A joint Czech-Slovak expedition visited the Baltoro from July 26 to August 31. The team comprised eight climbers from Slovakia: Gabo Cmárik, Andrej Kolárik, Igor Koller, Jozef Kopold, Pavol Pekarcík, Juraj Podebraský, Erik Rabatin, and I. There were four climbers from the Czech Republic: Milan Benian, Martin Klonfar, Petr Piechowicz, and Miroslav Turek. Cmárik, Kopold, Koller, and I had climbed in this region during 2004 and had unfinished projects. In particular Cmárik and Kopold wanted to climb a new line in alpine-style on the south side of Great Trango (6,286m), right of the 2004 American route, Azeem Ridge.
The two started on August 4 in good weather, taking only two small rucksacks and food for four days, no sleeping bags, no mats, no ropes for fixing, and no radios. They planned to move together up the first 1,000m but found the terrain more difficult than expected and were forced to belay. Their progress was slow and not helped by rain and snow throughout the second day. On the fourth day they reached the headwall. That night was very cold, with the temperature down to -15°C, a strong wind, and heavy snowfall. The pair endured a difficult bivouac without sleeping bags. After that, icy or snow-covered rock slowed them down even more. On fifth day they ate their last food and didn’t reach the summit ridge until day seven [this was the summit ridge of the ca. 6,250m Southwest summit and not the main summit—Ed.]. The overall length of their climb was more than 3,000m and involved many pendulums, wet slabs with poor protection, and loose chimneys.
Cmárik and Kopold intended to traverse the Southwest summit and descend via the normal route [it is not necessary to cross to the main summit in order to gain the normal route—see AAJ 2005 pp. 14-23 on the ascent of the Azeem Ridge—Ed.) but, due to large amounts of snow on the ridge, decided instead to rappel the huge northwest face. They descended through the afternoon and all the next night. At one point Kopold was avalanched 150m. At another point Cmárik fell 30m down icy slabs. At 5:00 a.m. on the 11th, after 16 hours rappelling, they reached Trango Base Camp.
Their route, named Assalam Alaikum, had ca. 90 pitches, with difficulties up to VIII and A2. They left three pitons and two bolts (for pendulums). On the descent they had only their rack, five pitons, and eight remaining bolts for making ca. 60 rappels. They rappelled the face from right to left, crossing the Russian and American routes (and using their rappel anchors), to reach the gully on the left of the face.
Andrej Kolárik and Erik Rabatin climbed on Hainabrakk East (ca. 5,650m), with the goal of completing a logical direct line up the central pillar in the middle of the face. They started on August 6 but due to bad weather had to return to base camp on three occasions. They fixed and climbed the first half of the route big-wall style. They completed the second half in alpine-style, reaching the summit on the 23rd. Mystical Denmo gives 1,400m of climbing, with 34 pitches up to VII+ and A2, mainly following cracks. [This new route starts up the 2000 Copp-Pennings line, Tague it to the Top, then moves left to climb directly to the central pillar on the south-southeast face. In the upper half it climbs very close to the Copp-Pennings line, cutting through its leftward horizontal traverse—Ed.]
Koller, Podebradský, cameraman Pekarcík, and I worked on Shipton Spire (5,885m). In 2004 Koller and I, with the help of Cmárik until he became ill, climbed 17 pitches of a new line up the right edge of the southeast face. Bad weather stopped us just 100 meters below the notch on the northeast ridge where Ship of Fools comes in from the left (AAJ 2005, p. 347, photo). Last year we returned to complete it.
We four started up the route on August 1. Through generally unsettled weather we climbed and fixed 10 pitches to a roof shaped like the letter W and dubbed Cassiopeia. In 2004 we had cached rope there. On the 7th we returned to base camp, worried that we might have to organize a rescue for Cmárik and Kopold, who were long overdue on Great Trango. After the latter two returned safely, Koller, Podebradský, and I began a second attempt. On the 13th we jumared to a ledge at two-thirds height on the face, where we bivouacked. Over the next two days we completed the wall, reaching the notch where we joined Ship of Fools. Although we had climbed the new ground, we wanted to reach the summit. However, on the 16th the weather deteriorated, and as we had no bivouac equipment, we retreated.
We regained the notch on the 19th, this time with a tent, but during the night there was heavy snow, which prevented us from climbing till the afternoon of the 20th, and then only the first two rocky pitches up the ridge. On the 21st we managed three difficult pitches of ice covered with fresh snow and the following day went for the summit. However, Koller took a fall, and the team retreated to our camp at the notch. The 23rd was a rest day, and on the 24th we decided that only Koller and I would go for the summit. By 5:00 a.m. we two were at the end of the fixed ropes, in clear, cold weather. With Koller in the lead, we climbed for 10 hours up the sharp ridge, overcoming two towers and a four-pitch ice headwall plastered with snow. At 4:00 p.m. we were hit by a vigorous 30-minute snow storm. At 5:30 p.m., only 80m from the summit, we decided to retreat. We had reached the point where the American topo indicates easy terrain to the top, but we were faced with much snow, dangerous cornices, and hard climbing. As the next storm blew in, we started rappeling and regained our tent in the notch at 2:00 a.m. We named the new route as far as the notch Prisoners of the Shipton (900m), which gave 21 pitches up to VIII and A3. Above, the 14 pitches coinciding with Ship of Fools to the summit ridge gave difficulties of VIII- and WI5+.
After fixing the first two pitches of Ship of Fools, Martin Klonfar and Miroslav Turek made a four-day alpine-style ascent as far as the notch. They waited there for two days in bad weather and on August 9 retreated. From the 14th to the 16th they climbed the first 15 pitches of Prisoners of the Shipton but again were forced by bad weather to descend.
Vlado Linek, Slovak Mountaineering Union, Slovakia A full article on the Cmárik-Kopold ascent of Assalam Alaikum will be found earlier in the Journal.