In July and early August, the Swiss team of Giovanni Quirici, Francesco Pellanda and Christophe Steck made a near free ascent of Gran Diedre Desplomado (VI 5.13b A3) on Trango (aka Nameless) Tower, Baltoro Glacier, Pakistan. The route is 3,609 feet long and climbs the overhanging west pillar of the 20,469-foot spire. The Swiss eliminated the aid on all but three pitches of the 27-pitch line.
Quirici, who freed the 14-pitch trad route Arctandria (5.13c R), in northern Norway, with Didier Berthold, in August 2005, was reportedly close to sending pitch 14 on Trango Tower, but, he says, “[I] got only one try and needed one resting.” Pitches 16 and 17 also repulsed free attempts. The team spent 12 days and five nights on the wall, topping out on August 2.
The route did not seem like a likely candidate for a free climb. Prior to the Swiss ascent this summer, Gran Diedre Desplomado was considered a serious aid climb (A4). One of the first ascentionists, Michel Piola, described the route as “crusty” in places and overhanging on “large, suspended flakes.”
“With different, scary climbing and complicated logistics, the West Pillar of Trango Tower is one of the most difficult trad climbs in extreme altitudes,” Quirici wrote.
Trango Tower, not to be confused with its near neighbor Great Trango Tower, sports only two completely free routes out of more than a dozen established lines: Slovenian Route (VI 5.12), climbed by Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Gullich and Hartmut Münchenbach in 1988 and Cowboy Direct (VII 5.13a) by Todd Skinner, Mike Lilygren, Jeff Bechtel and Bobby Model in 1995.