Grade isn’t everything, the 5 most extreme climbs ever
It is impossible to uniquely and objectively identify the 5 hardest mountaineering climbs. In sport climbing there is a key factor which is the grade, in mountaineering there is no. Since the latter is not a sport it is almost impossible to decree how one climb can be better than another.
Objective difficulties can be assessed. To these, however, many other factors must be added, such as climatic conditions, the season, the conditions of the route. Climb alone or in a rope, speed, equipment. In short, there are many elements to take into consideration in evaluating the routes. Below we try to present you the five climbs, in our opinion, the most extreme ever. A subjective list not reported in order of importance, but following the chronology of events.
1978 – Nanga Parbat by Reinhold Messner
Climb an 8000er solo? An idea that does not scare today, there are many (although not common) solitary climbs on the giants of the planet. In the seventies, however, no one would have ever thought about it, even the most prepared alpinist would have shivered at the idea. Except Messner, who after having reached the summit of Everest without using oxygen cylinders, left for Pakistan. Around him very few people, an expedition reduced to the bone and, in front of him, the enormous Diamir face of Nanga Parbat, the one at whose foot his brother had disappeared eight years earlier. He chose to climb a new route, in the most total unknown in one of the most extreme environments that the world can offer. The climb took him for several days, without using the cylinders, but in the end he succeeded.
The photo of him alone on top of the ninth mountain on Earth remains in history. The first man to succeed in such an undertaking, unfortunately overshadowed by the most striking ascent of Everest a few months earlier.
1986 – Via Kukuczka-Piotrowski south of K2
To tell the essence of this route it is enough to underline a few aspects: after its opening no one has tried to repeat it; Reinhold Messner called it “suicidal” for the danger of the route.
The route, opened by Jerzy Kukuczka and Tadeusz Piotrowski, climbs along the south face of K2 in an area heavily exposed to avalanches and ice discharges, blocks as big as cars that rush downwards at impressive speeds. “Looking at the itinerary that Jerzy had illustrated to Kurt Diemberger and Gianni Calcagno, present at the base camp at the time, you were shivering” is the comment of Agostino Da Polenza.
The climb went perfectly and, despite the enormous objective risks, the two Poles managed to reach the summit of K2 on 8 July, after 5 days on the wall, in alpine style and without oxygen cylinders. An always sustained climb that consumed the energies of the two and which, by a strange game of fate, saw Piotrowski’s death descending along the normal route, when he was now far from the dangers of the route.
1982 – Triptych of Frêney by Renato Casarotto
A project conceived by Renato Casarotto in the winter of 1982, the “Frêney Triptych” is a solitary 15-day mountaineering journey in which the climber from Vicenza challenged himself to the extreme. One after the other he climbed the Ratti-Vitali route on the west face of the Aiguille Noire de Peutèrey, the Gervasutti-Boccalatte route at Picco Gugliermina and the Bonington route at the Frêney Central Pylon.
Starting on February 1st, he reached the summit of Mont Blanc on the 14th and then returned to Chamonix the following day. Totally autonomous, and in complete isolation from the world, he carried out the project carrying 40 kilos of equipment and food on his back. A real feat, lived in the middle of the storm, on three of the most beautiful lines of Mont Blanc.
1989 – Eternal Flame at the Nameless tower (Trango Tower)
We are on the left bank of the Baltoro glacier, this alone is enough to give an idea of what the approach and the environment is. Opened in 1989 by Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Güllich, Christof Stiegler and Milan Sykora Eternal Flame has rewritten the concept of difficulty on big walls.
Perhaps this is also why the line immediately attracted the best climbers in the world, intent on making the first free ascent. For twenty years they tried without results, everyone was forced to turn around due to the prohibitive weather conditions or the high technical difficulties combined with the high altitude. The first free ascent arrives exactly twenty years later, by the brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber. “We have been lucky “Alexander’s comment. “By opening Eternal Flame Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Güllich, Christof Stiegler and Milan Sykora have created the best and the most beautiful free route on the planet”.
2017 – Monte Edgar by Tomas Franchini
Tomas Franchini from Trentino is an alpinist who knows his stuff. He loves to move alone in search of little known and popular mountains, often on extreme difficulties. It’s a little wild, but how could it not be.
In 2017, during an autumn expedition to China with several companions, he sees the untouched west face of Mount Edgar (6618 m). Tomas immediately falls in love with her and, without thinking too much, decides to leave for the mountain alone. The climbing is immediately sustained and difficult, but the climber manages to continue at a good pace. When the top is in sight the snow is dangerously unstable with huge frames created by the wind, every step must be calculated. The climb lasts all night and at 6.15 he finally reaches the summit, alone, and then begins the descent towards the valley along the simpler south ridge. Thus was born The Moon’s Power, a great climb in the light of the moon alone.