This 7546m climb has a reputation as one of the 'easier' of the 7000m peaks, an excellent stepping stone for those who aspire to climb an 8,000m peak.
It has few technical problems, with the ascent mainly trekking on gentle snow slopes. However, this should not be underestimated as a significant high altitude expedition in a remote and fascinating part of the world.
Adventure Alternative provide all pre-trip & in-country support, climbing permits, visa invitations, logistics and supplies including local liaison personel and western mountain guides. The trip involves sustained trekking and camping at high altitude and on snow and ice. Your enjoyment, safety and success will require previous experience of wild camping and of trekking or climbing to at least 6000m.
Muztagh Ata is an isolated mountain massif between though seperate from, the Pamir and Kunlun ranges in Xinjian province in Western China. It is the 43rd highest mountain in the world but as an isolated massif it has a high prominence of 2735m so that towers impressively over the Karakoram Highway snaking along along the arid valley below. Appropriately, in the local Uyghur dialect, Muztagh Ata roughly translates as 'father of ice mountains'.
The Mustagh Ata massif is torn by deep geological fissures running East-West across the bulk of the mountain. Each of these fissures hosts its own glacier with its toungue reaching out westwards toward the valley floor before feeding the spectacular Kara Kol lake to the North. The eastern flank of the mountain drops precipitously 1000m down to the Kuksay Glacier which then spirals out in a Northwest direction to feed the Kengxuwar River.
Over the period around two weeks we will work our way up from Subashi at 3600m on the edge of the Karakoram Highway, part of the ancient Silk Route, to the summit at 7546m with a systematic series of acclimatisation and gear-carries as we push out ever higher onto the mountain. The Normal route follows the distinct ramp just South of the cliffs dropping to the Kartamak Glacier. It snakes around mild ice falls between 5500-6000m with steeper sections just above camp 1 and camp 2 but generally consists of more gentle ascent.
Location : 38°16'38.18"N 75° 6'56.72"E
The Mustagh Ata expedition will be led by experienced UK mountain professionals. Chinese liason staff will meet us in Kashgar and act as guides and interpretors for the duration of our trip. Base camp staff including a cook are supplied via the Chinese Mountaineering Association. The intention is that team members perform all of their own gear carries, however there are local porters available for individuals to employ privately if required.
Day Start High Point Sleep Description
5 3600m 3900m 3600m Acclimatisation walk from Subashi
6 3600m 4500m 4500m Subashi to Basecamp
7 4500m 4600m 4500m Acclimatisation climb from Basecamp
8 4500m 5300m 4500m Carry to Camp 1
9 4500m 5600m 5300m Climb to Camp 1 then Plateau
10 5300m 6100m 4500m Carry to Camp 2, return to Basecamp
11 4500m 4500m 4500m Rest day at Basecamp
12 4500m 5300m 5300m Basecamp to Camp 1
13 5300m 6100m 6100m Camp 1 to Camp 2
14 6100m 6800m 4500m Carry camp 2 to 3, return to Basecamp
15 4500m 4500m 4500m Rest day at Basecamp
16 4500m 4750m 4500m Local walk
17 4500m 5300m 5300m Climb to camp 1 and sleep
18 5300m 6100m 6100m Climb camp 1 to camp 2 and sleep
19 6100m 6800m 6800m Climb camp 2 to camp 3 and sleep
20 6800m 7546m 6800m Climb to summit, return to camp 3 (or 2)
21 6800m 6800m 4500m Descend camp 3 (or 2) to basecamp
Mustagh Ata itinerary
|International and internal travel to Kashgar||2|
|1||Arrive Kashgar. Stay in city hotel||1|
|2||Drive Kashgar - Subashi ('pre-BaseCamp')||1|
|3||Acclimitisation at/from Subashi||1|
|4-5||Walk to basecamp. Acclimitisation walk from BC||1|
|22||Transfer to Kashgar||1|
|Internal and International flights||2|
The itinerary begins upon arrival at Kashgar airport on day 1 and ends at Kashgar airport on day 23. We will help you to coordinate international and internal flights but are unable to sell you the flight tickets directly. The travel days prior to arrival in Kashgar on outward travel and after Kashgar on return travel are shown in the detailed itinerary for indicative information only and are subject to your own travel arrangements.
In terms of days away, for the purposes of annual leave etc, the total trip is likely to be 26 days in total. However, this will be dictated by your place of departure and the flight plans adopted. eg via Beijing-Urumchi/Bishkek-Tourgart etc.
