First Ascent of North Face of Latok I Completed After 40 Years

1280px The Ogre I and II and the Ogres thumb (225912483)Big news from the Karakoram today where we learn that not only is the climbing season there not completely wrapped up, but a team of alpinists have solved one of the great challenges of mountaineering. Slovenian climbers Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar, along with British climber Tom Livingstone, have knocked off the North Face of Latok I, a route that has evaded completion for more than 40 years.

Standing 7145 meters (23,441 ft) in height, Latok I has been seen as one of the toughest peaks in the world for decades. It has been summited exactly one other time when a team from Japan managed to scale its south side back in 1979. Prior to that however, an American team consisting of Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy, Jeff Lowe and George Lowe gave the North Ridge a shot back in 1978 but were turned back after 100 pitches due to poor weather and illness on the team. Since then, the face has grown to almost mythical status amongst mountaineers, with numerous attempts over the years.

News of the first ascent first broke on the Camp-Cassin Facebook page, who are sponsors of the expedition. The news then rolled out across the climbing community with other websites picking up the story. Not a lot of details have been revealed just yet, but more are expected when the team returns home next week.

Typically, the Karakoram climbing season has come to an end by mid-August, but Cesen, Strazar, and Livingstone have continued their expedition there despite most other teams having left for home. That could be an indication of shifting climate conditions, as the Alpinist article linked to above quotes Thomas Huber from Stephen Nestler’s adventure sports blog as saying that global warming may have changed the ideal climbing season from early August to mid-August instead. It’s tough to know if that is true or not at this point, but the climbers certainly found good weather that allowed them to complete the climb.

It should also be noted that Latok I was the sight of the recent dramatic rescue of Russian climber Alexander Gukov, who was stranded on the mountain when his climbing partner fell to his death. Those two men were descending when the accident occurred after coming within 100 meters of the top too. Conditions were so difficult at the time that Gukov had to spend nearly a week on the mountain alone before a SAR team could get to his position.

Congratulations to Ales, Luka, and Tom on finishing off a line that many thought would never be climbed. Well done! Now get home safely.

Kraig Becker