Pakistan’s First Big Wall Climbing Expedition

By Imran Junaidi

Usman Tariq – a good friend and solid climber – suddenly became excited for the Trango expedition during our discussion about the lines at Trango Towers.  I had been planning big wall climbing expedition since 2011. While, 2 years old dream was becoming a reality after a work out of less than 2 hours.

First Mile Stone ( 5.10, A2, 4 pitches, 110m) on on Trango Braak (4150m), Central Karakoram National Park, Baltistan, Pakistan. Pakistanis Imran Junaidi and Usman Tariq

First Milestone ( 5.10, A1, 4 pitches, 110m) on  Trango Braak (4150m) Central Karakoram National Park, Baltistan, Pakistan. Imran Junaidi and Usman Tariq

Once the plan was finalized we started to search for these questions that lingered on in our minds. What is the weather like, what kind of climbing techniques would suffice, diet, rock quality and probability of accidents and what not. Since this expedition was the country’s first of its like we had absolutely no one to guide  thoroughly. John Arran was working in Pakistan a few years back. He told us many things regarding  climbing techniques, John’s book “Trad Climbing+” also helped us a great deal as we learned many valuable things. His wife Anne Arran was also very helpful to settle the queries. For more information we turned to other senior and more accomplished climbers via e-mails yet there was a lot that needed to be sorted out.

View of Trango Towers

View of Trango Towers from Trango Glacier

We took NETCO  to travel from Islamabad to Skardu and hired a Jeep to reach Askole. After 3 days trekking we finally dined at Trango base camp. Next morning our porters lend us a hand to establish Camp 1 at the height of 4800 meters. The weather forecast predicted calm weather but once we got there we saw nature taking its toll on us. Heavy snowfall covered the area with thick white sheet. Despite that we established camp 2 at the height of 5200 meters but eventually we had to give in and within a day snowfall made it impossible to climb Little Trango the route we originally planned. Under such circumstances we climbed a pitch at Nameless Tower and decided to descend to base camp.

After restoring energy, we evaluated different options at Trango Braak and discovered some really good options at a distance of about 200 yards in the south west of Trango Lake.

We narrowed down the options to 2 lines, one seemed virgin as there were partial signs of the route being cleaned on other line therefore, we resorted to the virgin line. On the first day we only managed 20 meters due to late start of the climbing and much of our efforts and time was utilized on cleaning the route. Next morning, we had a very clear mission to remove the grass and clean the route. If  gardening were an Olympic sport, we’d be medal contenders. I consumed couples of hours to gain an altitude of 50 meters from the base. Usman proved himself to be a very  consistent  belayer.

Pitch 2, Imran Junaidi, guardening. A very tiring position.

Pitch 2, Imran Junaidi bridging to clean the cracks with a very tiring position. Photograph by Usman Tariq

After establishing a belaying station at the top of  2nd pitch we tried to evaluate some options  to hang Portaledge, I could see an anchor with red sling at right line which was at the distance of about 10 to 15  meters and confirmed an unknown attempt on the other line. But, that was not our planned destination. It was getting dark and the other anchor was however, looking comparatively a better option to hang Portaledge. After top belaying Usman, I climbed in the dim light of head lamp to reach to the anchor point of third pitch. At 8 pm, we were in Portaledge.

Portaledge hanging at 3rd pitch

Imran Junaidi in Portaledge hanging at 3rd pitch. Photograph by Usman Tariq

Next day, we climbed another pitch of 50 meters which was logical end of the route. We left only two green slings ( half ropes) at the top of 4th pitch and 3rd pitch. The expedition was completed without using  bolts.

Top of the 4th Pitch

Usman Tariq at the  4th Pitch

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