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Asia, Western China, Mustagh Ata Ascent and Mustagh Ata North Attempt

Mustagh Ata Ascent and Mustagh Ata North Attempt. The NOK Mustagh Ata International Friendship Expedition successfully climbed Mustagh Ata (7546 meters, 24,757 feet). On August 8, British Anthony and Victoria Willoughby and Frenchman Didier Gaillard reached the summit. On August 11, British Dick Renshaw, Japanese Keiichi Ozaki and Hiro Sasao and Americans Marti Martin Kuntz and I got to the top. Previously we had made an unsuccessful attempt on Mustagh Ata North (7427 meters, 24,367 feet). This is in fact not a sub-peak but a completely separate mountain cut off from Mustagh Ata by the Yambulak Glacier which gouges a 3000-foot cliff-lined chasm between the two from summit to base. Its windy north ridge was climbed by four Japanese in 1981, the only ascent of the peak. (On August 7, 1981, leader Tadakio Sakahara and Koji Matsui reached the summit, followed on August 14 by Takao Hayashida and Junichi Takahashi.) Our plan was to see how high we could reach on the same ridge on skis in preparation for our quick, nonstop ski ascent and descent of Mustagh Ata. We approached the ridge from the southwest flank as opposed to the Japanese, who had reached it via a northeast spur. The ridge itself essentially begins at 20,000 feet. We set up Base Camp at 15,700 feet on the south side of the Chodomak Glacier. The glacier led into a giant amphitheater flanked by the north and northwest ridges. We climbed a headwall and, after a third carry, camped at 18,570 feet on a protected shoulder just below the main north ridge. Renshaw and I both were struck by the first symptoms of altitude sickness and descended the next morning, along with Gaillard, who was snow-blind. The others continued their ascent of North Mustagh, reaching 20,500 feet on the north ridge before storm conditions and persistent high winds drove them back down.

Michael Jardine