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Latest Trango News
Sep 12, 2023
Share this: | UPDATED: September 12, 2023 at 5:25 p.m. Snow squalls coat the golden granite with a thin layer of white. Occasional breaks in the clouds offer stunning background glimpses of some of the world’s tallest mountains, like K2 and the Gasherbrum group. The wind is constant, muffling the climbers’ voices in the video clips I’m watching on Jesse Huey’s iPad — memories made this summer on his successful climb of Trango Tower (20,469 feet) with Matt Segal and Jordan Cannon. Chris Weidner Chris WeidnerWicked Gravity The trio spent six weeks in the Karakoram in July and August, making the second ascent of Cowboy Direct (5.13a), a long and supremely challenging high-altitude free climbing route on one of the most sought-after spires on earth. “We were climbing in snowstorms every day,” Huey said. “The only reason we were able to pull it off is we were tough as nails, and we were trying as hard as we could.” That they reached the summit at all is impressive, considering the relentless weather they endured. But to have each free climbed all but a short, wet section near the top is extraordinary. Cowboy Direct was first freed in 1995 by an American team led by the hyper-driven climbing pioneer Todd Skinner. He and Mike Lilygren, Jeff Bechtel and Bobby Model spent 60 days free climbing each of the route’s 30-odd pitches (extending their climbing permit four times in the process). Matt Segal on Aug. 4, after leading one of the hardest pitches of Cowboy Direct: a long 5.12 finger crack. (Jesse Huey – Courtesy Photo) Segal, of Boulder, motivated the second ascent of Cowboy Direct this summer, fulfilling a dream once held by the late, great Micah Dash. In 2007, while climbing Freerider (5.13a) together on Yosemite’s El Capitan, Dash suggested they try Cowboy Direct one day. Segal was all in, but they never had the chance; two years later Dash, Jonny Copp and Wade Johnson (all from Boulder) were killed in a massive avalanche attempting a new route on Mount Edgar in China. Once established at base camp (16,500 feet) Huey, Segal and Cannon acclimatized by climbing up with heavy loads and getting much of their gear to higher camps on the mountain. They returned to their base to rest and wait out storms. Then, on July 25, they committed to the wall. For the next 11 days, they inched up the tower, each free climbing during brief dry spells between snow showers. Trango Tower (aka Nameless Tower) stands tall (20,469 feet) among the giants of the Karakoram. (Jesse Huey – Courtesy Photo) On the morning of Aug. 5, the dogged climbers faced the final pitch of hard rock climbing. It was Cannon’s lead, and though he fought through the crux, the top was soaking wet from snowmelt and impossible to free. He pulled on gear to get through it. What’s more, they were out of food, and a storm was forecast for later that day. By 9 a.m., they decided to climb to the top, with hopes of freeing that pitch on the way down. By 5 p.m., they reached the summit for what proved to be an emotional climax. Huey spread the last of Colorado climber Hayden Kennedy’s ashes from the top in a symbolic and physical act of letting go. Cannon challenged some dissonant, long-held beliefs about himself — things he’d heard from a young age: “Gay people don’t do badass, tough things. They’re stereotypically weak and sissy and feminine. That never felt true for me,” said Cannon. “I’m pretty sure you can be both. I had a moment when we summited that I was proud of proving that wrong.” And Segal had a piton plucked from Dash’s rack when he died. Through tears he choked, “I think about Micah every day.” With that, he hammered it into a crack, and they continued their descent. By the time they reached the wet pitch, their situation was grim. “It’s like 10 o’clock at night, it’s freezing cold, we’re pulling out our (rock) shoes in the middle of the descent. It seemed so silly,” Cannon said. Still, he quickly top roped it free from where he’d pulled on gear that morning, and the team called it good. From left. Jesse Huey, Matt Segal and Jordan Cannon are pictured after summiting Trango Tower (20,469 feet), visible in the background. (Jesse Huey – Courtesy Photo) After two full days of rappelling, the climbers finally staggered back into base camp, lighter (Huey and Cannon each lost 20 pounds) and closer than when they’d started. “We became a little alpine family,” said Huey. “The coolest part of our trip was the bond that we made.” Contact Chris Weidner at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Instagram @christopherweidner and X @cweidner8. Tags: