Gukov Trapped on Latok I After the Death of his Partner

Russian mountaineer Alexander Gukov is trapped at approximately 6,200m on Latok I, following the death of his climbing partner Sergey Glazunov as they attempted to descend the 7,145m peak.

The pair of Russian alpinists had left their Latok I base camp 14 days ago, with only 5 days worth of food and water supplies. The aim was to summit via the mountain’s north ridge, a grueling 2,400m crest-line that has turned back many of the world’s best alpinists in the 40 years since it was first attempted. The first attempt on the ridge was by brothers Jeff and George Lowe, Michael Kennedy and Jim Donini in 1978. Their expedition was eventually abandoned after 26 days on the mountain.

The north ridge route of Latok I. There have been over 24 attempts on the ridge since 1978. Photo: Alexander Gukov

It’s not clear exactly how high Gukov and Glazunov managed to reach on their summit push, but on July 24 a GPS signal was received that put the pair at 6,975m. The next day Gukov witnessed his climbing partner fall to his death while rappelling on the descent. Gukov sent out an SOS signal, “I need help, I have to be evacuated, Sergey fell, I’m hanging on to the wall without equipment.”

A rescue operation has now been mobilized. Rescuers had hoped that they would be able to send a helicopter to pick Gukov up directly from the mountain, but so far the weather has precluded this possibility. Cloud and rain mean that visibility remains poor, though the pilot did manage to confirm the death of Glazunov. The body was spotted near to base camp at the foot of the wall.

Gukov had attempted Latok I in 2017, turning back just 150m below the summit. Photo: Alexander Gukov

A host of top alpinists are still present in Pakistan, with many volunteering to help with the rescue operation. Andrzej Bargiel, fresh from the first ever ski descent of K2, has volunteered his services, alongside Herve Barmesse and David Goettler. Bargiel is currently in Skardu, while Barmesse and Goettler are still at their Gasherbrum II base camp. So far the terrible weather has meant that all attempts to relocated them to the base camp at Latok I have failed.

If the weather improves today, rescue teams will attempt to pull Gukov from the mountain by helicopter. If the weather does not co-operate then the teams will be forced to transfer as close as possible to Latok I and proceed on foot.

Updated July 28: Story has been edited to reflect news that Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech will not be taking part in the rescue.

Updated July 29: The weather continues to hamper rescue efforts. Clear skies and low wind speeds are required for any attempt at an airlift using the rescue helicopter.