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Asia, China, Kun Lun Shan, Chakragil, West Ridge

Chakragil, West Ridge. While taking advantage of a free week during a visit to the far reaches of Xinjiang Province in northwestern China, I climbed the west ridge of Chakragil (22,071'). I took no map or altimeter and am therefore uncertain of the elevations of my camps. The roundtrip, from the Karakoram Highway and back, took six days. I had long been intrigued by Eric Shipton’s account, in his book Mountains of Tartary, about his attempt with Bill Tilman in 1948 on the north ridge.

I took three days to ascend to a high camp. My route ascended the northerly of two glacier basins. A deep gorge with a swift, muddy stream exits the southerly of the two. A clearer, mellower stream and a substantially shallower gorge exits the northerly. It’s an easy hike up the northerly basin, onto the terminal moraine of the glacier and along the lateral moraine on its north-northwesterly flank.

From a second camp on the lateral moraine of the glacier, I ascended about 2,000 feet to a high camp on the rim of a small, glaciated basin that leads to the west ridge. The ascent to the summit took six hours from my high camp, first along a sharp, sometimes corniced ridge and then up a broad, well-rounded ridge with a few false summits. New snow along the first two-thirds of the ascent hampered progress, but the upper third was blown relatively free of snow and made for easier travel. The summit is a broad dome of ice with no well-defined single highest point.

After summiting, I descended past my high camp to the next camp down. The next day I hiked south across the glacier and over a saddle, dropping about 2,000 feet down the south side of the saddle to the southerly of the two glacier basins. I followed a goat path out the narrow mouth of this basin and hiked to a hidden meadow not far from the Karakoram Highway. The next morning I hiked out to the highway and caught a ride into Kashgar.

Mark Newcomb