Mountaineering :: Trekking :: Ski touring

 

This is a copy of the report written for the jagged Globe website about their 2007 Expedition to Muztag Ata. This was my 5th expedition to this peak.

Muztag Ata    28 July - 26 August 2007

Five climbers and two Sherpas reached the 7546m summit at 14.00 hrs local time on Saturday 18th August 2007ensuring a successful outcome to the ninth Jagged Globe expedition to Muztag Ata in Chinese Xinjiang. This mountain is becoming increasingly popular with foreign climbers and there were over 150 tents in Base Camp occupied by teams from all over the world. Surprisingly during our time on the mountain we were the only English speaking group among many teams from Asia, Western and Eastern Europe.


The complexities of travel to China's remote western province of Xinjiang meant that the journey to and from Base Camp was quite an adventure in itself. Most of the team assembled in Islamabad, the capital of neighboring Pakistan, after flying from the UK on 28th/29th July. We then had a three day journey by road along the Karakoram Highway through Northern Pakistan into China. Along the way we spent hotel nights in Chilas and Sust (Pakistan) and Tashkurgan (China). The expedition food had been airfreighted from the UK and was collected in Islamabad while the tents and climbing equipment stored in Pakistan were collected in Gilgit along with Abdullah who was to work with us as a HAP (High Altitude Porter).


The customs and immigration formalities on the frontier between Pakistan and China are more bureaucratic than problematic and the team became quite expert in transferring large amounts of baggage between vehicles and assorted inspection points. Abdullah had presented each member of the team with a Pakistani hat and while these kept our ears warm for the photo shoot on the snowy Khunjerab Pass (4730m) we must have looked like a busload of pale faced Taliban to the waiting Chinese border guards.


We met the three members of the team who has chosen to travel to China independently and made the short walk from the roadhead to Base Camp on 3rd August. Here we were also joined by the three Nepalese Sherpas who had made the long journey from Kathmandu to work with us on the mountain. The team were very impressed to learn that all three (Galgyn, Lila and Kadji) had climbed Everest a few months previously with the 2007 Jagged Globe / Extreme Everest Medical Expedition.


Of all the teams climbing Muztag Ata we were the only group that had brought experiences staff from outside Chine to help us climb the peak. The three Nepalese Sherpas and one Pakistani porter made a huge contribution to our ascent. They were able to carry all our supplies of food and fuel to the high camps as well as carrying and pitching all the tents that we needed above Base Camp. This enabled us to move more supplies than the other groups giving us greater comfort on the mountain and a larger safety and contingency margin. By the time of our summit bid our team of 10 climbers and 4 staff had 6 tents at Camp 1, 5 tents at Camp 2, and 7 tents at Camp 3, all supplied stoves pots, food and fuel.


While the staff were placing these stores on the mountain the climbing team was able to follow a leisurely acclimatization programme without the need to carry heavy loads between camps. We made a short visit to Camp 1 on 5th Aug returning to Base Camp for lunch. Then on 7th Aug we again climbed to Camp 1 and slept there for the night before returning to Base Camp the following day. The weather was unsettled for much of our early time on the mountain with short spells of rain and snow falling on Base Camp most days. Despite this the whole team climbed to Camp 2 and spent the nights of 11th and 12th Aug sleeping at 6100m. It was then time to return to Base Camp for a few days rest before the summit bid.


In the absence of reliable weather forecasts we decided to push up the mountain with a reasonable amount of food and fuel and be prepared to sit and wait for a period of settled weather. As luck would have it we hit the weather window on the first of our possible summit days. We made camp 1 on the 15th, Camp 2 on the 16th, Camp 3 on the 17th and the summit on the 18th. Seven climbers and three staff set off from Camp 3 (6800m) at 08.30 on the 18th. Lila Sherpa turned around with Toby approx 200m above Camp 3 before running back up the mountain to join the main summit party. Abdullah stayed close to Luigi until they decided to retreat 250m from the summit. Galgyn was out in front breaking trail all the way from Camp 3 to the top. Lindsey, Mark, Juliet, Geoff and Dave (on skis) all summated between 13.50 and 14.20. Weather conditions were clear with uninterrupted views of distant peaks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. However there was a strong cold wind and summit temperatures of -20 / -30 degrees caused problems with camera batteries.


Jeff and Orna made 2 attempts to climb from Camp 2 to Camp 3 with leader David H, reaching 6300m on the 17th and 6600m on the 18th. David H climbed from Camp 2 to Camp 3 in the evening of the 18th to lead a second summit bid. Together with Toby he reached 7000m the following day before turning back. By the evening of the 19th all the climbers were safely back in Base Camp and the Sherpas had carried all the Camp 3 and Camp 2 equipment back to Camp 1. The good weather continued for three more days and all the equipment was returned to Base Camp, cleaned and dried…. ready for next year's expedition! The group was able to leave Base Camp two days ahead of schedule and travel to Kashgar for hot showers, cold beers, and a bit of relaxing, shopping and sightseeing.


All the summiteers set personal altitude records, as did several of the other team members. Everyone enjoyed being part of an efficient and well supported expedition. The four staff who worked on the mountain (Galgyn, Lila, Kadji, Abdullah) made a huge contribution to the success of the team and everyone was very grateful for their hard work and constant cheerfulness. Ella did a great job operating the Base Camp radio (often from a windswept hilltop!) keeping all the climbers and camps in touch with each other. As we sit in Kashgar now everyone's thoughts are already turning to "What will we climb next year?"


David Hamilton, Kashgar, 24/08/2007


David Hamilton
High Adventure
67 Castle Road
Hartshill
Nuneaton
Warwickshire
CV10 0SG

Email:  david@highadventure.org.uk

Telephone:    From UK    02476 395422
From other countries     +44 2476 395422

Skype:  davidhamilton8848

Website by Jenkin Hill Internet