Friday, January 7, 2011

Trango Towers

In the north of Pakistan, in the Baltoro Muztagh mountains and not far from K2, the Trango Towers feature several of the most significant granite cliffs in the world.  The eastern face of the Great Trango Tower, the highest peak in the group, features the largest “nearly vertical” drop in the world: 1,340 metres, but not with the true vertical drop of Mount Thor.

Looking across the Baltoro glacier, the Trango group are on the left of this picture.  Image via Evert Wesker.

Great Trango Tower.  Image via Askole treks.

The image of those towers rising up out of the Baltoro glacier is very impressive; especially when you consider that the glacier itself is up at 4,000m and yet they still rise a kilometre above that.  What really caught my eye was that among this group of mountains is one particularly striking peak with the equally striking name of Nameless Tower.

No attribution, but image found via these forums.

Image via Todd Skinner

Image via Todd Skinner

Anything that we might call ‘nameless’ immediately brings Lovecraft to mind.  Those towering cliffs all remind me greatly of scenes from Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (I must get around to reading At the Mountains of Madness, which I imagine is rife with these places).  The Plateau of Leng and the mountains separating it from Inganok, the mountain Ngranek (although that was a solitary extinct volcano), even the great carved mountains that protect Kadath.  And there is also the granite island that was referred to as “that nameless rock”:

On the twentieth day a great jagged rock in the sea was sighted from afar, the first land glimpsed since Aran’s snowy peak had dwindled behind the ship. Carter asked the captain the name of that rock, but was told that it had no name and had never been sought by any vessel because of the sounds that came from it at night. And when, after dark, a dull and ceaseless howling arose from that jagged granite place, the traveller was glad that no stop had been made, and that the rock had no name. The seamen prayed and chanted till the noise was out of earshot, and Carter dreamed terrible dreams within dreams in the small hours.

That final image of Nameless Tower by night, with that lonely light peering out, gives me the distinct feeling of a place where people are not meant to be, where we are not welcome.  In a sense, the advances that climbing technique and equipment have made that allows them to scale all of these places – so that now the challenge is to find newer, more difficult ascents – has removed some of the feeling that people must have had in previous generations of places that were simply inaccessible, mysteries that could only be penetrated in the imagination.

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