Chinese Pamirs, China

Muztagh Ata Expedition

A 4-week ski mountaineering adventure to climb Muztagh Ata (7,546m / 24,757ft) - one of the most accessible 7000m peaks.

This is a rare opportunity to join Nick Parks (IFMGA Mountain Guide) and a small group of ski mountaineers on an expedition to one of the world's great 'ski' peaks.

The ascent is a reasonably straightforward climb on snow and ice – really a high altitude walking route and the elevation is never more than 40 degrees.

We'll be climbing via the lesser known 'Tashi' route which has been recommended as the normal route has become badly polluted due to its popularity. It is no more technical than the normal way and eminently more interesting than joining the crowds.

Muztagh Ata is located in China’s Xianjiang province in the far western section of the Pamir Mountain Range close to the borders of China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

The mountain dominates the surroundings – its glaciated summit looms up to 2 miles over the Subashi valley. It is located close to the old ‘silk road’ and despite the barren, remote landscape it is a stunning area.

Muztagh Ata is a technically straightforward mountain, but one which requires stamina and determination to cope with long days.

Anyone wishing to join the expedition must have:
  • A high level of fitness
  • Experience of arduous treks or expeditions at high altitudes
  • Experience of multi day glacier skiing carrying a heavy pack

Day Itinerary

  • Fly out from the UK to Bishkek. We will be met on arrival and travel by road to Naryn, Naryn is in central Kyrgyzstan and the main road (one of the branches of the ancient Silk Road) runs south through the sparsely settles central Kyrgyz highlands to the Torugart Pass and China.

    We stay overnight in Naryn in a Guest House or Yurt Camp.

  • We continue our journey east to the Torugart Pass, crossing the Kyrgystan - China boarder. Tonight’s accommodation is typically in a hotel.

  • We transfer by road to Kashgar/Subashi which is a 200km road journey taking around 4-5hours. The drive is along the Karakorum Highway following the narrow gorge of the Gez River and ascending to an altitude of 3900m by the shores of the Karakur Lake. Accommodation on this night is in tents or yurts.

  • We begin the trek to base camp today, starting with a short drive to Subashi to meet the camels, from here we trek over the plain and climb steadily through the barren hills to the base camp. Approximately a 4 hour walk. We camp overnight.

  • Climbing and acclimatisation on Muztagh Ata.  This requires building and supplying three high camps.  Meals are provided at the base camp only. 

    We should have 4-5 days available for summit ascents which is dependent on the weather conditions. 

    Camp 1 is at about 5400m

    Camp 2 is at just over 6000m

    Camp 3 is at about 6,800m

    The climb to the top should take 5-6 hrs from camp 3 and the plan is to return back to camp 2. 

  • We descend from Base Camp today via Subashi and back to Kashgar (trek and road travel).  You should expect to arrive in Kashgar in the early evening.  Hotel accommodation is provided on this night. 
  • Day in Kashgar.  This is a sightseeing day in Kashgar, the tour includes the tombs of Abakh Hoja, the well known Kashgar Bazaar, the famous Mosque and the most unique old town with typical Uyghur styled homes.  

  • We travel from Kashgar to the Torugart Pass by road, we cross the Chinese - Kygystan boarder.  Onward trasnfer by road to Naryn where these is guest house or yurt accommodation. 

  • Transfer from Naryn to Bishkek.  Hotel accommodation.

  • Transport to Bishkek airport and return flights to the UK. 

2019

Dates

Price

Sat 18 May
- Tue 11 Jun
£5700 Enquire

The price includes:

  • Hotel accommodation in Bishkek on a bed and breakfast basis
  • hotel accommodation in Kashgar on a bed and breakfast basis
  • All road transport by private vehicles
  • All camping facilities and meals during the expedition
  • All porterage costs to base camp
  • All costs for leaders, guides and local helpers
  • Peak permits
  • Chinese liaison officer

 

The price does not include:

  • Visa fees
  • International flights and excess luggage costs
  • Bar bills and laundry
  • Travel insurance
  • Lunch and evening meals in Bishkek & Kashgar plus any additional meals you may require 
  • Tips for staff on the trip
  • Costs associated with you leaving the expedition early due to injury or illness.
  • Costs associated with you extending the trip due to bad weather or other circumstances 
  • When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply suitable kit.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than a insulated jacket.
    • 1-2 thin fleeces - rather than a thick layer between your skin and the outer shell - an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’. The principle of ‘layering’ e.g. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity is recommended to ensure comfort on the mountain.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • For the lower half it’s essential that you have a pair of thermal base layer pants (long johns).
    • These can then be combined with either:
    • (a) a good pair of ‘technical shell’ pants in a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex (b) a pair of mountain or alpine pants in a softshell material together with a pair of lightweight, breathable over trousers with long side zips.
    • Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Good quality Gore-Tex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell or fleece gloves for when it is hot and for ski touring in. Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer with cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons. 
    • Ice Axe - general lightweight mountaineering / alpine pick. Ideally this needs to be short enough to fit in your pack.
    • Boot Crampons - ideally lightweight aluminum ones although steel crampons are required for more demanding tours
    • Climbing Harness - a simple lightweight harness. The key feature is that it should have fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots, crampons, etc.

    On some tours in non-glaciated terrain an ice-axe, boot crampons and climbing harness may not always be required. However as conditions and itineraries can change we do generally recommend that you bring these items with you. If you do not own these items they can be rented to you by our guides or via one of the local sports shops.
  • For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.

