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"Dancer in the Dark" Pakistan 2001 (tekst angielski)

12 stycznia 2008, godz. 18:30

At the end of June 2001, we try to fit all our big wall and camping gear to two bags which are not supposed to exceed the 45 pound limit (per bag) of the British Airways. It is just hopeless; we finish up with two 90 pound bags to check in plus two carry ons of about the same weight. Our funds are somewhat limited (after air line tickets we are left with $550 cash and another $550 on credit card) so we had no way to cover a cargo or excess baggage fee. We\\\'ve got one more night to figure something out....

Hot and sunny June morning in Berlin. We bravely walk into the Tegel airport, sweating under two layers of polar pants and goretex shells, plastic boots clicking on the smooth floors, grins on our faces. At the check in counter, Marcin stuffs his bag onto the scale.
Nice, weight within limit: bag is jammed on the side walls of the scale which take most of the weight. Mine, grade VII haul bag when dumped on scale, makes it to a three digit number: chatting with the British airways clerk I smoothly put my knee below it and lift it up -- until the scale shows 45 pounds. Clerk checks the weight, looked quizzically at the size of my bag, check numbers again (my leg starts to tremble under the weight, numbers shoot up and down) I know we are losing it... I desperately grab for a frequent flyer application form, and take the clerk\\\'s attention from the scale. Uff, we are safe for now. Now it\\\'s easy, with our hand bags (over 100 pitons, 40 cams, drills, bits, hammers, tens of biners, etc..) and me with the tent under an arm and Marcin with cameras and binoculars all around him, we manage to get onto plane. (in postscriptum: at every gate our carry ons were opened, and bits and fisher hooks which look more like murdering tools than climbing gear were examined, and what a joke, we were allowed to take all these on board....)

A day later we arrive in Pakistan. Within the two days we arrange all the paper work in Islamabad, and the bus takes us to Skardu. Here comes the surprise, as first timers and without any local guide, we didn\\\'t know that in Skardu credit cards are just worthless pieces of plastic. Our funds are now limited only to $550 in cash for the whole trip between the two of us. I guess all the local people will hate us forever, however we manage to buy a five week supply of food, two ropes, gas, rent the jeep for the ride into mountains, and save enough for the way back. The hardest negotiations are with the porters. We had to limit our group just to a few men, and we ourselves will carry twice they do. Speeds up you altitude adjustment. So we made it: Nangmah Valley, base camp at 14000 feet and granite beauties all around. Time for fun.

We aim for Amin Brakk. The wall harbors couple of A5 routes said to be 5000 feet long! No way. The wall is not much higher than El Cap, so the routes have to be much shorter than claimed. However, they all look hard. For our line we pick the prominent bulge (shown on the photo in AAJ 2000, p.119) followed by the immaculate nose of Amin, to the left of all previous routes. Marcin leads us through two pitches of mixed and one of crumbling rock to the base of the huge bulge. Basically no pro between belays. I guess he is used to that type of climbing or just failed to notice the lack of pro.... We set a hanging portaledge camp, ready with food and water for something like 3 weeks of action. The wall is pretty blank, but we think we may link some small features with bathooks, until we get to good prominent formations 800 feet higher. The features are there all right, but they all are loose as hell. Big blocks, sitting seemingly in good solid rock, start cracking off the wall under the pressure of hammered in pitons. We start drilling not only between features, but also along them. It looks hopeless. After breaking couple of bits, we see that there is at least more than several hundred feet to drill through and we give up. Seven days of work and nothing. Sad but true.

After we recover from taking all the shit down to our base camp, we look around for new goals. Nawaz Brakk, neighboring Amin, looks wet and loose. Brakk Zang, a 1300 feet high wall just off the camp, is already crowded with routes. However, also not far away from the camp, on the other side of a boiling stream, there is Denbor Brakk. A beauty with three steep distinctive west pillars. According to the locals Denbor was never climbed -- geez, hard to believe. Are we gonna be there first? Studying the wall we pick out the middle pillar, which we later call the Polish Pillar. Getting ready for climbing, we get friendly with the local fauna. We meet Tod, who at first seemed to be a cow, but after few days of sniffing around our stuff, turned out to be a bull. We use Tod\\\'s cow pies for cooking, saving our precious little gas for the wall, and only thanks to Tod we have something hot to eat at base camp. Just as we leave for the wall, we have a visitor, Canadian soloist Matt Maddaloni. He sets off for Nazar Brakk, but after couple of days and couple of stone hits on Nazar he aims for Denbor as well.

