UKC

New Route on Trango II by Fay Manners and Pou Brothers

© Fay Manners

British alpinist Fay Manners has just completed an expedition to the Karakorum mountains of Gilgit Baltistan in the north of Pakistan, where she made six first ascents alongside Basque brothers Iker and Eneko Pou, including a major new mixed route on Trango II (6,327m) called Waa Shakil (6b/70º/M.5/2,200m). Four of the five rock routes were on new unclimbed spires between 4,500m and 5,100m. 

Waa Shakil leads up a ridge consisting of 20 rock pitches before summiting Trango 2 at 6,327m. Fay told UKC that the line is "a long alpine style climb which involved some interesting mixed at the top."

The expedition got off to a difficult start. Fay explained:

"Eneko and I were sick with flu, tent bound for days, finding it hard to breathe and recover at high altitude while the rest of the team suffered stomach issues."

Once the team had all recovered, they faced weeks of heavy snowfall, which made access to most routes almost impossible due to avalanche risk. 

Then Fay received the news that her close friend and frequent climbing partner, Line van den Berg, had been killed in an accident alongside two other Dutch climbers in Switzerland. Fay said:

"The long days in the tent were painful and I felt like I wanted to go home. I was lucky to be with Iker and Eneko at this moment, both caring and supportive, able to dampen my sadness. 

"In the end, we decided to extend our flights and stay in the Base Camp one week longer so that we could attempt a summit of Trango II. We are glad we did."

Iker, Fay and Eneko relax at Base Camp.  © Fay Manners
Iker, Fay and Eneko relax at Base Camp.
© Fay Manners

***

Three consecutive days of climbing in all terrain took the team from Trango Base Camp (4,080 m) to the highest point of the western summit of Trango II (6,320 m). The ascent was carried out in alpine, free-climbing style.

Eneko on Waa Shakil.  © Fay Manners
Eneko on Waa Shakil.
© Fay Manners
 

The team report that they endured full winter conditions, with snow every day, high winds and cold temperatures, which added to the difficulty of the ascent. On the last day, they reached the west summit during a storm. The descent was "epic", with the blizzard raging as the three climbers managed to narrowly escape becoming unstuck, eventually improvising a "lucky" abseil to descend to the last high altitude camp. Information from the Pou brothers reads:

"We had a bad time, a very bad time. The avalanches descended uncontrollably around us, the snow got into us from all sides, we couldn't feel our fingers and toes because of the cold, and we couldn't do anything: Just cross our fingers so that the next one wouldn't come down on us. …We struggled to survive and we finally got it."

Five more First Ascents

During the acclimatisation process the team climbed Dommage pas de Fromage 6c/250m on Little Trango, a 5,700 m needle that they climbed with Andrés Marín. They dedicated this route to Line van den Berg.

Then came a period of bad weather punctuated by some good days in which they took the opportunity to establish The Pretty, The Bad and The Ugly 7a/230m and The Prime Minister 6c/205m.

After attempting the American Route on the Gran Torre del Trango (6,286m) but retreating due to avalanche risk and heavily-iced rock, they opened two more routes: Eneko together with Andrés established La Ilusión Alpina 6c/200m, while Iker and Fay made the first ascent of More Than an Addiction 6b/230m. 

On their final day at Base Camp, the team climbed a "spectacular" virgin spire (5,100m) which the brothers insisted should be dedicated to Fay, by naming it "Lady Fay". The brothers commented:

"Manners is the living example of a new generation of mountaineering women that has been going strong. She has been leading on most of our ascents, demonstrating a spectacular physical and technical level. We are very proud of her and I am sure that this will not be the last expedition we will do together."

They named the route Always Elurra 7a+/260m.

Eneko, Fay and Iker with their Base Camp support team.  © Fay Manners
Eneko, Fay and Iker with their Base Camp support team.
© Fay Manners

In recent years, Chamonix-based Fay has amassed a list of difficult alpine ascents in Europe and North America, including the first female ascent of the Phantom Direct route on the south face of the Grand Jorasses (winter 2022), the Eiger North Face as part of an all-female team (winter 2022), the American Direct on the Dru and the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses (spring 2022) as part of an all-female team, plus an ascent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali (spring 2022).

***

With these six climbs in Pakistan, the Pou brothers finished their '4 Elements' project that they began in 2017. The premise was to relate the elements of the Earth to four interesting climbs around the world.

The first stage (Air) was completed in Patagonia - famous for its strong winds - where they established Aúpa 40 in the Aguja Guillaumet (Fitz Roy range), The second (Water) stage was fulfilled that same year in the Amazon with Yakumama, the third one a year later (Fire) on the volcanic Cao Grande, in Africa, where they made the first ascent of Leve Leve, and this last one (Earth) in the Karakorum (Black Earth) on Trango II with Waa Shakil. 

The brothers commented:

"We are happy to close this macro-project that in the end has taken us six years. If everything would have gone on in a normal way, without pandemics, wars and crises, we would have finished it in 2020, but the most important thing is that once again we demonstrate our perseverance and our know-how, and against all odds, here is the closing of the project. It is also an adventure in capital letters, with very important mountaineering routes like this one in the Himalayas or the one in Patagonia, with other top-level international rock routes like the one in Africa, or others with a brutal aesthetic like the one in the Amazon."


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23 Jun, 2023

This is great. Well done Fay and team!

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