During a four day period of good weather between 11th and 14th August Alexander and Thomas Huber managed the first redpoint ascent of the Eternal Flame, a creation of the legendary German climbing team Wolfgang Gullich and Kurt Albert from 1989.
The route Eternal Flame ((VII 5.12c/7b+ A2, Albert-Gullich-Stiegler-Sykora, 1989) takes the South Pillar of the Nameless Tower in the Trango group, Pakistan. 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.
Gullich and Albert 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 was 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.
In 2003 Toni Arbones. Nicolas Zambetti and Denis Burdet free climbed most of the aid sections up to 7c.
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.”
Fresh from their success in the Antarctica, Alexander and Thomas Huber with Franz Hinterbrandner and Mario Walder, turned their gaze and focus to a free ascent of the Eternal Flame and blessed with good weather, managed a free ascent over four days finding a free way low down on the route that bypassed a pendulum by three new pitches up to 5.12a (7a+).
Alex said, "Our target was the RP ascent, meaning we wanted to free climb as a team, swapping leads, without any falls, both on lead and as second, from belay to belay, pitch after pitch. "
Then the problematic 10th pitch, Alex again:
"The 10th pitch, the key to success! Here Iker Pou had discovered a free variation to the right. A slab traverse, a hard boulder problem, leads into a completely ice-covered crack. From 2 p.m. this frost crust would turn into a waterfall. Good idea, this variation, but only conditionally feasible... Four meters further to the right we discover a trace of a crack, which after 20 meters leads us into the upper, dry part of the crack from the Pou-Variation. We named the first pitch "Wish you were here", and the second "Burn for you", both of them being 5.12d (7c). Another, easier pitch, a perfect hand-jamming crack, was the perfect wind up for the second day of our journey through the route."
After another arduous day, the team topped out.
Day 4: Still two 5.11-cracks to go, then easy to the summit. There we were, all four of us: Mario, Franz, Alexander and I. Surrounded by all the giants of Karakoram standing, we were overwhelmed by the great adventure we've just experienced. It sounded like a rock song, written exactly twenty years ago by our great idols Wolfgang Güllich and Kurt Albert. And now we've had the pleasure to add a couple of new lines to the best rock´n´rollsong of the Karakoram: "Come on Baby, light my fire! Let's come together! Darling, do you feel my heart beating? Hey, do you feel the same? Am I only dreaming? I wish you were here, I burn for you! I watch you when you are dreaming, you belong with me. Say my name. Sunshine through the Rain, a whole Life so lonely. Ease the Pain! I don't wanna lose this Feeling , it's the Eternal Flame!" - a declaration of love for a very special moment.
We should have a full article on this ascent next week at UKClimbing.com.
Alex and Thomas are sponsored by the below: