb lasted five, during most of which foul weather battered us.
The climb began up a steep 900-meter rock face thirty minutes north of Trango Base Camp. We encountered more than a dozen sustained 5.9 to 5.11 pitches on this face; the crux pitch involved underclinging a steep arch before pulling through a roof. We simulclimbed into the night along a knife-edge to reach a bivy. In the morning we soloed up a mixed gully then simulclimbed moderate rock on a steeply ascending ridge crest as the weather got bad. By noon we had climbed to the base of a steep headwall, but snow accumulation on the rock hindered us. We found a sheltered cave and bivied.
The headwall, which we dubbed "the Shield," is a particularly blank feature—save for the perfect hand crack up its center. The crack, however, narrows, then disappears altogether at half-height. Sam blasted the crack in two pitches, finishing with thin aid and an aggressive pendulum. With only blankness above, Jonathon next aid climbed left around an arete to arrive at an exposed hanging belay just as a raging storm began. Since retreat was the only other option, I painstakingly aided a long pitch best described as a flaring offwidth garden, using an ice tool for excavation. At its top, the offwidth required nerve-wracking climbing: a single tipped-out number four Camalot served as a moving point of aid. We finished the Shield in the dark with a burly, sustained, pitch-long fist crack.
After an unpleasant night, we began climbing along the final narrow ridge crest as yet another squall hit us. We soon came upon a series of gendarmes that forced us onto the left side of the apex. Every pitch involved sustained 5.10 traversing along flaring, thin crack systems. Sam attempted a difficult pitch in the dark, with poor protection, narrowly avoiding a huge pendulum fall before he wisely retreated. We opted to fix our rope and rappel into an adjacent gully to bivy. Not having eaten that day, we had trouble staying warm overnight.
On the fifth and final morning Sam led several ice and mixed pitches up the gully to reach the end of the final knife-edge at the summit snow slopes. Exhausted but elated, we traversed the snow slopes, then began our descent immediately (without visiting the summit), down climbing then making six rappels below Trango Monk to reach the Trango Tower approach gully trail, which we followed to the valley bottom.
Jeremy Frimer, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada