Three U.S. climbers made a 12-hour ascent of the Eternal Flame route on Trango (“Nameless”) Tower in Pakistan, but were kept from the true summit by a fierce snowstorm. Micah Dash, Nick Martino and Renan Ozturk climbed the 32-pitch route with no fixed lines or bivy gear, reaching the shoulder of 20,469-foot Trango Tower around 5 p.m.
The team first attempted the climb in a good weather window immediately after they arrived at the base; they climbed 22 pitches before pounding headaches and stomach problems sent them down. Two more attempts ended at a huge ledge system eight pitches up. On their final climb, they timed their ascent from the base of the Slovenian Route, which leads to the big ledge system, and then followed Eternal Flame to where it joins the British first-ascent route on the summit ridge, about 300 feet of snowy, fourth-class climbing from the true summit. It snowed for the last four hours of their climb, and they rappelled in a full blizzard.
Eternal Flame was pioneered in 1989 by Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich, with mostly free climbing on superb crack systems. Earlier this summer, the Basque brothers Iker and Eneko Pou attempted to free the route, but tough conditions forced them to use aid during two pitches in their successful climb to the summit.
In an email, Dash said of his speed climb, “The ascent was good but not to the summit. I think it is significant because of how fast we went.” The previous fastest ascent of Eternal Flame is believed to be a two-day ascent (after two fixed pitches at the base) to the same point reached by this year’s team, by the French couple Antoine and Sandrine de Choudens in 2003. In 2000, Timmy O’Neill and Miles Smart attempted a single-push ascent, climbing to within about six pitches of the top in 12 hours; a second attempt ended after eight hours, two pitches below their previous high point, when O’Neill pulled a piece and took a 100-foot whipper. A Slovenian trio made the only alpine-style ascent of the complete route last year over three days.