New Route On Uli Biaho Spire

A dream come true, says Francesco Ratti about the new route that he and partners Alessandro Bau and Leonardo Gheza opened on 5,620m Uli Biaho Spire last week.

On Uli Biaho’s excellent granite slabs. Photo: @ettorezorzini

 

While the 8,000ers have attracted the crowds, the Karakoram rock spires are still an opportunity-filled playground for big wall junkies.

The Italian threesome called their new line ‘Refrigerator Off-Width’ because it runs up a distinctive dihedral in the middle of the face. A cold breeze constantly swept over it, hence the refrigerator reference.

distant view of climber wedged in a narrow chimney

The pains and pleasures of off-width climbing, Karakoram style. Photo: @ettorezorzini

 

The three of them were surprised to find out such an obvious, aesthetic line was still unclimbed in 2022, Bau admitted. It’s no wonder that they jumped on the chance to attempt it.

closeup of the route line

 

Along with photographer Ettore Zorzini, they first acclimatized on the Great Trango Tower. Then they spent some days on one of the season’s most popular routes, Eternal Flame. Still, they kept their eyes fixed on Uli Biaho.

“Finally, the good weather arrived,” Alessandro Bau said. They made two attempts, the first on July 17-18. However, it didn’t take them long to realize that they did not have enough gear for that face.

After a day of rest in Base Camp, they returned. They started off from their high camp on July 21, reclimbed the first two pitches, then onsighted the rest, they told Planetmountain.com. They dealt with “many metres of off-width, intensely cold [climbing], a bivouac in a hammock, and several mixed sections.”

Finally, they summited on July 23. While ‘only’ 510m long, they opened their new line in a light style and graded it 7a, A2, M5.

They believe that this is the only second ascent of the East Face of Uli Biaho Spire, one of the fabled Trango Towers.

summit photo from a distance

On the summit of Uli Biaho Spire. Photo: Ettore Zorzini

 

Now the climbers are back in civilization, after “32 days of total detox of internet and beer”. They promise a detailed report within the next few days.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive,and a published author.