Muztagh Ata and Karakoram Highway (Pakistan and China)

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I climbed Muztagh Ata in Xinjiang (China) in July and August 2000. The trip was organized by Adventure Consultants from New Zealand, and the climb was guided by Mike Roberts (New Zealand). In addition to Mike and myself, our team included Ghulam Hassan (Pakistan) and Andrew Stone (Australia). All of us summitted on August 9th, on the morning of the 13th day spent on the mountain.

The climb is technically easy, and the main difficulties are the elevation, the bad weather, and the hidden crevasses. Mike and myself skied the mountain up and down (up from and down to Camp 1 at 5400m). The ski up was usually comfortable and more energy-efficient than using snow shoes. The ski down had some good sections, especially near the very top and above Camp 1. We also had some bad stretches, especially on the steepest section between Camps 2 and 1, where we had crusty snow and null visibility among many crevasses. I believe that skiing the mountain is far more enjoyable than doing it on foot.

To reach the basis of Muztagh Ata, we drove from Rawalpindi/Islamabad in Pakistan along the Karakoram Highway. The road is often terrible, but the sceneries are stunning, especially in the Hunza region, with Nanga Parbat (8125m) and many other summits above 7000m, including Rakaposi, Diram, Ultar I and II. We went on several short hikes to acclimitize before reaching Muztagh Ata.

The Karakoram Highway crosses the border between Pakistan and China at Khunjerab Pass (4730m). After Muztagh Ata, we continued our drive along the Karakoram Highway to Kashgar.

These are the elevations at which we slept before reaching the summit of Muztagh Ata. During most of the days we hiked at greater elevations.

1 night at 2400m (Karimabad)
1 night at 3200m (Ultar BC)
1 night at 2700m (Gulmit)
1 night at 3600m (trek above Gulmit)
2 nights at 4050m (trek above Gulmit)
1 night at 3100m (Sost)
1 night at 3200m (Tashkurgan)
3 nights at 4400m (Muztagh Ata BC)
5 nights at 5400m (Camp 1)
3 nights at 6200m (Camp 2)
1 night at 6700m (Camp 3)

From left to right: Mike Roberts, Ghulam Hassan, Andrew Stone, and myself

Views from the Karakoram Highway (and around) from Rawalpindi to Khunjerab Pass

The lower part of the highway and the Indus river

Where the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindukush meet
Nanga Parbat is in the background in the photo on the right

Downtown Gilgit
Arms are sold freely in Northern Pakistan. Here, the shop sells dry fruits, as well as arms and ammunitions

Mounts Diram and Rakaposi
In the first picture Diram is on the left and Rakaposi on the right. The second picture shows Diram and the two pictures on the right show Rakaposi.

Karimabad and around
The Baltit fort overlooking Karimabad (photo on the left), with Ultar I and II in the background. The difference of elevation between Karimabad and the summit of Ultar II (summit on the right of first photo) is approximatively 5000m. This summit (7388m) was first climbed in 1996

The "sheep pen" glacier, with Lady Finger (needle in first photo) and Ultar in the background

Water canals above Karimabad

Along a hike near Gulmit, north-west of Karimabad

Sost, the last Pakistanese town before the border with China

The Pakistan-China border at Khunjerab Pass

Muztagh Ata

General views of Muztagh Ata

From the Karakoram Highway
Views from the trail to Camp 1
View from Karakul lake

Camel loading among tajiks at the beginning of the trek to Base Camp

Base Camp (4400m) and gear sorting

On the way to Camp 1

Camp 1 (5400m)

Between Camp 1 and Camp 2

The following two photos were taken on the way down

Camp 2 (6200m)

Between Camp 2 and Camp3 (6700m)

At the summit (7546m)

Mike is at the center, Andrew on the right, and me on the left. Hassan took the photo. It may not show, but we are all very happy.

Mike skiing down below the summit

Celebrating and drying gear at BC

Karakoram Highway in Xinjiang

Sceneries north of Muztagh Ata

Street scenes in Kashgar

Patterns of Kashgar