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Author: A. Lebedev, Moscow


Muztag-Ata из Космоса

It is one of the highest (7546) and most popular peaks of The Pamirs. Its name can be translated from Turkic as “Father of the icy mountains”. This peak occupies the third place in altitude in the Pamirs after Kongur (7719) and Kongur-Tube (7595).

Muztag-Ata is situated in Kashgarsky mountains on the western edge of the southern ridge Kongur-Muztag and “springs up” from the plain without foothills. Coordinates of the highest point in coordinate system WGS: N38 16.541 E75 06.970.

16 glaciers are situated on the icy cupola of Muztag Ata. The largest is Koksel, situated on the eastern side of the mountain, its length is 21 kilometers .

Slope structure, the routes. The western slope of the peak gently lowers and gradually passes into chukuru. More to the west a flat plain stretches – Subashi “glade”, where from North to South Karakorum highway goes (Kashgar-Tashkurgan-Gilgit). There are no more than 10 kilometers from the glacier of Muztag-Ata to the road. Further north than Subashi glade there is a 3-kilometer Karakel lake. Hotel and restaurant are on its shores. This is a favorite place for tourists, travelling along the Karakorum highway.

View from Karake lakel. The main peak emerges
from behind Kuksai (Northern Muztag-Ата)

In the center of the western slope of the peak there is a giant chasm, where ice falls and supplies Kartamak glacier streaming down this chasm. On the left and on the right of the chasm two “classical” routes go to the peak. The northern route was made by the first ascenders in 1956 (route Of E.A.Beletckiy), nowadays it is the most popular, one can reach the base camp on jeep. The southern route is drawn in details on the Chinese map as a FA route, apparently, this is the route of Chinese expedition of 1959.

From the North Muztag-Ata connects Kuksai Peak or Northern Muztag-Ata(7184), separated from its southern neighbor by the bridge 6875. Just Kuksai dominates Karakel lake and screens Muztag-Ata from the north and northwest. From the bridge 6875 to Muztag-Ata Peak an abrupt, rarely visited ridge leads.

The eastern 2-kilometer face of Muztag-Ata and Kuksai is abrupt (55 degrees) and rocky. In the Southern part it is set against the eastern ridge of the peak, where in 2000 the team of D. Mazur made a new route. In the same way abrupt is 2-kilometer face of Muztag-Ata between its eastern and southern ridges. Approach to Muztag-Ata from the East is from Karakel lake along Kengshibersu and further along Koksel glacier (3-4 days).

Muztag-Ata from the South. 1- route along
the Southern ridge, 2- route along the Eastern ridge.

The southern neighbor of Muztag-Ata is Koksulak Peak (7028), separated from Muztag-Ata by the bridge 6081. On the eastern side this bridge breaks with a 900-meter 55-degree face, and in the west Kalaxong glacier flows down from this bridge, there the easiest way to the beginning of the route along the Southern ridge is situated.

The southern part of Muztag-Ata (7277) is separated from the main peak by the seddle point 7215 and is mapped as Kalaxong Peak . The southern ridge of the peak connects the seddle point 7215.

The route along the Southern ridge was made in August 2005 by the Russian alpinists. Firstly party of two V.Shamalo and А .Gorbatankov, then 6 people from МАИ tourist club (leader - А .Lebedev) ascended to the peak.

Ascents history. The first attempt to ascend Muztag-Ata was made by Sven Gedin in 1894. He was living in Karakel lake region for nearly a year and in free from the explorations time he made four attempts to ascend. In first two ascents he chose the very northern of the western ridges (Yang-Bulak glacier), leading to Kuksai or Northern Muztag-Ata. He estimated his altitude as 6300 m . He tried to go along the ridge of the main peak, but reached only 5640 m . His last attempt he repeated on August16 along the another northern ridge (Chol-Tukmak glacier). But on the next day because of the strong wind he turned back, and on October 4 he descended to Karakel lake.

Muztag-Ata from the west. 3- route of the Chinese
expedition (1959), 4- route of Beletckiy (1956)

In 1947 an attempt to ascend Muztag Ata was made by Erik Shipton and Bill Tillman. Shipton worked as a general consul in Kashgar. Using the fact that Tillman on the eve took part in the Swiss (unsuccessful) expedition to Rakaposhi, he invited him to Kashgar. On August 6 the old friends gathered together in Tashkurgan and intended a quick ascent, not burdened with loads. On August 8 they went northwards and, having passed Ulug-Rabat pass, made camp near the wastern slopes of the peak. On August 11 Shipton, Tillman, Shipton's wife, two accompanying servants and a load carrying yak went to the foot of the peak.

The last camp was installed on the altitude 6250. On August13 a storm began. The summit seemed to be nearby, but Shipton who was not enough acclimatized got his feet frostbitten. “Bill and I agreed”, said Shipton later, “that we hadn't ever be frozen so much during the ascents”. The ascenders have faced a strong frozen wind and exhausting way in friable snow. Shipton estimated their altitude as 7300. A visual comparison of the ascent deion with the photos of the massif, made by D. Zatulovsky in1952, gave a lower altitude of the highest point of their ascent- 6800-6900.

View from the east from Koksel glacier on
Muztag-Ata and the neighboring peaks

The first successful ascent on Muztag-Ata was made by the Soviet-Chinese expedition in 1956. On July 6 after the training and on Elbrus the large expedition, leading by E.A.Beletckiy and team leaders K.K. Kuzmin and Shi Zanchun, reached on their cars the BC 4060 on the foot of the mountain. After aerial photograph examination, the route along the western slope of the peak was chosen, which coincided with the route of Shipton and Tillman. Yaks were used up to the lower edge of the ice areas, on the altitude 5500 m (2 camp). Higher there was an ice fall, which stopped Sven Gedin. On July 13 the 3-rd camp was installed- 6200. By the 21 st of July on the altitude 6800 the 4-rth camp was made. The beginning of the summit push was planned on July 26. The last 5-th camp was installed on July 30 on the altitude 7200. On July 31 after 6 hours of moving in the deep snow 19 Soviet and 12 Chinese alpinists reached the summit.

In 1959 the second ascent was made on Muztag Ata. Representatives of different nations living in China took part in this expedition: Han, Tibetians, Kirgizs and Tajiks. 33 of 50 ascenders reached the peak, among them 8 women. When the relationships between PRC and USSR went bad, mentions about the Soviet-Chinese success in 1956 disappeared from the official Chinese sources, and 1959 year was mentioned as a year of the FA. Maybe, this is the reason why on the Chinese popular topographic map of Kongur а - Muztag-Ata region the way of the first ascenders was marked on the right from the chasm (glacier Kartamak). This caused a historic mistake concerning the way of the expedition 1956.

 According to the evidence of the ascent participant Boris Leonidovich Rukodelnikov, their way lied to the left from the chasm (glacier Kartamak), along the route 4, see photo4

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