Trango II (6327m) is the major snow-capped peak immediately north of the
Trango Towers massif. On August 15-19 Samuel Johnson, Jonathon
Clearwater and I made the first ascent of a 1600-meter ridge on its
southwest side and named it Severance Ridge (VI 5.11 A2 AI3 M5). We took
food for three days; the climb lasted five, during most of which foul
weather battered us.
The climb began up a steep 900-meter rock face thirty minutes north of
Trango Base Camp. We encountered more than a dozen sustained 5.9 to 5.11
pitches on this face; the crux pitch involved underclinging a steep arch
before pulling through a roof. We simulclimbed into the night along a
knife-edge to reach a bivy. In the morning we soloed up a mixed gully
then simulclimbed moderate rock on a steeply ascending ridge crest as
the weather got bad. By noon we had climbed to the base of a steep
headwall, but snow accumulation on the rock hindered us. We found a
sheltered cave and bivied.
The headwall, which we dubbed “the Shield,” is a particularly blank
feature–save for the perfect hand crack up its center. The crack,
however, narrows, then disappears altogether at half-height. Sam blasted
the crack in two pitches, finishing with thin aid and an aggressive
pendulum. With only blankness above, Jonathon next aid climbed left
around an arete to arrive at an exposed hanging belay just as a
raging storm began. Since retreat was the only other option, I
painstakingly aided a long pitch best described as a flaring offwidth
garden, using an ice tool for excavation. At its top, the offwidth
required nerve-wracking climbing: a single tipped-out number four
Camalot served as a moving point of aid. We finished the Shield in the
dark with a burly, sustained, pitch-long fist crack.
After an unpleasant night, we began climbing along the final narrow
ridge crest as yet another squall hit us. We soon came upon a series of
gendarmes that forced us onto the left side of the apex. Every pitch
involved sustained 5.10 traversing along flaring, thin crack systems.
Sam attempted a difficult pitch in the dark, with poor protection,
narrowly avoiding a huge pendulum fall before he wisely retreated. We
opted to fix our rope and rappel into an adjacent gully to bivy. Not
having eaten that day, we had trouble staying warm overnight.
On the fifth and final morning Sam led several ice and mixed pitches up
the gully to reach the end of the final knife-edge at the summit snow
slopes. Exhausted but elated, we traversed the snow slopes, then began
our descent immediately (without visiting the summit), down climbing
then making six rappels below Trango Monk to reach the Trango Tower
approach gully trail, which we followed to the valley bottom.
Jeremy Frimer, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada