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Mustagata July 2004

 

Mustagata: news of our expedition

1 July to 24 July 2004

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Dispatch #1, July 1: Kashgar, Xinjiang, China - 1300 m (4264 ft) The last "big-city".

The entire team, except the father and son pair (the Wasleys), are assembled. The Wasleys should be arriving at any moment on a plane from Beijing. The weather here is very hot - in the 80s during the day - and it is also hot at night. It is great to be back in Kashgar, I haven't been here in almost 4 years. The changes here are noticeable, with wider streets being the most obvious one. We have an eclectic team of climbers, coming from Denmark, Singapore, China, and the United States. We also have 2 Tibetan "Sherpas" with us on the mountain, Awang Norbu, who summited Everest in the spring, and also Pemba Tashi. This will be their first climb on Mustagata, but we have worked with them before, and we think that they are excellent leaders and very strong climbers. We are leaving tomorrow morning at 8am for Karakuli Lake, where we will spend the first two nights acclimatizing before proceeding on to basecamp. We just finished loading all the equipment into the truck, and soon we will be going out to dinner to get our last "big-city" meal before heading out tomorrow. That's it for now, Jon Otto, from SummitClimb.com


I hope you are well. Thanks for giving all of us at SummitClimb.com this opportunity to add to the story about climbing and skiing in the Himalaya on 7546 metre Mustagata. Bringing these dispatches to you is a good example of the teamwork that goes on here at SummitClimb.com:

Jon Otto is out there leading the trip. He is a very strong climber, organized leader, and nice guy, and has made four previous ascents of Mustagata, including a bold new route on the east ridge in 2000. Jon has a degree in physics and speaks fluent Mandarin. He lives in China 50% of the year, and his connections with the mountaineering authorities and all elements of the tourism infrastructure are superb.

The dispatches are being left as voice mails on our Qwest answering system by Jon, who is using an Iridium satphone provided by Vickee Staehler at MVS Satphones.

Mike O'Brien is transcribing these. Mike climbed Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, and Cho Oyu with us. He is a strong climber, and a good writer with a degree in international relations.

We hope that the team up of Jon - voice-mailing the dispatches, and Mike -writing them, will make for exciting reading for your viewers and bring us many new team members for our Mustagata 2005 and 2006 expeditions, visible at: http://cybernet1.com/himalaya/mustagh_ata.htm

Last of all, this dispatch is being brought to you by Sterling Rope, since 1992, keeping us safe and out of crevasses as we travel across the glaciers of the world's easiest 7500 metre peak: Mustagata, also known as Mustagh-Ata, or Muztagata. Thanks again for ALL you have done, Your Sincerely, from Daniel Mazur, expedition team leader, seven 8000 metre peaks including Everest and K2, and

THANKS from all of us at SummitClimb.com

ps. Please remember that climbing Mustagata could qualify you for our 2005 Everest expedition: http://cybernet1.com/himalaya/everestnepal.htm Our last expedition (May 2004) placed 9 members and 16 sherpas on the summit!

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Dispatch #2, July 3: Subashi - 3735 m (12250 ft) Acclimatization camp before basecamp

Flood! This afternoon the banks of the nearby river exploded and a rush of water flowed through camp. We hastily moved tents and attempted to redirect the flow with shovels and stones and by constructing makeshift dams. This is the second time the tents have had to be moved, the first was in the middle of last night because there was constant heavy rain all night long. As the volume of the flooding river kept increasing and it threatened to overflow all of camp, we ended up hiring local Kirghiz people to dig like crazy. We successfully redirected the stream right before the entire camp flooded, and retired to a well deserved dinner. All in all, it was an action-packed afternoon.

If I were a kid, the playing in mud with bare feet would've been paradise. The sudden increase in the river's height resulted from the previous night's heavy rain. This rain meant that snow fell high up on the mountain, which today's sun melted. All the small tributaries filled with water by the afternoon, and at the same time it rained in the upstream area, adding to the volume of water. We are now camped at Subashi, also known as 204 Camp, because it is 204 kilometers from Kashgar. Views of Mustagata are stunning!

Yesterday we all piled into our 30 seat bus and rode the 6 hours to Subashi. Along the road we stopped at Wu-Per for the best home -made noodles (a local Uighur food) in Tien Shan. A few hours later, the cool, clean air at Karakuli Lake was a welcome reprieve from the desert heat of Kashgar, and the team was excited, as we were finally at the mountain. Most of the team had travelled many hours by train and plane from Beijing to our kickoff city of Kashgar.