The detailed itinerary below gives only an indicative outline of the climbing plan for the climbing period on days 6-21. This is given for the purposes of information and illustration only. The nature of mountaineering is such that it cannot be conclusively defined beforehand. The actual programme on the mountain will be dictated by weather, group and snow conditions and can only be finalised on the ground on a day by day basis. If you have any questions regarding this aspect of the itinerary then please do speak to us before booking.
|(-2)||10 hours (flight time)||Depart UK|
|(-1)||4 hours (flight time)||Arrive Beijing International Airport (IATA code PEK) Depart Beijing International Airport (Domestic terminal), Arrive Urumqi Airport (IATA code URC) Transfer to Airport accomodation|
|1||1300m||4.5 hours (flight time)||Depart Urumqi Airport, Arrive Kashgar Airport (IATA code KHG), [Adventure Alternative Itinerary Starts] Transfer to Accomodation in Kashgar|
|2||3700m||5 hours||Depart Kashgar on private chartered bus, join and follow Karakoram Highway passing Kara Kol lake, Arrive Subashi|
|3||3900m||2-3 hours||Rest and acclimitisation day in Subashi. Short trek to small high point at Alaky and return.|
|4||4500m||3-4 hours||Walk up to Basecamp with camel team carrying supplies, equipment and bags.|
|5||4600m||2 hours||Acclimatisation walk on morraine just above basecamp.|
|6||5300m||4-6 hours||Carry to camp 1 and return to basecamp.|
|7||5600m||5-6 hours||Climb to camp 1, drop supplies and carry on up to plateau below seracs before returning to camp 1 to sleep.|
|8||6100m||5-6 hours||Carry from camp 1 to camp 2, cache supplies and return to basecamp. Tents left at camp 1.|
|9||4500m||0||Rest day at basecamp.|
|10||5300m||3-4 hours||Carry from basecamp to camp 1 and sleep.|
|11||6100m||4-5 hours||Carry from camp 1 to camp 2 and sleep.|
|12||6800m||7-8 hours||Carry from camp 2 to camp 3 and return to basecamp.|
|13||4500m||0||Rest and preperation day at basecamp|
|14||4500m||0||Rest and preperation day at basecamp, local walks|
|15||530000m||3-4 hours||Climb from basecamp to camp 1|
|16||6100m||4-5 hours||Climb from camp 1 to camp 2 and sleep|
|17||6800m||8-12 hours||Climb from camp 2 to establish camp 3 and sleep|
|18||7546m||6-8 hours||Climb from camp 3 to summit, return to camp 3 (or C2)|
|19||6800m||4-6||Descend from camp 3 (or C2) to basecamp|
|20||4500||0||Spare day in case of illness or poor weather|
|21||4500||0||Spare day in case of illness or poor weather|
|22||4500||2+5||Descend from basecamp to Subashi then drive to Kashgar via Karakol Lake|
|23||1300||8.5 (hours flight time)||Depart Kashgar Airport [Adventure Alternative Itinerary Ends], Arrive Urumqi Airport, Depart Urumqi Airport, Arrive Beijing Airport, Sleep at Beijing Airport Hotel|
|24+||10 hours (flight)||Depart Beijing International Airport. Possibly arrive home same calendar day|
Muztagh Ata cost £4,495.00
- Scheduled hotel nights (Kashgar)
- Meals as the itinerary
- Transport as the itinerary (between arrival at Kashgar and departure from Kashgar)
- Camels and porters to and from Mustagh Ata base camp
- All meals on trek and on mountain
- Group tents and cooking gear and fuel
- Visa invitation letters
- Chinese liaison staff
- Western guides
- International air fare
- Internal air fares
- Chinese visa
- Unscheduled hotels and meals (Beijing & Urumqi)
- Personal equipment
- Personal items such as alcohol, phone calls, laundry, souveneirs
- Personal rescue and cancellation insurance
- Airport departure tax
A deposit of £250 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 4 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. We make payments as flexible as possible and you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.
Travel insurance will need to be purchased by each team member to cover all costs associated with medical, rescue, equipment, cancellations etc. This should be purchased as early as possible to ensure cancellation coverage in case of any issues arising that cause you to cancel your trip.
The policy must be checked for validity in the regions through which we will be travelling; (usually Beijing, Urumqi, Kashgar-Subashi) and also for trekking/mountaineering to 7546m. Many specialist insurance providers have common peaks named on the policy description so it is worth contacting the company to check which is the appropriate level of cover. You should bring with you a copy of your policy and ensure your tent mate knows where you keep it. It is also worth bringing a photocopy of your passport and to keep it separate to your own documents just in case you lose your passport.
Mustagh Ata - fitness and terrain
TYPE OF TERRAIN
The approach walk from the road-head to basecamp is over open, arid ground, mostly on a rough path. There is a river crossing on this section that is usually easily achieved, although sometimes requiring fording depending on the recent precipitation and snow-melt. On initial acclimatisation walks and below the snowline up to camp 1 the trail passes over steep, dusty shale and rock. The route may traverse back and forth in order to control the intensity of exertion at this altitude.
