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Mustagata Mountain Climbing Expedition News July 2015, climb Mustagh Ata or Muztagata

 
News of our recent expedition: Mustagata Climb
30 June-24 July, 2012
 
Please view more information about our upcoming . We are now accepting applications for the summer of 2013, so please come on out again.

Dispatches: Please click one of the links below to go directly to that dispatch or just scroll down.

22 July -

The whole team arrived back in base camp today, but unfortunately no summit.

We left camp 3 at 5am in the morning on the 20th. The whole night and the day before it had been snowing.The weather was nice and warm though in the morning.

At 7300m we decided to quit. It was late in the afternoon and clouds rolled in, visibility was almost zero. We put wands along the trail we made, so finding our way back to camp was no problem and very safe.

Now we are all back in Base Camp, but we couldn’t control the weather. Tomorrow we will pack up Base camp and head back to civilization again,

Arnold Coster, expedition leader back to top

19 July -

Team heading for the summit!!

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

18 July -

Yesterday we had quite some snow in Base Camp. Therefore we decided to stay put for one more day.

Although it looks like the nice weather didn't return yet, we are aiming to summit on the 20th. Some snow is forecasted on the 18-19th, but we think we will be fine on the lower part of the mountain.

I will be calling in dispatches about our progress from now on, so stay tuned!

Arnold Coster, Expedition leader back to top

15 July -

As the saying goes, one can never climb the same mountain twice. Those who were here last year tell the snowline was much higher and the beginning from Camp 1 a little icy, but now there's loads of snow down to 5000 metres, which is a real treat for us skiers and making life easier for the snowshoe climbers as well.

Skiing here has been as good as it gets. We've made two descents from Camp 2 at 6200 metres down to the snowline in perfect sunshine and firm conditions. First round leaving spurs on the virgin mountainside, the next enjoying good carving on little icier snow. And every now and then stopping to take in the literally breathtaking views of the Pamirs (read: gasping for air :)

We are now back in Base Camp with green grass, birds singing, flies buzzing and occasional thunderstorms. The acclimatization program and setting up of the high camps has been completed. Staffs' efforts in setting the route and the camps have been phenomenal, including some fantastic ski aerobatics. Now it is all about eating well, resting and recuperating before starting the summit push tomorrow.

The Base Camp is so comfortable and Samdien's cooking so delicious that sometimes it is hard to leave. But one does not cross the Silk Road by staying at an oasis. And it is the hardship that is a big part of its charm, I guess, but I still wouldn't want too many storms on the way up... Anyway, tomorrow the white windy desert is again calling our caravan. This time, when we come back, we will have reached our destination, whatever it might be.

After that it will be back to Kashgar and perhaps a couple of beers.

Cheers,

Janne back to top

Janne skiing between camps. Sunset from camp 1 (Arnold Coster). 

14 July -

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

 

Group picture near Mustagata basecamp. Names from left to right: Janne, Josh, Louise, Sanja, Arnold (behind), George, Stewart , Chok , Hammed.

 

11 July -

After a good breakfast we all left the comforts of base camp last Monday. Our staff already pitched Camp 1 at 5500m the day before. Most of us already reached Camp 1 during our acclimatization hike. This year there is a lot of snow, so half way we have to put our snowshoes or skis on.

After getting enough snow for the night to cook and melting drinking water we all settled in our tents. The night was calm and not too cold. The next morning after the first sun rays heated up our tents we set off for another acclimatization hike to Camp 2 at 6150m. The snow conditions are perfect, a hard crust with just a little bit off powder on top!

Everybody who was on skis couldn't wait to ski down. After a 4 hour hike we all reached Camp 2 and our staff managed to pitch all of our tents for the next time up.

The descent to Camp 1 on skis was fabulous; I don't think it could get any better than this! We stayed another night in Camp 1 to get some more acclimatization. From Camp 1 to Base Camp it is just a small hike, down is easy! Everybody made it back for a late breakfast in Base Camp.

We will rest two nights now in Base Camp, before we go up to sleep in Camp 1 again, followed by a night in Camp 2. This will finalize our acclimatization for the summit push, but first laundry, showers and a good sleep in Base Camp.

Arnold Coster, expedition leader back to top

Our comfortable camp 1 at 5500 metres (Arnold Coster).

7 July -

This morning we woke up to a fresh sprinkling of snow across base camp. The snow continued while we ate a hearty breakfast of French toast, hard boiled egg, and sausage. 

Since I joined the group a day late, I am still in the process of catching up with the others.  So today was my day to go on the acclimatization walk toward camp 1 (~5450m). Highlight: Master Arnold himself was my personal guide - there is no one else I would want to be on the mountain with!

