India's Shark's Fin finally climbed

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 21/10/2011
Marko Lukic embarking on difficult mixed ground during the 2009 attempt. The overhanging prow looms above. Andrej Grmovsek

One of the most attempted and most coveted lines in the entire Himalaya has finally fallen to Americans Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk.

The three climbed the celebrated Shark's Fin on Meru Central (6,310m) in a 12-day push.

The c1,400m route takes the North East Pillar, characterized at the top by a 500m prow of granite resembling a shark's fin. The line follows an objectively dangerous snow/ice face to 5,650m, from where difficult rock and mixed climbing lead to the base of the prow.

Anker had first tried the route in 2003 with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, and returned again in 2008 with Chin and Ozturk. With their prior knowledge of the route and the difficult mixed and aid climbing involved, the trio this time decided to climb in capsule style.

They attribute their success primarily to a very good weather window. However, each member has certain talents that fit with the complex terrain of the route, while their familiarity with much of the ground meant that in the prevailing good conditions they were able to progress much faster than anticipated.

Before their attempt this autumn the compelling line of the Shark's Fin had been tried well over 20 times by many of the world's foremost alpinists. It also had a noted British history.

The first serious try took place in 1993, when the line caught the eye of the ever-imaginative Paul Pritchard. With Noel Craine, Johnny Dawes, Dave Kendall and South African Philip Lloyd, Pritchard climbed the objectively dangerous lower ice slopes and then started to fix ropes up towards the final 500m prow.

Dawes, Lloyd and Pritchard eventually reached a high point below the prow, with Dawes having led a couple of pitches estimated to be E5 and Pritchard some Scottish 6. By this time they had been on the face for a week and were already quite extended.

Any debate on whether to continue was taken from them by a tactical error on the part of Dawes, who joined a select band of notable mountaineers to have thrown one or more boots off a bivouac site.

The descent was not uneventful: whilst down-climbing the final section of the face, Dawes fell 200m, only stopping just short of a giant crevasse.

The next British attempt, in 1997, reached around 6,100m, a high point that was equalled but probably not bettered for the next 10 years. The relatively young and, in terms of Himalayan climbing, inexperienced team of Nick Bullock, Jules Cartwright and Jamie Fisher, made their attempt in alpine-style, forcing a few pitches up an obvious hard mixed ramp on the left side of the prow before retreating.

A more experienced Cartwright returned with two companions in 2002 but on reaching base camp the team immediately reduced to two, which proved logistically too small for the job.

In spring 2001 the Russian Valeri Babanov also attempted the Fin, solo. This forced later arrivals, Americans Dave Sheldon and Pete Takeda, to try a line on the North East Face further right.

Both failed in their attempts but Babanov returned in autumn the same year and completed the American line to the summit, making the first ascent of Meru Central. His route, Shangri La (ED: 5c/6a, A1/A2, M5 and 75°) gained him a Piolet d'Or.

In 2006 the peak had a remarkable three ascents. The first, by Malcolm Haskins and Michael Hill via the West Face and South East Ridge was ostensibly to establish a camera base to film Glen Singleman and his wife Heather Swan's successful BASE jump from Meru South.

Four Japanese then made a variant to Babanov's route, free climbing at 5.10a, M5, WI3 and 75°, while later Marek Holecek and Jan Kreisinger created a partial new route, following the established line to the base of the Shark's Fin then slanting up the snow face to the right to join the Babanov route (7a, M5 and 80°).

On the 2008 American attempt, Anker, Chin and Ozturk made a continuous push with a portaledge, and after 18 days on the face, five of these immobile in a storm, and having climbed the overhanging prow at modern A4, were forced to make a final push for the summit due to virtually zero fuel and food.

One hundred and fifty metres short of the top they were stopped by an overhanging gendarme they had neither the time nor energy to climb.

Not having any strong desire to return, they were quite happy to provide full information to the very strong Slovenian trio of Andrej Grmovsek, Marko Lukic and Silvo Karo. In 2009 these three were also repulsed below the prow, having climbed difficulties up to M8.

This made the Americans have a re-think, and with the usual unpleasant thoughts from their previous attempt dulled by the passage of time, realized they just had to go back.

The photo shows Marko Lukic embarking on difficult mixed ground during the 2009 attempt. The overhanging prow looms above.
 



« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 695 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Galvan and Zerain disappear while attempting second crossing of Mazeno Ridge.
1
Galvan and Zerain disappear while attempting second crossing of Mazeno Ridge.

Hope of finding the noted partnership of Argentinian Mariano Galvan, and the Spanish-Basque Alberto Zerain, who were attempting an alpine-style ascent of Nanga Parbat's Mazeno Ridge, has now faded after an aerial search on the morning of the 1st July.
Read more »

Where are they going? The BMC Expedition Grants
1
Where are they going? The BMC Expedition Grants

The following teams received grant aid from the BMC for expeditions taking place during 2017. Most are still to leave the UK; some are currently in the field, and some have recently returned, though the results of their endeavours are presently unknown. In general, only the designated expedition organiser is named.
Read more »

British-based climber completes two new routes in Baffin Island
0
British-based climber completes two new routes in Baffin Island

Scottish resident and big wall climber, Marek Raganowicz, has added two demanding aid routes to the overhanging Ship's Prow in Baffin Island.
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

Galvan and Zerain disappear while attempting second crossing of Mazeno Ridge.
1

Hope of finding the noted partnership of Argentinian Mariano Galvan, and the Spanish-Basque Alberto Zerain, who were attempting an alpine-style ascent of Nanga Parbat's Mazeno Ridge, has now faded after an aerial search on the morning of the 1st July.
Read more »

Where are they going? The BMC Expedition Grants
1

The following teams received grant aid from the BMC for expeditions taking place during 2017. Most are still to leave the UK; some are currently in the field, and some have recently returned, though the results of their endeavours are presently unknown. In general, only the designated expedition organiser is named.
Read more »

British-based climber completes two new routes in Baffin Island
0

Scottish resident and big wall climber, Marek Raganowicz, has added two demanding aid routes to the overhanging Ship's Prow in Baffin Island.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »