First ascent of Kokodak Dome
Time so say hello again. I hope you didn’t worry about me, I am still alive. The reason why you did not read anything in English in my blog during the last weeks is that I was on expedition in the Northwest of China. Sorry, I was fully stretched climbing and writing my blog in German. I joined an AMICAL expedition to the previous unclimbed 7129-meter-high Kokodak Dome, also known as Kokodak II. The peak is part of the Kongur Range in the Kunlun mountains in the region Xinjiang. Kokodak I (or Kokodak Peak), which is 81 meters higher, was firstly climbed by a Russian team in 2006. Our expedition was led by Luis Stitzinger. The 45-year-old prominent German climber has already summited six 8000ers, five of them together with his wife Alix von Melle. Our team consisted of 13 clients from Germany and Austria – and of Chhongba Sherpa and Singi Lama, two Climbing Sherpas from Nepal.
Impressed by the first glance
At the beginning of our expedition we spent three days in the beautiful Kyrgyz mountains near the old caravanserai Tash Rabat. We were sleeping in a yurt camp at 3000 meters and hiking up to a height of 4000 meters for acclimatization. Then we crossed the border to China and after a short stopover in the town of Kashgar we headed to “our” mountain which is located right opposite the 7546-meter-high Mustagh Ata. After having arrived at the Karakul lake we took a first glance at Kokodak Dome. I was really impressed looking at this big mountain and at the route that we planned to climb.
Two days later we reached our basecamp at 4300 meters, the same place the Russians had chosen in 2006. A cairn reminded of their successful climb of Kokodak Peak. We were the only expedition on the mountain. During the next ten days, we made several trips further up, setting up an Intermediate Camp at 4850 meters, where we slept once for better acclimatization, then Camp 1 on an exposed ridge at 5525 meters and finally Camp 2 at 6300 meters. Chhongba and Singi were fixing ropes on the riskiest parts of the route. Above our Intermediate Camp, it steepened considerably, leading through scree fields into more and more snow-covered areas.
Like the Bianco Ridge
Above Camp 1 we had to climb via a steep and exposed snow ridge comparable with the famous Bianco Ridge on Piz Bernina in Switzerland. Further up there were slopes with deep snow and we had to circumvent some crevasses and seracs. Up to about 6000 meters we followed, on the whole, the route of the Russians who had made the first ascent of the nearby Kokodak Peak in 2006, above Camp 2 we would enter new territory.
Starting into the unknown
The weather during the first one and a half weeks was perfect: sunshine, little wind, no snowfall. And the forecast predicted no change of conditions. So we decided to start our summit attempt from basecamp on 22 July. The stages were long and challenging, but we were in good shape and well acclimatized. As scheduled we climbed up to Camp 1 on the 22th and to Camp 2 on the 23th. The weather was still fine, we were enjoying the amazing view to Mustagh Ata and down to the valley. From Camp 2, we could not see the summit, only the next steep slope. Thus we could only hope that the snow up to the highest point was not too deep and that we would not be stopped by large crevasses.
Looking for the highest
On 24 July we started at 3 a.m. In contrast to the previous days, it was cloudy and windy, but despite the early hour not too cold. Having climbed the first slope our team was dividing in three groups, in front our strongest climbers with expedition leader Luis, who were breaking the trail through the partly knee-deep snow. I belonged to the second somewhat slower group. “We can see the summit for the first time”, Luis told us via radio at about 8 a.m. That was rather prematurely, because further up on the slope he had to realize that there were three peaks at approximately the same level. They had to find out by GPS which was the highest. At 9 a.m. the first group reached the summit. We followed at 9.45, the third group at about 10.30.
Like a clockwork
When I was on top, clouds were passing the summit at a great speed. I had been hoping to take a view down to the Taklan Makan, but all I saw were clouds. There were strong gusts. Luis later estimated the speed at 60 to 80 kph. These conditions were not encouraging us to stay on the summit for a long time. We took some pics and hurried to climb down again. Some members of the first group arrived at the basecamp on the same day, the others and I followed the day after. All 16 members of the team have reached the 7129-meter-high summit of Kokodak Dome. “I was absolutely happy that all of us were on top”, said our expedition leader Luis. “Of course it’s twice as nice, because it was a first ascent. Our expedition has run like a clockwork.”
The names of all climbers (in alphabetical order): Chhongba Sherpa, Sven Deutschmann, Edith and Richard Goldeband, André Guenzel, Josef Kirchner, Manuel Moeller, Stefan Nestler, Eva-Maria Ramsebner, Volker Schuhmann, Juergen Schuetz, Singi Lama, Luis Stitzinger, Johannes Strohmaier, Ursula Teichmann, Jan Wienands.
Date30. August 2014 | 21:48