Top 10 Expeditions of 2018: #5: North Ridge of Latok I

Climbing Mountain
Latok I team Cesen Livingstone and Strazar
Latok I team: Aleš Česen, Tom Livingstone and Luka Stražar. Photo: A. Česen

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2018.

The North Ridge of Latok 1 required daring, committed climbing on a route (well, a variant of a route) with legendary status. The trio of Luka Stražar and Aleš Česen of Slovenia and Tom Livingstone of the UK soloed large portions of it. When they were roped, the belays were mostly psychological, according to Livingstone. Despite a horribly mushroomed upper ridge and lots of avalanche risk, they executed their job safely, methodically and fairly quickly.

The Latok Massif in Pakistan’s Karakorum holds some of the most challenging unsolved problems in high-altitude, technical alpinism. In particular, Latok I’s North Ridge has foiled so many expeditions — 30, since the first attempt in 1978 — that it posed “the unfinished business of the last generation,” Jeff Lowe once wrote.

Tom Livingstone Latok I sen/Strazar.

Tom Livingstone and one of his Slovenian climbing mates on a bivouac on Latok I. Photo: Cesen/Strazar

Latok 1 had previously been climbed only once before, when a Japanese team summited the south side in 1979. Too often, fatal accidents accompanied the many failures. This season was, sadly, no exception: Sergey Glazunov died in a rappelling mishap on this same North Ridge, and his partner, Alexander Gukov, survived a brutal six-day wait for rescue.

Yet just as the season folded up in mid-August, the young threesome stood on the summit after climbing the coveted ridge, or at least three-quarters of it. (Early reports, drawing on ambiguous Google translations of foreign mountaineering websites, incorrectly stated that they had climbed the entire North Ridge.)

In fact, faced with dangerous snow mushrooms and cornices around the altitude where Glazunov perished, they traversed right to the West Col between Latok I and 2. From there, they took the North Face to the summit. Glazunov’s fate “reinforced the danger of pushing too far … on the upper section of the ridge,” Tom Livingstone noted after the climb.

Latok I route by Cesen, Livingstone and Strazar

Route opened on the North Ridge of Latok I by Livingstone, Cesen and Strazar.

Previous stories:

North Ridge of Latok 1 Finally Climbed

Gukov Rescued from Latok 1

About the Author

AngelaB

Angela Benavides

Sport journalist, published author and communication consultant. Feeling back home at ExplorersWeb after five years exploring distant professional ranges.

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