Lowlight:  it was a walk in the park for him so he wanted to chat - I didn't have the breath!

We climbed at a fairly good pace and before I knew it we reached the snow line. Arnold put on his brand new skis for the first time and I a pair of snow shoes for the first time. We carried on up the mountain until we reached the spot our hired professional porters dumped our bags.

The bags were left at approximately 5140m and Arnold and I decided it was a good spot to turn around so I started down the mountain one step at a time while Arnold skied down in about 3 minutes. It didn't look at all like he enjoyed the fresh powder!

We pulled into base camp just in time for a fantastic lunch of seasoned beef, rice, and fresh tomato. Our chef, Samdien, is the best. 

From what I gathered, the others did very little during the day, which is the object of a rest day. It appears some laundry was done as various articles of clothing were hanging from the tents to dry. The rest of the afternoon was quite eventful - some of us had a warm shower from a camp shower bag and our hard working crew dug a new toilet as the old one was beginning to fill up and we've only been here 3 days! There was also a distribution of soft drinks at dinner (which consisted of spaghetti, tuna, chicken drumsticks, green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli).

Tomorrow we head up to Camp 1 for two nights. We will surely miss Samdien as we have to do our own cooking and melting of snow for drinking water. We just received a briefing in the dining tent on how to use the high altitude stoves and walkie talkie protocol.

I am happy to report all climbers are feeling strong and ready for the next ascent...

Jenny back to top

 

In between camp 1 and basecamp on the snow.

6 July - 

The Scarecrow -

Every morning at around 8:15, any passer-by could have thought Asu's noisy chanting was some sort of morning ritual; he could well be worshipping the mountain and paying his respects by smashing together any two metal objects he could find in the kitchen. If this was the case then perhaps, just perhaps, this sound would be just about bearable. It was in fact a breakfast call to hurry people along to the dining tent, where a plethora of delicious food was about to be served

Today the aim was to go for an acclimatization hike from our Base Camp at 4500m, to approximately the position of last years Camp 1 at 5300m. A few of us were completely new to snowshoes so we were keen to try them out once we reached the snow line at about 5000m. All 7 members made it above the 5000m mark and most to the old Camp 1, where our Chinese neighbours, the only proper mountaineering team sharing our Base Camp, had just started setting up their camp. This year, we were going to position Camp 1 a couple of hundred metres above the previous year's Camp 1, as this would shorten the day between Camps 1 and 2, at the expense of making the relatively short hike from Base Camp to Camp 1 a little longer.

All 7 members made it back by 4pm, with a few of the early returners being treated to a bowl of amazing noodles and M&Ms. The never ending hard work of the staff was very impressive. Every meal so far had been a hit and today they had lugged up a huge amount of team equipment and set up our Camp 1, only to return after we had finished our dinner.

The highlight of the evening was when one of the members came into the dining tent covered in saw dust, after a somewhat windy experience in the toilet tent (hence the title of this blog). Jan's wicked sense of humour helped to put some smiles of people's faces, in particular how the origins of the expression when the shit hits the fan came about.

Today had been a great day for everyone, as everybody thoroughly enjoyed the hike. The spectacular views of the vast plains and mountains in the distance was the icing on the cake.

Josh back to top

Our comfortable Mustagh Ata basecamp (Louise Yeaman).

5 July -

Our trip down from Kashgar took us along the Karakorum Highway with absolutely stunning views of the Pamir Mountain views and fast-flowing, clay-coloured rivers. Woah, it was hot out there! Our campsite by our very own 'small Karrakul lake' was pretty special; a tent each on the lush grassy bank, with Mustagh Ata towering right in front of us. Anyone up for a late-night walk around the camp witnessed Mustagh Ata gleaming under a full moon, with its full reflection in the lake before us. Doesn't get much better!!!

