According to many climbers late summer weather in Karakoram is very suitable for rock climbing so our group chose that time to visit the Trango glacier and towers. We were nine: girls’ party Tina Di Batista, Tanja Grmovšek and Aleksandra Voglar, youngsters Matjaž Jeran and Matevž Kunšič, Nejc and Aleš Česen and “veterans” Silvo Karo and me, Andrej Grmovšek. We arrived to Islamabad on the 6th of August. Flights to Skardu were impossible due to bad weather and the KKH road was also blocked by some landslides and destroyed bridges. We finally made it to Skardu by van in three long days and continued to Trango base camp on foot. The changeable weather persisted for most of our 25-day stay with only three perfectly cloudless days. The first two sunny days on 19th and 20th of August led into a totally bad week of rain and snow at the beginning of September. However, the second week in September brought stable and warmer conditions. Weather permitting, we wanted to climb as much as possible.
Silvo and I decided to climb rather then walk to the unnamed and unclimbed peak in Uli Biaho group. On 17th of August we climbed Warming up ridge (V, 6b, 450m, 700m long, 6h) to its summit and named it Uli byapjun (cca 4800m). We were back in BC for dinner. After a day of rest we headed again to Uli Biaho group. We found the way to the base of an unclimbed Uli Biaho Great Spire (5594m) on our first climb. After an afternoon approach through a big gully we bivouacked and then started at the col in early morning of 20th of August. We climbed via NE wall and S ridge to the rocky summit. The route Three hundred eggs (V+, 6b+, 600m, 800 long, 8h) was named after ordering more food for our cook. We were back in BC for late dinner on that same day. Again we took only one rest day. On 23rd of August we stood on a summit of Great Trango (6286m) together with Sandra, Tanja and Tina. We did the normal route from Nameless col in snowy and changeable weather. Our acclimatization plan was achieved and we were rested and ready to attack. But the weather was not on our side. For entertainment we ended up craging in the walls right above the base camp. The best of “base climbs” was our first ascent of Piranski zaliv (V+, 7a obl. R, 650m, 800m long, 8h) on 31st of August in the wall above base camp, which we christened Base camp slabs (cca. 4700m). All our first ascents were without bolts, we used some pitons for few rappels only. But after a few more days of bad weather we decided to clean filled cracks, we exfoliated granite, and improved the line of Piranski zaliv. We added a single bolt to otherwise unprotected slaby crux (another 7a, R, crux is still without bolt).
Our time was already running out, high summits were packed with snow from the continuous snowfall but we got a favorable weather forecast for the last few days of our stay. In such conditions a fast, one-day attempt in legendary Eternal Flame in Nameless tower (6239m) was the only possible and interesting idea for us. The route is steep, sunny and there was the least amount of snow in it. On 7th of September at 4 a.m. we started climbing from the south col. I was leading first half of the route and Silvo was jumaring the harder pitches and climbing the easier ones with a small pack we had. We met the other two Slovenian parties on the shoulder at 8 a.m. They started the day before with Sandra, Tanja and Tina heading for Eternal flame as well and Matjaž, Matevž, Nejc and Aleš heading for the Slovenian route. I used some aid when we were traversing and overtaking the girls’ party in the first few pitches above the shoulder but then climbed the rest of my leader block free. We switched the lead on a small ledge on pitch 19 and were already on the big ledge by 2 p.m., just 6 pitches before the end of the rocky wall. There, the snow shower with icy wind caught us and stopped us for half an hour. After it was over we climbed with aid and at a slower pace due to cold conditions and harder pitches. At 9 p.m., after two hours of climbing in the moonlight, we finally came to 150m below the summit where snowy mix terrain begins. We thought we would summit very soon but were slowed down even more by the snow and mix terrain up to M5. We were tired and had only one set of ice gear for the lead climber, with the second climber having to climb through snow in lightweight snickers. We reached the summit just before midnight. We rappelled trough the night without problems and were back at the col at 4 a.m. Our 24 hour roundtrip marathon reminded us of our similar marathon on Cerro Torre in year 2005 (32 hours roundtrip “Sitting start for C. Torre”, 1700m). In retrospective, the Cerro Torre climb is much longer but the climb on Nameless Tower is at higher altitude combined with a lot of free climbing, which makes it more challenging. We climbed the Eternal Flame route at grade VI, 7b, A2, M5, 1000m. We arrived here with high hopes of great climbs and after all the bad weather we endured we climbed a few great routes and headed back home the following day.
by Andrej Grmovšek, september 2006
foto: Andrej in pitch "Give me your hand", Eternal flame, Trango Nameless towermore photos on http://grmoclimb.net/?str=7&aid=26