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Mustagata July 2005

Mustagata: news of our expedition

1 July to 24 July 2005

...

Update: Most members have arrived Kashgar. Matthew and Ron fly in this evening from Beijing. Leo went to Tashgerghan several days ago to get a jump on the acclimatization game. We will pick him up tomorrow at Karakul lake on our way to the mountain. Gary and Urs safely arrived late last night after their plane from Urumqi turned back due to a thunderstorm and an impressive electrical storm here in Kashgar. The short-lived rain was a welcome reprieve from the sweltering Kashgar days we have been experiencing. I can't wait to get to basecamp and start climbing.

 

Two of our Tibetan climbing staff, Wei (our Chinese team member from Lanzhou, Gansu province), and Jonathan Sullivan went to basecamp on June 28 to start pushing the route to camp 1. The rest of the members have been exploring Kashgar and enjoying Uyger food. Last night we walked from our hotel to the Intizar restaurant for lamb shish kabob, "pull' noodles, lamb with onions, yogurt, and more lamb. A lot of lamb here.

 

 

Today we explored Kashgar's old town, which probably hasn't changed much from several hundred years ago. We also looked at pictures of the route from our new basecamp. It seems everyone is psyched to be having our own basecamp away from the normal crowds and craziness at the traditional basecamp. We leave tomorrow morning at 9AM Beijing time.

 

 

Thank you, Jon Otto

 

 

Team Roster:

Matthew Philliskirk (UK)

Jaggi Urs Walter (SWITZERLAND)

Jonathan Sullivan (USA) - Guide

Ronald Lester (USA)

Gary Charles Kellund (USA)

Yuan, Wei (CHINA)

Tom Jorgensen (DENMARK)

Leonardo Rub (USA)

Kristine O'brien (USA)

Jon Otto (USA) - Leader

 

Norwegian Father/Son team:

Espen Bjertness

Marius Bergsmark Bjertness

 

Tibetan Climbing Staff:

Awang Denje

Dorje Kasang

Tenzing Seeching

Tseping

Awang Larpu

 

Cook Staff:

Dang, Xiaoqiang (head cook)

Wang,

Bai,

 

...

 

 

Update: Most members have arrived Kashgar. Matthew and Ron fly in this evening from Beijing. Leo went to Tashgerghan several days ago to get a jump on the acclimatization game. We will pick him up tomorrow at Karakul lake on our way to the mountain. Gary and Urs safely arrived late last night after their plane from Urumqi turned back due to a thunderstorm and an impressive electrical storm here in Kashgar. The short-lived rain was a welcome reprieve from the sweltering Kashgar days we have been experiencing. I can't wait to get to basecamp and start climbing.

 

 

Two of our Tibetan climbing staff, Wei (our Chinese team member from Lanzhou, Gansu province), and Jonathan Sullivan went to basecamp on June 28 to start pushing the route to camp 1. The rest of the members have been exploring Kashgar and enjoying Uyger food. Last night we walked from our hotel to the Intizar restaurant for lamb shish kabob, "pull' noodles, lamb with onions, yogurt, and more lamb. A lot of lamb here.

 

 

Today we explored Kashgar's old town, which probably hasn't changed much from several hundred years ago. We also looked at pictures of the route from our new basecamp. It seems everyone is psyched to be having our own basecamp away from the normal crowds and craziness at the traditional basecamp. We leave tomorrow morning at 9AM Beijing time.

 

 

Thank you, Jon Otto

 

...

 

Update: The Plan

July 1: Kashgar, Xinjiang, China

July 2: Acclamitization camp

July 4: basecamp

July 5-21: climbing period

July 22: Return Kashgar

 

This is Jon Otto in Tashgeragan. I came down from basecamp today to send this dispatch since our sat phone is not working. I go back up to basecamp first thing tomorrow morning. We established camp 2 yesterday at 6180 meters. This new route seems pretty straightforward so far. We will see what lies between camp 2 and camp 3. From camp 3 to the summit it pretty much follows the same line as the traditional route.

 

Yesterday, while the Tibetan climbers were digging a platform for another tent at camp 1, a huge hole opened up. They had dug down about 4 feet. I rappelled (abseiled) into the crevasse to assess its dimensions. It shot across the slop but was a distance from our tents. Never the less, we were all surprised to find a crevasse so near our camp. All members are prepared to rope-up above camp 1, which is where they are now.

 

The route from camp 1 to camp 2 follows the huge glacier that cuts the mountain in half to the left and somewhat broken up ice fields to the right. This middle section that we go up is very, very, wide and a constant low angle slope. I find it quite impressive because you look over at the sheer ice and rock wall that is cut into the mountain by the middle glacier.