Arnold put all through Gammov bag training. Jasper was the happy guinea-pig who jumped in the bag and was returned to a low-altitude pressure in not much time at all. All good :-) After a couple of meals hosted by a local family (great food, in authentic, comfortable sparkling brocade surrounds), we set off to the camel-loading place.  It was touch-and-go for a while that any camel could bear 'some' members' bags, but fortunately all worked out and all our personal gear fitted onto a few camels only. Leaving the camel herders to do their thing, we arrived a couple of hours later at Our Basecamp. Travelling a day ahead of us, the crew had done a fab job at establishing camp, complete with a cheery comfy roomy dining tent, and all the other usuals (these guys do the best toilet tents).  The location is pretty special; the great mountain before us and, far in the distance beyond the broad Tajikistan plains, run the beautiful snow-capped Pamir Mountains as far as you can see in either direction. Our day has been spent preparing bags for advance high-altitude porterage, and brushing up on alpine expedition technical skills. All good so far!  Exciting times, happy days :-)

Footnote: Our resident PHD student tells us that the Pamirs are not actually mountains at all, but valleys of glacial formation, differing from ordinary mountain valleys due to their superior altitude and significant build-up of alluvium deposits. These deposits leave the valleys resembling vast plains, void of woody vegetation and generally above the limits of agriculture. The good news is, we are just where we planned to be, and it is truly stunning. 

Louise back to top

 

Camel herders near Mustagata basecamp (Louise  Yeaman).

3 July -

Today we went for a small acclimatization hike on a ridge near the lake.

We almost reached the altitude of base camp and this will make our walk tomorrow a lot easier. The view here was absolutely stunning! The sight of the mountain in the reflection of the lake is so beautiful!

For lunch we went to some local's house and the made the most delicious "lachnan", a local type of noodles with vegetables, goat meat, and shish kebabs for us.

Also our last missing member, Jenny, arrived at the lake. She came straight from Kashgar to catch up with the team.

Tomorrow we will drive to what we call the "camel drop". Here we will meet our camels to carry our luggage and walk to Base Camp. Tomorrow we will reach our home for the next couple of weeks, Muztagh Ata!

Arnold Coster, Expedition leader back to top

Team on an acclimatization walk looking towards Mustagata across from Karakul Lake (Arnold Coster).

2 July -

Today we left Kashgar behind and headed to Karakul at the foot of Mustagh ata. It's about a 5 hour drive to the lake. On the way we stopped at an market to buy fresh melons and other fruit, Xingjang is famous for their delicious fruits. Also the flat Nan breads are great snack food for inside the bus.

We found a nice camping spot at the lake and we will stay here two nights for acclimatization. The Karakul Lake is at about 3500m and tomorrow we will make some hikes to approximately the same altitude as base camp.

This will give us a good acclimatization for when we get there.

It looks like there is a lot of snow on the mountain, what is a good thing on Mustagh Ata. I am looking forward to the first turns in the fresh snow!

Arnold Coster, expedition leader back to top

Our fist camp on the way to Mustagata before trekking to basecamp. Karakul Lake, Mustagh Ata in the background (Arnold Coster).

29 June -

I am writing from a sunny and warm Kashgar, Xingjang China.

The first members arrived yesterday and the next couple of days everybody will be here.

We will have a nice international group of members from, Australia, UK, Finland, Denmark, Indonesia, USA and the Netherlands.

At the moment we are enjoying the specialties Xingjang has to offer like food. The food here is great and there are so many variations to choose from: the best Kebab, special Xingjang noodles, spicy Chinese food or normal western food also.

Some members already went to visit the Shipton’s arch, the biggest natural rock arch in the world, but there is also an old town; famous from the movie "Kite Runner".  The Sunday animal market is a sight not to miss before heading to the mountain also.

The staff and I are doing the last packing and we are almost ready to leave. All our staff worked for us before on other expeditions also and I am happy to see them again and drink a few beers!

Stay tuned, the adventure has begun,

Arnold Coster, expedition leader back to top

Our staff packing supplies and food in Kashgar for the trip to Mustagata. One of the tasty kebabs we ate at a local restaurant during our delicious orientation dinner in Kashgar (Arnold Coster). 

 

Jenny Coles, Joshua Ridley, Louise Yeaman, Sanja Kolonic, Arnold Coster, George, Ted, Stewart, Chok, Hammed 

Team Roster -

 

Members:
 
  • ARNOLD C. - the Netherlands Leader, Himalayan Guide
  • JANNE Y. A.- Finland
  • TIMOTHY W. - USA
  • JOSHUA R. - UK        
  • SANJA K. - Australia
  • LOUISE Y. - Australia
  • JENNY C. - Australia
  • SURJOPURNOMO C. - Indonesia
  • JESPER  A. - Denmark

Staff:

  • ASU - Fujeng China - Staff leader and High Altitude Guide
  • SAMDIEN - Lhasa China - Chef Cook
  • LANGTOU - Sichuan China - High Altitude Support Climber
  • MINGJONG - Sichuan China - High Altitude Support Climber
  • ZHESANG - Lhasa China - Kitchen boy and High Altitude Porter
  • TJAWA - Lhasa China - Kitchen boy and High Altitude Porter back to top
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