American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Baltoro Mustagh, Uli Biaho and Trango Groups, Uli Byapjun; Uli Biaho Great Spire, First Ascent; Base Camp Slabs, Piranski zaliv; Trango Tower, Eternal Flame, One-Day Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Uli Byapjun; Uli Biaho Great Spire, first ascent; Base Camp Slabs, Piranski zaliv; Trango Tower, Eternal Flame, one-day ascent. Many climbers say that late summer weather in Karakoram is more suitable for rock climbing, so our group chose that time to visit the Trango Glacier. We were nine: a “girls’ party” of Tina Di Batista, Tanja Grmovšek, and Aleksandra Voglar; “youngsters” Matjaž Jeran, Matevž Kunšic, and brothers Nejc and Aleš Cesen; and “veterans” Silvo Karo and I. However, once at base camp, changeable weather prevailed for most of our 25-day stay. The only two totally cloudless were August 19 and 20, with a week of continuous rain and snow at the start of September. The second week of September was warmer and more stable.

Instead of acclimatizing by walking up and down the big couloir leading to Trango Tower, Silvo and I climbed smaller peaks. On August 17 we ran across the Trango Glacier to an unnamed, unclimbed peak in the Uli Biaho group. We climbed Warming up Ridge (450m but 700m of climbing, 6b) in six hours, gaining the crest from the couloir to the right. We reached the ca 4,800m summit and named it Uli Byapjun. We were back at base camp in time for dinner.

After a day’s rest we headed back to the Uli Biaho group. We reached the bottom of a big couloir below the unclimbed Uli Biaho Great Spire, a 5,594m summit to the southeast of Uli Biaho Tower, and climbed through the afternoon. After a bivouac we started from a col to the south of the peak early in the morning of August 20. We climbed a northeast-facing wall to the crest of the south ridge and followed this to the rocky summit. The route Three Hundred Eggs (600m but 800m of climbing, 6b+) took eight hours and was named after our request for more food from our cook. We were back in base camp for a late dinner the same day.

We took one rest day and on the 23rd stood on the summit of Great Trango (6,286m) with Sandra, Tanja, and Tina. We followed the normal route in changeable weather. Our acclimatization plan now achieved, after a rest we were ready for bigger things. However, the weather was not obliging, so we continued cragging on slabs and walls above base camp, repeating the recent Belgian route, Oceano Trango. The best of our base camp climbs was the first ascent of Piranski zaliv (650m but 800m of climbing, 7a obl. R), which we completed in eight hours on the 31st. This route lies on a face that we refer to as Base Camp Slabs (4,700m, the formation climbed by Oceano Trango). None of our ascents required bolts, and we used pitons for a few rappels only. However, a few days later we decided to clean vegetated cracks and exfoliated granite on Piranski zaliv to make a better route. In doing so we added a bolt to one of the cruxes, an unprotected slab, leaving the other 7a R crux in its original form.

Time was running out, and the high summits were plastered with snow, but we got a nice weather forecast for the last few days of our stay. A fast, one-day attempt on the legendary Eternal Flame on Trango Tower (6,251m) was the only interesting goal, as the route is steep and sunny. On September 8 at 4 a.m. we started climbing from the south col. I led the first half of the route, and Silvo jumared the harder pitches, climbing easier ground with the small sack. At 8 a.m. we arrived on the shoulder and met the rest of our group, who had started the previous day. Sandra, Tanja, and Tina were also headed for Eternal Flame, while Matevž, Matjaž, Ales, and Nejc were going for the Slovenian Route. While overtaking the girls on the first few pitches above the shoulder, I used some aid but climbed the rest of my leader block free. We switched leads on the small ledge atop pitch 19 and by 2 p.m. were at the big ledge just six pitches below the top of the rock wall. There, a snow shower with icy winds froze us, and we stopped climbing for half an hour. After the storm, we made slower progress, mostly aiding due to the cold and the pitches being harder. At 9 p.m., after two hours climbing in moonlight, we reached the point 150m below the summit where mixed terrain starts. We thought the rest would go quickly, but there was a lot of snow and mixed climbing up to M5. We were tired and with only one set of ice gear, the second had to climb the snow pitches in a pair of lightweight sneakers. We reached the summit a little before midnight, rating the 1,000m route VI 7b A2 M5. Rappelling through the night without incident, we regained the col at 4 a.m. Our 24-hour roundtrip marathon reminded us of a similar, long single push on Cerro Torre in 2005, where we climbed the 1,700m partial new route, Sitting Start, in a 32-hour round trip. Although that climb was far longer, Eternal Flame is at a much higher altitude and has more free-climbing. The next day we left for home.

Andrej Grmovsek, Slovenia

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