The Trango Towers are a group of dramatic granite spires located on the north side of the Baltoro Glacier, in Baltistan, a district of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan (formerly Northern Areas). They are part of the Baltoro Muztagh, a subrange of the Karakoram range. The Towers offer some of the largest cliffs and most challenging rock climbing in the world. The highest point in the group is the summit of Great Trango Tower, 6,286 m (20,608 ft). The east face of the Great Trango Tower features the world's greatest nearly vertical drop.
Structure of the group
All of the Trango Towers lie on a ridge, trending northwest-southeast, between the Trango Glacier on the west and the Dunge Glacier on the east. Great Trango itself is a large massif, with four identifiable summits: Main (6,286 m), South or Southwest (circa 6,250 m), East (6,231 m), and West (6,223 m). It is a complex combination of steep snow/ice gullies, steeper rock faces, and vertical to overhanging headwalls, topped by a snowy ridge system.
Just northwest of Great Trango is the Trango Tower (6,239 m), often called "Nameless Tower". This is a very large, pointed, rather symmetrical spire which juts 1000 m out of the ridgeline. North of Trango Tower is a smaller rock spire known as "Trango Monk." To the north of this feature, the ridge becomes less rocky and loses the large granite walls that distinguish the Trango Towers group and make them so attractive to climbers; however the summits do get higher. These summits are not usually considered part of the Trango Towers group, though they share the Trango name. Trango II (6,327 m) lies northwest of the Monk, and the highest summit on the ridge, Trango Ri (6,363 m), lies northwest of Trango II.
Just southeast of Great Trango (really a part of its southeast ridge) is the Trango Pulpit (6,050m), whose walls present similar climbing challenges to those of Great Trango itself. Further to the south is Trango Castle (5,753 m), the last large peak along the ridge before the Baltoro Glacier.
Overall, the Trango Towers group has seen some of the most difficult and significant climbs ever accomplished, due to the combination of altitude, total height of the routes, and the steepness of the rock. All of the routes are highly technical climbs.
Great Trango was first climbed in 1977 by Galen Rowell, John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz, Jim Morrissey and Dennis Hennek by a route which started from the west side (Trango Glacier), and climbed a combination of ice ramps and gullies with rock faces, finishing on the upper South Face.
The east face of Great Trango was first climbed (to the East Summit) in 1984 by the Norwegians Hans Christian Doseth and Finn Dæhli, who both died on the descent.
The first successful climb of and return from the East Summit was in 1992, by Xaver Bongard and John Middendorf, via "The Grand Voyage", a route parallel to that of the ill-fated Norwegians. These two climbs have been called "perhaps the hardest big-wall climbs in the world."
The least difficult route on Great Trango is on the Northwest Face, and was climbed in 1984 by Andy Selters and Scott Woolums. This is nonetheless a very serious, technical climb.
Trango (Nameless) Tower
Trango (Nameless) Tower was first climbed in 1976 by the legendary British climber Joe Brown, along with Mo Anthoine, Martin Boysen, and Malcolm Howells. There are at least eight separate routes to the summit.
One notable route is Eternal Flame (named after a Bangles album), first climbed on 20 September 1989 by Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich. This route ascends the South-East Face of the Tower, and was climbed almost entirely free (in stages, using fixed ropes to return to a base each night). This helped inaugurate an era of pure rock-climbing techniques and aesthetics on high-altitude peaks.
The West summit of Great Trango and the Trango Pulpit were both first climbed in 1999. The West summit was climbed by two separate teams, one American and one Russian, almost simultaneously, by parallel routes. The American team of Alex Lowe, Jared Ogden, and Mark Synnott climbed a long, bold, highly technical line which they called "Parallel Worlds." They reported difficulties up to 5.11 and A4. The Russian team of Igor Potan'kin, Alexandr Odintsov, Ivan Samoilenko and Yuri Koshelenko climbed an equally proud route (Eclissi) and encountered similar technical challenges. Both climbs were nominated for the prestigious Piolet d'or award in 1999. The Pulpit was climbed by a Norwegian team (Robert Caspersen, Gunnar Karlsen, Per L. Skjerven, and Einar Wold) over a total of 38 days on the wall. The team reported of difficulties up to A4/5.11.
On 26 August 1992, Australians Nic Feteris and Glenn Singleman climbed Great Trango and then BASE jumped from an elevation of 5,955 metres (19,537 ft) on the Northwest Face, landing on the northern side of the Dunge Glacier at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,779 ft). This was the highest starting elevation for a BASE jump on record. The current Guinness World Record for a BASE jump starting elevation is held by Singleman himself and partner Heather Swan for a jump from 6604 meters (21,667 ft) from Meru Peak in northern India on 23 May 2006.
Some of the more recent ascents on Great Trango have focused on the longer routes found on the west and south sides. In particular, in 2004 Josh Wharton and Kelly Cordes completed a new, very long (2,256 metre/7,400 ft) route on the Southwest Ridge, or Azeem Ridge, to the Southwest Summit. Though not as extremely technical as the East Face routes, the climb was notable for the extremely lightweight and fast (5 days) style in which it was done.
Over 7 days in August 2005, two Slovak climbers, Gabo Cmarik and Jozef Kopold, climbed a new route, which they termed Assalam Alaikum, to the right of the Wharton/Cordes line on the south face of Great Trango. The climb comprised around 90 pitches, up to 5.11d A2. They used a lightweight style similar to that of Wharton and Cordes.
In the same month, Samuel Johnson, Jonathon Clearwater and Jeremy Frimer made the first ascent of the southwest ridge of Trango II, which they termed Severance Ridge. The route involved 1,600 m of climbing over five days, with rock climbing up to 5.11 A2 and ice and mixed climbing up to AI3 M5.
Also in August 2005, a South African team, composed of Peter Lazarus, Marianne Pretorius, James Pitman and Andreas Kiefer, climbed to the summit via the Slovenian route. Pretorius was the third woman to reach the summit.
During May/June 2008, the Norwegian route on the east face of Great Trango (1984) was repeated by the four Norwegian climbers Rolf Bae, Bjarte Bø, Sigurd Felde and Stein Ivar Gravdal, spending 27 days in the wall to reach the summit, and three more days for the descent. This is reportedly the first repetition of the route, and thus also the first successful ascent and return. Rolf Bae died later that summer. He was one of 11 climbers who were killed in the 2008 K2 Disaster.
In mid August 2009, Alexander and Thomas Huber managed to make an all free ascent of "Eternal Flame" on Nameless Tower, with climbing up to french grade 7c+.