Kokodag, First Ascent

Asia, China, Kin Lun, Western Kun Lun
Author: Lev Ioffe. Climb Year: 2006. Publication Year: 2007.

Kokodag (a.k.a. Kokodak) is the summit on the ridge extending west from Kon-gur and is located between Kongur Tube (7,530m on Chinese maps, 7,546m on Russian) and Aklangam (6,978m on Chinese maps, 7,004m on Russian). Chinese maps show its altitude as 7,210m; our measurements gave 50-60m less. The reason for the name is unclear, and when asked which mountain is Kokodag, locals point in different directions. The main summit is a narrow rocky crest, while the northwest summit (7,129m on Chinese maps) is a broad snow dome, 2km distant and 100m lower. The obvious line of ascent follows a rounded, south-facing, snow ridge (45-50° maximum) toward the snow dome, then traverses right on the upper snow fields to the foot of the final rock ridge. The part of the route between 5,700m and 6,200m is heavily crevassed, and there is avalanche danger on the upper traverse, especially after snowfall.

Our group of Ivan Dusharin, Lena Lebedeva, Sasha Novik, and I gathered in Kashgar on July 19. We set up base camp on July 22, after a day’s trek from the Karakoram Highway. We established Camp I (5,400m) at the top of a scree slope on the 25th and Camp II (6,000m) on the 30th in a large, snow-filled crevasse, which offered good protection against wind and avalanches. We made our first summit bid on August 3 but had to turn back when a southwesterly wind decreased visibility to 10m. A period of bad weather ensued, with the wind bringing humidity and dust from the Arabian Peninsula. For our next attempt, which took place on the 9th, we moved the top camp to 6,500m but still had to turn back from the upper slopes of the dome at ca 7,000m, when visibility dropped to zero. The next day, we were able to reach the foot of the rock ridge before the weather deteriorated and then proceed to the top, disregarding the poor visibility. The last 200m involved unstable rock with unreliable protection. We reached the summit late in the afternoon of the 10th. Descent was quick: by August 13 we were back in Kashgar.

Lev Ioffe, USA