    Skis
    For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.
    There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufactures:
    Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com 
    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com  
    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com  
    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us 
    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

    If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.

    Boots
    It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking up hill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best. 

    Scarpa have lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.
    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit. They can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    Ski Poles
    We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.

    Rucksack
    For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.

    Key features of a good ski touring pack:
    • a method of attaching your skis in either a A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage
    • easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom
    • separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe
    • small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglassed/goggles etc; an ice axe loop
    • a built-in rain cover an a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one. 

    Over a long multiday tour every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.

     

    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 35 – 40 liter rucksack
    • 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favorite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve
    • Camera with a large capacity memory card!
    • Money – most hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but not all the alpine huts do. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 20-30 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption)
    Please note that your guide will have a few “spares” and other safety items that he or she will ask the group to carry between them; so leave a small space in your sack for an item e.g. spare skin, spare ski pole, emergency shelter.

    For a hut night:
    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – now compulsory in most huts.
    • Wash kit with small personal first aid items – should include:
    • Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal
    • Soap
    • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
    • Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene
    • Tissues and toilet roll
    • Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.
    • Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen
    • Antiseptic cream or wipes
    • Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!
    • (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)
    • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
    • Most huts have limited washing facilities
    • Earplugs – it can get quite noisy!
    • Headtorch - lightweight and carry spare batteries.
    • Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.
    What to wear in the hut
    We are often asked by people what they should wear in the hut. It's a good question as you don't want to carry many or any extra clothes with you if they are not required. In the winter you will probably end up wearing your base layer thermals (top & bottom) or you can carry a lightweight pair of loose trousers to wear around the hut in the afternoons/evenings. Your base layer top is what you will probably wear on your top half or you can carry a t-shirt to wear in the hut that can double to sleep in. 

    Food and Water
    We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
    If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
    You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.

  • The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.

    • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
    • Snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe
    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training
Mustagh Ata.jpg

Chinese Pamirs

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  • Flight Information

    The arrival airport is Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.

    There are 3 routes available:

    1. Via Moscow tihe Aeroflot.

    2. Via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.

    3. Via Astana in Kazakhstan with Air Astana.

    Flight examples are based around a July trip e.g.

    Gatwick out 7th and back 31st

    07JUL LGWIST 1700 2250
    08JUL ISTFRU 0040 0845
    31JUL FRUIST 0645 0940
    1JUL ISTLGW 1355 1600

    If from Heathrow :

    07JUL LHRIST 1620 2205
    08JUL ISTFRU 0040 0845
    31JUL FRUIST 0645 0940
    31JUL ISTLHR 1245 1440

    Flight prices will be in the region of £400 - £500 return.  Furthur details to follow shortly (17/10/17)

  • Health

    You should consult your GP well in advance of travelling or a vaccine specialist for professional advice.  You can also visit the website http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home.aspx

    Typically the following vaccinations are recommended: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis 'A'.  Malaria is not required.  

    Water that is not from a sealed bottle should never be drunk without first sterilizing with chlorine tablets or by boiling.  

    You should ensure you bring your own first aid kit which should include plasters, blister kit (compeed), paracetamol, throat lozengers, insect reellant, anti-itch cream and any other medication you are taking. 

  • Money

    The currency in Kyrgyzstan is the Som (KGS), but typically the US Dollar is king!  We suggest you bring cash in US$ as spending money, there are ATM's in Bishkek and you can change money locally. Currently 1 KGS = 0.01457 USD

    The Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY) is the currency of China, currently 1 CNY = 0.151 USD

    Local payments to porters and for tips to expedition staff should be done in US Dollars, so please consider this when budgeting for your trip. 

  • Local Transport
    Our ground agent will arrange the local transport from your arrival in Kyrgyzstan to your departure. They use Mecedes Sprinter Buses.
  • Ground Agent
    We plan to work with Asia Mountains a reputable agent based in Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek) they have good experience leading and planning trips to Muztagh Ata and other peaks and tours in the country. Nick has worked with them before on previous expeditions and has received good local support and care.
  • Visa & Entry Requirements

    British nationals don't need a visa to enter and stay for up to 60 days.

    Your passport should be valid for a minimum of 3 months from the date or entry into Kyrgyzstan adn must have at least 1 full blank page if you are applying for a visa.  

    Yellow fever certificate requirements

    Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate but this should not be necessary if you're travelling from the UK and only transiting through an airport enroute. 

    Our ground agent will be able to supply an Invitation Letter for Chinese Visa application if necessary.

    China Visa Requirements - British Nationals need a visa to enter mainland China; you must get a visa prior to arrival.  For details of entry requirements to China contact the Chinese Embassy or the China Visa Application Service Centre well before your proposed trip.  You maybe asked to provide your previous passports in support of your application.  Further details about visiting China can be found here on the Gov.uk website. 

  • Accommodation & Meal Information

    Accommodation will be in a combination of hotels (tourist class), local guests houses and camping.  There will be base camp support and a mess tent for meals.  
    Its a fully supported expedition and we will have our own local cook, meals will be hearty, tasty and the cook can cater for some mild dietary requirements but you can't afford to be fussy.  A lot of the meals will be stir-freid at base camp.

    At basecamp we can expect our local chef to prepare us 3 hearty meals a day.
    Breakfasts: porridge, eggs etc
    Lunch and evening meals: Typical menu will be soup to start followed by a main dish of meat
    with rice and vegetables.
    Drinks and snacks: tea, coffee etc available all the time.
    On the mountain: we will bring with us mountain meals, cook in the bag variety of which there
    are many options

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