 

 

 

 

Today, Ron, Gary, Tom, Leo, and Kristine went to sleep at camp 1, and tomorrow they are going to climb towards camp 2, then return to camp 1 for another night. Matthew went up yesterday and Urs may be up there today or go tomorrow. All members are feeling good and appear to be acclimatizing well. Jonathan and Wei helped push the route to camp 2 yesterday. Their next time up the mountain they plan to go for the summit. They got to basecamp several days before the rest of the group and a jump on the acclimatization game. Let's hope the weather holds. So far this year the weather has been pretty good. We generally get a little snow and winds for a couple hours in the afternoon, then it clears up and we get splendid sunsets. Today, there was almost no wind and nearly no clouds. Climbing between camps in the snow required short sleeves.

 

Kristine, Urs, and I are skiing. You can start skinning up at 5050 meters. The snow conditions are pretty ideal all the way to camp 2. Those two are pretty good skiers and I expect they will flash down from camp 2 in no time, all on completely fresh powder. It is a sweet run.

 

 

 

Urs, who is a pilot, is our radio (walkie-talkie) guru. The only problem is we are having trouble keeping up with all the fancy lingo. Kristine and Gary are keeping the rest of us entertained by talking about their families, movie blurbs, and more. They are quite the comedy routine. I don't know what I am at liberty to say and not so I will stop here. "My lips hurt real bad". Matthew, our youngest climber, is also our pickiest eater, strong and silent. Ron has two speeds - fast and fast. We are thinking of loading him up with extra gear. Tom is enjoying basecamp amenities, and I believe he christened the shower tent. I like learning about Denmark from him and about his job. Leo is always a welcome smile and keeps us apprised of fascinating tidbits about the world.

 

 

Our Tibetan staff has been fabulous, and we already have almost all the tents on the mountain. Our head Tibetan climber, Adin, studied English for a year in New Zealand and loves Reggie music, which keeps the rest of us entertained as well.

 

 

At basecamp we eat in a Tashik style yurt. This is my first time where the eating tent is a yurt, and I must say that it is quite the nice set-up, much preferred over flapping nylon. The cook has been pumping out hearty meals and at times interesting combos, such as French fries (chips) for breakfast. The French toast (eggy bread) with syrup for breakfast has been a big hit.

 

The next dispatch we make will be around July 16. Hopefully we will be able to make another sooner, but if not don't worry. Jonathan Sullivan's departing words. "I feel strong like bull. I think we are ALL strong like bull." (Add accent for ultimate effect).

 

Cheers from all of us on Mustagata, Jon Otto

 

...

 


 this is a bit dated but I forgot to send the "Norwegian team" update along with the rest of the team's update for the 2005 Mustagh Ata expedition

Update: The Norwegian Mustagh Ata Expedition 2005: Espen Bjertness (Father) and Marius Bergsmark Bjertness (Son, 15 years old). If Marius succeeds in summiting, he will be the youngest Norwegian to climb a mountain higher than 7500m, and among the few in the world to have done so.

I last saw them on July 13 on their way from camp 1 (5400m) to camp 2 (6150m). They were in good spirits and ready to keep pushing higher. They planned their first summit attempt to be on July 15. ~Jonathan Sullivan

...

Dispatch 5: This is Jonathan Sullivan reporting from Chengdu. On the 15th I had to depart Mustagh Ata in order to take care of some business here in Sichuan. Tom, aka Big T, decided that Mustagh Ata was not the mountain for him so we hiked out together and returned to Kashgar.

 

 

On July 10-11, Urs, Kristine, Gary on one rope team and Aden (Tibetan guide/porter) and I on another rope team ascended from camp 1 to camp 2. The weather was calm and cloudy providing a nice refuge from the intense sun from days prior. We all stayed at camp 2 for two nights acclimatizing. On the second night we were joined by Jon, Matthew, Leo and Yuan Wei. Big T and Ron remained in base camp at this time enjoying 3 square meals a day.

 

 

 

 

On the 12th Urs and Jon skied up to camp 3 and back down to camp 2 before they ran out of daylight. Yuan Wei, Aden and myself established the first tent at camp 3 after a long day of off and on white-out conditions. The rest of the gang at camp 2 decided to descend and take in several days of rest at base camp before the big summit push.

 

 

I had a restless and breathless night of sleep in camp 3 (6170m). I woke up at 5am with a major headache and strong bowel movements. I knocked about 15” of snow off the tent before going outside to do my business. I was unable to push to the summit do to my illness but Aden and Yuan Wei gave the first summit attempt of our expedition. However they turned back after several hours because of poor weather. I decided to descend to basecamp because of my condition and other time contraints. I celebrated in basecamp by having some Jack Daniels with Big T and G Force (Tom and Gary).

