Skip to content


The unclimbed north face of Shipton Spire (5885m) in the Uli Biaho Group of Pakistan’s Karakoram. The big pillar on the left, ending at an obvious pointed top with a notch beyond, is the northeast pillar forming the far right side of the southeast face. The front face of the pillar is taken by the Slovak route, Prisoners of the Shipton (5.11d A3, 900m to the notch, Koller-Linek-Podrabradsky, 2005). Koller and Linek followed Ship of Fools to within 80 meters of the summit at WI 5+. The new Spanish route (A4+, 870m of climbing, Vidal, 2007) climbs close to the right edge of the pillar to reach the notch. In 2005 Gabo Cmarik and Dodo Kopold hoped to climb into the large hanging couloir on the north face from the rock rib on the right. Unfortunately, they were forced to retreat before reaching it, when Cmarik became ill with sunstroke. [Photo] Dodo Kopold

The ever-popular Shipton Spire (5885m) in Pakistan’s Karakoram gained two new lines this summer: the first by a team of four Russians who took the full height of the southeast face, and the second a spirited solo effort by Spain’s foremost female big wall climber, Silvia Vidal. She climbed the shorter–but no less steep–northeast pillar and did not continue to the summit.

Vidal is well-known for her big wall exploits in the Greater Ranges, particularly in Pakistan’s Nangma Valley. More recently she put up a new route on the north-northwest face of Castle Peak in India’s Miyar Valley. Spending twelve days alone on the wall in September 2005, she created 7 d’espases (5.8 A3+/A4, 480m, Vidal, 2005) just to the left of the Slovak route, Sharp Knife of Tolerance (5.11b A3+, 480m, Koller-Kopold-Linek-Stefansky, 2002). This year she planned another, more major, solo climb.

After establishing advanced basecamp below Shipton Spire, Vidal operated completely alone. For the next eight days she ferried loads to the bottom of the peak and fixed the first pitches of her chosen route, a second line to the northeast pillar on the far right side of the face, right of another route coincidentally put up by Igor Koller and Vlado Linek in 2005. In August of that year these two Slovaks and Juraj Podrabradsky completed a line attempted the previous summer by Koller, Linek and, on that occasion, Gabo Cmarik. They reached the top of the vertical northeast pillar at a notch, where Ship of Fools (5.11 A2 WI 6, 27 pitches, 1300m, Ogden-Synnott, 1997) comes in from the left. Above, Koller and Linek continued up Ship of Fools (which follows the difficult mixed northeast ridge) before retreating 80 meters from the summit. As far as the notch and junction with Ship of Fools, the 900-meter Slovak route, Prisoners of the Shipton, gave difficulties of 5.11d and A3.

Vidal fixed the first 200 meters of the wall to the right of Prisoners and then spent twenty-one straight days on the face in capsule style, making twenty solitary bivouacs before reaching the notch at ca. 5300 meters. Her route, Life is Lilac, didn’t follow any strong features and therefore required continuous hard aid; several pitches of A4 and a crux of A4+, finishing with mixed climbing. Above, continuing toward the summit via Ship of Fools involves difficult mixed/ice climbing with long traverses. Vidal had already decided that this wasn’t a good idea for a solo climber and was content to descend from the top of the pillar after 870 meters of climbing. During her stay at and above advanced basecamp she was entirely alone and carried neither radio nor phone, commenting that it was “a great experience.”

Well over to the left the Russian team of Evgeny Korol, Andrey Muryshev, Sergey Nilkov and Denis Savelev also spent twenty days on their route during very much the same period as Vidal was climbing hers. The Russians originally planned to attempt the unclimbed south face of the Spire but found the approach up the glacier just too difficult and dangerous. Instead they switched to an independent line up available rock between Baltese Falcon (5.11 A4, 36 pitches, 1300m, Boyd-Child-Foweraker, 1996) and Women and Chalk (5.12d/5.13b, 29 pitches, ca. 1200m, Bole-Cortese-Dandri, 2001). The four Russians climbed capsule style up the southeast face, in the top section following a prominent right-facing corner/depression. They reached the top of the wall after enduring a full week of bad weather and having climbed pitches of 5.10d and A4. They then continued up the taxing mixed summit ridge to the highest point, which they reached on July 30. In all, thirty-two pitches were required for this 1300-meter route.

Sources: Anna Piunova and Silvia Vidal