The first crack which looked through binoculars like a perfect splitter turns out to be flaring, slightly off-width and with crumbling sides - it takes some time to adjust to that type of formation. We follow the cracks, mostly aiding them due to their character. Trying to stay on the prow of our pillar, we sometimes leave one crack system and pendulum to another. Cracks usually do not last more than a pitch, so pendulums and hunting, groping in the dark for more and more becomes our daily bread. This is fun, you never know when you will finish your pitch! Slowly we are moving up. For the first few days the weather is excellent. We pass through the big "A" shaped roof over half way up. Here we set our high camp, just in time to hide before the rain comes. When we look out of the portaledge the terrain over high camp seems quite easy. Marcin puts on his slippers and tries to free that part. Pretty soon I see him flying by, some broken rocks following -- good that he didn\\\'t land on our portaledge or my head! Lesson learned, he puts his hiking boots back on and steps into aiders. Over the crumbling rock, he gets to a thin, solid and beautiful nailing section. Lost in the world above, he sends another pitch. In few hours I join him 200 feet up. This looks fun. I cannot believe there are so many different things just on one pitch. I start off with a 30 foot simple crack, then there is a very fragile traverse requiring the smallest aliens and HB offsets under the thin expanding flakes. I need to break them off a bit, because they are so thin at their ends that they wouldn\\\'t hold half of my weight. The traverse first curves slightly up, and then down, where it ends on a blank wall. I am several tens of feet off the prow, and after a pendulum just behind it I find very nice and easy off width. This leads me to the "hanging castle" -- a huge granite flake, something like the side wall of a big room, improbably sticking out of the wall. I go behind it, trying to see how solidly it sits there -- this makes Marcin scream his breath away. He is kind of to the side of it, nevertheless it looks a lot more scary if you are below the monster. The only attachment of the castle to the wall is at its base, a foot wide and 20 feet long, and you see a big crack all the way along the whole junction.... I move on very carefully. Now I get to a very tight chimney, which leads me to overhangs. The only apparent way of leading through them is far to my right. I take a beautiful hand traverse and the fun stops just as I reach the end of our 200 foot rope at the beginning of an overhanging hand crack pushing up through overhangs. Marcin shows up in no time, and doesn\\\'t even look at me before he starts the next, hard looking pitch. He disappears into the rain over my head, and I try to curl up under the overhangs and keep at least my back dry. Thanks to him, we fix 3 ropes, and go down to high camp. Wow, next day we go for the summit. We are both nervous and hungry. Running out of food we begun limiting our grab. To our surprise we have discovered that we have spoons of different size, and as we go spoon by spoon from one pot (man, nobody would believe how much you can put on a spoon if you see your meal disappear in your partner\\\'s mouth!) one of us was getting smaller portions. So now we go through half a meal, exchange the spoons and finish the other half. It works and we are both happy now. The next day full of surprises. First we encounter a hard long pitch where we had thought we would find easy ground, and then the top is blocked from our west side. Fortunately Marcin manages to find a tight small cave-like passage to the final summit block. At our "virgin" top we find battered slings.... We learn later that the peak was climbed couple years earlier by a womens team: Libby Peter and Louise Thomas from the south-east. Their route was named "Gentiane Traverse" and rated class I-III (e.g., High #196, 1999). Well, what the hell. We are living in 21st century and not many places are left on Earth where man hasn\\\'t put his or HER foot. We get the GPS measurements, our summit photos and happily start raps into the foggy and rainy valley.

A day later already on the ground we see that Matt has fixed couple of ropes, just to the right of our route. When we leave the Nangmah, he is committed and climbing strong.
We hear later that he finished his route in 12 days, adding another success to his already impressive list of climbs.

Chris Belczynski & Marcin Tomaszewski


name of the route: Dancer in The Dark
ratings: VI, A3+, 5.10
length: 1800 feet, 11 pitches, (200 feet ropes mandatory)
time: climbed in 8 days (18-25 July, 2001)
location: Denbor Brakk (16100 feet), Nangmah Valley, Masherbrum Mts., Karakoram, Pakistan
route: on 1500 feet high (base-to-top) middle pillar
team: Marcin Tomaszewski, Chris Belczynski
affiliation: Polish Alpine/Mountaineering Association, PZA
protection: usual A3 big wall rack, with several extra big cams (belays bolted, several pitons and copperheads left)
route character: broken features connected with number of pendulums; mostly cracks, with a lot of off-widths, terrain vertical to slightly overhanging.
approach: from Brakk Zank base camp, go slightly up toward the Denbor west face. Cross the river, at the height of connection of middle and right pillar of Denbor (look for bolts on big boulder which are ready for setting a tyrolian across the river)
decent: rappel down the route (few pendulums required, especially on the second pitch)

autor: K. Belczynski & M. Tomaszewski dodał: Michał
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