Trango Towers — Their vertical faces are the world's tallest cliffs. Trango Tower center; Trango Monk center left; Trango II far left; Great Trango right.
|Elevation||6,286 m (20,623 ft)|
|Prominence||approx. 800 metres (2,625 ft)|
|Parent range||Baltoro Muztagh, Karakoram|
|First ascent||1977 by Galen Rowell, John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz and Dennis Hennek|
|Easiest route||Northwest face: snow/ice/rock climb|
The Trango Towers are a family of rock towers situated in Gilgit-Baltistan, in the north of Pakistan. The Towers offer some of the largest cliffs and most challenging rock climbing in the world, and every year a number of expeditions from all corners of the globe visit Karakoram to climb the difficult granite. They are located north of Baltoro Glacier, and are part of the Baltoro Muztagh, a sub-range of the Karakoram range. The highest point in the group is the summit of Great Trango Tower at 6,286 m (20,608 ft), the east face of which features the world's greatest nearly vertical drop.
Structure of the group
All of the Trango Towers lie on a ridge, trending northwest-southeast, between the Trango Glacier on the west and the Dunge Glacier on the east. Great Trango itself is a large massif, with four identifiable summits: Main (6,286 m (20,623 ft)), South or Southwest (6,250 m (20,510 ft)), East (6,231 m (20,443 ft)), and West (6,223 m (20,417 ft)). It is a complex combination of steep snow/ice gullies, steeper rock faces, and vertical to overhanging headwalls, topped by a snowy ridge system.
Just northwest of Great Trango is the Trango Tower (6,239 m (20,469 ft)), often called "Nameless Tower". This is a very large, pointed, rather symmetrical spire which juts 1,000 m (3,300 ft) out of the ridgeline. North of Trango Tower is a smaller rock spire known as "Trango Monk." To the north of this feature, the ridge becomes less rocky and loses the large granite walls that distinguish the Trango Towers group and make them so attractive to climbers; however the summits do get higher. These summits are not usually considered part of the Trango Towers group, though they share the Trango name. Trango II (6,237 m (20,463 ft)) lies northwest of the Monk, and the highest summit on the ridge, Trango Ri (6,363 m (20,876 ft)), lies northwest of Trango II.
Just southeast of Great Trango (really a part of its southeast ridge) is the Trango Pulpit (6,050 m (19,850 ft)), whose walls present similar climbing challenges to those of Great Trango itself. Further, to the south is Trango Castle (5,753 m (18,875 ft)), the last large peak along the ridge before the Baltoro Glacier.
Overall, the Trango Towers group has seen some of the most difficult and significant climbs ever accomplished, due to the combination of altitude, total height of the routes, and the steepness of the rock. All of the routes are highly technical climbs.
Trango towers have only been climbed once by Pakistani rock climbers in history. Imran Junaidi and Usman Tariq successfully reached to the summit of Trango Tower in July 2014 and opened a new route with difficulty 5.10d, A0. They are also the first locals to attempt Trango Tower, in September 2013, but were forced by heavy snowfall to descend from camp 2. Two days later, however, the team climbed a virgin line at Trango Braak, reporting difficulty of 5.10, A1 
Great Trango was first climbed in 1977 by Galen Rowell, John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz, Jim Morrissey and Dennis Hennek by a route which started from the west side (Trango Glacier), and climbed a combination of ice ramps and gullies with rock faces, finishing on the upper South Face.
The first successful climb of and return from the East Summit was in 1992, by Xaver Bongard and John Middendorf, via "The Grand Voyage", a route parallel to that of the ill-fated Norwegians, and the only route ever completed up the 1,340m east-southeast headwall. These two climbs have been called "perhaps the hardest big-wall climbs in the world."
The least difficult route on Great Trango is on the Northwest Face, and was climbed in 1984 by Andy Selters and Scott Woolums. This is nonetheless a very serious, technical climb.
Trango (Nameless) Tower
Trango (Nameless) Tower was first climbed in 1976 by the British climber Joe Brown, along with Mo Anthoine, Martin Boysen, and Malcolm Howells. There are at least eight separate routes to the summit.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the second and third ascents were achieved in 1987, with the opening of two new routes: The Slovenian Route, better known as the Yugoslav Route, a pure, clean, logical crack route on the south-southeast face, by Slavko Cankar, Franc Knez and Bojan Srot, and the Great Overhanging Dihedral Route, a spectacular and technical ascent on the western pillar, by Swiss/French team Michel "Tchouky" Fauquet, Patrick Delale, Michel Piola and Stephane Schaffter.
Another notable route is Eternal Flame (named after a Bangles song), first climbed on 20 September 1989 by Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Güllich, Milan Sykora and Christoph Stiegler. This route ascends the South-East Face of the Tower, and was climbed almost entirely free. These climbs inaugurated an era of pure rock-climbing techniques and aesthetics on high-altitude peaks.
