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Normal Route - West face
Route

Normal Route - West face

 
Normal Route - West face

Page Type: Route

Location: Xinjiang, China, Asia

Lat/Lon: 38.20000°N / 75.10000°E

Object Title: Normal Route - West face

Route Type: Mountaineering

Time Required: Expedition

Difficulty: Russian grade 5A/High altitude alpinism

Route Quality: 
 - 8 Votes
 

 

Page By: Corax

Created/Edited: Sep 23, 2003 / Nov 21, 2007

Object ID: 158880

Hits: 8450 

Page Score: 78.27%  - 9 Votes 

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Approach

 
camel train
Camel caravan and the Muztagh Ata Massif

A large majority has Kashgar as the starting point for the climb.
Approach - a brief:
Travel to Kashgar, by train, bus or air.
Travel to Subashi or Karakul.
From Subashi you have an easy 3-6 hour walk to BC, which is located on 4400m.

For a detailed description on how to get to the peak - see main page.
  • Getting to Kashgar
  • Kashgar to Muztagh Ata BC
  • Route Description - base facts

     
    The right/red is the...
    The yellow line is the route described on this page

    Altitude gain from BC
    3100m.

    The camps
    BC: 4400m
    C1: 5200-5400m
    C2: 6200m
    C3: 6800m
    Muztagh Ata has lots of alternative camp alternatives, but these are the normal camp altitudes.

    Approximate climbing times
    BC - C1: 2-4h
    C1 - C2: 3-7h
    C2 - C3: 2-6h
    C3 - Summit: 4 - 10h

    Difficulty

    As there are so many rumors about Muztagh Ata being the easiest 7000 m peak, I find it appropriate to have a special section about this.

    This is not a technical route and some climbers would probably define it as a high altitude walk.
    The peak's access is on the very easy side and the weather is usually quite good compared to many other mountains of the same elevation.

    That's the good news, but here are some things to consider before heading there bagging an "easy peak":

  • NO peak over say 6000-6500m is easy. You have to acclimatize well and spend a lot of time just getting used to the lower oxygen levels. When over 7000m it's hard to breath and your energy levels will go low quickly. Be careful with all symptoms of altitude reletad illnesses.
  • It's cold up there. First because of the altitude itself. Count on a drop of about 7 Celsius for every 1000m ascent. On top of that, frostbite has easier to set in as your blood is getting thicker on altitude. Be careful when you choose gear for Muztagh Ata. There are many cases of frostbite every year, of which some result in amputations.
  • The peak's slopes are gentle and you have to spend a long time on high altitude. You are very exposed to the high winds all the way from C2 to the summit.
  • The snow can be deep on Muztagh Ata. To use skis is probably the best option. Snowshoes also works fine, but to attempt the peak without neither is a very hard task. Some people do make it to the summit with only crampons (or even without), but they sometimes have to deal with meter deep snow.
  • The logistical part on a mountain of Muztagh Ata's size also makes it hard. Most teams make a lot of carries to the different camps and it's tough work on altitude.
  • Many climbers have problems to eat in the higher camps and this results in tiredness and the motivation can drop quickly.
  • The temperatures can be very high and the sunlight strong during the day. It can be hard to rest even during the day if the temperature goes up to +40 Celsius in the tent. Sunburn is common and even sunstrokes do occur.

    All the above mentioned points applies to any mountain of Muztagh Ata's elevation, but take all this into consideration before regarding it as a walk-over or easy peak.

    The Russian scale defines the peak as a 5A, which is quite a high rating. Take it seriously.

    BC to C1

    During normal in-season climbing conditions, this part of the route is on steep scree. No crampons needed to at least 5200m where you have the first good camp spots. It's even possible to reach this altitude in normal jogging shoes or light boots.

    Follow the very obvious trail on steep scree to the little stream. Here's a good place to fill up your water bottles. Continue towards the ridge. Flattish sections are mixed with some steeper parts on the ridge. When you have reached 4800m there are some camp platforms, which can be a good alternative if you feel you have had enough for the day.
    There are some good camps at 5200m. A stone pillar marks this place. It's located just underneath the last steep part before "official" C1.
    To camp here has its advantages:
    You usually have some running melt off water. It's cleaner than the sometimes messy C1. You have better shelter from the wind on some of the platforms here. You don't have to camp on snow/ice, which you'll have enough of anyway later on.

     
    C1
    Lower C1

    The normal C1 is located on 5250-5300m. You usually have to dig a platform in the snow here, but later on in the season you may have snow-free alternatives. There are plenty of platforms to choose from here, but unfortunately quite dirty.
    Some climbers choose to push on all the way to a flat a section just below the serac zone/icefall. The spot is located in a good place with flat ground, but you have to prepare your own camp as there's always snow up here. This spot is located on approx. 5450m.

