Slovaks Climb Huge Ice Line on Uli Biaho

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Slovaks Gabo Čmárik and Jozef “Dodo” Kopold traveled to Pakistan’s Karakoram in early season in search of difficult ice, and they came away with two new routes, including the first ascent of the 7,000-foot northwest face of Uli Biaho.

The two climbers’ first target was an ice line on 19,000-foot Hainabrakk East Tower. On their second attempt, on June 8, they started at midnight and climbed steep ice for about 3,000 vertical feet. After one bivouac, they reached the summit ridge but could not pass a rock tower at around 17,600 feet to continue to the true summit. They next attempted the unclimbed north face of Shipton Spire, but illness sent them down after about 1,500 feet of climbing.

During the night of June 23, they started up the dangerous couloir below the northwest face of 21,053-foot Uli Biaho. Reaching the base of the main face, they started with several hundred feet of vertical ice and then continued until dark, chopping a ledge in the ice for a brief, cold bivouac with no sleeping bags. Starting again, they encountered the crux pitches, with thin ice barely attached to the rock. The summit was a snow mushroom only big enough for one climber at a time; they belayed 30 feet below the top, took turns climbing to the fragile peak, and then rappelled all night to reach the base, 54 hours after starting. The new route is Dratissima (VI/6 ABO). Comment on this story