The West summit of Great Trango and the Trango Pulpit were both first climbed in 1999. The West summit was climbed by two separate teams, one American and one Russian, almost simultaneously, by parallel routes. The American team of Alex Lowe, Jared Ogden, and Mark Synnott climbed a long, bold, highly technical line which they called "Parallel Worlds." They reported difficulties up to 5.11 and A4. The Russian team of Igor Potan'kin, Alexandr Odintsov, Ivan Samoilenko and Yuri Koshelenko climbed an equally proud route (Eclissi) and encountered similar technical challenges. Both climbs were nominated for the prestigious Piolet d'or award in 1999. The north east face on the Pulpit was climbed by a Norwegian team ("Norwegian Direct", Robert Caspersen, Gunnar Karlsen, Per L. Skjerven, and Einar Wold) over a total of 38 days on the wall. The team reported of difficulties up to A4/5.11. Other route over Trango Pulpit is More Czech Less Slovak route VII 7-UIAA A2 (Southeast Ridge). It was climbed 1999 Czechoslovak team (Ivo Wondracek, Tomas Rinn, Pavel Weisser, Jaro Dutka, and Michal Drasar).
On 26 August 1992, Australians Nic Feteris and Glenn Singleman climbed Great Trango and then BASE jumped from an elevation of 5,955 metres (19,537 ft) from the Northeast Face (on the other side of the Norwegian Pillar from the 1,340 metre East Face wall), landing on the northern side of the Dunge Glacier at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,779 ft). This was the highest starting elevation for a BASE jump on record. The world record for a BASE jump starting elevation is held by Valery Rozov for the jump from a point 7,220m (23,680 ft) from Everest on 28 May 2013. Glenn Singleman and partner Heather Swan previously held the record, for their jump from 6604 meters (21,667 ft) from Meru Peak in northern India on 23 May 2006. On 10 August 2013 Andrey Lebedev and Vladimir Murzaev performed a base jump from the same location as Feteris and Singleman on a low budget and with little fanfare.
Some more recent ascents on Great Trango have focused on the longer routes found on the west and south sides. In particular, in 2004 Josh Wharton and Kelly Cordes completed a new, very long (2,256 metre/7,400 ft) route on the Southwest Ridge, or Azeem Ridge, to the Southwest Summit. Though not as extremely technical as the East Face routes, the climb was notable for the extremely lightweight and fast (5 days) style in which it was done.
Over 7 days in August 2005, two Slovak climbers, Gabo Cmarik and Jozef Kopold, climbed a new route, which they termed Assalam Alaikum, to the right of the Wharton/Cordes line on the south face of Great Trango. The climb comprised around 90 pitches, up to 5.11d A2. They used a lightweight style similar to that of Wharton and Cordes.
In the same month, Samuel Johnson, Jonathon Clearwater and Jeremy Frimer made the first ascent of the southwest ridge of Trango II, which they termed Severance Ridge. The route involved 1,600 m of climbing over five days, with rock climbing up to 5.11 A2 and ice and mixed climbing up to AI3 M5.
Also in August 2005, a South African team, composed of Peter Lazarus, Marianne Pretorius, James Pitman and Andreas Kiefer, climbed to the summit via the Slovenian route. Pretorius was the third woman to reach the summit.
During May/June 2008, the Norwegian route on the east face of Great Trango (1984) was repeated by the four Norwegian climbers Rolf Bae, Bjarte Bø, Sigurd Felde and Stein-Ivar Gravdal, spending 27 days in the wall to reach the summit, and three more days for the descent. This is reportedly the first repetition of the route, and thus also the first successful ascent and return. Rolf Bae died later that summer. He was one of 11 climbers who were killed in the 2008 K2 disaster.
In popular culture
The Trango Towers were mentioned in the Hollywood movie Point Break as one of the possible locations for a task by extreme poly athletes as part of Ozaki 8, a list of eight extreme ordeals to honor the forces of nature in their bid to achieve Nirvana.
- Mount Thor
- Cerro Torre
- Trango Glacier
- Hainablak Glacier
- List of mountains in Pakistan
- List of highest mountains
- Half Dome
- American Alpine Journal, 2000, pp. 86-114
- Hennek, Dennis (1978). "Great Trango Tower". American Alpine Journal. New York: American Alpine Club. 21 (52): 436–446.
- Andy Fanshawe and Stephen Venables, Himalaya Alpine Style, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, p. 43.
- Trango Tower on alpinist.com
- Catherine Destivelle and Gérard Kosicki, Rocs Nature, Denoël, 1991, p. 52.
- American Alpine Journal, 2005.
- Cmarik/Kopold route on alpinist.com
- Trango II route on alpinist.com
- South Africans take Trango Tower - SouthAfrica.info
- Norwegians repeat historic Trango route - Climbing magazine
- Core, Ericson (2015-12-25), Point Break, retrieved 2016-09-09
- Pakistan Alpine Institute Anne Arran
- Pakistan's First Big Wall Climbing Expedition 2013 Imran Junaidi
- Article about the 2008 expedition from D2 / Dagens Næringsliv (Norwegian)