To the mountainAs Muztaghata climb was the part of our one-year trip, my and my wife arrived to Naryn (Kirgizstan) before the others. After two days the rest of the team (Ewa, Witek, Bogus, Pawel i Piotrek) joined us and the next day we set off towards the Torugart Pass. We got there without any difficulties and after waiting for half an hour a guide from the Chinese agency arrived. The bus, by which he arrived to take us, looked quite good, unlike the guide, who was completely drunk and who from time to time shivered from overdrinking. First thing, he told us, was about him being expelled from university for drinking too much.
The border we crossed with almost no problems. They measured our temperatures (in case we suffered from SARS), x-rayed our luggage (illegal walkie-talkies we managed to put into our pockets) and the dried sausage was not noticed. However, the unglued photo in Bogus passport was noticed, but somehow he managed to cross the border. I also won a bet with our guide (100 USD).
To Kashgar we arrived in the evening. After installing ourselves in an exclusive (in comparison with those we usually sleep in) hotel we went to see the city. We wanted to have dinner, but this simple (as one may think) activity turned out to be complicated. The menu was only in Chinese and the waitress (aged 12, I would say) could not speak English. With the help of our guidebook and one of the guests everything finished happily, but the emotions were high and we had a good laugh.
Next morning we set off towards the mountain. Because the road was being rebuilt, we reached our destination late and Bogus with Pawel ordered the camel (which was supposed to take part of their luggage) for the next day. I tried to exchange my 100 USD from the bet for another camel, but the guide said he had not the money on him. So all I had from the won bet was satisfaction.
After the night spent at 3800 m. we felt good and we went to the base camp. We carried everything on our back and the rest of the team with only part of their luggage (the other part of their luggage was carried by two camels). The weather was bad, it was windy and rainy so we reached the foot of the mountain very tired. We were welcomed by the base camp manager, who was supposed to take care of us (whatever in means).
Basecamp - Camp IIThe base camp (4460 m amsl) was big and there were many tents there. Many Kyrgyz people wandered arround. Some of them put up their stands and tried to sell us knives, bead necklaces and carpets. Others took the role of porters and when having free time they, simply looked insolently into our tents. What is more, there were lots of climbers with slanting eyes, who took pictures of anything with their digital cameras. Everyone was impressed by Ewa’s red hair.
At the foot of the mountain we spent two days. The first day we went for a short walk towards the mountain and the second day we almost got to camp I (that day the weather was bad again). The rest of the team brought their deposits then. The third day we finnaly got to camp I (5500 m. amsl), located just behind the snow border. Together with Ewa and Witek we stayed there for the night, while Bogus, Pawel and Piotrek only put up their tents.
Next day I did not feel good so only Gosia and Ewa went up to see, how the upper camp I (located 100 m higher, under a seracs) looked like. It turned out that it was less windy and flatter there so we moved there next day (so did Ewa and Witek). The boys put up their tents another 150 m higher. Everybody else except me went there with them. At that time I penetrated a rubbish heap left there by one expedition. It paid off - I found two tins of tuna in sunflower oil. I ate one at once (it was delicious) and the other I left as a reward or comfort after our come back. Fortunately, I searched the rubbish heap fast because after me it was penetrated by an old Kazakh, who unexpectedly turned up there.
The way to camp II we covered in stages. First we had an acclimatization walk to a huge crevice located between the camps and next day we moved there. In the morning we were supposed to go further, but the weather got worse again. It was snowing the whole day and there was fog. Several climbers in those conditions were going up and down, but we were lying in the tent (the sun was shining through the fog and it was hot). In the evening to kill the boredom we started to sing and the clouds disappeared (they surely could not stand our singing out of tune). Although during the night it was snowing again, in the morning we saw clear sky.
