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Mustagata Mountain Climbing Expedition News July 2008, also known as Mustagh Ata or Muztagata

 
(Photos in slideshow: Urs Jaeggi, Jon Otto, Kristine O'Brien, and Gary Kellund)
News of our recent expedition: Mustagata Climb
1-24 July, 2008

Please view more information about our upcoming Mustagh Ata expeditions . We are now accepting applications for the summer of 2009, so please come on out again.

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

Season Summary-

Well, the climb is over. We reluctantly had to leave the mountain and go back to city life. Hope everyone had an uneventful and relaxing flight back home.

List of summiters and those that made a personal height record:

July 19, 2008:

  • Toni Aleksi Kalevi Rannikko
  • Jan-Jilles Van Der Hoeven
  • Pierre De Boeck
  • Pierre-Alexandre De Boeck
  • Jerome De Boeck 
  • Joshua Patrick Miller
  • Tselantou
  • Tseren Danda
  • Arun Mahajan reached 7,050 meter elevation
  • Michael Anthony Tomordy reached 7,400 meter elevation
21 July, 2008:
  • Atte Tapani Kaleva
  • Michael John Chrisp
  • Timothy Morrison Boelter
  • Simon Hugh Price
  • Chen Cheng
  • Wang Juan
  • Gao Ruxing
  • Yao Zhen
  • Jonathan Christian Otto
  • Ulf BJOERN Kristoffer Lindgren reached 7,100 meter elevation
  • Wang Xiaolin reached 7,000 meter elevation
 
 
Arun after his summit attempt in camp 3. Snowboarding down from camp 3 (Jon Otto).

It was an exciting and memorable expedition. For one, it always seemed to be nice blue skis when we were at basecamp and bad weather when we were climbing on the mountain. This is a slight exaggeration, but of the 9 of us that summited on 21 July, none saw what the top looked like. For over five hours we slowly climbed up towards the summit in a complete white-out, and then slowly back down again in an even worse white-out. The visual deprivation of simply staring into a colorless void for hours on end can play tricks on the mind. The constant driving wind and spindrift kept us alert. All we could do was stay close together in a tight group and trudge on. Everyone was bundled up in their thick down jackets, warm mittens, goggles and face-masks or balaclava. Even so Mike C. got minor frostbite on some of his fingers. The wind drove at our backs on the way up and became so strong on the summit that we could only stay a few minutes. We stroke directly into the gale on the way down and it stripped my hood from my face and struck my forehead so strong that I got an intense ice-cream headache.

Two days earlier the first half of the team summited. They had better weather on the way up, only to be socked in by clouds about 150 vertical meters (500 feet) from the top. Luckily they had enough visibility to be able to place those life-saving wands. Wands are thin bamboo poles about 1 metre/4 feet long with colored flagging on top. You jab them in the snow every 20-100 metres on the way up. In this way, if the weather turns foul, you can follow your path of wands back down the hill, like following a trail of breadcrumbs. The combination of using wands and GPS makes it nearly impossible to get lost on a mountain like Mustagata. It was these wands, put in two days earlier by our guides, which allowed our group to make the summit. We followed them religiously up and down. Many times we could not see the next wand, and had to wait patiently until it briefly came into view, a ghostly image made momentarily visible as the clouds temporarily lost their mass.

While on the way to the summit, Bjoern decided to turn around and go back to high camp. Old Wang also had to descend. The two of them descended to within several hundred metres of camp, but were unable to see the next wand. They ended up waiting for four hours until it became clear enough to see the way. Bjoern used his snowboard to dig a snow hole, where they patiently sat it out. It was a test of fortitude for the two of them. I’m just glad that they didn’t have to wait any longer, until we came back down and would pick them up. back to top

Arun also had to turn around on his summit bid. He was unfortunate in that his hands got cold leaving the tent and he was unable to warm them up. Arun was one of our more experienced alpine climbers and it was this experience that told him he was getting frostbite. When I saw him in his tent later that day the tips of his fingers were like soft wood. Arun made a wise decision and now his fingers are just fine. We all struggle with the decision of how much to sacrifice to make a summit. But in the grand scheme of things, how much is it really worth losing to make any summit?

Atte enjoying the view from camp 3. Bjoern ready to go from camp 2 to camp 3 (Jon Otto).

