Kuksay 7177m

October/Novemer 2009

2009-10-31: Day 1

After our akklimation-tour near Kawa Karpo in Yunnan, we arrived in Kashgar and had spent a day in town for organizational purposes (Thanks to Abdul for his great help there). We left Kashgar early in the morning by Taxi heading for Karakul Lake.

Our starting point for hiking was the road near the village Subashi at about 3670 m. From there, we hiked up to about 4170 meters where we pitched our first camp. A wonderful view of the mountain in clear sky an full moon light made us very optimistic for a successful expedition. Cold night.

2009-11-01: Day 2

Cold morning until the sun came over the Kuksay summit. Our water supply was frozen. Nice day for hiking, althogh the terrain got a bit difficult. First we had to make our way through a narrow gully across large boulders to reach the glacier, then followed an easy part across some a plain. Finally we reached the starting point of the northwest ridge and made our way up the steep scree slope.

At 4750 meters altitude we found a suitable spot to place our tents. After sunset it was cold. Windy night, but we slept well.

2009-11-02: Day 3

Cold morning. Sun was covered by gazy cloud. Late start, only at 8:30 we started melting snow for breakfast. It took half an hour until we had enough water to drink, eat and fill our water bottles for the day.

We continued on only at noon, still cold and windy. The next stage is a 400 meter ascent on a very steep scree slope. Difficult to get good grip, sliding stones, powder snow. We then reach a nice plateau at 5100 meters, where we placed the next camp. It is a good spot: we have nice view of the ridge upwards, and we are somewhat wind protected. Sunny evening at the tent, but still cold and windy.

2009-11-03: Day 4

Sunny day, little wind, but cloudy. Akklimation day, no big activities.

Waltraud had slight headache, everyone else is fine. We drank a lot. Andy and Stefan went back to previous camp and bring up the gear we had left behind for weight reasons.

2009-11-04: Day 5

Will bring gear up to the next altitude level. Clear sky and no wind. Great day for hiking. Everyone is fine, no headaches or any other problems.

Again hiking up scree slopes had to cross ice fields, used crampons once. Nice view of the Kongur mounain and Karakul Lake. Wind picked up later the day, as we reached a small flat area at 5730 meters. Decide to use this flat spot for next camp, reconnaissence up to 6000 meters made the small flat at 5750 meters best choice. Dropped some gear (snow shoes, food supplies, etc.) at 6000 meters. Descent to our camp at 5130 meters.

View of the Kongur range and the Karakul lake.

2009-11-05: Day 6

We moved camp up to 5750 meters. Weather was cloudy, cold. We packed up and hiked up, after 3.5 hours we reached the small flat dedicated as our camping spot.

Wind was very strong now, we built up the tent and constructed a stone wall for wind protection. We decided to use only one tent, the bigger and stronger one. Wind became a storm within the afternoon.

Hellish night: Slight headaches, wind made the inner tent vibrate. Roaring gusts hit the tent, usually one could hear them come. Had to go out several times in the night to check the tent lines and pegs.

2009-11-06: Day 7

Sorm continued throughout the day. Dark, cloudy day. The inner tent was covered with a thin layer of snow from the inside.

Regular controls of tent lines, pegs and snow flaps. No way we could continue on that day, but anyway we had planned for an acclimation day. Stefan sill ascended to our gear deposit at 6000 meters to retrieve some gas. He reported it would be impossible to walk with backpacks on...

We cooked inside the tent, as the vestibules were filling with snow powder. Air pressure dropped and dropped...

Second hellish night: It seemed the storm got stronger, more frequent rolling downslope winds hitting the tent. Vibrations of the tent kept us awake. Relieving silence and between wind gusts rarely allowed “maybe it’s over now”-thoughts and these were immediately blasted away by the next roaring thunder of the downslope winds. Almost hourly someone had to check tent lines and so on. The first lines already ripped, had to repair them in cold night.

2009-11-07: Day 8

In the early morning ours the tent fabric ripped at the wind sided vestibule. Also tent lines were constantly ripping, we had to repair them frequently. Our decision was: Try to pack up and descend.

Andy hiked up to 6000 meters and retrieved the gear deposit while Stefan and Waltraud packed down the tent. Somehow we managed to pack up everything without losses to the storm.

Descent was very very difficult, as frequently the wind simply blew us over. Full concentration was necessary. We descended all the way down to 4100 where there was a small creek with running water. This saved us from melting snow and saved the fuel supplies.

After 6.5 hours and 1600 meters descent we reached the small meadow. Windy also down here. Felt completely wasted, cooked a lot, drank a lot. Damages: Slight frost damage on toes and fingers.

2009-11-08: Day 9

Resting day on the meadow camp. Trying to regenerate from the long day before. Snow at night.

Disappointment about having to turn back in the storm, before having even reached the "interesting" parts of the mountain with snow and ice. Rationally it was probably the right decision as we cannot do much with a damaged tent.

2009-11-09: Day 10

More snow at night. A herd of yaks passes by our tents in the morning.

We decide to leave the mountain for this time and walk back to the road from where we hitch a ride back to Kashgar.

Some thoughts afterwards

It is of course a bit depressing to have turned back, but we still believe it was the right decision. Waiting it out would have probably taken over a week – more time than we had planned in for this. Actually, the storm and with it the snow it brought in early November 2009 made it to the newspaper in China, even far away Beijing was covered in snow.

For sure the"Project 7000" lives on. During the stormy days we have learnt a few things we can improve next time. However, in overall terms, at least up to altitudes of about 6000 meters, our preparation, diet and equipment worked very well and reliably. We are confident, that in the upcoming years we will be able to finish the project successfully – and hopefully on the initially selected mountain.