Above the snowline, normally found just below camp 1, the route is generally over established snowfields and a small section of moderate icefall. The condition and quality of the snow may vary greatly throughout the season and from each season to the next. Towards the end of the day and after sustained sunshine the snow may become slushy and rotten giving more difficult conditions for ascent and descent. The combination of the steep gradients, snow depth and snow softness means that snow shoes will generally be used or at least carried. Alternatively, experienced ski-mountaineers may choose to use skis and skins. See the 'Gear' section for further guidance.
Subashi, our first camp at 3600m, is at the roadhead and uses a set of semi-permenant 'Ger' or 'Yurt' tents. Having ascended to this altitude reletively quickly by road we spend a night here to acclimatise, then another night after having descended from a acclimatisation day-walk.
Muztagh Ata basecamp, at 4500m, is established in a large hollow at the foot of the first steep slopes of the climb. The camp is basic with a set of long drop toilets and clean running water in the form of a couple of small streams. There are a few simple shacks which local shepards use but expedition members will use mountain tents for sleeping in and a set of larger framed tents for kitchen, store and dining. The camp is run by local staff with meals prepared by a camp cook.
Camp 1, usually around 5300m, is perched on snow and shale platforms cut into the slope just above the snowline. The camp commands impressive 180 degree views out across the western flank of the mountain and on down across the dry lakebed below to the Karokoram Highway and beyond. All water for drinking and cooking must be melted from nearby snow and ice.
Camp 2, 6100m, sits in the plateau bottom of a large snowy bowl in the mountainside. A steep snow slope leads on above the camp and the ground rolls off down into the rest of the mountain below including the short icefall section. The ground is fairly level but snow platforms and walls will be cut to house the tents. Again, all water is obtained by melting snow.
Camp 3, 6800m, is a further set of snow platforms cut into the face of the snow slope. As with camp 1 it looks out on an impressive vista from its position high above the lakebed below and the jagged carpet of smaller peaks to the west. Water is again obtained from melted snow.
Although Muztagh Ata is often described as on of the 'easier' 7000m peaks this can be a misleading description in isolation from its context. Altitudes above around 5500m are classified as 'Extreme' altitude in physiological terms, with ambient air pressure less than half of that at sea level and a consequent dramatic reduction in the body's supply of oxygen. The effects of these altitudes on any one individual cannot be accurately predicted prior to actual exposure.
For your comfort and safety we require that you have prior experience of trekking or climbing at at least 6000m and of multi-day wild camping trips. You will also need to be physically fit and medically well.
Mustagh Ata kit list
The basic idea of the kit we will take is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the mountains and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night. You will be supplied with a detailed kit list and individual advice after booking, but the main points to cover are:-
- BAGS - Large Rucksack 80L+ (to make carries between camps on the mountain) + Medium Daypack ~40L (for use as hand luggage on the plan and day walks) + Large Duffle bag(s) (for storing kit on the flights and at base camp)
- SHELL - Top, bottoms & gaiters to keep off wind/snow/rain
- INSULATION - Very warm layered system to keep you warm- body, hands & head including mitts, sunglasses, goggles and face covering
- BASELAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to when it gets hot
- FEET - Crampon & snowshoe compatible, high altitude mountaineering boots, trekking boots for approach & acclimatization, down booties for evenings, more comfortable footwear for travel & basecamp
- HARDWARE - Crampons, walking axe, harness, two slings, four screwgate karabiners, helmet
- SLEEPING - Very warm sleeping bag (5 season), foam and inflating bed-rolls
- EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles, bowl, mug, KFS, favourite high energy/protein supplements
- WASHING & MEDICAL - To allow you to wash and deal with basic medical issues such as headaches, cuts, sprains or blisters. Very high UV sun protection
We supply; ropes, tents, shovels, stoves, fuel, cooking implements, food etc.
ADDITIONAL KIT INFO
For all items, especially those that you will have to carry on the mountain, try to minimise the weight of everything. Check the available options in terms of performance and weight. Inevitably the lighter options within a performance class will be more expensive so a reasonable compromise needs to be reached depending on your budget.
No need for too many spare layers of fleece, we are likely to be wearing the same stuff every day, but do carry spare gloves and a warm hat. Cotton is okay for base camp but not great for up high. Wicking T-shirts are excellent and light.
For the lower sections gloves will be fine, but up high it is necessary to have down mitts. TNF do a Himalayan mitt which is excellent.
These giant socks fit over the entire boot and can either be knee length or just above the ankle. You can put crampons over them and they add many degrees of warmth to plastics or hybrid boots. The most common makes are Forty Below or Berghaus.