Kashgar is an ancient Muslim city that is developing quickly. The dominant local ethnicity is Uighur, a proud, friendly, and energetic people. It is great to be back after a 4 year absence. Our team is composed of members from 4 different countries. There is a group of 5 representing Mountain Madness, an expedition company based out of Seattle, USA. We have 4 climbers from Denmark. They will be trying a new way of tackling the mountain, staying in basecamp for one week to acclimatize, then heading for the summit in one push, alpine style. They will be on the same route as we are. Regarding their acclimatization method, there has been some preliminary research into this different approach, and we are all interested in seeing how they do. We also have a father and son from the US, 2 Chinese climbers from Shanghai, and a young Singaporean climber. Last, but not least, our 3 Tibetan "Sherpas" travelled all the way from Lhasa, Tibet. Tomorrow, will will be making the half-day walk to basecamp. Sincerely yours, Jon Otto, from SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #3, July 5: Basecamp 4430 m (14,530 ft)

Hello from Basecamp! It is great skiing on the mountain today! The little bit of skiing I did below Camp 1 was addicting. I took a few turns to get used to skiing in plastic mountaineering boots, which have little ankle support, but my new Kneissl skis performed excellently. There is a lot of snow on the mountain this year 1 metre or more at Camp 1. On all our previous climbs of Mustagata the snow line started just above Camp 1, but this year you have to start skiing, or showshoeing, up about 3-400 meters below Camp 1, making the ski run from the summit 2500 vertical meters (8200 ft). I'm dreaming about what the snow conditions up higher may offer.

Today we got 100 meters from setting up Camp 1. An approaching lightning storm necessitated caching the tents and other gear and beating it back to Basecamp. Everyone is acclimatizing well. Most of the team will be taking an acclimatization hike up to Camp 1 and stowing gear there. Other daily activities have included eating tons of food. Our cook has been putting so many plates of different tasty dishes on the table that we cant eat all of it. But, who's complaining, we love our cook! Also, we have been reviewing high-altitude medicine and sickness prevention, giving Gamow bag demonstrations, establishing radio protocol, and showing how to cook up high, using hanging stoves as demonstration. That's all for now, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #4, July 6

Here is a note to his family from William Wasley: Poopie: Bret and I are fine, start climb tomorrow, tell Alice all is well, hi to all. - Wm. Wasley ]

We took a rest day at Basecamp today, while some of the others went up to Camp 1 with loads to get a bit of acclimatization. Our 2 Tibetan sherpas, Awang and Pemba, are doing great and have been very helpful. It turns out that they were with us on Nojin Tangla way back in 2000, and they have gained a huge amount of experience since then. We have established Camp 1 today, with 2 tents up, and tomorrow we are going to go up and sleep at Camp 1, then the next day we will try to establish Camp 2. All for now, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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Dear EverestNews.com, thanks for supporting Himalayan climbing. Here are the latest dispatches phoned in by Jon Otto and transcribed by Mike Obrien. Yours Sincerely, from Daniel Mazur and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #4, July 10 - Basecamp

Two days ago we pushed up to Camp 2 (6166m, 20,230 ft) and stashed two Sierra Designs Stretch Dome tents. At around 5900m, on the way to Camp 2, a new crack had opened up sometime in the last 4 years. This huge crevasse, 15m (50 ft) wide, was a bit of a surprise. There is a nice path through it however, and its flat bottom is all filled with snow. It would be a great place to camp.

On the way down from Camp 2, the rarified air was taking a toll on me. I had to rest every two turns I took on my skis. However, as I approached Camp 1 it became easier to breathe, and I got a nice rhythm, carving multiple turns on the hard, wind-blown snow. With the snow conditions, the skiing seemed to change daily. Heavy winds and below-freezing temps on the night of July 8th had turned wet powder into this hard and slick stuff I was now laboriously skiing down. On July 9th, a blanket of new snowfall made for some nice powder for Ted Callahan and team as they carved turns back to Basecamp.

Today, Kah Shin, Bill, Bret, Ding, Zhu ("Old Pig"), and I will be going back up to Camp 1, with the goal of pushing up to Camp 2 tomorrow and spending the night there. It will be interesting to see what new snow conditions we encounter. Everyone is in good spirits.

A little bit about Zhu's name. Zhu is his last name. The Chinese character for "Zhu" is pronounced just like the character for "pig". Although the characters are different, they are pronounced exactly the same. So, in good humor, he received the nickname "Pig". It is a sign of respect to call someone "old" in China, thus his paradoxical nickname of "Old Pig". However, here in Xinjiang Province - a Muslim region - "Old Pig" has to be careful about where he uses his moniker...

