During a four day period of good weather between 11th and 14th August Alexander and Thomas Huber managed the first RP ascent of the "Eternal Flame", a creation of the legendary german climbing team Güllich/Albert from 1989.
On the road again! After our successfull expedition to Antarctica, our journey lead us to Pakistan. Seven weeks of expedition in the Karakorum, Trango Group, on Nameless Tower and one of the most beautiful routes of the world: "Eternal Flame". Exactly twenty years ago Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Güllich, Milan Sykora and Christoph Stiegler climbed this juwel in that wild mountain range for the very first time. They've aided only four pitches, climbing approximately 80% of the route free and all that on compact, orange-coloured splitter-cracks with difficulties up to 5.12a. What a milestone for the alpine history! The names of Güllich and Albert, the pictures of the first ascent and their reports have made the "Eternal Flame" one of the most famous high alpine routes in the world. Soon this extraordinary route attracted climbers from all the world.
Already in 2003 Denis Burdet free climbed two of the four aid pitches, with difficulties up to 5.13a. A big step was achieved, but: all the same, "Eternal Flame" had to wait for its first RP ascent, as the 10th pitch with its bolt ladders still hasn´t been freed. And also the pendulum of the second pitch was putting up a strong defence with four meters of featureless granite. Another small piece was added to the mosaic in 2005 when Spanish climber Iker Pou found a possible solution to the problem of the 10th pitch: he discovered a variation to the right of the bolt ladders. He could toprope all the moves with difficulties up to 5.13b, but. , unfortunately, the bad weather prevented him from redpointing that pitch.
In 2009, it had been our turn. On July 24th, we arrived at the basecamp just next to the Trango Glacier. We that is Franz Hinterbrandner with his camera, Mario Walder, Alexander and I. And we've been unbelievably lucky. The weather was till then pretty bad during that season and there were tons of snow in the high Karakoram. Luckily, we were granted a privilege of climbing in good weather conditions. After ten days we were able to establish Camp 2 at the Sun-Terrace. Our curiosity dragged us into the face on the very same day. We wanted to know about the secrets, which the second pitch holds for us. The featureless granite at the traverse was exactly as it has been described to us: featureless. But there was another chance! From the beginning of the pendulum-traverse we climbed straight up along thin cracks for about thirty meters and then traversed left through almost vertical, but featured slabs into the crack-system of the "Eternal Flame". And it worked! We named the two pitches "Come on Baby" and "Light my Fire" - with difficulties up to 5.12a.
After that, bad weather was coming in and we got the very much necessary rest. After three days hanging out in base camp our meteorologist from Innsbruck, Karl Gabel, announced perfect weather for the upcoming week! There was no doubt: We wouldn´t get a better chance! Early in the morning, at 3 a.m., we set off and six hours later we reached our camp 2 at 5.500 meters. After a short break we continued.
From now on, Mario was climbing almost all the time ahead of us, fixing the rope for Franz, who in turn had to do the filming and picture taking during the ascent. (None of the pitches were repeated due to the filming or photographing. All pictures and recordings were not "staged", but taken during the actual ascent.)
Alexander started leading the first pitch, an easy fourth grade. Our target was the RP ascent, meaning we wanted to free climb as a team, swapping leads, without any falls, both on lead and as second, from belay to belay, pitch after pitch. Now came the new pitches, bypassing the pendulum of the original route. "Come on Baby", "Light my Fire", then another short crack-pitch, "Come Together", with which we joined the original route. And we continued climbing. Another three pitches, until we were finally stopped by the increase of melting water coming down the walls from above. That was a perfect start for us!
The next day: as a warm up we climbed up along the ropes, which we fixed on the day before. Then we went on, the first pitch being 5.11a, not hard, but "refined" with an icy glazing. "Eternal Burning", the 10th pitch, the key to success! Here Iker Pou had discovered a free variation to the right. A slab traverse, a hard boulder problem, leads into a completely ice-covered crack. From 2 p.m. this frost crust would turn into a waterfall. Good idea, this variation, but only conditionally feasible... Four meters further to the right we discover a trace of a crack, which after 20 meters leads us into the upper, dry part of the crack from the Pou-Variation. We named the first pitch "Wish you were here", and the second "Burn for you", both of them being 5.12d. Another, easier pitch, a perfect hand-jamming crack, was the perfect wind up for the second day of our journey through the route.
Day 3: perhaps already the summit day? The first three pitches from a great ledge were posing no great problem. The best imaginable climbing, ideal jamming cracks, and then came the disenchantment. Perhaps only fifteen meter high, therefore all the more extremely thin, was the slightly overhanging finger crack. Being 5.12d it is a not so easy to overcome obstacle, which turned out to be somewhat time-consuming: only after a very intensive bouldersession we were able to crack the hard nut. For that the following 5.12d-pitch finished us off completely. Finally we were able to climb it, nevertheless we've had to postpone the summit day by another day. But we thought: "Hey, what's the rush. According to Charly, the weather should hold for another two days, and he's always right!"
Day 4: Still two 5.11-cracks to go, then easy to the summit. There we were, all four of us: Mario, Franz, Alexander and I. Surrounded by all the giants of Karakoram standing, we were overwhelmed by the great adventure we've just experienced. It sounded like a rock song, written exactly twenty years ago by our great idols Wolfgang Güllich and Kurt Albert. And now we've had the pleasure to add a couple of new lines to the best rock´n´rollsong of the Karakoram: "Come on Baby, light my fire! Let's come together! Darling, do you feel my heart beating? Hey, do you feel the same? Am I only dreaming? I wish you were here, I burn for you! I watch you when you are dreaming, you belong with me. Say my name. Sunshine through the Rain, a whole Life so lonely. Ease the Pain! I don't wanna lose this Feeling , it's the Eternal Flame!" - a declaration of love for a very special moment.
Information about the film by Franz Hinterbrandner under www.timeline-production.de
We recommend the best Partner for Trekking and Expedition in the Karakorum the Agency Shipton Treks and Expedition www.shipton-trekking.com
Shipton Treks & Expeditions is a self-help project under the auspices of the charitable, non-government, non-profit-making organization "Himalaya-Karakorum-Hilfe e.V.". It was founded in order to let the inhabitants of Baltistan - also known as "Little Tibet", situated in the heart of the Karakoram - participate in the profits from tourism. The agency helps locals to find employment and earn a livelihood. This is the only chance they have to improve their situation by their own efforts and to secure their subsistence in the long term.
We would like to thank our sponsors:
We give thanks for their support:
Quick Cargo Service München, Strobl Solar, www.timeline-production.de
Unseren speziellen Dank:
Wer wohl?! Na klar: "Charly" Karl Gabel, Alpine Wetterwarte Innsbruck, für den besten alpinen Wetterbericht weltweit.
Journalisten stehen ausführliche Hintergrundberichte und Bildmaterial
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