|In mid-July a five-man Austrian expedition comprised of Thomas Scheiber, Hansjörg Auer, Matthias Auer, Karl Dung and Ambros Sailer spent 40 days in Pakistan's Trango Valley. During this time period they established two new routes, "Winds of Change" 7a+ on the E Face of Little Shipton (ca. 5400m), and a nice nameless mixed line graded M5 up Trango Peak (6545m).
Furthermore, the Tyroleans repeated a string of existing routes, including above all the first repeat, not completely free, of "Woman and Chalk" on the Shipton Spire. As many will remember, this line was first ascended by the Italians Mauro Bubu Bole (on-sight), Mario Cortese and Fabio Dandri in summer 2001. The team established fixed ropes in the lower section and then carried out an alpine-style rush to the summit. Here's their story of the long-awaited first repeat and their impressions about the route.
Austrian Shipton Expedition 2006
Thomas Scheiber, Hansjörg Auer, Matthias Auer, Karl Dung, Ambros Sailer
14.07.2006 - 24.08.2006
"Woman and Chalk"
The route ascends the central section of the 1200m high East Face of Shipton Spire. The route follows a long system of cracks and corners. The start is at circa 4250m. The lower section is characterised by cracks and corners. After 14 pitches you reach the "Bed and Breakfast", a small platform just about big enough for two portaledges. This is followed by the three hardest and most beautiful pitches. Difficulties ease off considerably in the upper section. Bubu Bole terminated his route on the crest. From here you can continue for 8 pitches (predominantly mixed) up "Ship of Fools" to the summit. The rock quality in the lower section isn't ideal.
Thomas and Hansjörg swung leads. Ambros fought his way up with the haulbag. The 3 climbers used a combination of fixed rope and alpine style to reach the summit.
19. July: pitches 1 - 4
22. July: pitches 5 - 11
23. July: pitches 11 – 14.
"Bed and Breakfast" and installation of portaledge. 450m of fixed ropes set on lower section. Return to Base Camp.
26. July: Jumar to "Bed and breakfast", fix a further 4 pitches with half ropes and another static rope. Night spent in portaledge.
27. July: Climb of upper section of the route in alpine style in 10 hours from "Bed and Breakfast" to summit.
28. July: removal of portaledge and fixed rope, return to Base Camp.
Route and grade
We have to congratulate Bubu Bole for his performance on the Shipton Spire. To climb such a route with such an uncompromising line from the ground up in 13 days commands respect. In particular, since he on-sighted all the pitches. Almost all belays are equipped with two bolts, there are some in-situ pegs along the route.
Repeating the route in complete alpine style may prove difficult as there are no good bivvy sites in the lower section. Furthermore, water supply is a relatively difficult issue.
We didn't have perfect conditions. Some sections were wet or iced over, which meant that we climbed all sections except for a few free. As all know, recently there has been a true "grade battle" - all use superlatives in search of attention. I reckon that only those who have repeated a route in exactly the same style (in this case all pitches on-sight) has the privilege of downgrading a route.
Personally I reckon that the grading on a couple of pitches is too high, although grading is always very subjective. I'm no specialist at crack climbing but I feel that the grade 8a for the crux is overrated. Let's not forget though that many other factors come into play in an alpine environment, such as the route conditions, the weather or the intended climbing style. And i need to add that many pitches were graded perfectly: I remember for example a demanding long run-out on a 7c pitch...
Little Shipton (ca. 5400m):
New route "Winds of Change" up the 550m high E Face, also first ascent of this peak. Thomas Scheiber and Hansjörg Auer, alpine style.
Grade: up to 7a+, 14 pitches.
Trango Peak (6545m):
Presumably first ascent of this summit via the 2300m high West Face. Matthias Auer and Karl Dung in one day from Shipton Base Camp.
Grade: M5, ice up to 55°.
Shipton Spire (ca. 5700m):
First repeat of "Woman and Chalk" in the 1200m high East Face in 5 climbing days at the ands of Thomas Scheiber, Hansjörg Auer and Ambros Sailer. First complete ascent to summit.
Grade: up to 8a (according to first ascentionist), ice up to 90°, 36 pitches.
Nameless Tower (6239m)
"Eternal Flame" alpine style in two days from Trango Base Camp and in 8 hours from sunterrace to summit. Thomas Scheiber and Hansjörg Auer
Length: 800m. Grade: up to 7c+ (7b, A2), 28 pitches.
Great Trango (6286m)
"Woolums Route" (normal route) in 2 days from Trango Base Camp. Matthias Auer and Karl Dung.
Grade: II, III, ice up to 55°.