I had a freakish experience on the way down to base camp during dusk. Any metal object near my body caused constant needle-like pricks on my skin. It was painful enough that I was unable to shoulder my backpack or camera bag. I had to carry them by the nylon straps held out to the sides of my body as far as possible. My Gore-Tex jacket and bibs were humming as I ran down the hill. All I can imagine is that there was some sort of electrical build-up in the air as there were no storms or lightning nearby.

We got our last big snow storm two days before the expedition ended, and another storm the following night. Both of these storms deposited large quantities of wet snow at basecamp. Two basecamp tents collapsed under the weight of this cement like white slush. A bunch of team members went for a walk to the glacier the following day. Michael T. forgot his sunglasses, and not aware the power of glare from fresh snow, gave himself moderate snow blindness. The following day we packed-up our entire camp in the melting snow and hiked out. Michael, however, had to ride a donkey, (the lucky mate), as he still could hardly see and his eyes felt like someone was rubbing sand in them.

We were slightly surprised when the local police and border control unit of the Chinese military came to our camp for a visit. In addition to the group of commanders and other officials, there were 11 young men (boys really) carrying AK-47s. It was mid-way through our climb and they had heard that fighting broke out between the Tajik and Kergiz. They had come to our basecamp to put down this ethnic squabble and guarantee our safety. Guaranteeing our safety, however, was being told to leave basecamp in three day’s time. Talks continued throughout the afternoon, and eventually the whole mess got settled of course. The Tajik and Kergiz regularly argue over who will carry expedition equipment to camp 1, and on occasion pushing may ensue, but I have never witnessed fighting, at least not at our base camp. I have no idea who deceived the police into believing we had a mini-war raging at our base camp, but it wouldn’t seem to be very beneficial to anyone if all the expeditions had to leave. And I must say that I appreciate the gesture of the police and border guards, however over the top.   back to top

Hope these accounts of events on the mountain don’t give the impression that the entire climb was one long ordeal. On the contrary. In fact, most of the climb was spent having a good time with engaging and lighthearted conversation, meals with tasty food, enjoyable tent mates, excellent climbing and skiing, overall decent weather, cheery and hard working staff, and a nice shower tent to top it off. I belief much of our success was due to the fact that the team congealed well, came into the climb with the right attitude, and overall was a fairly strong lot. I will miss you all. Hope to see you again… somewhere, some time. Please send photos and I will do the same. back to top

 

Our sturdy and comfortable camp 3. Camels loaded and ready to take us back to the bus back to Kashgar. One of our members reaching the end of the snowline after coming down from camp 1. Kashgar's Idkah Mosque (Jon Otto).

23 July, 2008

All members back in basecamp, heading back to Kashgar.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

Our climb is coming to a final close here, but not before a good farewell from the weather gods. We woke up this morning to about an inch of snow and it's still coming down really hard here at basecamp with low clouds all around. We're going to be packing up the entire basecamp and putting it on camels in a nice snowstorm, which is less than the most desirable situation, but that is the way it goes sometimes.

All of the members made it back down to basecamp yesterday and everyone is doing well. The staff came down at almost midnight after clearing all 3 of the camps off the mountain. The day before last we had a huge snowstorm and about 20 centimetres accumulated in basecamp, causing two of the tents to almost collapse.

It's been a very snowy year with a little more bad weather than normal, but almost all of the members made the summit, which is amazing. We had a very good, strong team this year and everyone did excellent trying to reach their goals.

I'll be sending in another dispatch tomorrow with some more pictures. I just wanted to call in to let everyone know that we are about to have our last delicious breakfast in basecamp of either pancakes, French toast, or omelettes before we trek out and head back to Kashgar. Hopefully we will have some nice weather for our last day in China before everyone catches their flights home. Talk to everyone soon. Bye now. back to top

Jon at camp 2. The team leaving for the summit in the early morning (Jon Otto).

21 July, 2008

Team two summits!

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

What a day! I am not sure if I've ever climbed in such adverse weather conditions on Mustagata, especially when going for the summit. There were almost constant whiteout conditions all day, with snow blowing in remarkable drifts and very high winds near the summit, but everyone persevered.

The first summit team left a lot of wands from 2 days ago, which were extremely helpful in helping us find our way up and down the route. Everyone did a great job and 9 of us reached the summit. That was myself, Simon, Atte, Tim, Mike C., Chen, Wang, Gao, and our high altitude staff member Yao.

Now we're all exhausted back in camp 3, but everyone is safe and doing well.

Björn left with us at first light today for the summit, but decided to turn around at 7100 metres. He is safe and doing well with us at camp 3 as well.

