As climbing becomes more commercial, the climbers grabbing headlines are often those with the most active PR agents.
On the increase is the control of news by sponsors themselves. They get exclusivity over an ascent, then feed out the news to the media outlets, maintaining control and getting valuable advertising for their products.
Climbing media is small and can feel pressure (both real and perceived) from sponsors to cover the ascents of their particular climbers, and if we're not careful, reporting of real cutting edge ascents can become secondary to sponsor driven editorial.
It is also easy for a news reporter (and I include myself in this) to choose a pre-prepared press release to put on the news page, it's quick, easy, needs no research and pleases a sponsor or advertiser. Following a more difficult to uncover story can take hours of effort, and sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day.
However, the flip side is that without sponsors and advertising, there is no media and the climbers at the top end wouldn't get as much time to climb. It's not all bad news.
We receive dozens of press releases at UKClimbing.com, and sometimes we run them, sometimes we bin them. Hopefully we choose the ones that are actually relevant and interesting to our readers, but I know that when time is tight, a pre-prepared press release can save my bacon.
We received one yesterday and (possibly unfairly, but definitely with my tongue in cheek and with a cheeky grin), I couldn't help but comment on an expedition obviously very adept at PR:
Trango 08 - "The Free Dream"
More like: Trango 08 – “The Free Holiday!”
A European team, including Brits Jerry Gore and Gaz Parry have set off to attempt to free climb Trango Tower, by the famous route Eternal Flame. Over ten different media sources have reported on their trip, before they had set foot on a mountain.
See the Trango 08 "The Free Dream" Website
UKClimbing.com mentioned the trip at the base of this News Report back in June. We have received another press release from the team yesterday – unfortunately not filling us in on all the hard climbing they have been doing to justify their thirteen separate expedition sponsors (due to bad weather the team have been unable to get established on the route proper), but to let us know about a free fleece that one of their sponsors is giving away in a competition.
In their email also came the report (and photo):
“Check out how we are relaxing in basecamp, we have all the mod cons. Phone, laptop and even TV! The only problem is we are watching this film for the 3rd time!... Luckily tomorrow a porter will arrive who started three days ago from Skardu with new DVDs and petrol for our generator.”
Want to know more about Trango 08 - "The Free
We wish the team the best of luck with their lectures and sponsorship deals. If they get time to do some climbing in between updating their blog then we wish them well with that too!
On a more serious note, they do actually hope to do some hard climbing. The route Eternal Flame, first climbed by the German team of Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Gullich in 1989 takes the South Pillar of the Nameless Tower in the Trango group. Smaller and less objectively dangerous than its neighbour Great Trango, the Nameless Tower is still a huge pillar of granite, with the meat of the route rising for around 20 pitches from a large ledge system known as the sun terrace. The German pair freed almost all of the route, with Albert doing most of the leading after Gullich was injured. The climb follows virtually continuous hand or finger cracks, making aid climbing relatively straight forward.
The route has seen many repeats, several alpine style, with some teams climbing the route in a single push in under twenty four hours. The technical difficulty of the route is around F7b+ or E6 plus a few short aid sections, but most of the fast ascents have relied on aid on much of the hard climbing. The route saw its first all female ascent in 2007, with the team aiding most of the upper sections due to recent snow.
For the hard redpoint teams, the aid has now all but been dispensed with at around F8a max. Writing for Alpinist in 2003 Denis Burdet said: “There is a blank wall with bolts on Pitch 10: approximately fifteen metres of aid.”
Spanish hot-shots, the Pou brothers, climbed the route in 2005 as part of their global climbing challenge “7 Walls, 7 Continents” and almost freed the last remaining 15 metre aid section:
“We climbed the variation to the 10th pitch. Iker free-climbed it all, but he couldn't make it in one go, due to the stream of water going down the cracks. The new pitch is 50 meters long, its difficulty going up to 8a. We called it “Pou Brothers Variation”, and we think it is a further step to eventually free-climb the entire route.”
With the line discovered and all the moves climbed free, it is only a matter of time and conditions before the entire route goes free. We wish the Trango 08 team the best of luck with conditions on this section and hope they can pull off the first completely free ascent of one of the best rock climbs in the world.
The first ascent of the route was a truly epic effort from Kurt Albert, who had to lead almost all of the difficult upper pitches. On the final hard pitch (E5/6), after six days of continuous hard climbing at altitude, he faced a serious fall when all his runners fell out. Luckily, despite cramp and skinned fingers, he held on and completed what is now considered to be the finest big-wall rock route in the world.