SHIPTON SPIRE

Posted on: March 1, 2005


Dino Kuran on Pitch 13, just below the crux offwidth, during the second ascent of The Khanadan Buttress on Shipton Spire. The Slovakian expedition focused its efforts on Shipton Spire, establishing one independent line, Knocking on Heavenís Door (5.11d A4, 17 pitches, 1000m) and making a significant attempt at a new route, but only the Khanadan Buttress team was able to reach the summit. [Photo] Ivan Zila

Our Slovak Mountaineering Union expedition had ten members: Igor Koller, Vladimir Linek, Ivan Zila, Gabo Cmarik, Martin Heuger, Dodo Kopold, Dino Kuran, Miro Mrava, Jozef Santus and Brano Turcek. According to locals, the summer was the worst of the last twenty years. During our five weeks in the area, there were only three short periods (nine days) of good weather. Despite these conditions it is possible to say the expedition was successful.

During the first weather window Kuran, Santus and Zila attempted The Khanadan Buttress (VI 5.11 C1, 1300m, McMahon-Wharton, 2002) on the south face of Shipton Spire. They bivied halfway up the face, which was covered in a lot of dangerous snow; Kuran was then stopped by an offwidth that he did not know to protect. He and Santus returned to the route during the second period of good weather with Kopold and tube chocks to make the second ascent in two days. They summitted on August 15 at 7 p.m., then rappelled to their bivy, which they reached at midnight. The next day they were hit by a big rockfall; fortunately, the result was only a broken helmet and some small wounds.

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Miro Mrava and Brano Turcek chose a line in the central part of the east face between Women and Chalk (VI 5.13b, 1150m, Bole et al, 2001) and Akelarre (VI 5.10d A4, 1150m, Eskibel-Larranaga-Ortiz, 2000). They started climbing August 28. From the top of a big tower, they climbed via blank slabs to a crack system 100 meters higher. They climbed for the next eight days in periods of good and bad weather to a point above the huge triangle overhang two-thirds of the way up the face. On September 15 they moved into a portaledge camp 300 meters below the ramp that leads right to the ridge.

The next day, on Pitch 12, Mrava was hit by rockfall and badly injured. They rappelled down. After healing in base camp, they returned to the face on September 22. Over the next two days, Turcek climbed and Mrava belayed, and they joined Akelarre in the evening of September 24. Given Mrava's injuries, they decided not to continue. They had placed two bolts at belays, and seven in pitches; they named the route Knocking on Heaven's Door (5.11d A4, 17 pitches, 1000m). It is pity that they did not knock on the top of Shipton.

Cmarik, Koller and I tried a new line on the right side of the face. We fixed ten pitches (400m) in seven days; since we were climbing mostly free, we waited for sunny weather. Finally, eleven days before we had to leave, we decided to climb in any weather.

After sharing a first pitch with Ship of Fools (VI 5.11 A2 WI6, 1300m, Ogden-Synnott, 1997), we moved right onto the overhanging face. Over three days we established a portaledge camp below the big roof (perfect protection from falling rocks) then climbed three pitches through a big overhang. The weather over the next seven days was very bad; Cmarik's illness complicated the situation. We spent a day rescuing him from the face. One day before our scheduled departure, Koller and I fought through hard aid climbing and big overhangs in bad weather on the upper part of the face. Three meters below easier terrain and seventy meters below the ramp, where we would have joined Ship of Fools, we finished our ascent at 5600 meters because of huge waterfalls. We had climbed seventeen pitches up to 5.11d A3.

During our trip, three Bulgarian mountaineers—Strahil Geshev, Milkana Ruseva and Stanimir Zhelyazdov—established a new variant to Ship of Fools. Starting via the 1992 Bebie-Boyd-Collum-Selters attempt, they moved right from the top of a tower and after six new pitches joined Ship of Fools. Because of bad weather they did not finish the climb.

— Vladimir Linek, Bratislava, Slovakia



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