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The south and west faces of Trango Tower (6239m), showing Gran Diedre Desplomado (VI 5.11 A4, 1100m, Delale-Schaffter-Fauquet-Piola, 1987). In July, the Swiss team of Francesco Pellanda, Giovanni Quirici and Christophe Steck, accompanied by photographer Evrard Wendenbaum, made the second ascent of the route, freeing all but three pitches. [Photo] Evrard Wendenbaum

Despite the iconic status of Pakistan’s Trango Tower (6239m; see Alpinist 11‘s Mountain Profile for complete route details), one of the world’s most compelling blades of stone has only two completely free routes to its summit: the Slovenian Route (Cankar-Knez-Srot, 1987), freed in 1988 at 5.12b by Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Gullich and Hartmut Munchenbach; and the Cowboy Direct, a direct start to the 1988 Swiss-Polish Route (VI 5.10 A3, 1100m, Kurtyka-Loretan, 1988) freed at 5.13a in 1995 by Steve Bechtel, Mike Lilygren, Bobby Model and Todd Skinner. By far the most famous “free” route on the formation, Eternal Flame (VI 5.12c A0, 35 pitches, Albert-Gullich-Stiegler-Sykora, 1989), remains, in fact, only partially free; the best effort to date was made by Denis Burdet in 2003 at 5.13a and A0.

In mid-July, a Swiss team comprising Francesco Pellanda, Giovanni Quirici (first free ascent of the 14-pitch Arctandria in northern Norway at 5.13c) and Christophe Steck, accompanied by the photographer Evrard Wendenbaum, attempted to add a third all-free route to the Tower, via the Gran Diedre Desplomado (VI 5.11 A4, 1100m, Dedale-Schaffter-Fauquet-Piola, 1987) on the west pillar. This route involves considerable amounts of hard aid climbing, more or less confirmed by the highly experienced Spanish big-wall climber Alfredo Mandinabeita, who attempted the second ascent of the route, solo, to half height in 2004. After twelve days’ work, and five nights on the wall, the Swiss reached the summit on August 2. Though they had completed the route’s second ascent, they had used aid on pitches 13 (A4), 15 (A3) and 16 (A3). They estimate the 13th pitch would go completely free at around 5.13b. It is notable that despite the efforts of some of the world’s best climbers, the Tower continues to put up a stiff challenge.