Latok I, attempt; Porter Peak, first ascent. On August 22 Whit Magro and I arrived on the Chok- toi Glacier for my second trip in as many years to the north side of Latok I (7,145m). Last year Bean Bowers and I spent 42 days below Latok without any reasonable weather for an attempt. Surely this year would be different!
During our first two weeks at base camp the weather was quite good, allowing us to acclimatize on some of the smaller peaks above the Choktoi. During this time we managed the first ascent of a peak adjacent to the rock spire Bean and I had climbed in 2007. We dubbed this Porter Peak (ca 5,700m) in honor of the hard-working Balti porters that make Western expeditions to the Karakoram possible. We named our route Sirdar Indirect (700m, 5.9 WI5) to commemorate the many arguments between porter sirdars and expedition members each year. We also made an attempt on the unclimbed Middle Sister Spire, coming agonizingly close to the top before being turned back by icy cracks and impending darkness.
At the end of this two-week period of unstable but relatively good weather, Whit and I felt adequately acclimatized and turned our attention to Latok’s north face. Almost on cue the snow began to fly. During the first storm nearly a meter fell at base camp over three days. The resulting avalanches off the north face convinced us to look at the north ridge, which we hoped
would offer a safer alternative, given the conditions. During a four-day period of marginal weather in mid- September, Whit and I were able to climb the north ridge to ca 6,000m in less then 10 hours, despite being hit by a massive spindrift avalanche. We left a tent, food, and fuel in hopes of making another attempt.
Unfortunately, significant snowfall continued through the end of September, and by the start of October temperatures on the Choktoi were too cold for snow to clear from the route. Whit and I headed home empty-handed once again. It’s interesting to note that approximately 40 expeditions (a veritable who’s who of alpine climbing) have visited the Choktoi Glacier since the late ’70s, and no one has climbed any peak over 6,300m from this side, a success rate of zero percent on teams’ primary objectives: Peak 6,960m, the Ogre, and Latok I. It would be easy to write off the valley as cursed, but Latok and the other world-class objectives are too big and beautiful to pass up. Cursed or not, I’m sure I will be back!
Josh Wharton, AAC