Mustagh Ata 2012 — Carry to Camp 3
MM Mustagh Ata — Dispatch 4
Base Camp, 4500m. Sunday 15 July 2012
Back in base camp for the last rest day before our final summit push. The weather has crapped out quite badly but hopes are high (despite a fairly grim forecast for the next few days) that we will encounter a window of good-enough weather to summit.
On Thursday we began our last acclimatization climb. This was our third climb to Camp 1 and so it went pretty fast. We’ve been doing the first third of the approach in trekking shoes/boots (as the trail is on dirt) and then switching to heavier boots and snowshoes for the final two-thirds (on snow).
We carried the rest of our supplies (mostly food) to the camp and had a leisurely afternoon of melting snow, re-digging the toilet (thanks Hamid!), and generally lounging around. The weather was warm and stable.
On Friday we made our second trip to Camp 2. This was our second trip there and our first with heavy packs. Amazingly, the Madness crew beat their previous time of four hours (un-laden) from Camp 1 to 2, arriving in two-and-a-half hours (a bit more than three hours including breaks). Stuart, Chok and Hamid were all among the first to arrive and they began to get established: collecting snow to melt, digging another toilet, organizing gear, etc.
(photo from previous expedition)
Getting situated at camp. MM Collection
The weather at Camp 2 was freakishly warm and we began to worry that this window of high pressure might be followed by an unsettled spell of (mostly) bad weather-the normal pattern for Muztagh Ata. But everyone understood that we had to properly acclimatize before we could attempt the top, so Team Madness concentrated on the things they could control: hydrating, eating, and sleeping. After all, from base camp, Camp 2 is only a little more than halfway to the top.
The next day, Saturday, dawned clear and warm. Most everyone had contended with some sort of headache the night before but crystalline views combined with a bit of rest served to boost spirits. As the Tibetan staff headed up to establish Camp 3, the rest of us returned to base camp (by way of Camp 1, where we dropped off our sleeping bags and other mountain gear).
We arrived in time for lunch (curried chicken and rice) and then were able to wash ourselves and our clothes before the bad weather socked in, leaving everyone tent-bound for the rest of the day.
Dinner, consisting of chicken legs, salad, pizza, and french fries, provided a nice respite from the inclement weather. The groups sat around, drinking milk tea and telling tales until the staff turned the generator off (and with it, the lights) around 9PM.
Today’s weather was basically a continuation of the previous day’s-precipitation, occasional wind, and a low cloud enshrouding the upper reaches of Mustagh Ata. The weather forecast calls for snow all week so we are planning to stick with our original schedule: a full rest day today, move to Camp 1 tomorrow, Camp 2 the next day, and then evaluate our movements based on conditions. If the forecast proves accurate, with heavy snow and high winds, we will probably hole up in Camp 2 for a night or two extra. Camp 3 is a pretty miserable spot — high, cold, and not very conducive to rest, so we’re determined to limit our time there to no more than one or two nights. As soon as we get a break in the weather (again, assuming the bad forecast proves accurate), we’ll move to Camp 3, spend a night there, and head to the summit early the next morning.
So, stay tuned for the next dispatch coming sometime this week, which will either detail the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.