Finally, thank you Mike O'Brien (Cho Oyu summitter), for all your hard work in transcribing my wordy dispatches. Talk to you soon. From Camp 2, Thanks! from Jon Otto and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #5, July 10 - Basecamp: "Tibetan 'Sherpas'"

Our 2 Tibetan "sherpas" (Awong and Pemba) are an invaluable asset to the team. It is not really accurate (or appropriate) to call them "Sherpas", who are people from the highlands of Nepal. Instead, the 2 young men are Tibetan, and grew up around Tingri near the Everest region of Tibet. With a grant from Ozark Gear (a Beijing-based outdoor equipment company), a school was formed in 1998 to train young Tibetan men to do the high mountain work traditionally done by Nepalese Sherpas. The school is now in its fifth year and has over 50 students, most coming from poor, rural village communities around the Everest region. It is run by a dedicated 38-year-old Tibetan man named Nima Tserin. It is Nima's passion to give these young men a chance at an economically improved future. The school has created a whole new generation of mountain workers, and it has given young Tibetans a new and previously unimaginable future. The official name for a graduate of this school is "Tibetan High-Altitude Assistant", but this is a little cumbersome, and until someone comes up with something catchier, we are going to stick with Tibetan "sherpa". Regardless of what we call them, they are strong, able, and hard-working young men who live up to their misappropriated namesake. Thanks! from Jon Otto and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #6, July 10 - Basecamp: "The Danes - Alpine or Bust!"

After 5 days acclimatization in Basecamp (4440m), and one night at 5000m, our Danish team members are now ready for their attempt to climb Mustagata in Alpine-style. Bringing enough food and gas for a 9-day single forward push, the Danes commence their climb to Camp 1 today. We look forward to seeing them often as they make their way up the mountain. Thanks! from Jon Otto and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch #7, July 10 - Basecamp "Tomaz"

In July 2000, Daniel Mazur, Walter Keller, and I climbed a new route up the east ridge of Mustagata. After summitting, we descended the normal (west) route on July 16th and spent a night at 7200m in an empty tent belonging to a Slovenian team. Descending to Basecamp the following day, we learned that one Slovenian climber was still on the mountain, and was feared to be in serious trouble.

Mr. Tomaz Kavar and Mr. Joze Peljhan had spent 3 days in that same tent, while attempting the summit. Something had been wrong with either Tomaz's skis or his legs, so Joze, who had frostbitten fingers, had skied down to Basecamp to get help.

Tomaz had probably left his tent only hours before we had inadvertently arrived at it. His frozen body was found near to some Camp 3 tents on July 21st by a Spanish team, led by Jordi Binyoli. Tomaz was 59. When found, Tomaz was sitting up on a ground pad, clutching some nuts in his hand. One can only suppose that he sat down for a rest and maybe some sleep, sleep from which he never woke. The Spaniards buried him in the snow, and marked the spot with a pair of skis. I can only imagine that if we were just a day - or even a few hours! - earlier, that we may have met Tomaz somewhere on the mountain or in his tent, and been able to save his life. But on the big mountains, normal rescue efforts can take days to reach a person, time which the victim often cannot spare. Successful rescues are often more dependent upon those who can help being in the right place at the right time. But, in Tomaz's case, there was no one else at Camp 3 at that time.

Upon arriving at Basecamp this year, I noticed a rock with Tomaz's name carved, in big letters, into the face of it. Two days ago, Tomaz's younger brother, Janez, arrived at Basecamp to pay tribute to his fallen brother. Listening to Janez talk and tell stories, I have learned a little about Tomaz and his family, and I hope to learn more.

Tomaz left behind his wife, Maja Kavar, and 2 daughters, Urska and Mojca. The younger one, Mojca, is 14 and is starting high school. Urska is 18 and beginning college at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. They live in the town Radovljica, near Lake Bleol.

Janez put a plaque dedicated to his brother on a large boulder facing the west face of Mustagata. Each night here at Basecamp, the glow of 2 candles burning in remembrance of Tomaz cautions us against approaching these great peaks with anything but the utmost respect and humility.

Before he left, Janez was kind enough to give me a shirt as a gift. On the shirt there are two hands, and extending from the hands are 7 fingers, symbolizing 7000 meters. This was a picture that Tomaz's climbing partner and friend, Joze Peljhan, took of Tomaz when he arrived at 7000 meters. It will forever remind me of the unfortunate tie that binds our two teams together here on Mustagata. In memoriam, Tomaz Kavar (1941-2000). Sincerely, Jon Otto

Thanks again EverestNews.com, for all of your fine assistance, from Jon Otto, Mike O'Brien, Daniel Mazur, and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dispatch 8: Mustaga Ata Dispatch for July 7

Today, Bill, Bret, Ding, Kah Shin, Zhu, Awong and Pemba (our 2 Tibetan "sherpas"), and I are at Camp 1. Kah Shin and I are having a late dinner of ravioli and instant rice. Awong and Pemba have had to carry loads up from Camp 1 every day, until we were in position to push higher up the mountain.

Tomorrow morning we will take off and explore the route to Camp 2. I suspect most of the crevasses will be filled in, due to all of the snow on the mountain this year.

Our 4 Danish climbers, who are going to attempt to climb the mountain "Alpine-style", today went up a different part of the mountain, up to 5000 meters, where they will try to acclimatize. Then, they will return to Basecamp tomorrow, where they will spend a few days before ascending again, this time using the same route as us. They will be moving slowly, as they have heavy backpacks full of food and fuel. We will talk to you again tomorrow, hopefully from Camp 2. All the best, Sincerely, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com.