All of us plan to go down to basecamp tomorrow. I'll call in again soon with another full updated dispatch. I just wanted to let everyone know we are all safe and had a lot of success today. OK, good night. Bye. back to top

Pierre relaxing after getting back from the summit. Skiing down from the high camp (Jon Otto).

20 July, 2008

Team two holding put in camp 3 another day.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

We are still here sitting in camp 3. No summits today. It stormed last night and there were whiteout conditions this morning when we woke up, so we're waiting it out for one day in camp 3 at 6800 metres/22,300 feet. Hopefully tomorrow it will be at least decent enough so that we can attempt the summit. Here at camp 3 are myself, Simon, Björn, Atte, Mike C., Tim, our 4 Chinese climbers, Chen, Wang Juan, Gao, and Wang Xiaolin and 2 of our high altitude climbing staff.

Right now the sun is setting with intermittent clear and cloudy skies. We're going to wake up tomorrow at 3:00 a.m. and hope for the best. So I'll be calling in tomorrow one way or the other. Goodbye for now. back to top

Skiing down from camp 2. Team members skinning up to camp 3 (Jon Otto).

19 July, 2008

Team one summits! Team two is in camp 3 preparing to go for the summit tomorrow.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

Determination is the word for today.

6 members and 2 of our high altitude staff summited under very adverse conditions today.

Last night, as I reported in, we were having thunderstorms. Those cleared up and then it started to snow abundantly. It was the most snow we have had over the last two weeks.

In the morning it cleared up and the summit team left at just after 7:00 a.m. local time, which was two hours later than normal, but because of the weather, that was all they could do. Our staff tirelessly broke the trail all of the way to the summit and 6 of the members reached the top of Mustagata. That was the De Boeck family (Pedro the father, Jerome and Pierre), Tony, JJ, and Joshua.

Michael T. got up to about 7400 metres, which is a great effort for his first time on a big snow peak mountain like this. The two staff that got up to the summit were Lantow and Asu. Arun turned back a little after starting because he had very cold fingers, but he's going to try again for the summit tomorrow.

It took the group 9 hours because they had to stop in whiteout conditions and wait for it to clear up a lot of times, having over 2 hours of flurries with limited visibility. When they weren't back by 6:00 p.m. we were about to go up to make sure they were descending safely, but just then they called in on the radio saying everybody was doing good, but tired, and coming back.

So now all of the members are safe, either here in camp 3 or they've gone back down to camp 2 or to basecamp. The rest of the members are sleeping here tonight at camp 3, hoping the weather will be good tomorrow so we can try for the summit. I hope to talk to you tomorrow with some good news. Good night for now. Bye. back to top

18 July, 2008

Team one is in camp 3 preparing to go for the summit. Jon and team two are in camp 2 preparing to move up.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

I'm calling from camp 2. One of the most anxious things I find about these expeditions is the day before summit day. We have a team now in camp 3 posed to leave for the summit in less than 12 hours and we are here in camp 2.

The weather report has gone completely awry and that's why I'm so anxious because we are at the mercy of the weather gods. Supposedly it was going to be nice today and also on the 19th and the 20th. The latest weather report we received a few hours ago said it is supposed to be cloudy tomorrow and the next day, but now we're in the midst of a huge thunderstorm with rolling thunder back and forth. It's quite impressive. There are also large snowflakes coming down, almost like hail, all around us.

It is quite nice being snug in our sleeping bags inside of our comfortable tents listening to it all, but I really hope it passes so that we can get to the summit in the next few days.

I'll be calling in again soon with another update. Other than that everyone is doing well and is in great health. We're just waiting now on the weather.

Talk to you soon. Bye. back to top

 

Pierre and Jerome De Boeck. Tselantou in camp 2.Our team organizing supplies in camp 2. Michael T. snowshoeing/racquetting around camp 2 (Jon Otto).

back to top

17 July, 2008

Teams on the mountain getting ready for the summit .

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

All members are now on the mountain in separate groups slowly going towards the summit. Today in camp 2 we have JJ, Michael T., the 3 De Boecks, Tony, Arun, Joshua and 3 of our Chinese climbing staff with them. Here in camp 1 we have Simon, Björn, Atte, Mike C., Tim Boelter, myself, our 4 Chinese climbers, Chen, Wang Juan, Gao, and Wang Xiaolin and 2 of our high altitude climbing staff.

Hopefully the team in camp 2 will make the summit in two days and we're looking at three days. Of course this all depends upon the weather. We're trying to get daily weather reports, but those change every day we get them as well. That is just how it is in the mountains.

