Weekend Warm-Up: Alpinists at Large

Latok 1, a 7,145m giant in Pakistan’s Karakoram, had been untouched and unchallenged by mountaineers because of its immense difficulty. Then in 1978, a group of American alpinists took on this formidable mountain, inspired by little more than an obscure book and an old photograph.


Jim Donini, Jeff Lowe, George Lowe and Michael Kennedy traveled thousands of kilometres to rural Pakistan. At that time, the country lacked proper roads, transport and logistics to help them reach their goal. According to Donini, alpinism is the epitome of aloneness, a tone that dictated the rest of their expedition. These guys had little to no information on the mountain, wandered through obscure gorges and were at the whims of reluctant porters. Despite this, this became the best climb these intrepid Americans ever did. 

Another word to describe their experience was lack. Lack of information, lack of preparedness, lack of support and eventually, lack of food. The first third of the mountain was relatively straightforward and the second slightly more challenging. The last was where all went astray.

A storm pinned them down for six days, cutting their rations in half. Jeff Lowe was sick, and the further they climbed, the worse he became — likely, complications from a cold mixed with altitude sickness. Eventually, to save his life, they turned back.

They knew  that one day the mountain would be conquered, just not that day. This failure became a legend in the alpine community, showing that making the right call and working together is sometimes victory enough.