Amidst a flurry of bad weather, Russians Sergey Nilov, Dmitry Golovchenko, and Alexander Lange have successfully established a new route up the North-East Buttress of Muztagh Tower in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range.
On August 8, the team departed basecamp beneath a shroud of bad weather. Poor conditions, and the complications that come with them, would remain a theme throughout the team’s arduous seventeen-day ascent. On the morning of the ninth, the team began their climb, taking advantage of an incredibly short weather window that would close only a few hours later.
“Coach” Sergey Kotachkov, feared that bad weather might stymie the team high on the buttress’ imposing rock face, but the group pushed on. Starting from 5300m, the Russians angled up the North-East buttress. Just beneath the summit ridge, the rock became a vertical mixture of “neither ice nor firm snow, just loose northern snow.”
Kotachkov looked on from basecamp: “When you look up standing near the mountain, the scale is distorted. It seems that the distance from the [summit ridge] to the summit is quite short. When the climbers reached the [ridge], I asked by radio: “What is the height? – 6500.” Faced with intimidating sections of vertical snow, the team considered an exit via the eastern ridge. From basecamp, Kotachkov deemed that option impossible.
The team continued up their original route, reaching the summit ridge on August 23. On the same day, they ran out of food. Kotachkov began to fear the team had lost their way along the ridge. However, that night, the team radioed to Kotachkov, proclaiming, “We are under the summit, at the bivouac! Thank Heaven…” On the August 24, entirely out of gas and food, the team stood on the summit. Twenty-four hours later, the team walked into basecamp.
Originally popularized by a 1909 photo taken by Vittorio Sella, the Muztagh Tower was at one time considered entirely impossible to climb. In 1956, after it’s publication in a popular mountaineering book, the striking photo inspired a race for the Tower’s first ascent. On July 6, 1956, a British team comprised of John Hartog, Joe brown, Tom Patey and Ian McNaught-Davis solidified the first ascent via the Northwest Ridge. Five days later, Frenchman Guido Magnone, Robert Paragot, Andre
Contamine and Paul Keller summited from the east side of the peak.