Other than that, everyone is healthy, doing well, going strong, and I'll hopefully call in again tomorrow from camp 2. Bye for now. back to top

 

 

Jerome De Boeck snowboarding above camp 2. Looking down the mountain from near camp 2. Michael T. on his way up the mountain to camp 2. Pedro De Boeck cleaning off his skiis in camp 2 (Jon Otto).

back to top

16 July, 2008

Team 1 leaving basecamp for the summit push.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

Our days of resting here at basecamp are coming to an end. Right now the first summit team is heading out today and is presently at camp 1. Tomorrow the rest of us plan on going up to camp 1 too. The team cohesion and feeling among the group is strong and everyone is getting on great.

We've had a bout of several days of bad weather which has really thwarted some other teams high up on the mountain. Right now the yaks are starting to graze higher up on the hills, which according to the locals, means that a good weather pattern is coming in, so we surely hope that this is true.

Other than that, we've had a great couple of days at basecamp eating a lot, talking, resting and washing clothes. I'll hopefully be sending you some pictures here in the next couple of days and I hope to talk to you tomorrow with updated news of our progress. Bye for now. back to top

 

Arun and Tony at camp 2. Atte and Tony in one of our comfortable tents at camp 2. Our team digging tent platforms at camp 2. Our team members trekking on Mustagata halfway between camp 1 & camp 2 (Jon Otto).

back to top

14 July, 2008

Team back in basecamp.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

All of the members are now down at basecamp after spending a night at camp 2. Everybody did great up there. Last night we had a good little storm, which put a thick blanket of snow on the mountain. This will make the skiing wonderful, but going up the mountain not so great because we have to break trail. That's how it goes.

We're going to rest here for a few days before people start going for the summit. I'm putting together some photos from up on the mountain, which I hope to send to you in 2-3 days. OK, good night to everybody. Bye now. back to top

 

 

Almost at camp 1. Jon Otto leading a glacier travel workshop in basecamp. Our communications tent. Michael C. preparing his skis in basecamp for traveling higher up on the mountain (Jon Otto).

back to top

13 July, 2008

Setting up camp 3.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

About half of the team members spent the night at camp 2 last night. The team cruised up from camp 1 in record time and helped dig out the tent platforms and put up tents. Everybody had a pretty good night. It was really cold, but that is always expected on Mustagata.

A couple of the staff and me are slowly making our way to camp 3 right now.

The other members went up a little ways and are now skiing or snow-shoeing/racquetting back to basecamp. The other half of the team members are going to make their way up to camp 2 and spend the night there tonight, so we'll see them when he come back down from camp 3.

It seems like everybody is doing well so far. Mustagata is in the middle of a big cloud right now, so we're getting half white-out conditions and half clear. It's very warm as the sun reflects off of the new snow that fell last night.

I'll talk to you again soon. Bye for now. back to top

Walking around basecamp.  Trekking up to camp 1 (Jon Otto).

12 July, 2008

Team moving up to camp 2.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto, the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition calling in.

This morning we had to say a sad farewell to Alex, who decided to leave the expedition. He was having a very hard time with the altitude when we arrived at basecamp and he couldn't seem to get better. It was making him feel pretty bad for too many days and that sometimes happens to people. So he's going back to Kashgar today and we all wish him a wonderful journey traveling throughout China, which he says he might take his extra time to do.

A bunch of the team is on their way to camp 2 today, including myself. Last night the following people were in camp 1: Arun, Michael T, JJ, Tony, the 3 De Boecks, Joshua, and a handful of us staff. Today we're all going up to spend the night in camp 2 and the rest of the team members are going to come up from basecamp to spend the night in camp 1.

So far we've been pretty lucky with the weather, although right now it is fairly cloudy and there seems to be some thunderstorms off in the distance.

So that's it for now. Everybody else seems to be feeling pretty healthy.

Once we come down this time we'll rest up at basecamp and be getting ready for our summit push. OK, talk to everybody soon. Thanks a lot. Bye. back to top

 Camp 2 at 6170 metres/20,300 feet is located on a nearly flat snow plateau (Urs Jaeggi).

11 July, 2008

Team moving back to camp 1.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto, the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition calling in.

It's a wonderful gorgeous day today. It finally seems that a northern front came in and blew out all of the clouds. The temperature also dropped, so it's clear and cold.