 

 

The 14th just about everybody was hanging out in basecamp. We enjoyed pancakes and bacon for breakfast and then spent the morning joking with eachother and sorting gear. Clouds came and went throughout the day and it seemed as if the weather was going through a change. Sure enough as I walked out of basecamp toward the Karakoram highway the weather had cooled down but cleared up. It was the first time the mountain was in pure blue sky for the a week.

 

 

As of the 15th when I left, Yuan Wei and Aden were still in camp 3 waiting for further instructions from Jon Otto. The Norweigens were in camp 2 acclimatizing and ready to go higher. Urs was in camp 1 relaxing, acclimatizing, and giving highly informative weather reports via walky-talky. Gary, Kristine, Ron, Leo, Matthew, under the fearless leadership of Jon Otto were packing up and on their way to camp 1. The summit assault has begun by everyone. If the weather holds I think this will be a highly successful expedition.

 

The SAT phone is still not operational so we will continue to be in suspense for several days. The route has been established and I deem it to be a safe and sound route. The path is layed, the camps are established, the bags are packed, its just time to execute and have fun. Good luck to all!

~Jonathan L. Sullivan

 

...

 

Personal Dispatches from Mustagh Ata 2005 Expedition:

 

 

Hi Michelle, we are resting in basecamp and we’ll start going up to the summit tomorrow. Hope you already have your visa. Everything is going well here. Love, Leo

 

 

Hey Nanner, start the grind to the summit tomorrow. Diamox has given me a new altitude attitude. See ya soon and have a great Fanny Ride. ~Ron

 

 

Hey Paul, Anna, and JP, we went to camp 2 for a couple of days, came back down to BC to rest for two days. Tomorrow we leave for an attempt: camp 1, camp 2, camp 3-summit. It’s way cool to ski up here. I love my new skis. Love to everyone, ciao, a bien tot. ~Kristine

 

 

Hi Eva, Anna, and Laura- Things are going great here. WE’ve been up the mountain for acclimitazation and spent the night the last two days resting in base camp. Tomorrow we start up for the summit push. Wish us luck! I hope everthing is great there and wish I had a Chicken Shack burrito. See you soon. P.S. My lips hurt real bad! ~Gary (G-Force)

 

 

Hej Alle, Her er en frisk hilsen framig I kina. Det har vaeret en fantasttisk tur med spaeng dende oplevelsersammenmedet rigtig frisk hold. Jer har valgtatstoppe lidt tidligt fordi sneog spaltenineavet er forhoejt tor mig. Jeg er nu I Kashgar of I hoerer fra mig. Of Jeg skal vist osse huske et stort tillykke till familien pa noerrebro. Mange kaerlige hiisner fra Tom. Xinkiang, Kina.

 

 

Hey Mom, Dad, Family and Friends, I’m back in Chengdu. Altough I didn’t make it to the summit I still consider the expedition a success for me. I met wonderful people and helped pioneer a new route on big mountain. Chocolate covered espresso beans have been fueling me higher and higher. Strong like Bull (say with thick Russian accent)! ~Jonathan

 

 



 

 

 

...

 

Update: Saturday, July 23: Report from Kristine O'Brien.

 

 

 

We are back in Kashgar. Mr. Dong treated the Mustagata team to a Uigher party last night. There was much dancing, eating, drinking and partying well into the next morning. The local children particularly enjoyed Gary, Leo and Kristine's dancing. Gambay means, "dry glass". We gladly participated in this local custom.

 

The whole of the remaining team summited.

 

 

On July 18, Jon, Urs, Ron, Leo, Matt, and Tenzing summited. I had a headache at camp 2 so waited an extra day to go up. I'm glad I did. I felt really good at camp 3 and all the way to the summit.

 

 

On July 19 Kristine and Gary summitted--- in a white out so they didn't see anything. Jon waited for us at camp 3, a bit worried when he saw the weather turn. Gary was wishing he had skis all the way down.

 

For the skiers, the descent was challenging at first, due to the thin air, stopping to breath every few turns. But as we continued down, and oxygen became more available, they were able to fly. Powder to crust to supportable crust all the was down to just above base camp. Wahoo!!!! One of the best ski descents I ever experienced. Not at all dangerous or difficult, amazing scenery from 24,751 feet to 16,400 feet. And I used to think the Vallee Blanche in Chamonix was a long run.

 

...

