Slovenian climbers Aleš Česen (36), Luka Stražar (29) and British climber Tom Livingstone (27) summited the North Face of Latok I (7145m) in the Karakoram, on 9th August, 2018. They made the second ever ascent on the mountain after 1979. They have done it via a new route. Moreover, it is the first ascent from the North Face.
At first there was confusion regarding the route of their ascent. It was believed that they summited via the North Ridge (AKA Lowe-Donini-Kennedy route). However, they reached up to around 6500m via North Ridge and then took a new variation. On 5th August they started climbing the North Ridge. They climbed three-quarters via North Ridge and reached up to 6500m and then turned right towards the West Col (6700m) between Latok I and Latok II. They moved towards the South Face and from there reached the summit. While asking about the route, Luka Stražar replied to Dream Wanderlust that, "It's a line of the ascent and it stays on the ridge till about 6500m then it tends right towards the col and then it reaches the top from the other side of the mountain." Hence, the North Ridge of Lupghar Sar still unclimbed, as believed.
Let's have a chat with Luka Stražar
DW: Congratulations Luka and your team on your ascent of Latok I from North Face.
DW: Is there any special reason(s), for which you choose Latok I this summer?
Luka: No special reason. I wanted to return to Pakistan since the last experience in 2011 was really positive
DW: Please tell us briefly about the route.
Luka: The route is long and complex but this is no surprise I guess :)
DW: Did you set up higher camps or did you rely on bivvys on your ascent? How many camps/bivouacs did you use (with altitude)?
Luka: Ascent took us 7 days in total. Done in alpine style so no camps just bivvys.
DW: What do you think are the possible reason(s) of the accident of the Russian team? How did that accident and rescue affect your approach?
Luka: You try to rationalize and separate you way of thinking away from the accident but this is easier said than done. I would not want to be the judge about the reasons for the accident.
DW: A few words about your immediate and long-term plans please.
Luka: First I would like to spend some time sport/rock climbing with my girlfriend. Hope I catch some summertime in the Dolomites.
DW: Best of luck and thank you once again.
Earlier this summer, there were two Russian teams on the mountain. Victor (Viktor) Koval, Konstantin (Kostya) Markevich and Alexander Parfenov abandoned their expedition via North Face due to bad weather after reaching 6081m. While Alexander Gukov (42) and Sergey Glazunov (26) tried to summit via the North Ridge. Gukov and Glazunov made an attempt to summit, but failed, after reaching 6975m. While retreating from the summit attempt, Gukov was stranded at 6200m on the North Ridge, was rescued after six days on 31st July by brave Pakistani pilots. His partner, Sergey Glazunov, fell to his death while rappelling. Aleš Česen, Luka Stražar and Tom Livingstone had done their two acclimatisation climbs between 14th and 22nd July via North Face. They had to come back to the Base Camp due to bad weather after reaching 6300m. Finally on 5th August, in the middle of the night, they started climbing via North Ridge of Latok I. They reached up to 6500m via North Ridge and then they turned right towards the West Col (6700m) between Latok I and Latok II. They moved towards the South Face and from there reached to the summit. After two days of stressful descent, on 11th August, they safely reached to the Base Camp.
A Japanese expedition team led by Naoki Takada, first summited Latok I in 1979. After pitching three camps the team ascended the rock buttress left of the couloir between Latok I and Latok III. On 19th July, 1979, Tsuneo Shigehiro, Sin'e Matsumi and Yu Watanabe finally summited. Two days later, 22nd July, Hideo Muto, Jun'ichi Oku and Kota Endo also made it to the top.
In 1978, American climbers Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy, George Lowe, and Jeff Lowe attempted the route first. They spent 26 days on the mountain and were forced to retreat approximately 150m below from the summit due to extremely difficult climbing conditions and the sickness of Jeff Lowe. More than 30 teams and famous climbers from different countries have attempted the route since then, but no one succeeded on the notorious unfinished route.
New information whispers on the edges of the mountain. According to the report published by mountain.ru, there may be a chance that the North Ridge of Latok I was successfully climbed well before by the Russians, Alexander Gukov and Sergey Glazunov. On 23rd July, 2:40pm, the GPS of Alexander Gukov showed 6980m. That was the last time he checked, but he and Glazunov continued climbing until 7:00pm. According to the report, Gukov believed that they finished the "impossible" North Ridge but failed to reach the summit. Whereas Glazunov believed that they succeeded on both.
Did Gukov and Glazunov definitely finished the North Ridge of Latok I?
Did they completed the entire North Ridge route only or by completing the entire route they also reached the summit?
Well, without further evidence from Glazunov, which we will never get ofcoure, the actual happenings remains unanswered. May be forever...
The expedition on Latok I still not finished yet this summer. German climber Thomas Huber and Rainer Treppte, Italian Simon Gietl, and Frenchman Yannick Boissenot are currently on their expedition on Latok I.