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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
the new (traditional) route:
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
Camp 1 (5400 meters):
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):
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):
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):
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.
of the normal route and the new (traditional) route:
Impressive views of the Kartamak glacier and the huge rock cliff it
the middle of the mountain.
and more enjoyable ski descent and ascent.
route slightly longer
slope angle more consistent.
teams and climbers on the route.
equipment carried to basecamp by donkeys.
Impressive views of Mt. Gongar.
2. Not as
friendly to skiers because of camp 1 to camp 2 ice field.
route slightly shorter.
of very short steep slopes between camp 1 and camp 2
teams and climbers on the route.
equipment carried to basecamp by Camels.
appreciation to Black Diamond, Gore-Tex, and Backpacker Gear
EverestNews.com for your help updating the site, Jon
Sullivan (USA) - Guide
Charles Kellund (USA)
(USA) - Leader
Xiaoqiang (head cook)
Often Spelled: "Muztagata, or
Mustagh Ata, or Muztaghata, or Muztagh Ata or Muztag Ata" Located in China,
1 July to 23 July , 23 days
in China in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
This is Jonathan Christian
Otto, the leader of Mt. Mustagata (7546 meters, 24,751 feet) this summer for
our SummitClimb expedition. I am in Lhasa right now helping put together our
Everest north expedition. The same strong Tibetan climbers we are using on
Everest we will use on Mustagata to carry equipment up the mountain and set-up
our camps. We hope you will be able to join our international team of men and
women. We have had a lot of success on Mustagata. I have climbed it five times
(4 summits), and our last expedition (July 2004) put 5 members and 2 Sherpas
on the summit..
This year we will place our
basecamp away from the crowd. The normal basecamp is crowded and soiled. At
our new basecamp there will be only a few teams at most (we may be the only
team) which makes for more sanitary conditions and will allow us to
concentrate fully on the climb. From here it is a slightly different route up
to camp 3 than from the normal basecamp. The conditions are very similar –
non-technical, low angle snow slope (10 to 20 degrees) with few crevasses.
Mustagata is a very high
mountain. It is a great way to test your ability to cope with high altitude in
a relatively short period of time.
July is the best time to
climb, as its not so snowy as in June and not so icy as in August. We travel
roped together and everyone on our team is either on snowshoes or skis for
Our fantastic cook staff has
much experience and has been with us for many years. They cook nutritious and
tasty meals and have a great attitude. They do a good job paying attention to
our health and hygiene so we can put our energies towards climbing the
We offer a full-service climb
or a basic climb option. For the full-service climb we supply all mountain
services: Permits, all equipment and food on the mountain (tents, stoves, gas,
ropes, etc.), Sherpa support, basecamp meals, medical supplies, and more. All
you have to bring is your personal climbing clothing, equipment and snack
food. For our basic climb we take care of your permits and get you and your
equipment to basecamp. Then it is up to you on how you wish to climb the
mountain. You will still get access to our detailed route information and
expertise throughout the climb.
Mustagata is part of the
Pamirs on the old Silk Road (present day Karakoram Highway) connecting Kashgar
in China to Islamabad, Pakistan. The local people are Khergiz and Tashiks. The
Khergiz are nomadic shepherds who live in yurts and graze their camels, yaks,
and sheep on the large grasslands around Mustagata, Mt. Gongar, and Karakul
Getting to the mountain is
convenient and you have several options.
1. Fly into China
(Beijing, Shanghai, or Honk Kong) and then take the plane
or train to Kashgar. We will
meet in Kasgar and go to the mountain together.
2. Enter from Bishkek,
Kyrgyzstan overland via the Turugart pass. We will
meet you at the border and
take you to Kashgar.
3. Go overland from
Islamabad along the Karakarum highway and meet us at the mountain.
Most members fly into Kashgar
since this is the most convenient option. Jon Otto and Daniel Mazur
More About Mustagata Leader
Jonathan Christian Otto:
Jon has been on top of
Mustagata 4 times. Thrice by the normal ski-snowshoe route, and once via a
daring new route on the east ridge. He is an extremely experienced leader, a
real gentleman and a strong climber. Jon’s specialty is China and Tibet,
including all of the Himalaya therein. He currently lives in Sichuan, China,
speaks proficient Mandarin, and is a major player in the development of
climbing in China. Jon personally knows and works with all governmental
mountaineering agencies in China and Tibet. He has traveled the length and
breadth of China and Tibet, including many remote and border areas.
His organizational skills are
superb, and he has developed extensive contacts throughout Asia. Jon is a
partner in Arête Alpine Instruction Center, a burgeoning climbing school in
Chengdu which was started to address the needs of the rapidly growing climbing
community in China.
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