Trango Tower (6,251m), south pillar, Eternal Flame—Pou Brothers Variant. After arriving in base camp on July 11, mountain journalist Jabi Baraiazarra, my brother Iker, and I spent the next few weeks climbing Eternal Flame. In generally bad weather we spent the first week ferrying loads up to Camp 1 and the next few days fixing lines up to Camp 2 on the Shoulder, at 5,400m. The heavyweight approach was dictated by our desire to free-climb the entire route. After several days rest at base camp we returned to Camp 2 on the 26th, and the following day, after waking up to snow and low temperatures, then checking weather reports via the radio, we fixed ropes up the pillar above. On the way down to camp we checked out the 10th pitch, initially seeing little hope of climbing it free. [This pitch has a 15m bolt ladder in compact granite—Ed.] On the 28th we ascended our ropes and continued to a bivouac at 6,000m on a 50° snow patch. The same day we fixed three more pitches above the site.
Next day, in a weakened state, all three of us reached the true summit of Trango Tower, quite late, and rappelled to our bivouac in the dark. Later that night a severe storm struck, and at 4:30 a.m. high avalanche danger forced us to leave much of our equipment and rappel the ice-covered wall.
After several days rest at base camp, we returned to retrieve our equipment and try to establish a free variation to the 10th pitch. In four more days Iker managed to climb what we have dubbed the Pou Brothers Variant. This 50m pitch at 5,950m required a single bolt to link two crack systems. The hard climbing is in the first part, which Iker redpointed. However, the finishing crack, which is probably no more than 6c, was running with water, and in the prevailing cold he could only climb it with rest points. We estimated the pitch to be 8a, but it could be 7c+, 8a+, or even harder. We hope this effort brings climbers a step closer to the prized first free ascent of Eternal Flame. [The Pous were unable to redpoint pitches 15 and 16, free-climbed at 7c/7c+ and 7c, respectively, by Denis Burdet in 2003. They didn’t have enough time to work on these pitches but are full of praise for Burdet's effort, as the pitches looked extremely hard. They did free-climb all other pitches, and their effort on the 10th pitch makes it clear that a strong climber, in good conditions, can climb Eternal Flame free—Ed.] There were several other teams on Trango, and we enjoyed the camaraderie both at base camp and on the wall.
We are also happy that this route takes us another step toward completing our project Seven Walls, Seven Continents. [Their aim is to free climb a big wall on each continent. Starting in 2003 they climbed El Niño on El Capitan, Zunbeltz on the Naranjo de Bulnes (Spain), Bravo les Filles on Tsaranoro Kely (Madagascar), and the Totem Pole (Tasmania)—Ed.]
Eneko Pou, Spain, translated by Adam French