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Author: Andrew Lebedev, Moscow
(Historical- geographical essay, March 2008)
Kongur (7719), the highest peak of the Pamirs, is situated on Kongur Tagh ridge, which is a part of Kongurmuztagh – the highest one in Kashgar mountains in the Chinese Pamirs. Kongur Tagh Ridge extends in latitudinal direction to the South from Gezgaryi gorge. The Karakorum Highway from Pakistan to China (Kashgar- Islamabad) goes along its bottom. The nearest village to the summit on this way is Gez kishlak ( 18 kilometers from the foot of the summit).
Kongur sometimes mix up with Kongur Tiube peak (7595). The first attempt to ascent Kongur Tiube peak was made in 1956 by the Soviet-Chinese expedition under the guidance of Е. А. Beletcky. These peaks are different, they are situated in 10 kilometers from each other and divided by a seddle-point 6750 m high. The first ascent of Kongur was completed in 1981 by a British expedition under the guidance of Chris Bonington.
Coordinates of Kongur's highest point in the system WGS-84: N38 35.62 E75 18.74.
The great altitude of Kongur and neighbouring peaks and lots of ice on their slopes turn this mountainous region into "the precipitation pole". Due to this fact the glaciers Karayalak and Chimgen are not only the longest ones in Kashgar mountains (their length is 18,3 kilometers and 21,3 kilometers ), but they also have the lowest ends (2750 and 3080 m ). Both glaciers have long, overgrown with grass moraine pockets. Here the paths are made, and the herdsmen's jurt are frequent.
Slope construction, the routes. Kongur а Massif stretches from West to North-East and has two peaks – western or main (7719) and eastern, called also Dongbei, 7625. The divided northern ridge going from Dongbei separates the nort-western face from the northern one. Altitude of the foot of the nort-western face is 3700 m .
The first ascent of the peak by the northern face was completed in 1981 by a Japanese expedition and it ended tragically. Three of the Japanese alpinists were missing. There is an unconfirmed by documents information about an ascent on Kongur by the northern face in 1989. In 2002 the Moscow Federation of Alpinism and Climbing made an attempt of ascent the northern face.
On the west Kongur is separated from Karayalak (7245) by the Snowy saddle-point (7100). From the saddle-point to the peak a short rocky ridge goes, which was sent by the party of К .Bonington in 1981.
On the north-east Kongur is separated from the peak 5975 ( Peak of Viktor Nikolaev ) by the saddle-point 5850. The attempts to pass the long north-eastern ridge of Kongur haven't been successful yet. Ascent was made from the south-eastern branch of Karayalak glacier (the Japanese expedition of 1981), or from the eastern gorge Kurgankel through the Peak of Viktor Nikolaev (5975) (Italian expedition in 2004). In 2003 the Russian team ascended the Peak of Viktor Nikolaev from the south, from Chimgen glacier, but ascent of Kongur was not included in their aims.
History of the peak discovery. In 1868 Hayward, passing along the edge of Takla-Makan desert to the direction of Kashgar, was the first European to see and draw on a map “a big peak” to the south of Kashgar. In 1873 in Kashgar a British mission was organized, and
Trotter, one of its participants, estimated the altitude of Kongur as 25000 feet ( 7620 m ).
In July 1900 Aurel Stein, a well-known archeologist and explorer of The Central Asia, brought from Karakel lake several excellent photos, where the details of Kongur group were seen. As a result, he became the first who identified Kongur from the south-west and distinguish it from Kongur-Tiube.
Exact locations of Kongur Tagh е were formed only in the 20 th . C.P.Skrine, a Britain consul in Kashgar, taking a great interest in travels, made observations from the view points in the regions of Shivakte and Tigarman to the east from Kongur. He took photo of the upper 130 m of Kongur eastern ridge and a mountain located to the south-east of it. He compared the new data with Stein's observations and defined the location and altitudes of Kongur and Kongur-Tiube.
Ascent history . The first ascent of Kongur was completed in 1981 by a British expedition under the guidance of Chris Bonington. Its route (along the western ridge) started to the south-west from Kongur and traversed through Karayalak peak.
In the same 1981 a Japanese expedition worked on the northern slopes. Unfortunately, it ended tragically. Under the leadership of Ruchi Kotany, 2 attempts were made to ascend from 2 BC, situated in different valleys – long siege of the E. ridge under the leadership of Naoki Tokady and an alpine-style ascent (3 persons) along the N. ridge. Moving along the E. Ridge was slow because of the unexpected difficulty of the ridge and unacclimatized high altitude porters.
Ad interim, on July 16 Ioyi Teranishi, Mitcunori Shigi and Shinye Matcumi left BC (3600) and went upwards along the N. ridge with food for 9 days. Last time they were seen on July 23 on the altitude 6500, then the weather became worse. One of the locals saw an orange tent on the ridge between the main and the eastern peaks of Kongur in the clouds on July 28 and 29. when the weather improved, there was no trace of the ascenders. May be, they reached the peak and were lost in avalanche on the descent. Soon the expedition was wound up.
Expedition of Chris Bonington in 1981 installed BC (4600) on May 29 near a small glacier Hamurjayilak, bypassing the icefall of Yamandjar glacier, and on June 5 – a forward BC near Koksel pass, situated in Kongur-Muztag ridge to the south from Karayalak Peak (7245). Ascent along the ridge from this pass to Karayalak, according to Bonington, had to lead just to the main ascent on Kongur.
On June 23 the first push started. On June 25 the team was on the southern side of Karayalak. They had a kilometer traverse of Karayalak peak till the Western ridge of Kongur. On June 27the alpinists descended after the traverse to the Snow pass (7100), dug a cave and tried to go a bit along the rocky ridge with gendarme to the east, to Kongur.
