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Asia, Chinese Karakoram, Chongtar, Improperly-Disposed-of Garbage by Others

Chongtar, Chinese Karakoram and Improperly-Disposed-of Garbage by Others. On September 8, three of four members of our expedition made the first ascent of Chongtar (7350 meters, 24,115 feet). Expedition members were Australians Greg Mortimer, Luke Trihey, Sue Werner and I from New Zealand. Mortimer, Trihey and I reached the summit plateau of Chongtar with extreme cold and blowing snow after occupying a camp at 6000 meters and a snowcave/crevasse on the west ridge at 6750 meters. We climbed the main summit and the 7250-meter north peak; only the 7180-meter south summit remains unclimbed. Chongtar is only eight kilometers west of K2. Chongtar was named “Mount Spender” after the Shipton-Tilman surveyor on their 1937 “Blank on the Map” expedition. Only one previous attempt had been made on the peak when Americans led by Jim Bridwell unsuccessfully tried the west ridge in 1984. Accompanied by an 11-member trekking party, we used the normal approach to the Shaksgam valley, using 20 camels over the Arghil Pass from Bazar Dara. We reached the Suget Jangal oasis on August 16 after eight days. With no bridges, there were many serious river crossings over the Shaksgam and K2 rivers. The camels were used to place Base Camp at the snout of the Sarpo Laggo Glacier on August 22. Some of the trekking party helped carry loads and establish Advance Base on August 26 below the Chongtar Glacier before they left, leaving us isolated until the return of the camels on September 17. We also visited the K2 valley and went up the Sarpo Laggo to Changtok near Younghusband’s 1897 Mustagh Pass. With six camels, we retraced our route and reached Bazar Dara on September 20 in only four days. A significant blotch on the map resulted from large Italian and Spanish K2 expeditions which were departing the area upon our arrival. We found Suget Jangal, one of the most precious campsites in the heart of the high Karakoram, so disgusting we could not possibly camp there with our trekking party. The European climbers had been in residence for several months and were mired in heaps of rotting vegetables, glass, tins and plastic packaging. Incredibly, they were surrounded by their own shit and seemingly had never considered digging communal latrines or slops pits. Sherpas from earlier expeditions had painted their names on rocks in large yellow letters. Knowing how pristine Suget Jangal had been from previous visits in 1990 and 1992, Mortimer and CMA deputy director Jing Ying Jie were outraged. Jing forced the European’s Chinese, Nepali and Pakistani staff to initiate a clean-up. Sadly, much of the garbage remains smoldering in half-dug pits. Clearly, burying modern packaging is not the answer in high alpine areas. The Europeans’ camel logistics were miscalculated, allowing for nothing to be exported from Base Camp.

Colin Monteath, New Zealand Alpine Club