The north east ridge of Kongur starts at 4000 m level in the Tugralkuluxi basin, a relatively small glacier that can be reached in a day from Gez, Akto County. Gez lies in a deep valley crossing the Kun-Lun range and giving access to the high planes which border the Kongur and mustagh-Ata massifs at their west and south west slopes.
Base Camp is on the lateral moraine of the Tugralkuluxi, orographic left, at 3800 m, in a pleasant grassy area.
The ridge is divided in two parts. The first part climbs from 4000 to 6000 meters, up to the summit of an intermediate summit (quoted 5975 m on the maps). A col at about 5800 is dividing this elevation from the second part of the ridge, which ends at 7300 m approximately.
At the beginning, the first part of the ridge is in fact a rock wall, and the best option to reach the snow edge is via the right portion of the Tugralkuluxi glacier. The small icefall can be skipped on its left, then it is safer to cross the glacier and reach the glaciar basin at 4500 m via rotten rocky spurs on the left flanks of the glacier, in order to avoid avalanches falling from the steep gullies bordering the North East ridge.
From the basin a 450 m long, 60° steep snow/ice wall leads to the edge of the ridge, which may be corniced. It is the only safe line and it is easily detectable. Fixed ropes are necessary to carry loads on the wall. Once on the ridge at about 5000 m the path is obvious up to the 5975 summit. Although not particularly difficult or steep, the ridge is not trivial: several crevasses may be encountered an possiblities for placing a camp are limited. Only a small place below the big serac at 2/3 of this section can be found. According to our experience the snow conditions are not consistent with fast climbing: deep and soft snow never transformed into hard terrain during our whole stay.
From quote 5975 it is necessary to loose level to a col situated at the beginning of the second stretch of the ridge, which is much more impressive. The ridge is heavily corniced on the left (south) face, and steep on the right one, the way that has to be climbed. The first part can be conveniently skipped and the edge can be reached again through a steep 250 slope below a big serac. Another small serac is encountered before reaching more reasonable ground, where camps on the ridge can be put up with some digging. Easier walking give access to the most difficult part of the climb, at about 6600 m. This section is constituted by a rocky tooth of about 60 m, with mixed climb on bad rock and unstable snow, followed by a number of gullies which have to be crossed while trying to keep on the edge (beware of cornices). In some places belaying may be difficult and riding on the edge may be required with marginal protection.
This section is about 350 m long, with a vertical gain of about 200 m. Climbing this section with loads in safe conditions will probably require fixing at least three ropes
The following final part of the north east ridge is easy, and endless. We climbed 5 hours to complete the ridge at about 7300 m, where the slope is getting flat on a small top along the ridge itself.
One more day of climbing has to be foreseen to reach the main summit of Kongur. From our topping point it is about 3 km walk, and at least 500 m of vertical gain have to be taken into account, since two other summits are dividing you from the main top at 7719 m. However little difficulties are expected.
The expedition team was constituted by 9 people, Armando Antola, Donatella Barbera (doctor), Giovanni Ghiglione, Massimo Giuliberti, Carla Marten Canavesio, Claudio Moretto, Ezio Mosca, Beppe Villa and myself, Mauro Penasa, as team leader.
We started from Italy on July 18, and were back on august 23, not a long time indeed. The top of the ridge was reached by myself, Giuliberti and Villa on August 11, at 5 p.m. We had snow almost every night, but we had mostly reasonable weather most of the time.
We missed the main top, but we think we opened a great line on this mountain, with more than 3500 m of vertical gain.
One more remark: Kongur has been known to be "elusive", and it is when seen from the west. However the north side of the mountain can be dramatically seen from Kashgar on a clear day, at least the portion exceeding 6000 m level. And believe, when I looked at what was waiting for us I was really shocked.
We were lucky to pick up this line: it is safe enough, and challenging enough, though not extremely difficult. And lucky not to have seen the pictures we got in Kashgar, when we were planning our ascent: nobody would have followed me, in that case.
Strange enough that no picture of Kongur from Kashgar is available on the web!
Standard gear for any Himalayan expedition.
Fixed ropes (600 m at least) are suggested for the wall to the ridge and the difficult upper part.
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