The party was tired out on the southern ridge of Karayalak а , and not ready for the serious technical difficulties that occurred at once. After a short light ascent on June 28 they decided to return to BC. Therewith, the weather became worse. The descent took place along the wide southern ridge, moving away from the peak 6982, situated 3 kilometers to the west from Karayalak peak.
After the rest in BC party of 4 on July 5 left the camp and on July 7 was already in the cave on the Snowy pass (7100) at the foot of the western ridge of Kongur. The peak was covered with another piece of bad weather, and on July 8 after the brief moving along the W ridge till the altitude 7340 the group had to hide in “single” narrow cracks between snow and rocks, called by Bonington in his book “the snow coffins”. It was time when Japanese party of three was lost on the northern side of the mountain. Next 3 days the English alpinists spent in the " coffins”
On July 12, when the cyclone passed, Chris Bonington, Al Rouse, Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker reached Kongur peak. Next day the English alpinists ascended the eastern peak 7625 (Dongbei) as well, the northern ridge connected it, but no traces of the Japanese alpinists were found.
In 1982 the first American expedition on Kongur took place (leader - Richard Dietz). The alpinists wanted to repeat Bonington's route, but they reached only the saddle of Kongur (6750).
In 1983 the American team consisting of Ian Wade, Matt Wells, Dick Morse and the leader Ed Newville made an attempt to ascend the peak from the north. They chose the north-western ridge for ascent. On June10 they installed BC in the moraine of Karayalak glacier (3613). On the ridge they installed 3 camps - 1-st (4570, above the couloir), 2-nd (5300, on the plateau) and 3-rd (5745, before the icefall).
Americans installed 2 more camps 6045 and 6550 above the icefall on the glacier between the peaks Kongur and Karayalak. On June 25 they ascended to the Western ridge of Kongur а to the Snowy pass (7100) and saw К 2 from that point. They were too weakened to continue the ascent, and they returned.
In 1989 the Japanese expedition took place only several lines were written about it. On July 1 the repeated ascent on Kongur was made, this time by the northern ridge. There are no photos in these short deions. On the preparation stage of the Moscow team in 2002 and 2004 the Moscow alpinists unsuccessfully tried to contact the participants of the ascent 1989. Thus, the success of the Japanese expedition on Kongur in 1989 remained without any documental evidence.
In 1998 the first Russian expedition took place . The participants of the Moscow team were Yuriy Hohlov (leader), Andrew Petrov, Andrew Medvedev and Otto Chetiany. The alpinists reached the seddle-point of Kongur (6750). They had to refuse from the further ascent because of the bad weather and avalanche danger. Though, the first Russian expedition on Kongur made reconnoiter for the ways of ascent, probable camp places, made valuable photos of the region.
Russian ascents in 2004г. In 2004 3 teams from Russia gathered together under the northern slopes of Kongur. On July10 a united Russian- Lettish team consisting of 6 persons under the guidance of V. Shamalo arrived in the BC on the altitude 3613. A week later a Moscow team under the guidance of Yuriy Hohlov was also there. Lower sections of the supposed routes of these teams till the plateau 6200 coincided. The decision of working together was made after a short discussion. Yuriy Hohlov made total leadership of the process and coordination of the teams.
In the beginning of August a big team of Krasnoyarsk alpinists under the guidance of Nicolay Zaharov arrived in BC. By this time all the crux sections of the route till 6000 were passed and 3 camps were placed. The Krasnoyarsk alpinists firstly planned to ascend by the northern ridge, but rejected that idea after the week of attempts and joined the first two teams.
Inspired with the success of V. Shamalo's team, on August 12 and 14 the Moscow alpinists divided in 2 groups left BC for the ascent. They installed the 4-th camp ( 6950 m ) and 5-th camp ( 7250 m ) already on the northern slope of the peak, and reached Kongur summit on August 19 by the new route on the north, called “ Moscow express”. Alpinists who reached the peak were Vladislav Kagan, Viktor Kulbachenko, Vladimir Legkih, Andrew Medvedev, Vyacheslav Odohovsky (leader) and Andrew Petrov.
On August 20 the Krasnoyarsk team had already passed the crux section with going to the northern slope, hadn't time to reach a flat place and spent cold night on the altitude 6800. The night was severe. Komissarov and Stepanov fell ill. On August 21 they descended to BC, accompanied by Bakaleynikov and Savelyev. Arhipov, Mikhalitcin and Filatov remained on the route and reached the summit on August 23 (repeating the route of the Moscow team).
Russian ascent in alpine style in 2007. The route along the north-western ridge and the northern slope (" Moscow express ") was repeated in 2007 in alpine style by the Moscow team: Sergey Bezditko, Andrew Jarov, Ivan Jdanov, Andrew Lebedev (leader), Alexey Timoshenkov and Dmitry Chizik.
After 1-day rest in Gez village on August 26 the team ascended to BC near Karayalak glacier (3613). On August 30 the alpinists ascended above the icefall to the plateau (6200) and installed camp 6391 at the base of the crux section – a wall, going from the plateau 6200 to the northern slope of the peak. On August 31 they were in their tents all day long, resting before the summit push. On the next day they passed an abrupt ice and snowy slope and 120-meter rocky level and ascended to the northern slope of the peak and made camp on the altitude 6890. On September 3 the team started from the camp 7150, and ascended Kongur peak with its full complement.
On the descent an accident happened. On September 4 on the plateau 6200 Sergey Bezditko got a stroke. From September 5 to 7 the team delivered their frient to the glacier Karayalak. On September 8 Sergey Bezditko with the help of locals was transported to Gez village, where ambulances waited for him.
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