Asia, Pakistan, Nangma Valley, Shingu Charpa, North Ridge, Attempt
Shingu Charpa, north ridge, attempt. Huge controversy has surrounded the claim by three Ukrainians to have made the coveted first ascent of the formidably long north ridge of Shingu Charpa (a.k.a. Great Tower, 5,600m). Igor Chaplinsky, Andrey Rodiontsev, and Orest Verbitsky arrived at base camp (3,900m) in the Nangma Valley and acclimatized by spending 10 days circumnavigating the mountain, to check out possible descent routes. They found the peak impressive on all sides and realized they would have to rappel the route, an estimated 1,550m high. At first they claimed to have begun their final alpine-style attempt from the base of the ridge on July 20. However, when later tackled by the magazine Alpinist, Chaplinsky acknowledged that on their first attempt they had indeed started from the foot, but after the first day Verbitsky was injured in the eye, and they retreated by descending an easy ramp/ gully that slants across the east face to reach the crest of the ridge at 4,650m, one-third of the way up the route. This ramp has been used by several parties, either to gain or escape from the ridge. On their second, final attempt the Ukrainians used this ramp to short-cut their ascent. They reported continuing to the summit in a five-day push. The trio seems to have climbed at least 58 pitches to the top of the rock, at 5,400m, above which a difficult, dangerous snowy ridge, with snow mushrooms and menacing cornices, and hard ice and difficult mixed climbing up to M5, led to the summit. Chaplin- sky reported finding that on the way down, one of these large formations, beneath which they had traversed on the ascent, had fallen off in the intervening time. Later they stated publicly that they climbed the route completely free at 7a or 7a+ and placed no bolts on the ascent, though three or four for rappel anchors. The team was nominated for the Piolet d’Or. But did they really climb the route free and did they really reach the summit? Kelly Cordes takes up the story.