American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, "Shipton Spire" Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

“Shipton Spire” Attempt. On July 24, Andy Selters, Chuck Boyd, Mark Bebie and I set up Base Camp at 14,400 feet on the upper Trango Glacier. Our objective was the first ascent of an impressive rock peak, photographed by Eric Shipton. It is about 19,200 feet (5852 meters) high. It lies north of Uli Biaho and west of the Trango Nameless Tower. On July 30, we placed Advance Base at 14,800 feet at the west base of the spire. Over the next four weeks, we fixed ropes on the “wall” section of our route. The climbing was steep and difficult (5.10, A4), protected by hooks, rivets, copperheads and lots of tied-off pins. On several days, progress was 50 meters or less. On August 27, Mark and Andy fixed the last of our 2400 feet of static rope. Three days later, we jümared our ropes, climbed more pitches and bivouacked on the ramp, the first suitable ledge in almost 2000 feet. Three pitches up the ramp brought us to 18,000 feet and a good bivouac. Andy and Mark spent September 1 resting, while Chuck and I fixed several of our lead ropes on the two final rock pitches. The next day, in deteriorating weather, we made our summit attempt. After jümaring the ropes, we traversed on 50° to 60° snow and ice for three pitches. Two long, steep ice pitches and a final snow pitch, our 35th, brought us to 18,600 feet on the summit ridge. At five P.M., we had a difficult decision, whether to spend the night out without stove or sleeping bags in a storm. Disappointed, we began the descent. Rappelling and down-climbing until midnight, we regained our bivouac and spent a wet, unpleasant night. We passed most of the next day in storm descending and cleaning the route. We left Base Camp on September 5. Herds of ibex summer in the Base Camp area. Unfortunately, word filtered down to the army camp at Payu. Soon, with automatic weapons, several soldiers showed up and killed three animals. Although ibex are officially protected, the army is a law unto itself. We informed the Ministry of Tourism at our debriefing. The Minister urged us to publish an account of the killing, presumably to help restrain the army.

Gregory Collum, R.L.M.C.

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