Asia, Pakistan, Karakorma, Panmah Muztagh, Trango Tower (6251 m), Alpine Style Ascent of Eternal Flame (Though not to Summit)

Publication Year: 2004.

Trango Tower (6,251m), alpine style ascent of Eternal Flame (though not to summit). In early July Eternal Flame also received a very spirited attempt to free climb it by the French couple, Antoine and Sandrine de Choudens. This pair wanted to climb the whole route alpine style and for that needed prior acclimatization. To achieve this they walked in via the Hushe Valley, crossed the Gondorkoro La (5,650m) and reached Concordia in five days from the road at Hushe. Two more days were needed to reach base camp at 4,000m on the Trango Glacier. On July 14, two days after arriving at base, they spent six hours reaching the foot of the tower via the standard approach couloir, then climbed and fixed two pitches (7a+) of the Slovenian Route. On the 15th they climbed 10 pitches to the Shoulder and set up camp, fixing the first three pitches of Eternal Flame (7a+) before retiring for the night. The pair started next day at 3:30 a.m. jumaring the ropes then carrying on up a series of excellent cracks. The route continued to be steep and sustained and by midday the clouds were rolling in. At this stage their arms were so tired that aiding the remaining pitches became the only option. They eventually reached the junction with the original 1976 British Route just 80 meters below the top, but by this time night was fast approaching and it had begun to snow. Turning their backs on the easy mixed ground above, they reluctantly decided to go down, reaching their tent on the Shoulder at 11 p.m.

Next day was sunny and, exhausted from their previous efforts, the pair descended to base camp. Apart from the bolt ladder on pitch 10, it is thought that Antoine free climbed the route as far as pitch 20, after which he aided to the top. Tragically, this very accomplished climber (see his feature article in AAJ 2003), with many first ascents around the world including Everest without oxygen, was killed in Tibet the following autumn.

From information provided by the late Antoine de Choudens, France