Czech climbers make first ascent of Conway's Ogre

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 01/11/2013
On the west pillar of Uzun Brakk. Supplied by Jiri Pliska
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Thirty-three years after a British attempt was thwarted just below the summit, Ondra Mandula and Jiri Pliska from the Czech Republic have made the first ascent of Uzun Brakk in the Karakoram, formerly referred to as Conway's Ogre.

Uzun Brakk (6,422m) was thought to have been dubbed the Ogre by Martin Conway, who travelled up the Biafo Glacier in 1892 on the first major expedition to what is now the Pakistan Karakoram.

The peak lies just west of the true Ogre or Baintha Brakk (7,285m), which would have been invisible from Conway's camps.

In the summer of 1980 the previously unattempted Uzun Brakk formed the target for a small British team. the participants making their first expedition to the Greater Ranges.

After scouting an approach up the Uzun Brakk Glacier to reach the northeast side of the mountain, Victor Saunders and Will Tapsfield made an attempt on the east face.

With two bivouacs, the two climbed a hidden couloir that slashed through this steep wall, then continued on mixed ground and across icefields to reach the summit ridge.

At a point about 150m from - and 30m below - the highest point, unstable double cornices on the crest proved too dangerous and the pair retreated, abseiling their route.

But the expedition provided a powerful experience for both climbers. For Saunders it marked the start of a long series of expeditions to the Himalaya that continues to the present day.  Tapsfield, on the other hand, never returned.

In 1993 Americans Jim Donini and Jack Tackle took up the challenge, this time attempting the ca 2,000m southwest face from the Biafo Glacier.

The weather proved unstable during their stay, but on their second attempt four days' climbing took them to a point on the west pillar ca 300m below the top. Unfortunately, a prolonged snow storm then forced them down.

After contacting Tackle, Mandula and Pliska also decided to attempt the southwest face, but on arrival found it was threatened by large seracs.

Instead they turned to the west pillar, steep and primarily rocky.

Approaching the crest of the pillar via a slanting snow/ice couloir on the northwest face, the two climbed to the summit in three days.

They made their second bivouac on the crest of the pillar at ca 6,000m, two pitches below the point where Donini and Tackle had to retreat. A further day was needed to abseil the route

The pair have named their 1,600m climb, At the Right Time in the Right Place (6b, 70°, M5 and A1) , due to finding perfect conditions on the wall and enjoying good weather throughout.

After moving unroped up the initial 400m they climbed 35 pitches to the summit, managing to free climb almost the entire route (only 10m used aid). A haul bag was taken but no jumars were used, both leader and second climbing every pitch.

The ascent has been recorded in a five-minute amateur video (in Czech)



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