Latok I finally climbed from north side

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Briton (and Trek & Mountain contributor) Tom Livingstone and Slovenians Luka Stražar and Aleš Česen have made a much-coveted first ascent on the north side of Latok I (7145m) in Pakistan. Taking seven days to complete the climb, the trio traversed away from the ridge on the upper section of the route and onto the north face of the mountain.

A message from the team posted on the Slovenian Mountain Union website confirmed the climb on Saturday 11th August: “Aleš, Tom and Luka returned to the base a few hours ago, we climbed a new route on the north ridge and went to the top of Latok I. Next … sleep”.

The north ridge of Latok I has attained a lofty position in mountaineering folklore as one of the last great problems of high altitude alpinism. In a seminal piece of writing published in the Alpinist, American climber Jeff Lowe described the route as “the unfinished business of the last generation”.

An all-American team including Lowe made the first attempt on the north ridge in 1978. They were turned back due to poor weather and Lowe developing altitude sickness, but they had managed to climb over 100 pitches to within touching distance of success.

In the following 40 years, over 30 attempts on the ridge by some of the world’s finest alpinists have been made to no avail. The most recent of which resulted in the dramatic rescue of Russian climber Alexander Gukov who was trapped for six days at over 6,000m, following the death of his climbing partner on the descent.

The teams who have made it to the upper reaches of the ridge have largely retreated due to the dangerous snow mushrooms and cornices. In 1990 a team including well-known British climber Doug Scott decided against the north ridge due to poor snow conditions. Speaking to Trek and Mountain Scott recalls switching their original plan: “We changed our objective due to the terrible conditions. We could see dangerous snow conditions and snow mushrooms on the north ridge”. It seems likely that Livingstone, Stražar and Česen chose to avoid the mushrooms and cornices of a direct route by deviating out onto the face.

The successful ascent has been met with widespread praise in the climbing community due to the status of the line as a ‘last great problem’ and the combination of regular poor conditions and high altitude.

Doug Scott said: “It is a mixed alpine climb at a great height. You need to have a super-fit team and have ideal conditions”.

Look out for a full expedition report by Tom Livingstone in an upcoming edition of Trek & Mountain!


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