Mustagata: news of our expedition
1 July to 24 July 2000
(7546 metres) Normal Route (7 members summit) We were blessed with a sunny day on the summit.
Mustagh Ata, seen from the Karakoram Highway. The normal route follows the right-hand skyline.
Photographer and Copyright: Jon Otto
Overland through Nepal and India: On 27 May, Daniel Mazur, representing Bristol, England and Hamilton, Montana, and Walter Keller, from Pittsburgh, arrived in Kathmandu. Dan had checked 27 bags, and Walter had visa difficulties when his passport was confiscated for being put through the washing machine in his trousers, so the flight was exciting. After making arrangements, we left Kathmandu together with Lakpa Tamang by bus with 18 bags, and crossed into India on 29 May. We traveled across India via Delhi, mainly by train, crossing into Pakistan near Lahore on 1 June.
Walter Keller, Dan Mazur, and Lakpa Tamang traveled from Nepal to Pakistan overland across India on buses and trains. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com
The Karakoram Highway through Pakistan: The Pakistani customs officials discussed confiscating our 18 bags, then changed their minds at the last minute. On 4 June, at the Islamabad airport, we met our friends Walter Frehner from Zurich, Mathijs van der Plas from Brussels, Christoph Zimmer-Conrad from Bautzen (near Dresden), and Krysztof Berbeka from Krakow. We hired a bus to make the drive up the Karakoram Highway, and on 9 June, crossed the Khunjerab pass into China, meeting Jon Otto, who represents Chengdu, China and Bellingham, Washington. At customs we presented a “gift” of rifle bullets, along with permits Jon had pre-purchased for our walkie-talkie radios and satellite phones.
Left: Dan in the Khunjerab Pass. Photographer: Walter Keller, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com. Right: Camel trek to basecamp. Photographer: Daniel Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com
Arriving in basecamp: We slept in the Tadzhik people’s town of Tashkergan that night, then, on 10 June, drove to the tiny hamlet of Subashi, where we loaded everything on camels to make the 4 hour walk to normal route basecamp at 4400 meters.
Walter Frehner in camp 1, and Christoph Zimmer-Conrad in camp 2. Photographer: D. L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com.
Establishing camps: After resting, on 12 June we established camp 1 on rocky ground at 5300 meters. On 13 June, Walter Frehner, who had left all of his luggage in London, showed up in basecamp feeling very hungry after becoming lost when his taxi driver could not find Subashi, carrying only a day sack. Luckily, we were able to pool enough kit from amongst the team members to equip him. On 17 June, after another rest cycle, we established camp 2 at 6180 metres, using snowshes and skiis, travelling over a gentle and safe snowslope, near some crevasses, which made convenient “trash-chutes”. The route between 1 and 2 involves traversing some deadly but innocent looking crevasses. We stayed roped together in this area. Many teams seem to take this section for granted and refrain from roping-up. At this point, Lakpa Tamang, our Nepalese team member, decided he was no longer interested in high-altitude climbing, and he never attained camp 2, choosing instead to ferry loads to and from camp 1.
Lakpa Tamang in the icefall. Kryzsztof Berbeka and Walter Keller heading to camp 2. Jon Otto and Walter Keller after shoveling out the tent in camp 2. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com
On 23 June Walter, Jon, Christoph and Kryzsztof established camp 3 at 6800 metres on yet another gentle and safe snowfield. On 24 June they summitted the 7546 meter mountain in white-out conditions, then snowshoed and skied down.
Dan telemark skiing in the camp 2 area. Photographer and Copyright: Richard Bothwell. Christoph Zimmer-Conrad goes down. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com
Reaching the summit: Walter dangled Jon from the summit, down onto the east ridge on a rope, but the view was obscured. Fortunately the descent through the blizzard was not a problem, because they were able to mark the route with bamboo marker flags. On 27 June, Dan, Walter, and Mathijs found their way to the top on a windy clear day, where they were able to see a 360 degree view of mountains in all directions, and get a good look down the east ridge. The new route looked possible.
Looking down from the summit onto the new route on the east ridge. Our basecamp on the other side of the Kuksay Glacier, the Waugh Plateau, and the Potterfield Glacier are clearly visible in the photo. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright, www.mountainzone.com