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Mountain Madness Climber

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.

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