Summer in the Karakoram
25 SEP 2000
Several North American teams met with mixed success in the Karakoram this summer, with much of the activity focused on the Trango Glacier area.
Married couples Steve Schneider and Heather Baer, and Brian McCray and Roxanna Brock pulled off the first ascent of Haina Brakk* East tower, just ahead of Mike Pennings and Jonathon Copp
. The team took a line on the southwest face of the tower, with the goal of freeclimbing it. Their first few forays got them a third of the way up the route, but logistical problems forced them to turn back. Once those were worked out, they jumared back their highpoint and embarked on their successful two-week ascent.
After encountering less-than-wonderful rock on the middle wall, the team reached the upped third of the tower and were greeted with outstanding stone. "The upper part was definitely the good part, especially up higher on it," says McCray.
"There's a golden section up high, where there was a wide chimney. There were a couple of chimney pitches. There was a pitch right under that was a perfect golden corner with a nice hand crack in it. That ws definitely the best part. I got to lead most of that, so that was the best for me. Steve led the summit pitches -- the last four pitches or so-- and a lot of those were like 5.10+ hands and fingers with beautiful white rock. Those were really nice."
Their route, For Better or for Worse, went all free at Grade VI 5.12a.
Yosemite speed masters Miles Smart and Tim O'Neill made a strong attempt on the unclimbed West Ridge of Great Trango, but were turned back just a few pitches below the summit ridge. They spent four and a half days in a single push up the route, but on the fifth day snow and strong winds forced them into a day-and-a-half long descent in the storm, with over 7000 feet of rappelling.
The duo also made a couple of attempts at speedclimbing Eternal Flame (Grade VI 5.12c) on Nameless Tower. On their second attempt, only nine pitches from the summit after just nine hours of climbing, O'Neill took a 120-foot whipper that left him badly bruised, but otherwise unhurt.
Sean Isaac of Canada, and Nils Davis and Todd Offenbacher
of the U.S. made a foray into the largely unexplored Kharidas Valley in the Hushe region. In 1999, an Italian party was the first to explore the area, which requires 5.9 climbing just to get into it.
According to Isaac, much of the rock in the region is of poor quality, but the team found a suitable objective. "Our route took the striking south arete of a beautiful pyramid-shaped spire on the north side of the glacier, about a two-hour hike from Base Camp." The trio went for a swift one-day ascent, taking no bolts or pitons, resulting in some heady runout sections.
"The last pitch almost forced a retreat," says Isaac, "because it was very loose with little opportunity for protection. Despite this, Nils found a way through the crumbling flakes pulling 5.10+ moves above marginal gear." After a moment on the summit, they began a series of rappels that consumed a good portion of their gear and half the night.
They dubbed the route Azad [free] Kashmir (V 5.10+ R, 700m) and named the peak Ibrahim Brakk (5200m) in honor of their Balti cook, Ibrahim Munna.
*Haina Brakk East. The tower we now know as Shipton Spire so named by Greg Collum was previously known in European texts and maps as Hainablak, which led its neighboring tower be dubbed Hainablak East. According to Central Asia Institute director Greg Mortenson, Mr. Husseinabadi, a noted Balti linguist, has determined the true name to be Haina Brakk (phonetically "aa-ee-na brok"), meaning "Glass Mountain." It is likely that the name Shipton Spire will continue to be used in Western climbing literature, but the name used for the neighboring spire can at least be revised.
Matt Stanley, MountainZone.com staff
SEE ALSO: Forbidden Towers | Great Trango '99
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