 


Update: Marius Bergsmark Bjertness (15 years), Espen Bjertness and Awang and Tseping from Tibet Expedition Mountaineering Guide School summited Mustagh Ata (7.546 m) via a new route 19. July 2005 in an express tempo: from BC (4.450 m) to Camp1 (5.400 moh); the next day direct to Camp3 (6.800 m); the next day summit Mustagh Ata (7.546 moh) and direct down to BC where they arrived in bad wether and completely darkness. Marius summitted one hour before his father, Espen, and he is the youngest ever climbed Mustagh Ata, and the youngest Norwegian climbed a mountain higher than 7.500 m. Marius climbed his first mountain, Rondeslottet (2.178 m) 3 years old, and climbed Mt. Kitzi (6.204 m) in Himalaye last year at the age of 14.

 

 

 

Photo (by Awang): Marius Bergsmark Bjertness (15 years) on the summit of Mustagh Ata (7.546 m) 19. July 2005.

 

...

 

Update: Finally, Mustagata wrap-up. It was a great climb. As far as I know, we are the first team to have reached the top from this route. This is not 100% certain, though, and I would like to know about any other ascents and attempts from this line. To re-hash, we climbed up the slope on the right (or south side) of the Kartamak glacier. I now call this the traditional route, since it was the original line to be climbed by the Chinese way back but was given up for the present route (or normal route) that everyone climbs because of camel transport problems at that time.

 

 

Now I can admit that I was worrying about a few unknowns on the route. Although we did extensive research ahead of time there was still the question of possible large crevasses between camp 2 and camp 3 and just above camp 3 towards the summit at around the 7000-meter elevation. We hauled up hundreds of meters of fixing line just in case. None of it was used up there. The route simply flowed. Potential ice fields and obstacles never materialized. From base camp to the summit it was one beautiful line. (Ok, we did put in 100 meters of fixed line but that was right above camp 1 to make "perfectly" safe a short section where there were possibly some hidden crevasses.)

 

 

Because I was worrying about crevasses and ice fields, guide Jonathan Sullivan and two of our Tibetan climbers, Aden and Tseping, went to basecamp five days before the group. The idea was for them to push the route and summit early. However, a five-day storm hit when they were posed to make a summit bid, and they had to come down. Murphy's Law never fails.

 

 

It all started on July 12th as five of us (Aden, Jonathan S., Yang Wei, Urs, and Jon O.) pushed the route to camp 3, carrying one tent. The WEATHER hit a couple hours after leaving camp 2. White out conditions, heavy southern winds, and thunderstorms. As one storm suddenly thundered directly overhead Urs and me threw our packs on the slope and hunkered down for 20 minutes in the snow, hoping not to be hit by lightning. Visibility dropped from 400m to 20m. None-the-less, through heavy whiteout and whipping winds we kept pushing on. Finally the Garmin GPS read 6800 meters and we were on a relatively flat (15 degree) slope. We dug two tent platforms and had no idea what was around us. Winter wonderland.

 

 

Urs and me dropped our loads, wished Jonathan, Aden, and Yang clear skis for tomorrow, and then quickly descended by ski back to camp 2. The following day Urs and me had an incredibly fun time skiing back down to basecamp. High on the mountain the weather stayed socked in for the next 4 days.

 

 

By this time the rest of the team had already slept at least one night at camp 2, were super acclimatized, and resting at basecamp for a couple of days before the big summit push. On July 15 the entire remaining team (except the Norwegians) left for camp 1. The weather finally seamed to be turning for the better. A cold front had blown in, radically changing the snow conditions on the mountain. Prior to this the snow at camp 1 was wet and soft. When you stepped into the snow pack, you literary sank in beyond your knee. The whole mountain was melting off. Then one evening everything froze up. Around camp 1 it was an extremely hard frozen snow pack. Much better conditions to snowshoe and skin up. However, you had to walk carefully on the slippery surface. The snowshoes provided just enough bite, and the slope was gentle enough for the skins on our skis to work.

 

 

On July 16 we all made camp 2. That evening more extreme winds and large snowfall. Spindrift buried our tents. But in the morning it was perfect weather again. After our Tibetan climbers dug out the tents, everyone except Kristine and Gary made the trip to camp 3. Kristine had a throbbing headache and Gary had stomach problems. On July 18 at just after 6:00AM local time we were on our way to the summit. I headed out early with our two Tibetan climbers, Dorje and Tenzing, to find the route. We were hoping Aden could have found the way earlier, but after four nights at camp 3 in terrible weather he eventually had to descend back to basecamp for rest. So, unfortunately, Aden was not able to accompany us to the summit. The three of us skirted the lower right side of a line of huge crevasses that extended vertically up the mountain. These crevasses were the top portion of Kartamak Glacier. We had to find a way through this broken up ice field in order to get onto the summit slope. The route was stunning as it meandered along the lip of a huge crevasse, but did not offer much promise for passing over. Then, suddenly, all crevasses ended at 7050-meter elevation and we were looking at a straight line shot to the top. We stripped off our harnesses, left the ropes, and continued the climb to the summit. Dorje and Tenzing went ahead and tirelessly broke trail. The snow was again soft and deep. Then suddenly Dorje came running down the slope. What was wrong? "I have bad diarrhea", he said. It must have been pretty bad since he continued down the mountain.

