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Mountain Madness Climber

Mustagh Ata 2012 — Sunsets at Camp 1

MM Mustagh Ata — Dis­patch 3

Base Camp, 1628 hrs, 10 July 2012

Team Mad­ness is back in base camp after two nights on the moun­tain. On Sun­day, we climbed up to Camp One (most every­one elect­ed to have at least a por­tion of their gear car­ried up by either Tibetan or Kyr­gyz porters), leav­ing around 10 am. Hav­ing already gone up once, we were famil­iar with the route except this time our packs were a bit heav­ier so it was slow­er going. 

(all pho­tos from pre­vi­ous expeditions)

Evenings at camp. MM Col­lec­tion

We arrived at camp after about five hours of climb­ing, just in time to get set­tled into the high-alti­tude tents and begin melt­ing snow for din­ner (freeze-dried meals, sur­pris­ing­ly good) and hot drinks. There are only so many ways to amuse one­self inside a tent at 5450m so after din­ner, every­one ducked into their sleep­ing bags and tried to fall asleep. How­ev­er, our route faces almost due west so we all had to get out of our warm bags to pho­to­graph a bril­liant sun­set over the Pamirs. By all accounts, it was a fit­ful night’s sleep, made more so by an hour-long wind­storm that gave the tents a good rattle. 

Wak­ing up to snow cov­ered tents. MM Col­lec­tion

The next morn­ing, Mon­day, we slept in until the morn­ing sun reached the camp at around 0745 and then began prepa­ra­tions for our acclima­ti­za­tion climb up to 6120m Camp 2. Because we had placed Camp 1 high­er than usu­al, the over­all dis­tance was short­er but we began climb­ing steeply right out of camp. Luck­i­ly, all the crevass­es on the route were filled in this year (nor­mal fol­low­ing a heavy snow year like last win­ter) so route-find­ing was pret­ty straight-for­ward and we did­n’t have to put in any fixed ropes. The team was car­ry­ing just the usu­al sup­plies we bring any­time we’re mov­ing on the moun­tain (spare insu­lat­ing lay­er, hard shell top and bot­toms, some food, an extra pair of gloves) so we made good time despite the steep­ness of the route, arriv­ing at Camp 2 after four hours. We expe­ri­enced some occa­sion­al­ly chal­leng­ing weath­er along the way, which gave us a good taste of what Mustagh Ata is capa­ble of dish­ing out, but over­all it was good day. 

Stun­ning sun­sets at this alti­tude. MM Collection

After a half-hour at Camp 2, we slogged back down to Camp 1 in about 1.5 hours. Although we had enough time (and ener­gy) to descend all the way to base camp, we decid­ed that anoth­er night at Camp 1 would help boost our acclima­ti­za­tion and set us up for a bet­ter night’s sleep at Camp 2 lat­er this week. So, despite the allure of good food and com­fort­able sleep­ing beds an hour or so below us, we sucked it up and set­tled in for anoth­er night. 

Set­tling in to Camp 1. MM Collection

The morn­ing showed this to be a wise deci­sion, as every­one man­aged to sleep for most of the night-much bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous night. Brav­ing the morn­ing cold, Ted and Hamid descend­ed down to base camp at around 0800 and Chok and Stu­art fol­lowed about an hour lat­er. The snow was firm — per­fect con­di­tions for descend­ing and before we knew it we were sit­ting in the din­ing tent, eat­ing an egg sand­wich and slurp­ing fresh coffee. 

The rest of today has been giv­en over to dry­ing out clothes, wash­ing bod­ies, and replen­ish­ing lost calo­ries. Tomor­row will be anoth­er full rest day and then we head back up: Camp 1, Camp 2 and then back to base camp. 

~ MM Guide Ted Callahan

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