Norwegians Repeat Historic Trango Route

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Courtesy of Stein-Ivar Gravdal.

A four-man Norwegian team has made the probable second complete ascent of the Norwegian Buttress (VII 5.10+ A4) on Great Trango Tower in Pakistan. Rolf Bae, Bjarte Bø, Sigurd Felde, and Stein Ivar Gravdal climbed the 4,500-foot northeast pillar of Great Trango and then continued to the 20,443-foot eastern summit. The ascent required 27 days, followed by three days to descend.

The first ascent of Great Trango’s northeast face in 1984 was a groundbreaking Himalayan climb—perhaps the first Grade VII big wall completed at high altitude. Stein Aasheim, Finn Daehli, Hans Christian Doseth, and Dag Kolsrud spent three weeks climbing the initial two-thirds of the face, and then, low on food, decided they’d have a better chance of succeeding if two men descended. A week later, Daehli and Doseth completed the wall and continued up about six pitches of difficult ice, snow, and mixed ground to make the first ascent of Great Trango’s east summit. During their descent, however, the two men fell to their deaths about halfway down the wall, and their bodies were buried by an avalanche at the base of the face.

Great Trango Tower’s northeast pillar: the Norwegian Buttress. The stacked pillars are about 4,500 feet high. Photo by John Middendorf —

Since the first ascent, several teams have attempted to repeat the Norwegian Buttress. A Japanese team established an 11-pitch variation and completed the big-wall portion of the route in 1990, but did not make the summit of the peak, and a Spanish team also reached the rim in 1991. In 1992, Xaver Bongard and John Middendorf established The Grand Voyage (VII 5.10 A4+ WI3), which took a mostly independent line up the northeast pillar, sharing three and a half pitches with the Norwegian route above the big snow ledge midway up the route. The Swiss-American duo continued up the mixed ground above the big wall, making the second ascent of the east summit.

The Norwegians found this year that the wall was bigger than it had been 24 years earlier. At the time of the first ascent, a glacier covered the rock slabs at the base of the climb, but now the receding glacier had revealed another 1,000 feet of moderately steep rock that had to be climbed to reach the original start of the route.

Dates of Ascent: May-June, 2008, American Alpine Journal,

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