American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Kun Lun Shan, Kongur Tagh (7,719m), Northeast Ridge, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Kongur Tagh (7,719m), northeast ridge, new route. Kongur Tagh’s summit is on China territory close to the border of two big mountain systems, the Pamir and Kun Lun. It is supposed to be the highest mountain of Pamir. In spite of its altitude, Kongur Tagh was unknown till 1900, probably because of its location inside a group of other high peaks. After the first investigation, 56 years passed before the first climb was attempted and 25 more years till four Britons (Peter Boardman, Chris Bonington, Alan Rouse and loe Tasker) reached the summit in 1981. The summit is on a long ridge, stretching several tens of kilometers from east to west with an average altitude of about 7,000m. There are a few 7,000m peaks situated in the Ridge: Kongur East Summits 7,246,7,126,7,200, and Kongur Tube.

In 2004 there were five attempts to reach the summit. Three expeditions from the north side—from Saint-Petersburg/Riga, Moscow, and Krasnoyarsk (Russia) reached the summit. French and Italian expeditions attempted to make new routes from different directions. From the Saint-Petersburg-Riga expedition, the following people summited: Valery Shamalo, Kirill Korabelnikov and Latvians, Oleg Silin and Valdis Purins. Alexey Gorbatenkov turned back at 7,350m because of frostbite.

The north slopes of the mountain are not that steep, but extremely avalanche prone. The summit is surrounded with a few belts of hanging glaciers. They turned back many expeditions. Our route is not that difficult, the only technical places are a long ice slope at the altitude 4,900m-5,300m and an icefall around 6,000m. The entire route totally escapes rock climbing. Avalanche danger is more or less permanent on the route, but it is possible to find good places to bivouac. In the very beginning of the expedition our bivouac was blown down from the mountain by a fresh snow avalanche. Fortunately we were out of the tent at the moment and were just a bit covered with snow. This made us more serious about choosing good places for the higher camps. All in all, the climb required a lot of power. Probably because it is a long route with a big rise from base camp to the summit: more then 4,000m. Snowshoes are highly recommended between 4,600m and 6,900m. This saves you a lot of energy while breaking trail.

We suggest our route as the easiest way to reach the summit, but one has to keep avalanche danger in a mind. Our base camp was on green meadow at 3,500m. Kyrgyz nomads inhabit this valley. They were very friendly, and we felt comfortable leaving our stuff in the meadow. By negotiating with local people we had fresh meat, chicken and vegetables. They also provided us with donkeys for travel to BC. A few words about logistics: The best way to reach the northern side of Kongur is to start from Kashgar. This ancient city was a key point on the Silk Road. These days it is a big mix of civilizations. Local tour operators provide necessary permits, visa support, transport, and so on. You can buy most of the food you need here, but we did not find cheese or good sausages. You also can buy gas for the gas stoves here, but it’s not that easy to find. Local beer bottles have a non-standard volume 0.63 L, which makes it difficult to calculate the total volume you need.

Alexey Gorbatenkov, Russia

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