Dear EverestNews.com, Hope all is well, and thank you so much for keeping everyone informed about summer climbs in the Himalaya! Here are the latest Mustagh Ata dispatches from SummitClimb.com, satphoned in by leader Jon Otto and written by Cho Oyu summiter Mike O'Brien.

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THE LATEST NEWS: Jon Otto summited with our father-son team: Bill and Bret Wasley! Now the others are trying for the top.

July 11th - Camp 2 (6200m): A long and rewarding climb has gotten us to Camp 2 at 6200 meters, and we could not have had a better day. No winds and no clouds. Okay, light zephyrs at times. Last night, a cold north wind wind blew in, creating what appears to be a stable front. On the climb up our main problem was avoiding heat exhaustion due to the mid-afternoon sun.

Eight of us (Bill, Bret, Kah Shin, Ding, "Old Pig", Awong, Pemba, and myself) are now finishing dinner, and then it is early to bed. Bill, Bret, and Ding have their hearts set on making the summit this trip up, which would be the day after tomorrow. Originally, this was only going to be an acclimatization trip, with us going back down to Basecamp tomorrow and resting for a day or two before making our way back up for a summit push. The main reason they wish to attempt the summit now - other than that they're feeling pretty darn good right now at 6200m - is that "the walk to C2 is too !@#!!#@#!!@!X#X#X!! long and we don't want to do it again!" And hey, if that is incentive enough to get to the summit early, then so be it! However, because we are more than a week ahead of schedule, we only have enough tents up here right now to make a summit bid feasible for 4 people. This is also the highest that most of us have ever slept, so we will see how everyone is feeling in the morning.

Ted Callahan is presently in C1, and will be moving up to C2 tomorrow. I passed the Danes yesterday, they were camped at 5100m, and today they should have moved up the mountain to around 5600m, just below the beginning of the icefall. The sun has now set, and the temperature has dropped rapidly in this rarified air. It's gone from around 15C to below freezing, all in under an hour. Bye for now. Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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July 12th, Camp 3 (6800m): Six of us are at Camp 3, and poised for the summit. Given good weather conditions tomorrow (and good health for everyone), we will depart early in the morning, but not too early, as this is an extremely cold mountain, and we will wait until past first light. Ding, Pemba, Bret, Bill, Tah Shin, and myself are here and ready to go. The climb up from C2 today was difficult, and it took alot out of all of us, but that is to be expected at this altitude. Once again we were blessed with excellent weather, sunny skies, and no wind for most of the day. However, in the late afternoon, as we were brewing up on the slopes using the hanging stoves - melting snow and making hot drinks - a storm blew in with 30 kph winds, and visibility dropped to under 200 feet while heavy snow began to fall. It lasted only about an hour and a half or so, and by the time we pulled into camp the clouds had lifted and the sun was shining once again. This evening, as we were setting up the tents and making dinner, we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Now, as my hands begin to freeze up from clutching this satellite phone, I must say goodbye, as we have a very early wake up call for tomorrow morning (5:30am). I hope to speak to you again via satphone from the summit of Mustagata. Cheers for now, and good night. Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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July 12th, Summit! The call from the summit was a little garbled, but we heard Jon Otto say on the sat phone that it was windy and cloudy but everyone was ok and very happy to be on top. -Mike Obrien from SummitClimb.com

Today at 4pm local time, our father and son duo from the US (Bill and Bret), our Chinese climber (Mr. Ding), and myself stood on the summit of Mustagata. Bret was the first to reach the summit, a nice 27th birthday present for him. We shared the summit with a very nice Swiss-Belgian couple, whom we had gotten to know over the last few days on our way up from C2. (They had offered one of our other climbers, "Old Pig", some mountain tea which, he claimed, revitalized him and got him into C2.) Unfortunately, when we arrived on the summit we had whiteout conditions, with heavy winds and blowing snow. These seem to be common for Mustagata, and can last anywhere from an hour or two to a day or two. She is a very fickle mountain. So, we took the requisite summit photos, then hurried back down to C3.

We were the first team in a while to go up the mountain, and so I had wanded the route religiously on the way up. This is important to do on Mustagata, since it is mostly featureless for much of the climb, with no guiding landmarks to give one a good bearing. This helped us tremendously on the way down from the summit, when we had low visibility and had to feel our way from wand to wand, hoping the clouds would part long enough for us to find the next one. The trip to the summit and back took us about 12 hours, and we are all now safely back in C3. Tomorrow we will go all the way back down to Basecamp, and then we will have ourselves a party. We will invite our Belgian/Swiss friends, and we hear there is fresh lamb and plenty of beer, along with Chinese "white-wine", which is the equivalent of lighter fluid, and some interesting pomegranate wine.

This group made incredibly short work of summitting Mustagata: starting at Basecamp on Day 1, we reached the summit on Day 9. It takes many people up to to 17 days. Our oldest summitter and team member is Bill at 59.

