Pakistan Climbing Trip Report

Pakistan Climbing Trip Report

  • Posted by kaleigh
  • On September 18, 2018
  • Comments

The following story was written by Front Ogden member Wyatt Edwards about his recent climbing trip to Pakistan!

If you’re inspired by big mountains and alpine objectives, chances are you’ve drooled over photos of the Karakoram. With peaks such as K2, Latok, and the Trango Towers, the drooling is justified. Our crew (myself, Jackson, and Scott) had all been inspired by Nameless Tower in the Trango ValleyThe discussion about climbing there had started almost a year before the trip took place. Although we were all intrigued, it still seemed like a long shot. The idea was pushed to the back of our heads as we dove into desert season. Then January came around and Jackson called saying that there were one-way flights to Islamabad for $400. This is unheard of! So, we pulled the trigger, bought three seats, and began the visa application process. This is where Jackson was the real MVP – he took care of the majority of the application process, and the hoops you have to jump through to acquire a Pakistani visa is unreal. Between phone calls with the consulate in Los Angeles and translating emails from our guiding outfitter in Pakistan, it was quite the fiasco, but 6 months later we received the visas with just a few weeks to spare. In that 6-month period we had quite a few discussions about what it was that we wanted to climb. We had our eyes set on Nameless, but we knew that Shipton Spire was only a couple more hours up valley – it was taller, just as aesthetically pleasing, and it suited our climbing style a little better. Thus, we changed our sights and Shipton was the new objective.

Before we knew it, we were heading to JFK and en route to the Karakoram. Travel went smoothly  – we only had to sleep in one airport and all of our gear showed up in Islamabad. We took a flight to a small city called Skardu where we met with our guide and cook and planned out the logistics of getting to base camp. From Skardu we took a 7-hour Jeep ride further into the mountains to a village called Askoli. This is where sh*t got real. From Askoli, we started the hike into the Karakoram. It took 3 days to get to camp with 15 or so porters and a few donkeys. In the last 3 seasons, nobody had been to the Shipton basecamp so the hike in was a big question mark with the glaciers constantly shifting. The donkeys were not able to make it as far as anticipated and the glacier took much longer to navigate than they had thought. This turned out to be a recipe for having porters and donkeys quit on us in the middle of the glacier abandoning our gear for 5 weeks right on the ice. Luckily, we were able to work out a deal with the remaining porters saying that we would pay them extra to have them shuttle loads up to camp. We took two days at camp before making our first moves and started the process of humping loads to the base of Shipton. After a few days of taking gear and fixing the first few pitches, we had our window. We had chosen a route called “Ship of Fools”. The route called for everything including a WI6 pitch at the top, so we had our bags stuffed to the brim.

The route was going well with us moving at a decent speed. We were pushing for 16 hours a day and all was well until day 4 on the wall. It started like the other days with Jackson and I jugging the lines we had fixed the night before while Scott prepared to haul behind us. I started the second fixed line by lowering out on a tag line. This is when I started feeling a little off. I went to pull the tagline and got it stuck. Frustrated, I scrambled up, freed the rope, and began to pull it again. Stuck! In the same spot! I wasn’t thinking straight, and I should have coiled the rope after the first time, but instead I just dove into the same hole. Finally, I started ascending the rope up to where Jackson was. This is when I started feeling really funny. My body wasn’t in tune with my mind. Jugging suddenly turned into such an ordeal and seemed so much more complicated than it needed to be. Along with that I started getting so fatigued that I was only able to make one sliding action at a time. After about an hour I reached Jackson. He looked at me and without hesitation told me we were turning around. This was one of the most crushing blows. The further down we made it, the more my mind returned to normal. It just needed a tad more oxygen I guess. We spent the next week at basecamp not able to look at Shipton knowing that we had made it so close to the summit. We used our time to organize gear, read books, and put up some smaller routes near basecamp. Eventually we started the trek out of the valley and back to civilization. It takes a little over a week to get from basecamp back to Utah. We were pretty happy to be back stateside eating some bacon rather than goat.

Choosing your climbing partners carefully is crucial to success on an expedition. A successful expedition isn’t necessary a summit either – it’s coming home safe with more knowledge than you went out there with. Knowing when to turn around and having partners that are willing to make the call when you can’t. Big thanks to Jackson and Scott for having my back up there when I didn’t have it myself.