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Nejc Cesen on the Slovenian Route (VI 5.11 A0, 900m, Cankar-Knez-Srot, 1987 [FFA: VI 5.12, Albert-Gullich-Munchenbach, 1988]) on Trango Tower (6239m), Karakoram, Pakistan. Matjaz Jeran, Matevz Kunsic and the brothers Nejc and Ales Cesen climbed the route all free in a four-day roundtrip in August 2006. They also made the second ascent of Trango Monk (5850m) in fourteen hours via the formation’s solitary line, Chota Badla (5.10 A2 70 degrees, 450m), which their compatriots Miha Valic and Tomaz Jakofcic established in 2004 in a two-day alpine-style push.
[Photo] Matjaz Jeran

After our unsuccessful expedition to the Trangos in 2004, my friend Matevz Kunsic and I wanted to return to the great people and mountains of Baltistan. This time, the brothers Nejc and Ales Cesen joined us; and with another five Slovenian climbers, we set off for the best golden granite I’ve ever seen. Our goal was an alpine ascent on Trango Tower, and we really wanted to climb it free.

After four days in base camp, on August 19, we summited Great Trango (6286m), our team’s first peak above 6000 meters. No one had problems, and we enjoyed the enticing view of the Slovenian Route (VI 5.11 A0, 900m, Cankar-Knez-Srot, 1987 [FFA: VI 5.12, Albert-Gullich-Munchenbach, 1988]) on Trango Tower (6239m). The next day we climbed Garda Peak (4700m), via Karakoram Khush (5.10d A0, Jakofcic-Mali-Vali, 2004). Two weeks of mostly unstable weather ensued, which we spent doing some shorter climbs and bouldering near our base camp. During one sunny day the Cesen brothers climbed the American Route (5.10, 250m) on Little Trango (5450m).

On September 4 the weather improved, but we decided to wait for a few days for the snow to melt and then try to climb the Slovenian Route on Trango Tower. Three days later we started up the biggest rock needle in the world; it was cloudy and windy, but somehow we were climbing free. After nine pitches we reached the Sunny Terrace and joined the three Slovenian women–Tina Di Batista, Tanja Grmovsek and Aleksandra Voglar–climbing Eternal Flame. The next day was chilly but clear, and we had a great time jamming 5.12 splitters. Eleven pitches took us to bivy ledges (5900m), where we watched the full moon rise from behind Gasherbrum IV.

That morning we climbed some icy 5.11+ pitches, the best of which was a fifty-meter, overhanging 5.11 crack with enormous jugs that led to easier terrain. At 5:30 p.m. all four of us stood on the summit. Ales and I had free climbed every centimeter from the beginning. I felt a little sad that the best climb of my life so far had finished. We rappelled down Eternal Flame and met up with the Slovenian women again; they summited later that day and joined us in the middle of the night at our bivy on Sunny Terrace. In the morning we were all sitting on the sun, drinking coffee and enjoying being tired for our alpine-style ascents.

September 14 was supposed to be sunny, but when we started up Trango Monk at 7 a.m. the day was already cloudy and cold. This time Matevz had some problems with his foot and remained behind. The first six pitches, mostly mixed with lots of fresh snow, belonged to Ales, who was climbing with crampons. On the next four, I got some sun; since climbing 5.11 OW was easier in rock climbing shoes, I was quite happy with my round. Nejc had the hardest job: he climbed in the cold darkness and strong wind. At 9 p.m. he led us to the top of Trango Monk (5850m). It had taken us fourteen hours to make the second ascent of the Monk via our Slovenian friends’ route, Chota Badla (VII A2, 450m, Jakofcic-Valic, 2004). The descent was a horror story of strong wind and jammed ropes; we were lucky to save over half of their length. Eight hours later we drank hot tea in base camp.

Trango Tower had been pure fun in comparison, with the best bivies of our lives. Monk was a true alpine experience that drained us entirely.

I think for some weeks now, we will only climb 5.9 and drink warm beer. Each morning I wake up, I tell myself, “Life is good!”