We were briefly in radio contact with the Danes, but it was unclear as to their progress. It sounded like they had split into 2 groups as of our last communication, but we will find out where they are camped and what they are planning when we see them on our way down to Basecamp tomorrow. Everyone else will be taking a rest day in Basecamp before attempting their own summits. All the best, and happy dreams. Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

Thanks for posting these George, and please stay tuned for more exciting dispatches satphoned in by Jon Otto and written by Mike O'Brien. Thank You Very much, Yours Sincerely, from Daniel Mazur and all of us at SummitClimb.com

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Dear EverestNews.com, Hope you are doing well! Here are the latest dispatches sat-phoned in by Jon Otto and written by Mike Obrien of SummitClimb.com

Summit Day Recap, July 13th

We headed out, in great weather, at about 7:30 am local time on July 13th toward the summit of Mustagata. Some say that this is too late a start, but it is just so darn cold, why head out any earlier? And getting caught in the storm at the summit was still warmer than was getting out of our tents that morning. The down side of getting caught in the storm was that we missed the usually spectacular 360 degree view from the summit, but hey, things don't always work out perfectly, especially when mountaineering remote high peaks.

Originally, six of us had headed out for the summit, but half way up Kah Shin had to turn around. Pemba accompanied him down. A marathoner, Kah Shin has great tenacity and determination, and he knew he would get another chance. He descended to BC in less than a day and is now back on the mountain going for the summit once again. Because I had him go back down with Kah Shin, Pemba was looking rather gloomy, until I explained to him (3 times!) that he would get another shot at the summit, really. Pemba shows the great determination typical of these Tibetan sherpas.

The team was all on snowshoes, and Bret broke trail all the way to the top. I was the only one on skis and broke trail parallel to the rest of the team, placing wands every 50-100 meters. The snow was plentiful and soft, and Bret was rewarded for his efforts by being first to the summit. Mustagata is mostly flat on top, except for a few rock outcroppings. Bret ran up the tallest of the small outcroppings of rock - which is the "true" summit and highest point on the mountain - and lay down, then ran back to meet his dad with a big hug. Bret didn't look like he was at 7546 meters, he was moving like a squirrel looking for a nut. Ding was elated and was hugging everyone. He pulled out the banner of his sponsor and pictures of his girlfriend, and took photos until his hands went numb (which takes less than a minute up there). In the meantime the clouds had surrounded us, and the wind was howling and snow was falling. I called my wife from up there, a first for me. This was the fourth mountain that Ding had climbed, but Mustagata was the first that he had summitted. Needless to say, his motivation level was through the roof. He had previously tried Shue Bao Deng, China's easiest 6000 metre peak, but only made it to camp 1 before his climb ended when he and a another female climber fell in love and eloped together. Then, in 2001, having recovered from his romance, Ding went to Nojin Kansa, a 7000m peak in Tibet (SummitClimb.com has climbed this mountain twice), but was ordered to remain in basecamp as "basecamp manager". He also climbed a technical 6000er in Sichuan with Jon Otto last year, but we had to turn him around less than 50 vertical meters from the top, because of an exposed ridgeline we deemed too dangerous and unstable. That is why Ding was so determined he was going to get to the top of Mustagata! And he did....

The way back down to C3 from the summit was slow going. Other than Bill and Ding being extremely exhausted, we had to play "find the wand". This tedious game entails staying near one wand until the clouds and fog clear enough to spot the next one, then "running" to that one and trying to spot the next one, etc... I also had my GPS unit, which gave us an added layer of security up there, a very desirable thing to have on a mountain like Mustagata, which has few landmarks of any kind high on its flanks. If worse came to worst, I could simply have entered "go to C3" on my Magellan unit, then followed the little arrow until we bumped into our tents. Between tried-and-true traditional methods and modern technology, it should now be virtually impossible to get lost up there. We got back to C3 at around 8pm, making it a 12 to 13 hour summit day, not bad, especially after the push we made to get there. All for now from Mustagata, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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Mustagata Basecamp, July 15th: The storm from summit day (July 13th) continued into the night and the following day. We, the summit team (father and son pair Bill and Bret, Ding, and Jon), finally left the high camp at noon on July 14th. On the way down we passed Steven Decoster (Belgium) and Claudia Broch (Switzerland), who were waiting out the weather for another day before descending. These two are the friendly and personable couple that summitted together with us. We have been helping each other out in small ways over the past few days. They gave a cup of "mountain tea" to Zhu, who was having trouble getting to Camp 2. "Without that tea, I would never have gotten here!", said Zhu at the time. We never did ask what the secret ingredient in that tea was. Also, Steven and Claudia were able to follow our footsteps and wands while making their way to the summit. It's nice when teams can support each other and cooperate, rather than have a "competitive attitude" that may be present between teams from different expeditions. The mountains are big, and there is plenty of room for everyone on them.

