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GREAT TRANGO TOWER, HAINABRAKK EAST TOWER AND SHIPTON SPIRE
Posted on: March 1, 2006
Eight climbers from Slovakia (Gabo Cmarik, Andrej Kolarik, Igor Koller, Jozef Kopold, Pavol Pekarcik, Juraj Podebradsky, Erik Rabatin—and myself, Vladimir Linek) and four climbers from Czech Republic (Milan Benian, Martin Klonfar, Petr Piechowicz and Miroslav Turek) were in the Baltoro Region, July 26 to August 31. Gabo Cmarik and Kopold wanted to climb a new route alpine style on the south face of Great Trango Tower, to the right of the 2004 American route, Azeem Ridge. They started early the morning of August 4 in good weather with two small packs, food for four days, no sleeping bags, no pads, no fixed ropes and no walkie-talkie. They had intended to simulclimb the first 1000 meters, but the terrain was difficult and they pitched it out, slowing their advance. The second day it rained and snowed. On the fourth day they reached the headwall. That night was cold (-15 degree C), with strong wind and heavy snow; without sleeping bags, the pair endured a hard bivy. The next day they progressed slowly over icy rock and deep, new snow. On the fifth day, below the summit ridge, they ate their last bit of food. Finally at noon on their seventh day of climbing, they reached the ridge. They had climbed more than 3000 meters and encountered vertical cracks, many pendulums, wet slabs with poor protection, and shattered chimneys.
They intended to descend the normal route, but because of the amount of snow on the ridge, they decided to rappel the Russian Route on the northwest face. Though they expected the descent to be difficult, it was harder than they anticipated: their rope was shorter than the Russians', and they had to use mostly their own belays. Since they had only eight bolts and four pitons, they made most of their raps from one piece of protection. Exhausted, they descended the rest of the afternoon and through the night. Kopold was hit by an avalanche and plunged 150 meters before stopping, while Cmaarik slipped on icy slabs and took a thirty-meter fall. After sixteen hours of rappelling, they reached Trango Base Camp at 5 a.m., August 11, having left three pitons and two bolts for pendulums on the route, and eight bolts and the rest of their equipment on the descent. They named their route Assalam Alaikum (ABO: VII 5.11d A2, ca. 90 pitches).
On August 6 Kolarik and Rabatin began climbing on Hainabrakk East Tower (5651m) with the goal of establishing a new line directly up the middle of the wall. Bad weather forced them to retreat to base camp three times. They climbed the first half of the route big-wall style, with fixed ropes, and the second part alpine style. Their climb, Mystical Denmo (VI 5.11a/b A2, 1400m), consists of mostly crack climbing with some boulder problems between two crack systems. They reached the summit on August 23, and the ground five days later.
In 2004 Koller, Cmarik and I had attempted a new line on the east face of Shipton Spire (6017m). This year Koller, Podebradsky and I, together with cameraman Pekarcik, tried to finish the project. We started our climb on August 1, fixing ten pitches to a big, W-shaped roof, then continuing to our 2004 high point.
We went back to base camp August 7 because Cmarik and Kopold had been missing for several days on Great Trango. After Cmarik and Kopold returned, Koller, Podebradsky, Pekarcik and I began to climb Shipton again. On August 13 we jumared to a ledge two-thirds of the way up the face, where we bivouacked. Over the next two days we joined the American route Ship of Fools (VII 5.11 A2 WI6, 1350m, Ogden-Synnott, 1997) on the small snowy col of a side ridge. Our route, Prisoners of Shipton (8 A3, 900m), was done, but we wanted to reach the top of Shipton via Ship of Fools. The weather deteriorated on August 16, and as we had no tent or bivy sacks, we retreated.
On August 19 we returned to the col, this time with a tent. It snowed heavily the next night. In the afternoon we climbed the first two rock pitches on the ridge in bad conditions, and the next day we climbed three more difficult waterice pitches. On August 22 Koller's fall cut short our summit attempt, and we slowly descended to the col. After one rest day Koller and I left the col alone at 3 a.m. and reached the end of our fixed ropes at 5 a.m. Over the next ten hours we covered difficult and dangerous terrain, and at 4 p.m. a severe storm engulfed us near the top. We reached the summit ridge and climbed one more pitch, but at 5:30, some eighty meters from the summit (where the American topo indicates "easy terrain to the top"), we decided to retreat in the face of dangerous cornices, hard climbing and approaching storm. We spent the next eight hours descending in strong winds and heavy snow on the complicated ridge, attaining the col at 2 a.m., twenty-three hours after our departure.
After fixing two pitches, Martin Klonfar and Miroslav Turek climbed Ship of Fools alpine style in four days to the col, where they waited two stormy days before backing off. From August 14-16 they climbed fifteen pitches of Prisoners of Shipton and then withdrew in threatening weather.
Vladimir Linek, Bratislava, Slovakia
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