Several of us are at camp 1 today and going up further to put in camp 2. In addition, half of the team members are coming up today to spend a night in camp 1.

Everyone seems to be doing really well and we're hoping that the weather holds. I guess that is it for now and I'll talk to you again later. Bye now. back to top

Ms. Suzy Madge, from 2007, heading up from camp 1 to camp 2 on a beautiful sunny day with little wind (www.lipstickblondes.com).

10 July, 2008 

Hello from Mustagata basecamp. Just to re-cap, we spent two nights at our acclimatization camp along the Karakoram Highway, and camped next to a small lake with fabulous views of Mustagata. We then took a short bus ride and got off in the middle of nowhere, near our camels. All our equipment was loaded on camels and we made the three hour hike to basecamp, which involved traversing the tongue of the Kolaxong glacier.

Basecamp this year has a handful of other teams. For the past three years we have had the privilege of being the only team on this route. However, with this also comes the work of having to set the entire route to the summit. Now all this has changed. Basecamp is a lot more exciting and many people are making their way up and down the mountain, some getting ready to summit, while others are just starting their expedition.

The local Khergiz and Tashik live on the grassy slopes below the mountain and around basecamp, grazing their yaks and sheep. They are also an invaluable resource as they help many of the members carry their equipment up to the snowline, just below camp 1. It is a good source of income for them and also a way we can thank them, as we our guests in their land.

All our members have spent a night at camp 1, which is at 5050 metres/16,500 feet. Some had a fairly rough night, which is expected the first time you spend a night at such a high altitude. Usually, after a day of rest at BC, one feels much, much better and ready to go up again. BC, with its good food, the possibility of a shower, good company, and relatively “heavy” air, is our little haven in this arid mountain environment. Though somewhat rocky, it is fairly grassy and little yellow and purple flowers are in full bloom everywhere.

Overall we have a strong and motivated team and we hope the weather is good to us this year.

One my way down from camp 1 yesterday I had an interesting phenomena. My backpack started pricking my back. It became so painful (like many needles constantly pricking me) that I had to take my backpack off. I soon realized that any metal object close to my skin caused this painful pricking. Then my Gore-Tex clothing started humming. I realized I was in an electrical instability zone. There was no lightning or thunder nearby, but I was electrically charged. I proceeded to run down the slope, holding by backpack in one hand, and camera bag in the other, as far from my body as possible. 

Jon Otto back to top

Pedro De Boeck and Michael T. in the bus driving to the trail-head. Loading camels for the trek to basecamp (Jon Otto).

...

Hi all,

This is Arun writing a small dispatch from BC. All is going great so far. Jon and the Summit Climb team are taking great care of us at BC and up on the mountain. Some of us, in the first team, so to speak, spent a night at Camp-1. It was storming outside but we were comfortable inside the tents.  We climbed down yesterday and today was a rest day. Now we'll go up to camp 1, spend a night there, and then proceed to camp 2 (6200 metres/20,300 feet) for the next night but we are all feeling good.

Also, Joshua and I will, I think, get Tim to appreciate the fine music of the Soggy Bottom Boys by the time this trip is done.

(Love to Aai/R+P+A/P+J+A+A, hope you all are well and missing you all). back to top

 

Jon Otto demonstrating proper rope techniques for glacier travel on the mountain to Toni and Atte in basecamp. A local Khirgiz making bread in the morning. Sunset in basecamp (Jon Otto).

July, 2008 (evening)

Second team in Camp 1. First team back in basecamp.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto calling in again from Mustagata basecamp.

All of the members who were up at camp 1 yesterday came down today after a fit-full night, I would say, but they all did great. They are now down here in basecamp. Several took showers and we had a delicious Indian style meal for dinner. 

The other members all went up to camp 1 today and are there right now. That would be Simon, Mike Chrisp, Björn, Alex, Atte, and the 4 Chinese climbers, Chen, Wang Juan, Gao, and Wang Xiaolin.

We had a pretty big storm yesterday, but the weather seems to be hanging in there today. It is quite nice right now and hopefully it will be clear tomorrow.

Everybody seems to be doing well and we’re on schedule. Tomorrow several of our staff members are going up to try to put in camp 2. So I hope to talk to you tomorrow. Good night. back to top

9 July, 2008 (morning)

The team has established Camp 1.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto calling in for the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition.

Everything seems to be going well. Yesterday the staff worked tirelessly putting in camp 1. There is still a little bit of snow that they have to chip away off the ice to make tent platforms, but we have all of the tents up now and a bunch of other equipment ready to go to camp 2.

