Mushishan Group and Karangutagg Valley, First Ascents. It was reported that in August, 1998, a large group of Italian climbers and scientists travelled via Urumchi to Hotan on the southern fringes of the Taklimakan Desert. From there, they drove some 200 kilometers south to the small village of Houku, from which they were able to access the Mushishan Group, a group of glaciated peaks culminating in Mushishan (6638m), the high point on a long ridge of unclimbed summits. Renzo Corona and Franco Nicolini trekked to below the south flank of Mushishan, establishing a camp on August 19. Serac danger forced the pair to climb to a col on the ridge (“Col Lena,” 6150m) via a vague rib on the southern snow slopes. On August 23, they followed the crest of the ridge west over Pt. 6450m (“Cima della Guide”) to the high point of Mushishan.
In 1999, Corona and Nicolini returned to the region with an eight-member expedition to explore the Karangutagg Valley, a high valley they had reconned the year before. The peaks in this region offered technically straightforward snow climbs. Base Camp (3850m) was accessed via a three-day trek over a 3500-meter pass from the village of Kash Tash, itself a six-hour jeep drive from Hotan. In good weather, the team divided into two groups; Giacomo Corona, Nicolini and Omar Oprandi climbed Pt. 5850m while Renzo Corona, Mauro Fronza and Rocco Romagna made the first ascent of Pt. 5600m. On September 12, the group minus Romagna set out for the highest summit (6060m) of the area, reaching it at 5 p.m. (Fronza did not make the summit.) The team explored a pass into Tibet in 13 hours from BC, and Renzo Corona and Nicolini climbed a 5300-meter peak above BC that involved IV rock and 60-degree snow in its last 300 meters. On September 17, BC was struck and the team finished with a 1700-kilometer jeep drive across part of the Taklamakan Desert. (High Mountain Sports 210)