Dodo Kopold on Assalam Alaikum,
a New Route on Great Trango
ClimbAndMore: You’ve always stressed your devotion to alpine style and all your ascents in the Himalaya and Karakoram – the Miyar Valley, Shipton, Great Trango – were done in this style. Can you tell me how much alpine style matters to you?
Dodo Kopold: For me, alpine style means more than reaching a summit. Himalayan climbing has a long history. It is important to know the history of the wall where you climb. Alpine style is the cleanest style and the future of climbing lies in this style. Light and fast climbing on the biggest walls!
You visited the Baltoro Region last year. Then you climbed Khanadan Buttress on Shipton Spire in alpine style. Was it your only aim then or did you have other plans which you had to postpone because of bad weather? Was it then that you chose the line on Great Trango?
Last year on Shipton Spire I wanted to climb the route The Ship of Fools in alpine style, but after a cold bivy during our attempt at the first ascent on a wall of Cats Ears Spire my partner got sinusitis. He had to be treated in the BC all the rest of our stay. And Great Trango? Yes, there was no day without looking at this biggest wall in the Himalaya.
I guess that now, comparing to Assalam Alaikum, you remember climbing on Khanadan as a piece of cake. Am I right?
The American route on Shipton was something different. We climbed the route we knew all about: how hard it is, where the bivies are... But sometimes a repeat of a route can be harder than climbing a new one. You never know how good the climbers who climbed the route were and then the route could be harder than you had thought before.
The descent on that climb was also adventurous. You were hit by a rockfall…
The south face of Shipton is not so steep and it’s dangerous, especially in the morning, when the sun comes to the wall. The rockfall was really big! My helmet was broken but we had lots of luck.
As far as I know your expedition to the Miyar Valley was your first visit to the high mountains. It’s a much remoter region than Baltoro. How would you compare climbing in these two regions?
The Miyar Valley was something unknown for us at that time. A big adventure. Not many expeditions had visited this region before. We had only a little information and one picture of an unknown wall. The Baltoro region is well-known by climbers and that’s why it's not so adventurous. But the climbing is much better in the Karakoram.
“However, we got off the face alive; the climb was perfect and very instructive of all possible traps and hazards of alpine-style climbing in the high mountains” – wrote Voytek Kurtyka about his great climb on the Shining Wall of GIV. I think you could write the same about your ascent on Great Trango. Am I right?
Voytek Kurtyka is my climbing idol and GIV is my next project ;). I think there is always some risk with routes like the one we climbed on Trango. It is about experience, about training, good shape and also about good luck.
I guess that on that climb you were closer to your limits than ever before in your climbing career. Am I right?
I am sure this ascent was the most difficult climb I have ever done. But I am sure it didn't touch our limits.
A lot of pitches of the route were psychologically demanding. Can you describe the character of the hardest ones?
Hmm. The hardest one? Yes, off-widths, pendulums, wet slabs with hardly any protection and loose chimneys. That was hard! I have here something from my diary: “Nothing is easy anymore; the rock is very icy and our gear is all frozen. I am the only one climbing these days - Gabo is losing his sight. The conditions are not improving; it is still snowing heavily and freezing. We can not remember when we last slept.”