A handful of the members slept at camp 1 yesterday. We had Michael T, Arun, JJ, the 3 De Boecks, Joshua, and Tony. The team had a pretty good night.

Some of them are coming down today to rest. The rest of our members are going  up to spend a night in camp 1, so there should be a full house there this evening.

We had a big storm last night and the weather seems a bit unstable, but right now it's still sunny and gorgeous out. Last night while I was coming down there was a strange electrical storm and all of my Gore-tex clothing started humming. That was quite an interesting and unique experience!

Other than that, the food is great and basecamp life is as fun as usual.

I'll talk to everybody tomorrow. Bye now. back to top

8 July, 2008

The team is moving up to Camp 1.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto calling in for the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition.

We are near to camp 1 right now.  Most of the members made a hike up here to the snowline yesterday.  I think almost everybody is feeling pretty good.

One of our members, Simon, got very slight altitude sickness, but we recognized the symptoms immediately and took care of him. He seems to be doing much better now, but we are still attentively watching him closely.

We had a nice flurry last night that snowed a few inches. This morning we're going to go up the fixed lines and put in camp 1 a little higher on the mountain. A bunch of the members are probably going to come up and spend the night there.

This has been quite an arid year and I've never seen such little snow. I was walking up on parts of rock that used to be under ancient glaciers, 1000s of years old.

The sun looks like it may come out today and we'll probably be ready to go here soon. I'll call in again later. Thanks a lot. Bye. back to top

Our scenic and comfortable camp 1 at 5400 metres/17,700 feet located just above the snow line (Urs Jaeggi).

6 July, 2008

The team is reviewing safety procedures and training in basecamp.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto calling in for the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition.

We had a fairly busy, but relaxing and great day at basecamp. We did a lot of skills training in the morning and a bit in the afternoon. We mostly practiced glacier travel, walking as a roped team and also how to ascend fixed lines.

It's been unseasonably warm for this time of year at basecamp. It doesn't look like there is quite as much snow on the mountain, but we'll find out for sure what the situation is when we go up tomorrow. Most of the team members are planning on taking a walk up to near camp 1 tomorrow before returning to basecamp.

We had a little more excitement this afternoon when a small quarrel broke out between the Kirghiz and the Tajik about who would carry our bags up the mountain. It seems that every year these small disputes happen, but they are part of the fun in climbing Mustagata.

I hope to talk to you tomorrow. Have a good day. Bye. back to top

 Our comfortable basecamp at 4500 metres/14,800 feet (K. O`Brien & G. Kellund).

5 July, 2008

The team has made it to basecamp.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon Otto calling in for the SummitClimb Mustagata Expedition.

We are all in basecamp now and just had a late, but very satisfying and delicious pasta dinner. Everyone did a great job getting here on the 3 hour hike in. Now we are all experiencing the prerequisites for going to altitude, such as feeling slightly rundown and some people have headaches, but nothing out of the ordinary.

All of our equipment was transported to basecamp by camels. They had to be forcefully made to kneel down by two men and a rope before loading 60 kilograms of equipment on each of their backs. I think we had about 40 camels altogether carrying our equipment to basecamp these last two days.

Camels are "beautiful beasts of burden with long eyelashes". That's a quote from our team member, Atte.

This year there are a few other teams attempting the same route we are, unlike the last 3 years, where we were the only team here at basecamp. It seems that the Tash route, which is the one we are climbing, is finally starting to gain recognition and in a few years it may be as popular as the normal route.

Basecamp is almost all set up. We have electric lights in the dining tent, but we still hadn't gotten the stereo set up before dark. This is because our progress was slowed by an emergency. Someone in another team had a life threatening pulmonary oedema, also known as HAPE, and we were called over to help coordinate the evacuation.

So it was an exciting first day here at basecamp and now it's time for a good rest and sleep. Good night and I'll talk to you tomorrow. Bye. back to top

A view of Mustagata featuring the traditional Normal Route and the new Tash Route, which our team is climbing this season (Jon Otto).

Camels carrying our supplies from acclimatization camp, near Karakul Lake, to basecamp. Mustagata is in the background (www.lipstickblondes.com).

4 July, 2008

It feels good to be finally out of Kashgar and on the start of the climb. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kashgar. Kashgar is cool. Not cool as in the opposite of hot, but the Uygur people definitely have a cool persona. And the Uygur taxi drivers are the most hip, with their crooked sunglasses, blaring Pakistani rock music, and shiny CDs attached to door handles. I think it’s in their genes.