I stayed behind to dig out the Camp 3 tents, which were easily becoming overwhelmed by nature's whimsical ways - tons and tons of annoying spindrift, you can never win the sisyphean battle against spindrift! I then caught up with the others (I was on skis, so could move down the mountain more quickly), and as a group we methodically continued down toward C2, sometimes in whiteout conditions. Even though the weather was awful, the air temperature was rising quickly as we continued our descent. At C2 more of our tents needed digging out; at C1, wow, what a city of tents! Culture shock! Camp 1 has grown dramatically (now it is at around 30 tents) during the few days that we were higher on the mountain. Many Western and Eastern European teams are here now. The Korean team, which was camped next to us at BC and at C1, have now reached C2. There was a large Chinese team, led by Mr. Yang, with 6 tents at C1. Some of their team members I know very well, such as Terry Choi from Hong Kong, and Mr. Jin, who runs a climbing equipment shop in Yunan. The rise of Chinese climbing in the last 3 years has been incredible, the increase exponential. They have taken to their own mountains like never before in history, and in every corner of their country.

We made it down to BC by 8pm, and had a skillfully prepared, delicious and abundant feast of fresh vegetables, noodles, rice, and fresh roasted lamb (separately prepared for the non-vegetarians in our team). It continued to rain all day today here at BC, while snowing on the mountain. Our summit energized the rest of the team as they headed out for their own summit push. Today they are going to C1, tomorrow C2, then on to C3 and the summit, weather permitting. Kah Shin, who got to over 7100 meters with us on July 13th, is highly motivated. Zhu, who got hit by the altitude at C2, is now confident that he is properly acclimatized. Denny, JD, and Bob all look in good shape and are in high spirits. Our guide, Ted Callahan, and our 2 Tibetan "sherpas" are going up with this group. Their planned summit date is July 18th. Talk to you soon, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

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July 16th, Snow!

We are having the largest July dump in recent history. The snow began to fall last night and continued falling all day today, with only brief pauses. At times it was thick, wet flakes, at other times it was like hail. At C1 the accumulation was several feet, visibility was often 10 feet or less. What conditions prevail higher on the mountain, we can only guess. Our second summit team stayed in C1 today. JD, who was getting a little stir crazy sitting around up there, decided to run down to BC for lunch. Along the way, he heard and then spotted a member of the Korean team who had gone the wrong way. The man was yelling "I'm lost! I'm lost!". With some assistance from JD, and a couple of hours hiking down, they both made it safely into BC. Nice cooperation team mates!

The Danes are hunkered down at around 6200m, waiting out the storm and wondering if it will ever end. They are all okay. It is still snowing and we are all hoping that it blows out during the evening. Cheers from a very wet Basecamp, Jon Otto from SummitClimb.com

Thanks EverestNews.com for letting the world know how our Mustagata climb is going.

Yours Sincerely, from Jon Otto, Mike O'Brien, and Daniel Mazur from SummitClimb.com

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Dear EverestNews.com, it has been wonderful working with you on this Mustagata climb. Here is the latest dispatch emailed in from Kashgar by Jon Otto:

Dispatch, “Finale” Kashgar

We are now back in Kashgar, the nearest big city to Mustagata, and feeling very proud that our team has summited Mustagata, the world's easiest 7500 meter peak, often skied, snowshoed, and snow boarded. Here is an account of the final days of our climb:

July 18th: The heavens had dumped more snow on Mustagata during this time of year than anyone had seen in over ten years. At this point I was worrying about how we would clear camps 2 and 3 if the bad weather persisted. Other than tents, stoves, gas, and lots of food, our members had a lot of their personal equipment at camp 2, staged and ready for the summit bid. Their personal articles included such items as warm clothing, sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

The following morning (July 19th) the weather looked promising. We assessed the avalanche potential critically, and determined that snow pack anchors on the slopes were still sufficient for safe travel, so we left early to try to catch the snow in its best condition. Our two superstar Sherpas, Awang and Pemba seemed to have renewed energy. They broke trail like bulldozers all the way to camp 2 in around 3 hours. From there they continued to camp 3. A fog rose out of the valley in the morning and we were climbing through on and off semi-whiteout conditions with occasional light snow. I was thinking, “Will it ever just be nice out.” By noon the sun finally burned the fog away. The tents at camp 2 were completely covered by snow. Some careful digging revealed the word “Ozark” (the name of our kind sponsor) on one of the tents. These were the same Ozark tents we used on Everest during April and May of 2004 and they held up well. Not a bit of damage from being buried; these are some tough tents.

Finally, Awang and Pemba came down from camp 3 with our 2 tents, stoves, and other equipment. As we continued to pack-up camp 2 a steady stream of climbers were moving up the mountain, following the impressive trail blazed by our two tough Sherpas. Everyone had been stationary for 5 days and now that the weather was a little better and our Sherpas had made tracks, so it seemed everyone was pushing up as fast as they could. I offered hot drinks and food to the passers-by. We had left quite a bit of equipment at camp 2, so Awang and Pemba each had their rucksack jammed full, plus each dragged a duffle crammed full of stuff. Then down the mountain they went, and everyone was very impressed with, and grateful for, their incredible strength. We could not have done this climb without them.

