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Sharp End: Off the Map

1953, Zanskar Himalaya: A small shadow of a woman moves slowly over a drape of white. The summit cone of Nun glows, no longer distant, its 7135-meter apex still untouched. Panes of ice lie scattered like thin glass, across drifts so soft and deep that French alpinist Claude Kogan can find nothing secure for her crampons to hold.

Tool Users: Realized Ultimate Reality Piton

Even in 1960, with the rudimentary gear of the era, the first fifty feet of Kat Pinnacle’s unclimbed Southwest Corner seemed manageable: an overhanging crack that could be nailed in an exhausting, but relatively ordinary way. Above the first section, however, reared a thirty-five-foot, dead-vertical hairline seam. Yvon Chouinard stalled, searching for a placement.