    C1 to C2

     
    Bridges
    In the icefall

    This part of the route many consider as the first real test and it can be a long way in between these two camps. A lot of climbers don't make it all the way to C2 and leave depots in the icefall.
    Head NE/left underneath the seracs and walk up on the wide slope towards the N face which drops down to Kmatolja Glacier. If the weather is bad, be very careful not to walk too far, as the end of the snowfield ends in a huge drop down to the glacier. You'll see an obvious serac free line and a col which is usually marked with some route flags.
    This is the beginning of the icefall and a good place for a break. From now on you'll have seracs all around you and the scenery is absolutely stunning.

    The icefall changes every year and so does the route. Below is how it was in the summer of 2006.
    Walk right past some huge seracs (which are on your left hand side) and impressive snow caves on ever higher snow hills. After about 150m you're able to see a huge serac wall in the horizon, about 200m away. Walk on a ridge, where you have to look out for at least on big crevasse. The route drops a little bit on the end of the ridge and you're on a flat part not far from the serac wall.
    You can head straight up the serac wall, where you can see some skiers have gone down, but it's a steep option. The more common option is to head up a steep part paralell to the serac wall. You can switch-back here or go straight up. The steepness is about 45 degr.

     
    Leaving C2
    Just above C2

    When on top of this section, look for the trail on your left. Traverse on a slope until you reach the end of it. Turn right to a huge crevasse. Climb down into the crevasse. There may be a fixed rope here. It's about 50 degr. at the steepest.
    At the bottom of the crevasse, turn left and walk up and out of it below an icewall. Turn right on the top of it and walk along a ridge which has huge crevasses on both sides. At the end of the ridge turn left and climb the steep hill. Usually there's a fixed rope here. It's about 45 degr. but it's expeosed. If you fall, you have a drop into the crevasse on your left and down the slope (about 75m) on your right.

    You are now on a flat slope where many people make a depot and some camp. 5950-6000m.
    The final stretch up to C2 is a long steep slope where there are some crevasses. Be very careful here! C2 is located on a large, flat shelf below the next steepish slope. There's plenty of room here.

    C2 to C3

    Climb the 40 degr. slope. You gain about 120m here. There's another flattish section, where some choose to set C2. Another steeper section is ahead and then the gradient flattens out and become more even. Long slopes, always heading slightly right are slowly taking you towards C3.
    There's a slight crevasse danger here. At about 6500-6550m there's a huge crevasse. It's marked now, but be very careful. A fall into this one is probably fatal.
    A short steep section takes you to C3, which is located on another flat shelf. Altitude: 6800m.

    C3 to summit

    It's hard to describe the route from C3 to the summit, as the route is going up one featureless snow slope after another. The views are stunning looking south. You can see the sub peak of Muztagh Ata - Kalaxong and its huge summit corniche. Further south you also see Koskulak, another 7000m peak.
    When going "around a corner" and heading more to the east, you can all of a sudden see two round seracs and a scree hill. The hill is the false summit of Muztagh Ata. Make your make towards the gap in between the seracs and the scree hill. The summit plateau is now in front of you and take aim for the other side of it, where you can see a small hill marked with flags.

    False summits!

    The day I summited all but three climbers on the normal route and one coming from the Kalaxong Ridge Route stopped at a false summit. They celebrated their successful climbs! Some knew they hadn't reached the true summit, but didn't care or had no energy to continue over the summit plateau. Some thought they were on the true summit.

    Close to the summit
    Close to the summit.

    When you see these two rounded seracs and the scree hill on the right, you're very close to the summit. The altitude where this photo is taken is at about 7475m.
    On the scree hill you'll find the first false summit of Muztagh Ata. You can either go there first and then cross the plateau, or go towards the lowest point (in the middle of the photo) and continue straight to the summit.


    The three summits
     
    False summit 1
    False summit 1
     
    False summit 2
    False summit 2
     
    View from 7500m
    The true summit

    Camels & porters

     
    Camels at BC
    Camels at BC

    If you have a deal with the Kashgar Mountaineering association or an expedition organizer, camels will transport your gear to BC.

    Those who for one reason or the other can't take care of their own gear further up the peak can get help.
    Porters carry to C1 for about $3/kg and to C2 for $6-8/kg. Make sure those who go to C2 know what they're doing and have the right clothing. I saw local porters with frostbite and snow blindness.
    Some locals use yaks or donkeys for the carries to C1.

    Recommended gear

  • Snow shoes or skis
  • Walking poles, with large baskets
  • A rope, harness, karabiners etc for the crevasse danger
  • A bivy bag for stashing gear in, or for emergency situations
  • Heavy duty camping gear
  • Warm clothing
  • Double boots or one layered ones backed up with super gaiters
  • A gas stove & cooking gear
  • Good stuff for sun protection (Sun glasses, sun block etc)
  • GPS and/or altimeter

    The below gear is not necessary for climbing Muztagh Ata, but can come in handy for crevasse rescue.
  • Ice climbing hardware
  • Crampons
  • Ice axe

    Images

    BridgesView from 7500mMuztagh Ata. Oct 2002Leaving C2The right/red is the...Camels at BCC1
    From c1 to c2, there are a...Close to the summitFalse summit 2Red line is the new...False summit 1