July 20th was a nice day, but July 21st it socked in again and snowed. To celebrate we had another incredible feast skillfully conjured by our amazing cooks, of fresh vegetables and meats (separately prepared for the vegetarians amongst us). A few of our members chose to sample some of the local firewater, and a friendly and cheery evening was had by all.

On the morning of July 22nd, there was a layer of snow on the ground as we hastily broke camp and made loads for the camels. It seemed fitting that the mountain was, again, shrouded in a layer of clouds on our departure day. It would have been ironic had our final day dawned clear, after we were pummeled by so much snow during the last week of the climb. The camel drivers were very meticulous in loading their trusty beasts, and the process of weighing and loading the camels took about 4 hours, including a fair amount of discussion in rapid-fire Chinese [thank heavens we had Jon there; he speaks fluent Chinese]. Finally, we made it down to Subashi where our vehicles were waiting to take us to Kashgar. In Kashgar we celebrated our successful climb with yet another incredible feast of delicious food and drink until late into the night.

About the weather: The local people who live around Mustagata, the "Khergiz" did not have an answer to why there was so much rain and snow this year.

They did not seem disturbed by it, though. Mustagata is usually immune from the effects of the monsoon, but this year the monsoon definitely made it to Mustagata. While on the mountain, we heard reports of heavy rains in Pakistan, influencing climbers on K2 and the Gasherbrum. Bob, one of our members, works as a scientist for NASA predicting weather patterns.

Throughout the climb, Bob was pretty much accurate about what was coming and how long it would stay. When he returns to the States he will be doing an analysis of what went on this summer, so hopefully we will have some more

answers. But, for now, it suffices to say that Mustagata was just having a wet July.

Normally, average dry years generally follow years of excess, so we shall look forward to "back to normal" conditions next year. Thank you for following our climb of Mustagata and we look forward to climbing Mustagata again with you in 2005. Cheers, climb safe, Jon Otto.

Daniel Mazur and all of us at SummitClimb.com would like to thank everyone who made this possible, Jon Otto, the climbing team members, Sherpas, organizers, EverestNews.com, Mike O'Brien who wrote much of what you have read; and all of our families, friends, and colleagues who support us through these challenging and exciting moments in the mountains. THANK

YOU FROM EVERYONE AT SummitClimb.com

 

...

Introduction to Mustagata

Early in the morning of the first day our team will board a bus for the drive to "Subashi" which means pasture in the local "Tadzhik" dialect. By the side of the Karakoram Highway, at 3,600 meters, we will unload all of our equipment from the buses, camp, then the following morning, load our equipment onto camels. These sturdy beasts, led by their gentle shepherds, the "Kirghiz" people, will carry our belongings on a five hour walk to basecamp, while our members and staff accompany on foot, carrying nothing.

We reach basecamp at 4,500 meters late in the day, have a tasty hot meal, and lots of hot drinks, then fall into our sleeping bags for a welcome sleep. The following day, there is plenty of time to participate in our extensive mountain-climbing and medical and camping training, to really get basecamp well organized, rest, unpack everything, and enjoy many good cups of tea and juice and hearty meals of fresh local vegetables, grains, potatoes and fresh or tinned meat (separately prepared for the meat-eaters in our midst). Our cook is a local "Uighur", who is a trained chef, who knows what westerners like to eat, who we have used many times before, and is able to prepare a tasty, filling meal on a moment's notice. He is able to cook for a variety of palettes with a minimum of spices and oils. There is plenty of fuel for daily washing and showers in hot water, and for boiling drinking water (we have iodine tablets, and/or a water-filter for water purification, just in case).

Now its time to climb Mustagata, the easiest 7500 metre peak in the world: We have chosen to climb the peak in July, a time when the snow conditions are good, the mountain is not too "melted-out", and the route is relatively pristine and clean.

Over the next few days, we hike up and down the mountain to Camp 1 at 5,400 meters. The trail is mainly loose stones, is usually snow free and is done in leather walking boots (plastic boots are required above camp 1). Most people prefer to hire the local donkey-drivers and their sturdy beasts, who will charge a rate of 10-20 Chinese Yuan per kilo to carry personal equipment such as sleeping bag and climbing boots, up and down the mountain. After our staff carry up the tents and supplies, and set everything up, we move into Camp 1 and sleep. Camp 1 is a small rocky flat place in a 15 degree hillside of loose stones, occasionally lightly snow covered. We rest and acclimate, and use our snowshoes or skis (with climbing skins) to explore the way to Camp 2 at 6,100 meters.

