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This past summer, American climbers Cedar Wright, 32, and Renan Ozturk, 27, combined two ambitious expeditions on two continents into a novel summerlong quest they dubbed Alaskastan ’07. Starting in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge, near McKinley, on June 17, they completed four first ascents of granite big walls in 13 days. A week later, they arrived in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range and began acclimatizing for their ultimate goal: an alpine-style sprint up the 2,500-foot Western Cat’s Ear Spire, a spike appended to Hainabrakk mountain and the last unclimbed spire in the Great Trango Group, topping out at roughly 19,000 feet.
Their route, which they named the Epica Direct, followed a spiraling path and had them nearly calling it quits when they hit an overhanging 5.11-grade pitch near the summit. “It’s a great Himalayan prize,” says Wright, “but all I wanted to do on that last pitch was bail.”
1. On the lower half of the spire, Ozturk and Wright climbed at the same time on the same rope. The upside of the technique, called simulclimbing: It’s fast. The downside: If one falls, he rips the other off the rock.
2. The climbers were repeatedly shaken by debris rumbling down one of Hainabrakk’s avalanche paths, less than 100 yards away. “It was really unnerving,” says Ozturk.
3. Two days into the climb, the pair were forced to bivy on a sloping ledge without sleeping bags. “My fingers were numb, and I was delirious and drooling,” recalls Wright.
4. Exhausted after the final push and thankful they hadn’t bailed, Wright and Ozturk reached the summit, where they discovered the complete skeleton of a raven.