 

 

 

The rest of us continued up. Soon, we were looking down on Mustagata's 7277-meter high sub-peak Kalaxong. Near the top it is so flat that you do not actually see the true summit until throwing distance. Everyone persevered. The snow shoeing and skinning up on skis was slow. Finally, the rock cluster and prayer flags popped into view. Success! Urs, Ron, Mathew, Leo, Tenzing, and Jon were on the top.

 

 

It was late in the afternoon when we reached the summit, the wind was whipping, and the air was clear. We were treated to magnificent views of surrounding peaks. After a short stay we all descended back to camp 3. It was almost a 12 hour day round-trip. The snow conditions for skiing were awesome. On the way down we found a better route with no crevasses. Urs continued down to camp 1 that same day. He was on skis and could fly, making it between camps in no time. The rest of us stayed at camp 3.

 

 

When we returned to camp 3 Kristine, Gary, Espen, Marius, Awang, and Tseping had arrived. On July 19 they left first thing in the morning for the summit and made good time. Gary was still having stomach problems but forged ahead none-the-less.

 

 

Out of our team of 17 climbers, 12 reached the summit this year. We were also the only team at the new basecamp, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

 

 

 

Outline of the new (traditional) route:

 

Basecamp (4500 meters):

This basecamp is about 50 meters higher in elevation than the normal route's basecamp. Basecamp is situated on a grassy, rocky area. It is quite comfortable, but the overall area to pitch tents is smaller than the normal route's.

 

 

Basecamp to Camp 1 (5400 meters):

Walk up left side of rocky slope. Snow line for snowshoers starts at around 5200 meters. There is easy access to the snow for skiers to start skinning up at around 5050-meter elevation. Camp 1 is on a gentle slope. From camp 1 back down there is a fun snow gully to ski.

 

 

Camp 1 to Camp 2 (6170 meters):

Go straight up slope from camp 1. Go through "bowl" with crevasses visible on left and right. When going through this area stays on right flank. Then meander left and up on left side of slope. You intermittently have views of the normal route and stunning views of the Kartamak Glacier. Camp 2 is near where the Kartamak Glacier begins to cut aggressively into the mountain.

 

 

Camp 2 to Camp 3 (6800 meters):

A few hundred meters out camp 3 you have to navigate between two wide crevasses. The trail between them is obvious and safe. Then continue straight up slope until about 6400+ meters, turn slightly left towards the mass of broken up crevasses, and follow gentle slopes to camp 3.

 

 

Camp 3 to Summit (7546 meters):

Climb straight up out of camp 3. You will soon pass a crevasse on your left. Continue until 7050-meter elevation. At his point you are in a saddle between the main peak and Kalaxong Peak (7277) in front and to the right. At this point the mess of broken up crevasses separating you from the main peak slope come to an end. Go left up the summit slope. From here it is a straight shot to the top. Before reaching the summit you will pass an outcropping of rocks on your right. Stay to the left of these rocks. This is not the top yet. A little further the slope plateaus and you are going along nearly flat, frozen snow. Finally, you will see two prominent stone mounds. The one on the left is the true summit.

 

 

Comparison of the normal route and the new (traditional) route:

 

 

New (traditional) route:

 

1. Impressive views of the Kartamak glacier and the huge rock cliff it

carves into the middle of the mountain.

2. Safer and more enjoyable ski descent and ascent.

3. Overall route slightly longer

4. Overall slope angle more consistent.

5. Less teams and climbers on the route.

6. Team's equipment carried to basecamp by donkeys.

 

 

Normal route:

 

1. Impressive views of Mt. Gongar.

2. Not as friendly to skiers because of camp 1 to camp 2 ice field.

3. Overall route slightly shorter.

4. Couple of very short steep slopes between camp 1 and camp 2

5. Many teams and climbers on the route.

6. Team's equipment carried to basecamp by Camels.

 

Special appreciation to Black Diamond, Gore-Tex, and Backpacker Gear

Thank you EverestNews.com for your help updating the site, Jon

 

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