These slopes are lightly crevassed, so all team members are usually roped above Camp 1. For descending above camp 1, snowshoes, skis, or a snowboard are often used. Camp 2 is located on a nearly flat, 4 degree snow plateau. Enroute to Camp 2, at 6200 meters, lies a miniscule ice fall. It is not normally necessary to use fixed lines here, although we are prepared to fix them, in case one of the tiny crevasses might open wide enough. In five years, this only happened once. Then we descend by snowshoe, ski, or snowboard down to camp 1 and walk back to basecamp. Eventually after resting in base, eating lots of good food and many cups of tea and other drinks, taking time to adjust to the altitude, and carrying equipment up to Camp 2, we sleep there. The slopes above and below Camp 2 are sustained at a 20 degree pitch, and offer the best skiing and snowboarding.

After descending for a day or two of rest and some large and tasty meals in basecamp, its time to move up to Camp 3 and sleep there. Route finding to Camp 3 at 6,800 meters involves traversing some of the gentlest slopes on the mountain, often below 10 degrees. It's a very easy place to walk, snowshoe or ski, but there are crevasses in this area, so all safety precautions must be used, including traveling as a roped team and use of bamboo marker wands.

On Summit Day, we head out of camp early, roped together, walking and with our snowshoes, or skis and climbing skins. If we are planning to snowboard down, we will be snowshoe-ing up carrying the board on your back. It takes 4 to 8 hours to reach the summit (7,546 meters) from Camp 3. The slope begins at 18 degrees, then lessens to 5 degrees. It is big and wide, with few or no crevasses. We will continue to be roped for safety, however. At the summit, we can look at the marvelous view in every direction, toward Pakistan and Rakaposhi, into the K2 area, across to the Tien Shan range, even into Afghanistan. This is an invigorating place from which to view the planet. After packing up all of our equipment and rubbish, its time for a careful descent, and we can be back in basecamp in one or two days. Finally we pack up basecamp, and load the equipment onto camels for the descent. Leaving Subashi, we retrace our steps to Kashgar, and say our last goodbyes to our new friends before the flight home. Thanks for joining in, from Daniel Mazur and all of us at SummitClimb.com !

PS. Thanks to EverestNews.com for all of their fantastic hard work and sharing news about Himalayan exploration with everyone.

The Team

JONATHAN C. OTTO (Leader), USA

EDWARD MANNING CALLAHAN, JR. (guide), USA

ZHU JIN, CHINA (climbing team member)

DING YINGLU, CHINA (climbing team member)

KAH SHIN LEOW, SINGAPORE (climbing team member)

WILLIAM WASLEY, USA (climbing team member)

BRET WASLEY, USA (climbing team member)

HANS BRÄUNER-OSBORNE, DENMARK (climbing team member)

LOTTE ELISABETH OLSEN, DENMARK (climbing team member)

CARSTEN POVL JENSEN, DENMARK (climbing team member)

MARTIN BANK RASMUSSEN, DENMARK (climbing team member)

ROBERT OGLESBY, USA (climbing team member)

JOHN DAVID STEWART, USA (climbing team member)

DENNY BOHANNON, USA (climbing team member)

JAMES WIESMUELLER, USA (climbing team member)

 

Staff: 2 skilled Uighur Cooks, and 2 experienced Tibetan Sherpas.

 

SUGGESTED DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY FOR MUSTAGATA NORMAL ROUTE

1.

1 July

Arrive Kashgar or Tashkergan. Sight seeing, logistics. Hotel

2.

2 July

Bus to Subashi (3600 metres); Arrive in afternoon, Camp.

3.

3 July

Load camels; hike to basecamp (4,500 meters). Camp.

4.

4 July

Rest, training, and organization in basecamp.

5.

5 July

Walk to Camp 1 (5,400 meters); return to basecamp; rest.

6.

6 July

Rest in basecamp.

7.

7 July

Walk to Camp 1; sleep in Camp 1.

8.

8 July

Snowshoe/Ski to Camp 2 (6,200 meters); return to basecamp via snowshoe/ski/snowboard, walk down from camp 1; rest.

9.

9 July

Rest in basecamp.

10.

10 July

Walk to Camp 1 and sleep.

11.

11 July

Snowshoe/Ski to Camp 2; sleep.

12.

12 July

Explore route to Camp 3 (6,800 meters); return to basecamp via snowshoe/ski/snowboard and walk down from camp 1; rest.

13.

13 July

Rest in basecamp.

14.

14 July

Rest in basecamp.

15.

15 July

Walk to Camp 1; sleep.

16.

16 July

Snowshoe/Ski to Camp 2; sleep.

17.

17 July

Snowshoe/Ski to Camp 3; sleep.

18.

18 July

Summit attempt via snowshoe/ski (7,546 meters).

19.

19 July

Summit attempt via snowshoe/ski (7,546 meters).

20.

20 July

Descend to basecamp via snowshoe/ski/snowboard and walking down from camp 1; rest.

21.

21 July

Descend to basecamp via snowshoe/ski/snowboard and walking down from camp 1; rest.

22.

22 July

Walk down to Subashi with camels, bus to Kashgar or Tashkurgan.

23.

23 July

Departure. Goodbye to all of our new friends!

 

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