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Trango Group

Polish climber Wawrzyniec Zakrzewski on the warm-up route Oceano Trango (5.10a, 300m), Base Camp Slabs, Trango Base Camp, Karakoram, Pakistan. (Uli Biaho Tower [6109m] is prominent in the left-hand corner of the photo; Hainabrakk East Tower [5799m] is the smaller formation in the center.) Zakrzewski and his partnersMaciej Ciesielski and Jakub Radziejowski were one of a number of teams active in the area in Autumn 2006; in addition to Oceano Trango, the Poles made the first ascent of Garden Peak (ca. 4600m) via the route PIA (5.11c A0, 540m); the first ascent of Pretty Close (5.10d, 430m) on Sadu Peak (ca. 4400m); and Let’s Go Home (5.12b C1, 670m, Ciesielski-Radziejowski-Zakrzewski, 2006) on the south-southwest face of the First Tower on the southwest (Severence) ridge of Trango II (6327m). [Photo] Jakub Radziejowski

Trango Group, Various Activity. Since many climbers had told us late summer in the Karakoram has the best rock-climbing weather, we chose that time to visit the Trango towers. There were nine of us Slovenians: the women Tina Di Batista, Tanja Grmovsek and Aleksandra Voglar; the youngsters Matjaz Jeran and Matjaz Kunsic; the brothers Nejc and Ales Cesen; and the “veterans” Silvo Karo and myself. As it turned out, unstable weather would continue for most of our twenty-five-day stay. But each time the snow abated, we climbed as much as possible.

For our acclimatization, instead of walking up the dangerous and boring Trango gully, Silvo and I ran to an unnamed, unclimbed peak in the Uli Biaho group. On August 17, in six hours, we climbed the Warming Up Ridge (V 10d, 450m) to its summit, named it Uli Byapjun (ca. 4800m) and were back in base camp for dinner.

At the beginning of the only two totally cloudless days (August 19 and 20) we headed to another unclimbed Uli Biaho summit. After an afternoon approach through a big gully, and a bivy, we arrived at the col in the early morning. For eight hours we climbed the northeast face and the south ridge to the rocky summit of Uli Biaho Great Spire (5594m) and named the route Three Hundred Eggs (V+ 5.11a, 600m) after a request we’d made to our cook. We returned to base camp for his late dinner that same day.

Again we took only one rest day, and by August 23 we stood on the summit of Great Trango (6286m) with the women, having climbed the Selters-Woolum route (ice and snow up to 80 degrees, mainly 40 degrees-60 degrees) in snowy, unstable weather. We were now well acclimatized and ready, but the forecast was not, so we did some cragging on the Base Camp Slabs (ca. 4700m) above camp, including an eight-hour first ascent of Piranski Zaliv (V+ 5.11d R, 650m) on August 31. All these new routes were established without bolts. But after a few days of bad weather, we cleaned Piranski Zaliv and added a bolt to one of the unprotected slabby cruxes (another 5.11d R crux is still boltless).

Continuous snowfall had plastered the high summits, but we got a nice forecast for the final few days of our trip. The only possible and interesting idea left was a fast, one-day attempt on Eternal Flame (VI 5.12c A0, thirty-five pitches, Albert-Gullich-Stiegler-Sykora, 1989) on Trango Tower (6239m). Steep and sunny, the route would likely have the least snow of any of the Tower’s lines. On September 8 at 4 a.m. we started from the col. I led the first half, while Silvo jumared the harder pitches and climbed the easier ones with a small pack. At 8 a.m. on the Shoulder we met all the other Slovenian parties (Sandra, Tanja and Tina were also going up Eternal Flame, while Matjaz and Matevz, Nejc and Ales were headed for the Slovenian Route). As we overtook the women above the Shoulder, I used some aid, then climbed the rest of my block free. We switched the lead on Pitch 19. At 2 p.m. we’d already attained the big ledge just six pitches before the end of the rock, when a snow shower and an icy wind stopped us for half an hour.

We began to climb more slowly, mostly aiding because of the cold and the technical difficulties. At 9 p.m., after two hours in the moonlight, we were 150 meters below the summit. The deep snow and the M5 terrain had tired us. With ice gear only for the leader, the second had to climb in lightweight sneakers. We reached the summit just a little before midnight, then rappelled through the night and were back at the col at 4 a.m.

The twenty-four-hour round-trip marathon reminded us of our 2005 “Sitdown Start” on Cerro Torre. But while our Patagonian climb had been much longer (thirty-two hours and 1700 meters), this Karakoram one had taken place at a higher altitude, with a lot of free climbing: VI 5.12b A2 M5, 1000m.

–Andrej Grmovsek, Maribor, Slovenia