American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Baltoro Mustagh, Uli Biaho and Trango Groups, Trango Tower, Eternal Flame, All-Female Ascent

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

Trango Tower, Eternal Flame, all-female ascent; Garda Peak, Karakoram Khush, first free ascent. The female part of the Slovenian expedition reported above comprised Tina Di Batista, Alek- sandra Voglar, and I. We definitely provided the spice to the male-dominated climbing society in Trango base camp.

We came to Pakistan open-minded, though with many ideas, but our goals changed as fast as the Pakistan weather. Our first objective, repeating in alpine style the Slovak route, Mystical Denmo, on Hainabrakk East, changed after we watched rockfall bombard the approach gully daily. We crossed off our second goal, an alpine-style repeat of Inshallah on Shipton Spire, after hearing a report from Americans that part of the route above pitch nine had fallen down. So our next goal became the Slovenian Route on Trango Tower in alpine style. After discussion with members of our expedition who wanted to free-climb the route, we realized that we couldn’t all climb at the same time. So we opted for an alpine-style ascent of Eternal Flame. This plan we stuck to right to the summit.

At base camp some of us had problems adjusting to the unclean kitchen and suffered a month of diarrhea. Tina and I were pretty beaten up by the end of the expedition. Although the weather was miserable for much of the time, there were so many of us at base camp that entertainment was not a problem, and waiting for good weather proved easier than expected.

To acclimatize we twice walked up and down the long approach gully to Trango Tower, then we climbed Great Trango Tower (6,287m) by the normal American route on the north flank (ice and snow to 80°, though mainly 40-60°). We reached the summit on August 23.

We also climbed Karakoram Khush (graded 6b AO by first ascensionists Jakafcic, Mali, and Valic in 2004) on Garda Peak (ca 4,700m), where we did a free variation to the first pitch at 6a/b (50m). On the 26th we climbed the whole route free (6a/b, 300m). On the 29th we repeated the pleasant Oceano Trango, feeling it to be 6a+, and then continued for two additional pitches to the top of the tower above, christened Pinocchio. This provided a logical conclusion to the route with a 55m pitch at 5 and a 60m pitch at easy 6a. Bad weather intervened again, and when it finally turned for the better, we had only six days left before our intended departure for home.

Our goal now was a fast and light alpine-style ascent of Eternal Flame. We wanted to reach the summit and more important, come back safe and happy. We climbed as a party of three, with the leader going light and the other two bringing up the gear. We took just two sleeping bags, a stove, one ice axe, and one pair of crampons. The two backpacks were heavy to begin with and felt heavier the higher we climbed. We led in blocks, while the second and third climbers jumared. We climbed most of the lower section to Sun Terrace free, as we did with the snow and mixed pitches leading to the summit. The rest of the route we climbed mainly on aid due to the cold, though there were sections of obligatory free climbing.

Starting from the south col, we took three days to completing the first all-female ascent of the tower. The weather on the first day was poor, but on the second, as we climbed above Sun Terrace, it improved. We bivouacked on the “big ledge” atop pitch 23, where we shivered through the night on a spot just big enough for one person. Not looking carefully enough at the topo, we mistakenly climbed the variation to pitches 20 and 21 put up by the Pou brothers in 2005. This year it was completely dry.

Our third day began with nice weather, but an increasingly strong wind soon chilled us to the bone. At 9 p.m. on September 9 we stood on the summit, screaming with joy while admiring the moonlit scenery. After climbing such a route I was standing on top of Trango Tower with smiling and crying women around me. We regained Sun Terrace at 2 a.m. after loosing a rope, stuck on a rappel. Back at base camp the following night we packed our gear, ready for porters to carry out the following morning. We were only able to really rest once wed reached Skardu.

For us the ascent of Eternal Flame was challenging from the very beginning, and we walked a thin line between going up and going down. We were tired and cold and frostbit fingers and toes, but each of us kept silent and did her job. We climbed the 1,000m route at 6c A2 M5. It was hard, but it was worth it.

Tanja Grmovsek, Slovenia

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