We are now camped on a grassy field next to a small lake overlooking Mustagata. This is our acclimatization camp and we will spend two nights at this altitude before moving to base camp. Kherkiz houses lie nearby and young children come by to play. The Kherkiz are a local herds people that live around Mustagata. During the summer they move up the valleys to graze sheep, yaks, and camels, living in yurts for several months at a time.

During the night it cleared up and this morning we had a wonderful view of the mountain, and of Mustagata’s cousin, Mt. Konggar. All the members learned how to use our hanging stoves and we also went over two-way radio protocols. As on all large mountains, efficient communication between camps and with base camp is one of the important safety procedures.

After lunch we went for acclimatization walks on the small hills around camp. Several members then decided to take a swim in the glacier lake, which was, surprising “warm”. Tomorrow we plan to leave after breakfast for base camp. Everyone seems to be adjusting well to the altitude and we look forward to moving on. -Jon Otto

Acclimatization camp at 3,600 metres/11,800 feet. One of our team members taking a refreshing and fun swim in Karakul Lake next to acclimatization camp (Jon Otto).

3 July, 2008

The team has left Kashgar, making their way towards acclimatization camp.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon, the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

In Kashgar this morning, some of our members did some last minute shopping for extra clothes, water bottles, towels and whatnot. We left a little after 12:00 p.m. for the 3-4 hour ride along the Karakoram Highway, which took us around Mt. Kungoir before providing our first stunning views of Mustagata.

It was fairly cloudy today and as we were setting up our camp at the end of the drive, there was a bit of a wind storm. The wind has now calmed down and it is just raining slightly. All of the members are in their tents after an excellent dinner that our cooks prepared for us.

We're all looking forward to a hopefully beautiful day tomorrow. Talk to you again soon. Bye now. back to top

Our team eating a delicious meal together the night before departing for the mountain. A view of the Idkah Mosque in Kashgar (Jon Otto).

2 July, 2008

Team is getting ready to leave Kashgar for the mountain.

Jon Otto reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Jon the leader of the SummitClimb Mustagata expedition.

Today all of the members have finally reached Kashgar. We went out for a great meal at "Ordas", which is a very nice local restaurant on the edge of town, where we got to eat all sorts of delicious tasty food. There is nice live music and colourful dancing at this restaurant. It's very popular with the local people and their families. We didn't see any other tourists in there.

The staff then loaded the truck late into the evening. We will drive up tomorrow to our acclimatization camp. The truck will set off early, then all of the members and staff plan on climbing into 4 wheel drive landcruisers and taking off around noon tomorrow to finally head up into the hills.

The weather in Kashgar has been cool for this time of year, but it has also been quite sunny. We have a great group of people this year and I look forward to starting the trip and the climb. I think conditions on the mountain are going to very good this year.

Talk to you again soon. Bye. back to top 

30 June, 2008

Finally Kashgar! The Kashgar airport is a beautifully simple affair. You walk out of the plane onto the Tarmac, pick-up your bags, go through a small building, and your vehicle is waiting for you on the other side. It’s a quick ride to the Seman Hotel, which was the former Russian consulate in the early 20th Century. It is also the only hotel in town with local Uygur design.

Bjorn, one of the team members, also arrived today after taking the 3-day train ride along the Silk Road from Beijing. The first thing we did, after putting our bags in the hotel room, was go for a Uygur meal of kebabs, home-made yogurt, pull noodles, and Kavaz.

The Sunday Market, or Bazaar, was today. This is what Kashgar is known for. The Bazaar is a huge outdoor shopping centre that carries everything one needs to live in the mountains and deserts around Kashgar… as a herdsman. You ride your donkey cart to the Bazaar and park it in the large outdoor donkey lot. You can then spent all day wandering around the various stalls and shops, where you can buy ornamental vases, new tires, cloth, pots & pans, horse harnesses, sheep, and much, much more.

It feels good to be back. Kashgar is great!

Jon Otto – Expedition Leader back to top

These are some photos taken around the bazaar in Kashgar. Different stalls selling fresh fruit, handicrafts, and even livestock abundantly populate this fun open market (Jon Otto).

