American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Baltoro Muztagh, Great Tango Tower, Norwegian Pillar

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Great Trango Tower, Norwegian Pillar. The groundbreaking ascent of the Norwegian Pillar in 1984 is still the most outrageous line ever attempted by Norwegian climbers, and their story is the most profound in our climbing history. It was therefore with mixed feelings that Rolf Bae, Bjarte Bo, Sigurd Felde, and I trudged up the Dunge Glacier, a less-visited arm leading north from Pakistan’s famous Baltoro. We were goggle-eyed and screaming at the out-of-this-world scenery one minute, and walking past the memorial for Hans Christian Doseth and Finn Daeli the next. Thoughts of their deaths during the descent from the first ascent of the pillar were unavoidable and constantly lurking in our minds. On April 30, when we finally looked up at the stunning beauty of the line, we knew that the climbing ahead would take all we had—if we had it.

We’d heard some nasty stories about the intro gully, but it didn’t look too active, probably due to our early-season arrival. It took us six days to ferry our gear and a 30- day supply of food and gas to the last sheltered spot, working mainly during the night. A two-day snowfall delayed our progress and plastered the entire pillar, but the sun soon tidied things up, and we left our fantastic base camp crew on May 5.

A long night and four more pitches took us across the gully to a semi-sheltered camp at the foot of the pillar. The next day, Bjarte was rammed by an avalanche while running out our 200m static rope across the snow-covered initial pitches. Luckily, the blocks that hit him were ice-free and he kept his stance, if not his cool.

Fantastic ice-filled crack lines took us up the lower part of the pillar to our next camp. Here we managed to drop Rolf’s sleeping mat, and then Sigurd failed to put the lid on his piss bottle, leaving Rolf, who was now sleeping on top of his down kit, to marinate.

It was remarkable to climb the same ground we’d had in mental images from Stein P. Aasheim’s book covering the 1984 ascent. After more than a week at the base of the upper pillar, fighting incredibly bad conditions, we finally managed to move camp into unknown territory. This is where Aasheim and Dag Kolsrud had descended in ’84, thus extending their friends’ food supply and ending the supply of photos.

Our last camp was pitched on the very apex of the upper pillar. (If anybody can come up with a more exposed campsite, let us know!) From here we fixed four ropes to below the snow rim, where a 70° Cerro Torre-style snow ditch took us to the summit ridge, and then on to the east summit at 6,230m. We climbed 2,100m in 55 pitches, the crux being around new-wave A3+. We spent 30 days on the wall, including three days for the descent.

Stein-IVAR Gravdal, Norway

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