Alpine Climbing Mecca Karakoram –Eternal Flame
I had major expectations on my expedition to Pakistan. My main goal was to climb the Trango Tower, but already before I started the journey and saw the Karakoram with my own eyes, I hoped, more than anything else, to find some kind of a personal Mecca in this mountain range. I wanted to leave my eyes wide open for new, future challenges …
Right away I can say that my expectations were not disappointed. Already the journey to Skardu and after that the approach to Trango Base Camp were impressive. We felt like we were in a new world. As if we opened a bottle of wine – with every step we took, we gathered the flavor of unknown valleys, ice covered mountains and steep walls. Every sip was a pleasure.
The rock throughout the Trango Valley and on Trango Tower in particular has five star quality and reminded me of the time I spent in Yosemite. The colors of the walls, together with the surrounding mountain scenery are even more impressive though. Peter and I could not restrain our motivation and at the first occasion started an attempt to put up a new route on Trango Monk and just a few days later on Great Trango. We quickly realized though that we were not acclimatized well enough and had to descent 100 meters below the summit of Trango Monk and 50 meters below the summit of Great Trango.
Anyway, our focus was set on the route "Eternal Flame", shining down on Base Camp since it was first climbed back in 1989. To spot this delicate system of cracks and corners and to be bold enough to imagine it being climbable has a distinctive handwriting to it – the one of Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich. The comparison might seem far-fetched, but this invisible handwriting reminded me of when I climbed their route "Locker vom Hocker" in the Wettersteingebirge in Austria last year.
With the given snow conditions and Charly Gabl’s predicted bad weather front in the back we had to decide against a free climbing attempt already at Base Camp. We put our tactics on a quick ascent and started thus light towards the sunny terrace. The climbing up to there was extremely tedious. The sun was burning down mercilessly on our heads and because of the many other teams that were on the route with us we made very slow progress. It was not what I had expected and it was far from what I wanted. When we arrived at the sunny terrace I felt really bad. I had a headache, felt sick and I did not even want to think about the upcoming day of climbing. There was no chance we would summit tomorrow, I thought.
To my surprise, however, I felt a lot better the next morning and no later than when I hung in the first pitch, all my sickness from the day before was forgotten. Ahead of us laid hundreds of meters of fine picture-book cracks. Peter and I climbed pitch by pitch. We browsed through the encyclopedia of crack climbing: finger cracks, crack hands, fist cracks, offwidths, ... everything was there. We made good progress and followed the path of the first ascentionists to the summit. Also, Corey Rich, who accompanied us as a photographer for the 150 peak project of Mammut was well despite a lack of acclimatization. After almost 10 hours, we reached the summit. All three of us were quite exhausted and Corey already showed some slight signs of altitude sickness and so we quickly abseiled down to the sunny terrace.
After two days of rest in Base Camp Peter and I already continued our journey towards Chogolisa (7.665 m), where we want to use our remaining time to gain more experience in high altitudes and climb into new heights. Unlike at Trango Base Camp, we are completely alone here. In a few days already we will have to head back towards civilization, so we hope that the weather gods will have mercy with us and grant us suitable conditions on the mountain. For now, it does not look good, but we'll see, or - as we say here: Inschallah.