The northeast pillar of Great Trango Tower, Pakistan. The Norwegian Buttress–its second integral ascent finally made by Stein Ivar Gravdal, Bjarte Bo, Sigurd Felde and Rolf Bae late this spring–ascends the right side of the lower pillar and the center of the upper pillar. Its first ascent, also made by a Norwegian team, in 1984 was one of the era’s greatest high-altitude accomplishments. [Photo] John Middendorf / www.bigwalls.net
A four-man team has made a rare complete ascent of the ca. 5,000′ Norwegian Buttress on Great Trango Tower in Pakistan, a route that had gone unclimbed since its first ascent in 1984. Norwegians Stein Ivar Gravdal, Bjarte Bo, Sigurd Felde and Rolf Bae climbed the northeast face and topped out on the east summit (20,463′) during May and June of this year. The party spent twenty-seven days on the ascent and took three days to descend.
The first ascent of the northeast face was a tragic one that took place in 1984 by another team of four Norwegians. The team was comprised of Hans Christian Doseth, Finn Daehli, Stein Aasheim and Dag Kolsrud. Two-thirds of the way up the climb, partially up the final headwall, they realized they didn’t have enough food to make the summit. In an act of historic selflessness, Aasheim and Kolsrud rappelled off and, after reaching the Dunge Glacier, monitored their friends’ further progress from base camp. After five days they saw Doseth and Daehli summit. However, the two vanished from view behind a ridge on the headwall about halfway down the descent. Later, their bodies were seen at the foot of the glacier but were buried in an avalanche before they could be recovered.
Though tragic, the route was, at the time, one of the most impressive long and technical climbs ever achieved at altitude. Since, the Norwegian Buttress has seen a limited number of successes. In 1990 a Japanese team and in 1991 a Spanish team climbed to the rim of the Norwegian Buttress but did not reach the east summit.
In 1992, John Middendorf and Xaver Bongard made the second successful complete ascent of the east summit via a route called The Grand Voyage (VII 5.10 A4+ WI3, ca. 5,000′), which, at its middle, briefly shares terrain with the Norwegian route on a long, north-facing crack system. Middendorf and Bongard climbed The Grand Voyage over sixteen days and spent three days on the descent.
Four Koreans climbed a twelve-pitch variation that reached the east summit in 1997; the team included the first to paraglide from one of Great Trango’s summits, Choi Seung-Chul, and the first female to summit Great Trango, Youn-Jung Shin.
The Norwegian Buttress stands about 5,000 feet tall. Though, due to glacier melt in the past twenty-four years, the route now involves an additional 1,000′ of moderately steep rock slabs to get to the base of the original route.