Climbing: Freeing Trango, Again

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, July 1995

Climbing: Freeing Trango, Again
By Todd Balf (with Martin Dugard and Alison Osius)

In explaining the difference between his climb of Pakistan's Trango Tower this month and other ascents that have been made, Todd Skinner doesn't mince words. "I don't believe aid climbing is climbing," he says, noting that most teams that attempt the 20,470-foot Trango "aid climb" the most difficult pitches. Skinner says he aims to free-climb it, meaning he won't use ropes or other devices to improve his position on the rock. "If you have to use a ladder to climb a mountain, then you're climbing a ladder, not a mountain," says Skinner. The significance of the climb, according to Skinner, is clear-cut: He's merging the most difficult rock climbing with the toils of high-altitude mountaineering. Of course, somewhat obscured by Skinner's characteristic preclimb chatter is the fact that he won't be the first to free- climb Trango. A German team accomplished the feat via the southern route in 1989, and American Jeff Lowe and France's Catherine Destivelle "freed" Trango via the same route in 1991. Though Skinner intends to try a new, more difficult route on the east face, his thunderous publicity work irked some. "Todd's calling this a first," says one American mountaineer. "I'd call it a 'refirst.'" Skinner hopes to summit sometime in August, though he got a later start than most do for Trango. He squeezed in a motivational speech last June to 7,500 presumably revved-up insurance executives in Salt Lake City.

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