To camp II we went using snowshoes. There was a lot of snow . Unfortunately, the slope, flat in the beginning, became steep fast. Although Gosia was doing well enough, I kept sliding with every single step. Trying to keep balance I was making sudden movements, which deprived me of energy. After 15 minutes I was exhausted so I took a break. It was a big mistake as putting the backpack on made me even more tired than the previous quarter of an hour ascent. Two climbers wearing boots went past. I tried it too, but I subsided up to my groin. Following the skiers' and Gosia's traces I succeeded in going forward in snowshoes. After 1,5 hour the terrain became flat and the climb was much easier. Camp II (6150 m. amsl) was located in a basin, so we could see it as late, as being only several meters from the tents. The time was 5 p.m.
Camp II - Camp IIIWhile putting up our tent we saw a climber going down, who could hardly walk of exhaustion. It was a Japanese female climber, who managed to reach the summit that day. She attacked the summit from camp III, where she left her tent. In the evening descended her friend. Next day he was supposed to go to camp III to bring down the equipment, but he gave up and sent porters there. No wonder, I would also like to get to the base camp as soon as possible. The same day Ewa, Witek, Bogus and Pawel joined us. Piotrek descended lower to regain strength.
Next day we were supposed to move to the upper camp II (200 m of altitude difference). We even packed our backpacks but it was snowing and a bit windy so we resigned. In fact, we spend the whole day lying in the tent , so did the rest of the team. Only Pawel went for a walk in the afternoon. In the morning next day it turned out, that the weather was even worse, but we had no choice, so we set off and the rest of the team left with us.
The plan was to ascend to camp III in the morning and next day, if the weather is good, go to the summit. We started well, but during the ascent to camp III (6900 m. amsl) fog appeared and Pawel with Ewa and Witek got lost somewhere. Together with Bogus we put up our tents and as late as in the evening we found out by walkie-talkie that they put up their tents somewhere lower. It also turned out that leaving camp II Ewa and Witek met Piotrek. They left him their tent and took his.
When I got to the tent I met Ewa and Witek. They also felt bad and turned back, especially that they were wearing light clothes and it was very cold that day. Although the sun was shining, the strong wind cooled us down firmly. About 5 p.m. Bogus came back. At 2 p.m. he contacted Pawel by walkie-talkie, who advised him to try to reach the summit. Bogus listened to his friend's advice and about 3 p.m. he climbed Muztaghata. The way was broken through so it was our turn. By walkie-talkie we made a plan to leave about 9 a.m. next morning.
We were worried about the weather, unnecessarily though. It was warmer than the previous day. The way to the summit was one big and monotonous snow field. We climbed a hill, which was getting flat and behind which there was another one. The way was marked with marking poles so it would be difficult to get lost. Behind the fifth hill or so we saw a rocky ridge mentioned by Bogus so we knew the summit was close. Then the wind got stronger but we continued our ascent. 5,5 hours after leaving camp III we stood on the summit. What we saw there took our breath away. The summit itself ( 7546 m amsl) is a little pile of stones (or even two piles) but behind them there was a 3 kilometer or so cliff. Underneath there was a glacier and in front of our eyes there were huge vertical walls. We did it! We got to the summit!. However, the freezing wind did not let us enjoy the moment long enough. We took several pictures and after 40 minutes on the top rushed down, literally as the descent took us only 2 hours.
Close to the summit we met Witek, who was very tired. One hour from the summit we went past Pawel walking up. In camp III we were awaited by Bogus, congratulations written on the snow and I was awaited by sausage, which I had earlier received from Ewa. The time was 5 p.m. Till the evening we were waiting for the boys, but nobody turned up. Walkie-talkie kept silent as well. At 8 p.m. Witek called. It turned out that he was in such a hurry to his tent, that he did not visit us. We were worried about Pawel, but then he appeared on the horizon. It was a good day. Only Ewa and Piotrek did not reach the summit, but they both broke their altitude records.
In the evening we rewarded ourselves with dinner in the canteen. We were joined by other Poles from the second group climbing Muztaghata. They were not that lucky because out of four members only one reached the summit, but still the Polish summary of this season looked quite good.
CreditsTranslation from Polish by Slawek Bieniek. Thanks, Slawek!
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