Strap-on (C1) or clip-in (C2) are both fine but check that your crampon fits with an overboot on your boot and that the straps go round the boot with enough tail left to hold in your hand. Some people cut a slit in the overboot with clip-in crampons to make sure the clip and bail bar hook securely on the lip of the boot. A bag or point protectors is very useful.
A walking axe is fine for Mustagh Ata. When measuring, hold the axe by its head down by your side and the tip should hang a few inches above the floor. As a guide if you are around 6ft tall your axe will be around 60-70cm long. Be aware that there are some very lightweight ski-mountaineering axes on the market that are not very robust and are only really designed for emergency use. These will not be suitable for this particular trip.
Going up to base camp and camp 1 it will be possible to use hiking boots, make sure they are worn in and have good ankle support. Above Camp 1 there are three options:
1) Boots for 8000m peaks such as Millet Everest, La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Scarpa Phantom 8000
2) Plastics like the Scarpa Vega or Omega with a high altitude inner and overboot
3) Hybrids like the Nepal Evo or Spatura which also need an overboot
Prioritise warmth and comfort over technicality. When fitting your boots, remember to allow half a size of space for your feet swelling at altitude. You need to ensure that when walking you do not experience any 'heel-lift' inside the boot and that there is sufficient space around your toes for you to wiggle them. Any tighter than this and it is likely that they will either rub and give you blisters or be so constricting as to restrict the blood supply and lead to cold toes. Note that certain boot brands commonly produce boots of a certain shape, ie. a narrower or wider fit. If your feet are of a certain shape it is worth identifying the most appropriate manufacturer for you. Many specialist shops offer a measuring and fitting service and boots such as the Scarpa Omega come with thermofit liners that are heated in a special oven then moulded to your foot shape.
If you choose to purchase your own crampons prior to the trip please ensure that you take your boots to the shop and ask a suitably experienced person to check the fit of the crampons with the boot. Some combinations of boot and crampon do not provide a good match and can lead to poorly fitting crampons and consequent problems on the mountain.
The most appropriate type of snow shoe is likely to be one with a rigid, articulated body and an integrated set of 'crampon' teeth, such as MSR Denali Ascent or similar.
Water bottle and flask
Make sure you have insulated covers for water bottles and probably best to avoid platypus bags or Camelbaks, except for the walk-in. A flask for hot drinks is also important, especially for summit day.
Kashgar has supermarkets and will sell the usual chocolates and so on (it is famous for nuts), but a good idea to bring a bag of pocket food for summit day which you know you will like.
Duffle bag, rucksacks
Very useful for safely transporting all your gear and large rucksack on planes, camels and donkeys. Easier to access stuff at base camp and keep things in while you are using the big sack for carries. Day sack for walk-in and general.
Harness, prussik loops, karabiners
We may be moving over ground above Camp 1 in roped teams depending on snow and crevasse conditions or following fixed lines through the icefall. This means having a harness. Try choosing one with detachable leg loops which makes it easier to take on and off with boots and crampons on. Bring two screwgate karabiners, two slings and a prussik for attaching yourself to the rope.
If you have a small solar panel for charging iPods, phones and camera batteries then do bring it, there is no power at base camp except for occasional generator use.
We will have a mobile satellite phone which you are welcome to use. The cost per minute is $2.50. Mobile phones do work in certain places, but should not be relied on. You might want to bring an unlocked phone and buy a local SIM card or activate the relevant roaming function on your phone.
- The expedition is organized as a personal and focussed itinerary with flexibility built in to cater for unpredictable elements such as the weather, snow conditions or slow acclimitisation.
- International mountain leaders, mountain guides or mountain instructors employed for leading the trip
- Chinese liaison for providing visa letters of invitation and all the paperwork for entering Xinjiang province
This is a logistically difficult trip to organise but we have good contacts with the Chinese Alpine Association and in the past have successfully run trips for groups of up to twelve people. It is best if everyone travels together, certainly from Kashgar to the mountain. Our campsite will have an English speaking Chinese liaison officer which is a necessity for trips on the mountain.
We need a minimum group size to run this trip. Please contact us for details of future expeditions.
Expeditions usually run during July and August in order to maximise the chances of good snow and weather conditions. Dates can be adjusted to suit groups and members to some extent and we can quote for closed groups.
The itinerary gives a robust plan with plenty of spare time for good acclimitisation and to allow for unforseen problems such as weather delays or illness. It's overall length can be adjusted by a few days to suit the individual needs of particular groups. Please do contact us to discuss options.
- Duration 23 days
- Numbers 6 - 12
- Altitude 7546m
- Comfort Camping
- Challenge Strenuous