Bivies must have been especially terrible. How do you remember the nights you spent on the wall? Which one was the hardest? What did you take as bivy gear? Only bivy sacks?
We had only a bivy sack and our clothes. Our first night was without water or cooking because during the first day we had had with us only 3 litres of water and we had finished it at midday. Dehydrated we waited till the next morning. The next night we were wet on a small ledge. Rocks were falling and we were stuck listening to rock-and-roll. The night was horrible. On the fourth day we stayed till morning on a snowy col under the headwall. It was very cold. During the night the temperatures dropped to 15 Celsius below zero with heavy snowfall and strong wind, making sleeping impossible.
And the last night on the wall: “We were trying to get some heat from our gas stove, but it got knocked down. It could easily have been a disaster and we could have got suffocated”.
It’s often said that on alpine ascents you have a one-way ticket, you burn your bridges behind you. When do you think you reached a “point of no return”, where the only or at least the easiest ‘way out’ led via the summit?
Our aim was to climb the south face of Great Trango, a wall perfect for alpine climbing, but extremely dangerous in bad weather. If the weather gets worse and it starts snowing, it can be a problem to go back. We had known this very well before we started. The only way back was via the summit. I think on the second day, when it started to rain, after 1000metres of climbing, our way back was impossible.
As it often happens on such climbs, the descent turned out to be the most dangerous part of the climb… Which moment do you remember as the worst?
We finally reached the summit at lunch time. One trouble finished, another started. With the snow falling for the last few days it became obvious that our original plan to descend down the normal route was now impossible due to avalanche conditions, so we decided to choose a safer but technically more difficult route of descent on the west face. We had only eight bolts, four pitons, friends and nuts. We were not sure if it was possible.
At seven o'clock at night we managed to descend half of the wall. I took a 150m slide with an avalanche and lost one rope. I was very lucky to get out and stop.
It was dark and in the distance we saw the lights of the Trango Base Camp, but nobody came to help. We were lost and extremely tired. Gabo also fell on a steep icy slab and was disappearing very fast. After about 30m he luckily managed to stop.
On our 8th day we were hardly moving. We found our lost rope. Only a few hundred meters left but I felt I could not do it anymore. I kept falling down and hoped to walk another 10m and then another… I kept calling my mate Gabo… or was I just imagining it?
At five o'clock in the morning Gabo was lying in the dust at the Trango base camp. I joined him. We were no more able to move. Somebody gave us a hand. We had done it, more than 3.000m of climbing, eight days from our departure.
It’s said that it takes a long time before you recover psychologically after such a climb. You can’t do it too often. Would you agree? Can you say you’re already ready for a next challenge or do you still need time?
After this route we spent the next 3 weeks in the BC. We wanted to climb again. Nameless Tower, Uli Biaho... But our feet were swollen. I think my mind doesn’t need to recover after the expedition. Just my body. We both have a very strong mind and we can start to train again for the next expedition.
So what about future plans? Are you thinking about alpine style ascents on even higher mountains?
As I said at the beginning: the future of climbing is alpine style, climbing light and fast on the biggest walls. Now we are able to climb 8a rock, M10 mix and our experiences are better than before. For the next expedition we’re going to Patagonia and next summer to Gasherbrum IV.
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