Asia, China, Mount Spender or Chongtar Attempt

Publication Year: 1986.

Mount Spender or Chongtar Attempt. Mountain Travel obtained a permit for the first American expedition to the Chinese Karakoram. We were Jim Bridwell, leader, Sergio Fitch-Watkins, Dr. John Allen, Pauline Green, Dr. Paul Kustra, Barry Rosenbaum, James Vavrina and I as expedition doctor. Using camels to transport our gear, we approached Mount Spender (also called Chongtar; 7330 meters, 24,049 feet) from the Yarkand River near Mahza. The peak lies just west of K2. We started walking on September 5. We crossed the Aghil Pass on September 8 and reached the Shaksgam River, an awesome desert gorge surrounded by unclimbed snowy peaks. Younghusband crossed this pass in 1887 and Shipton in the 1930s. On September 11 we reached the snout of the Sarpo Laggo Glacier at 4000 meters. We carried all our own loads beyond here. On September 15 we moved to Advance Base on the glacier at 4350 meters. We then turned up a dry valley into the basin labeled North Chongtar Glacier on the Italian Baltoro map. We occupied Camps I and II at 5000 and 5500 meters on September 18 and 20. On the 21st a reconnaissance to 6000 meters allowed us to select a route along Spender’s west-southwest ridge. A six-day storm then followed. Finally, on September 26, Bridwell, Rosenbaum and I set out on a light-weight effort to gain the top. We placed camps at 5900 and 6400 meters. Without an altimeter, we erroneously thought ourselves higher. On September 29 we headed for the top. In the afternoon we reached 7000 meters and realized the summit was too far along the ridge to be attained before nightfall. We retreated quickly to meet our camel drivers at Base Camp on October 3. We had superb views of the north faces of K2 and the Mustagh Tower. The Crown (7265 meters; above the Skamri Glacier) was being attempted by a Japanese party while we were on Spender.

Peter Cummings, M.D.