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Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Shipton Spire, Women and Chalk, First Ascent

Shipton Spire, Women and Chalk, first ascent. Italians Mauro “Bubu” Bole, Mario Cortese, and photographer, Fabio Dandri, put up the impressive all-free Women And Chalk on the South East Face roughly mid-way between Inshallah and the line of the 1992 American attempt. The team acclimatized around base camp in unsettled weather, before starting the first pitch on July 26. By August 10 they had completed the first 500 sustained meters and moved a portaledge camp on to the face in a little alcove at the top of pitch 14. Five days later they reached the summit ridge and junction with the 1997 Ogden/Synnott route, Ship of Fools. To that point the team had climbed on 13 days with Bole leading all 29 pitches on-sight, including the crux 16th pitch, a 30-meter rounded jamming and layback crack dubbed the California Crack and rated F8a. At various stages during the ascent Bole then re-led a number of pitches for the camera. Twenty-three of the 29 pitches were 6c or above with 13 of these either 7b or harder. Some but not all of the belays were bolted (by hand) and two bolts plus a number of pegs used for protection (the protection bolts were used on pitches two and five, both 7b+, where there were very wide cracks). The climbing took place from approximately 4500m to 5700m with a total of 1100 meters of rope fixed, and the high point on the snowy summit ridge appears to be less than 150 vertical meters below the top of the Spire.

Bole averaged no more than 100 meters of climbing per day and on a number of days was only able to direct his energy to leading one hard pitch. He fell once, when a hold broke on one of the less demanding pitches around half-height. However, deciding that he had made a mistake with the line, he lowered to the belay and led an adjacent crack, thus upholding the on- sight ethic for each pitch of the final climb.

And the name of the new route? In Bubu’s words, “Women and Chalk are the two essential elements in our life. There is always some chalk on our hands and a woman in our hearts, though to tell the truth, if it were the other way around life would be a lot easier.”

Mountain INFO, High Mountain Sports 234