Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Trango Group, Shipton Spire, New Routes and  Attempts

Publication Year: 2005.

Shipton Spire, new routes and attempts. The expedition of the Slovak Mountaineering Union was in Pakistan from July 17 to September 8. Our main goal was to climb Shipton Spire and some surrounding peaks. The expedition had 10 members: leader Igor Koller, vice-leader myself (Vladimir Linek), doctor Ivan Zila, members Gabo Cmarik, Martin Heuger, Dodo Kopold, Dino Kuran, Miro Mrava, Jozef Santus, and Brano Turcek. We received perfect services from the trekking agency Blue Sky Treks & Tours. From Islamabad we traveled two days to Skardu by microbus via the Karakoram Highway and continued by jeeps to Askole; from there we walked three days to base camp at 4,400m on the Trango Glacier below Uli Biaho, two hours from Shipton Spire. Quick progress in hot weather with altitude difference of 1,500m caused health problems for some members. Base camp was on a very nice grass meadow.

During our five weeks’ stay the weather was almost always bad, with snow and rain in base camp. There were only nine days of good weather divided into three short periods. According to local people this summer was the worst during the last 20 years. In spite of this fact one Slovak team summited Shipton Spire, another team did a hard first ascent on central part of the face, and the next three climbers were close to finishing a new line on the right side. So it is possible to say that this expedition was successful. Our ascents:

Kopold, Kuran, and Santus did the first repetition of Khanadan Buttress (McMahon- Wharton, 2002), alpine style in two days. On the first attempt during the first period of good weather Kuran, Santus, and Zila slept in the middle of the mixed southwest face. Dino Kuran was stopped by an offwidth crack that he was not able to protect. The snowy face in this part was quite dangerous. They decided to quit the climb. After long thinking and preparation they returned to this route during the second good period of weather. This time the team consisted

of Kopold, Kuran, and Santus with tubes to protect the offwidth crack. They completed the route and were on the top of Shipton Spire on August 15 at 19:00, joining the small list of about 20 climbers who have reached the summit. After that they rappelled down partway to a bivy, then returned to base the next day. During the descent they had a good luck in a big rockfall avalanche: only a broken helmet and some small wounds.

The couple Miro Mrava and Brano Turcek wanted to make a first ascent on the left part of Shipton Spire, where there are still no routes. They found the approach terrible via a dangerous glacier, so they decided to change their goal (maybe this is the reason why there is no route there). They chose a line in the central part of the face between Women and Chalk (Mauro Bubu Bole, 2001), and Akelarre (Eskibel-Lar- ranaga-Ortiz, 2000) below the main couloir on the top. They started climbing on July 28. The first two pitches went to a big tower. From the top of this tower they climbed up via plain slabs to a crack system 100 meters above. During the periods of good and bad weather they climbed during eight days to above the huge triangle overhang two-thirds of the way up the face. On the 15th they committed to the face and built a portaledge camp named Tatry. They were 300 meters below the ramp leading to the right.

The next day, on the 12th pitch, Miro was badly wounded by a falling rock. They decided to stop their climb and returned to base camp. After healing in base camp they returned to the face on August 22. During the next two days only Brano was able to climb, Miro was on belay, and on the 24th they climbed several pitches on the ramp and joined the Spanish route, Akelarre, that evening. Because of Miro’s injuries, they decided not to continue to the summit. They named the route Knocking on Heaven’s Door. It is pity that they did not knock on the top of Shipton. (Knocking on Heaven’s Door, 1,000m, 17 pitches, 8 A4, Miro Mrava and Brano Turcek; two bolts on belays, seven bolts on pitches).

The next team, consisting of Gabo Cmarik, Igor Koller, and me, tried to make the first ascent of the right part of the face. The first pitch is the same as Ship of Fools (Ogden-Synnott, 1997). Then we broke out right to the overhanging face. After seven days of climbing we had fixed 10 pitches for 400 meters of height gained. We climbed mostly free, so had to wait for sunny weather. Finally, 11 days before departure from base camp to Askole, we decided to climb in any weather.

During the first three days of good weather we established a portaledge camp below the big roof (perfect protection from falling rocks) and climbed three pitches in a big overhang. During the next seven days the weather was very bad; it was snowing and raining and the situation was complicated by the illness of Gabo Cmarik. We had to spend one day with a rescue operation, lowering Gabo down the face. Igor Koller and I climbed again on the face on August 30, one day before departure from base camp. We fought bad weather on the upper part of the face during hard aid climbing through big overhangs, and finally three meters below the easier terrain and 70 meters below the ramp where we would join Ship of Fools, we finished our ascent at 5,600m because of huge waterfalls on the face. We had climbed 17 hard pitches graded up to 8 A3, which was about 95% of the line.

Besides these three ascents we made several attempts that failed because of bad weather or health problems. Dodo Kopold and Martin Heuger tried to make a first ascent on Cat’s Ears Spire; Kuran and Santus tried to repeat the American Route on Hainabrakk Tower; and again Kopold and Heuger tried to climb Trango III.

This region has perfect possibilities for new hard rock and mixed first ascents. We want to return to the Baltoro Glacier in 2005 to finish our climbs.

Other climbers on Shipton Spire in 2004 included:

Two Spanish climbers, Oriol Anglada and Toti Solé, arrived at base camp July 10. They tried to climb Inshallah (Davis-Harvey-Shaw, 1998), reaching Camp 3, but due to several rock- falls and bad weather they decided to end the climb and left for home July 23.

Three Bulgarian mountaineers, Strahil Geshev, Milkana Ruseva (wife of the Bulgarian mountaineer Nikolai Petkov, who summited Mt. Everest in 2004), and Stanimir Zhelyazdov did a new variant to Ship of Fools. They started via the American attempt Bebie-Boyd-Collum-Selters (1992), and from the top of the tower they turned to the right; after six new pitches they joined Ship of Fools. Due to bad weather they did not finish the climb, and on August 10 they left for home.

Vlado Linek, Slovakia, Slovak Mountaineering Union