28 June, 2008-

Greetings from the air,

Members are gradually making there way to Kashgar from different directions and by various modes of transport. Joshua and Bjorn are on the train, a 3-day voyage along the ancient Silk Road. Michael already arrived and is now touring the Karakoram Highway. Others are flying into Kashgar from Europe or Beijing. Our climbing staff are also making there way to Kashgar from Tibet, Sichuan, and Beijing. However you get there, Kashgar – our jumping off point to the mountain – is a far away place. This is one element that makes the mountain challenging and also so attractive.

Kashgar was once a prosperous and prominent market town on the Silk Road. To Kashgar’s east are the harsh Taklimakan and Gobi deserts. To Kashgar’s west are the intimidating Pamirs and Heavenly mountain ranges. During the height of the Silk Road, Kashgar was a safe haven for travelers coming from both directions. It was a place to rest, replenish, and prepare for the next difficult stretches which were either going over the mountains or across the desert. During the Great Game the English and Russians both had consulates in Kashgar, as its location seemed key for control of surrounding regions. Kashgar still holds much of its former charm and is now the staging point for modern travelers and mountaineers. 

I arrived in Beijing two days ago. Yesterday was spent in a photo studio, where we were doing mock climbing posses for our sponsor – Gore-Tex. The studio was over 30 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit) and we had to get all dressed-up in sub-zero climbing garments. I think I extruded my body weight in sweat.

Today I drove around Beijing with Yao, one of the climbing staff, purchasing our final food items. Unlike Kathmandu, you have to bring in everything, as Kashgar has almost nothing to outfit climbing expeditions. After the prerequisite delays in Beijing we are now on the plane flying to Kashgar.

Kashgar and the surrounding areas are some of my favorite. The people are charismatic, the surrounding landscape is grand, and the cuisine is superb. I can go on and on about the region, but we are about to land… so more to come, but first I have to get there, and that is going to take transferring planes in Urumqi.

Jon Otto – Expedition Leader back to top

Our international Mustagata team members & Staff in basecamp. Please click one of the thumbnails below to view the full size image. Photos by Jon Otto.

  

   

   

  

    

   

Jon Otto; Alex; Arun;Björn; Chen Cheng; De Boeck family: Jerome, Pedro & Pierre; Gao Ruxiang; Jan-Jilles; Man Yu; Michael C.; Michael T.; Simon; Toni and Atte; Tseren; Wang Juan; Wang XL; Joshua; Tim; Tselantou; Asu; Bai Chunxi; Kim; Liu Xiaojian; Samdien; Wu Shenglong; Yao Shen; Zhang Jian; Zhou Haiquan.

About Mustagata (7546 M / 24,750 Ft):

Mt. Mustagata is located in the Pamirs mountain range of Xinjiang Province, China. It has become known as the easiest 7500 metre peak in the world, is quite safe for such a high peak, and the alpine skiing is exquisite. Climbing Mustagata is a great way to test your ability to cope with high altitude in a relatively short period of time. Most climb it in snowshoes or ski the mountain. Many more people have the ability to climb Mustagata than they think.

Mustagata is along the old Silk Road (present day Karakoram Highway) connecting Kashgar in China to Islamabad, Pakistan. The local people that live around the mountain are Khergiz and Tashik. They are nomadic shepherds who live in yurts and graze their camels, yaks, and sheep on the large grasslands around Mustagata, Mt. Gongar, and Karakul Lake. back to top

Expedition Members:

  • Alexander Buchmann (Norway)
  • Arun Mahajan (India & USA)
  • Atte Tapani Kaleva (Finland)
  • Cheng Chen (China)
  • Jan-Jilles van der Hoeven (Netherlands)
  • Jerome J.E. De Boeck (Belgium)
  • Jonathan Christian Otto (USA – Leader)
  • Joshua Patrick Miller (USA)
  • Juan Wang (China)
  • Michael John Chrisp (UK)
  • Michael Anthony Tomordy (UK)
  • Pierre L.M.J.G. De Boeck (Belgium)
  • Pierre-Alexandre M.J.G. De BoecK (Belgium)
  • Ruxing Gao (China)
  • Simon Hugh Price (UK)
  • Timothy Morrison Boelter (USA)
  • Toni Aleksi Kalevi Rannikko (Finland)
  • Ulf Björn Kristoffer Lindgren (Sweden)
  • Xiaolin Wang (China) back to top

High Altitude Climbing Staff:

  • Yu Man
  • Tselantou (Lantow)
  • Rongqin Su (Asu)
  • Jian Zhang
  • Zhen Yao

Cook staff:

  • Bai – head cook
  • Samdiem – cook
  • Kitchen staff back to top
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