Posted on: September 19, 2007

Welcome to Crackistan (5.12d A3, 500m) on Zang Brakk (4800m), a climb John and Anne Arran established this August, in Pakistan's Nangma Valley. The pair had hoped to free Bloody Mary (5.12c A2, 500m) on Denbor Brakk (4800m) and this new line; although neither line was freed completely, the Arrans attest that Welcome to Crackistan would become "one of the most continuously hard jamming routes on any big wall." [Photo] John Arran and courtesy of

The Sheffield, England husband and wife team of John and Anne Arran (veterans of the first free ascent of Venezuela's Angel Falls: read Anne's Climbing Note from Issue 12) had a successful foray in the Nangma Valley of Pakistan this August, nearly freeing the existent Bloody Mary (5.12c A2, 14 pitches, 500m) on Denbor Brakk (4800m) and establishing the new Welcome to Crackistan (5.12d A3, 500m) on Zang Brakk (4800m). Although neither route was freed completely, the couple resorted to minimal aid—one pitch on each route—and claim that their new route, if freed, would be "one of the most continuously hard jamming routes on any big wall."

The Arrans intended to climb Bloody Mary completely free. Strong Czechs, Vasek Satava and Pavel Jonak, established the line in 2004, freeing up to IX- with a pitch of A1 and another of A2. The British couple climbed the first ten pitches free on natural gear, including the A1 pitch (which went at 5.12c, left of the original offwidth), but encountered problems on the A2 pitch. Opting not to place additional bolts out of deference to the Czechs, the Arrans aided through the A2 then toproped it at around 5.12d. John Arran stated that "the addition of two further bolts to the pitch would be in keeping with the nature of the other hard pitches and would make the climb one of the best, hardest, and most varied lines in the region."


Still keen, the pair then looked to a completely new line, which beautifully splits the 500-meter southeast pillar of Zang Brakk. An Austrian team had ventured up the first half of the route at 5.12c but were stymied by blind, unprotectable seams and retreated. Again climbing capsule-style, the Arrans nearly pulled the entire route free and onsight, choosing a variation to the intended Austrian line. Unfortunately, five days of snowy and unsettled weather ambushed the team, and the couple was unable to free the crux pitch, having run out of food and water. However, John worked the moves on toprope and claimed "the fingertip layback crux would make a great free pitch at around E7 6b or 8a/5.13b, although it may need a bolt or two for protection." The pitch was aided on miniature peckers and knifeblades at around A3. After a total of nine days on the face, the Arrans finally topped out Zang Brakk. "As nearly all of the 500m route's seventeen pitches involve hard crack climbing (including six pitches of 5.12)," they said, "Welcome to Crackistan must rank as one of the most continuously hard jamming routes on any big wall, and now awaits a completely free ascent."

Sources: John Arran, 2005 AAJ,, and

John Arran on Pitch 7 (5.11) of Bloody Mary (5.12c A2, 500m). [Photo] Anne Arran and courtesy of

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