Latok I – A Climbing Timeline

A chronological history of the attempts on Latok I, 1975 to present.

By Michael Kennedy | August 13th, 2018

Damian Benegas contemplating a five-day storm on Latok I. Photo: Willie Benegas

Latok I, located between the Choktoi and Biafo Glaciers in the Karakoram of Northern Pakistan, is guarded on all sides by steep rock buttresses and hanging glaciers, and presents no obviously safe and easy path to its summit. The North Ridge is the exception, at least as far as safety goes; while there is some danger from serac fall at the base of the route, you pass quickly through the hazard zone, and once on the route you only have to deal with the more manageable risks of cornices, snow mushrooms and technical difficulty.

The route has been tried at least 20 times since we were there in 1978, including multiple attempts by the same climbers. No one has yet reached our high point, poor weather and too much snow being the usual barriers. What will it take for someone to complete the North Ridge? A well-acclimatized team climbing in pure alpine style should be able reach our snow-cave site at about 23,000 feet in four or five days. Another day should suffice to reach the summit and return to this high bivouac, with two more days to complete the descent. Carrying a minimum of seven days of food and fuel and sufficient hardware to rappel such a long route would be brutal but necessary. In the end, luck will probably be a big factor, as the ideal combination of good weather, dry conditions, and sufficiently motivated and skilled climbers will be elusive at best.

With a few exceptions, the attempts on the North Ridge have been in at least as good a style as ours. It is my hope that future parties will continue to treat the route with respect by leaving as little trace of their passage as possible.

1975 July-September1976 July-August1977 August-September
A Japanese team led by Makoto Hara circumnavigates the Latok group via the Biafo, Simgang, Choktoi, Panmah, and Baltoro Glaciers. Avalanches and rockfall prevent any significant attempts.A Japanese team led by Yoshifumi Itatani attempts the couloir between Latok I and Latok III (Latok East), reaching about 18,700 feet before turning back in the face of serac fall.An Italian team led by Arturo Bergamaschi investigates the route attempted by the Japa- nese in 1976, but decides it’s too dangerous. They make the first ascent of Latok II from the Baintha Lukpar Glacier.
1978 June-July1979 June-July1982 July
Americans Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy (Canadian by birth but resident in the United States), Jeff Lowe and George Lowe attempt the 8,000-foot North Ridge, climbing capsule-style and spending 26 days on the route. They reach a high point of about 23,000 feet.A Japanese team led by Naoki Takada makes the first ascent of Latok I via the South Face. After a lengthy siege and fixing much rope and three camps on the rock buttress left of the couloir between Latok I and Latok III, six members reach the top on two separate days.British climbers Martin Boysen, Choe Brooks, Rab Carrington and John Yates attempt the North Ridge twice, the second time to a high point of about 19,000 feet.
1986 July1987 July-August1990 June
Norwegians Olav Basen, Fred Husoy, Magnar Osnes, and Oyvind Vlada attempt the North Ridge, fixing at least 600 meters of rope and reaching a high point of about 21,000 feet after 18 days on the route. They spend another 10 days in heavy snow before giving up.French climbers Roger Laot, Remy Martin, and Laurent Terray fix rope on the first 600 meters of the North Ridge, and encountering heavy snow, turn back at about 19,700 feet.British climbers Sandy Allan, Rick Allen, Doug Scott and Simon Yates, and Austrian Robert Schauer make a number of climbs in the area, but don’t attempt their primary objective due to “the difficult and dangerous snow conditions and the forbidding appearance of the pendulous snow mushrooms adorning the North Ridge of Latok I.”
1992 July-August1993 July-August1994 August-September
Jeff Lowe (U.S.) and Catherine Destivelle (France) try the North Ridge, encountering huge snow mushrooms on the route. Carol McDermott (New Zealand) and Andy McFarland, Andy MacNae and Dave Wills (Great Britain) reach about 19,300 feet on the route during two attempts the same summer.Americans Julie Brugger, Andy DeKlerk, Colin Grissom and Kitty Calhoun attempt the North Ridge, turning back at about 18,000 feet in the face of bad weather.British climbers Brendan Murphy and Dave Wills try the North Ridge, reaching a high point of about 18,300 feet on their second attempt.
1996 July-August1997/1998 August2001 August
Murphy and Wills return, reaching about 20,000 feet before a dropped rucksack forces retreat. Two subsequent attempts are thwarted at 19,300 feet by poor weather.Americans John Bouchard and Mark Richey attempt the route three times, the last with Tom Nonis and Barry Rugo, reaching a high point of about 20,000 feet. Unlike previous expeditions, they report high temperatures and dry conditions, which resulted in “considerable melting and rockfall from high on the face.” They follow the rock pillar from the bottom of the route, finding superb climbing up to 5.10. Bouchard, Richey and Lyle Dean return the following year for another attempt, but never get on the North Ridge due to bad weather.Wojciech Kurtyka (Poland) and Yasushi and Taeko Yamanoi (Japan) have a permit for the North Ridge but never attempt it due to poor weather. Stein Gravdal, Halvor Hagen, ole Haltvik and Trym Saeland (Norway) reach about 20,500 feet after 15 days on the route.
2004/2005/20062006 August2007 July
Twin brothers Willie and Damian Benegas (Argentina) try the North Ridge three years in a row. The first two years they encounter much snow and bad weather during their attempts in June and July; they find drier conditions in August 2006, but a major storm stops them at about 18,000 feet.Maxime Turgeon and Louis-Phillipe Menard (Canada) attempt the futuristic North Face, retreating from 17,400 feet in the face of dangerously warm conditions. They turn their attention to the North Ridge, but are turned back at a similar altitude by deep, fresh snow covering the previously dry rock.Bean Bowers and Josh Wharton are rebuffed in their north ridge attempt by horrendous weather, which only clears for two of their 42 days at base camp. They make the FA of the nearby Bean Pole (18,500 feet) instead. Doug Chabot, Steve Swenson, and Mark Richey are also rebuffed after encountered “vertical, unconsolidated snow” which “seemed bottomless and nearly impossible to protect.”
2008 SeptemberJuly 20092009 August
Wharton returns with Whit Magro. The pair is able to climb the north ridge to 6,000 meters but is forced to bail under heavy snowfall, which does not let up in time for another attempt.Wharton, Colin Haley and Dylan Johnson attempt the north ridge, reaching 5,830 meters but ultimately surrendering when forced into a dangerous traverse to the west in order to continue.Spaniards Álvaro Novellón and Óscar Pérez also reach around 5,800 meters, but heavy snow turns them back. They go on to complete the first full ascent of Latok II’s northwest ridge, which ends in tragedy when Pérez is badly injured in a fall. Novellón continues on to get help, but the rescue parties never find Pérez. There is another unsuccessful ascent the next year (we could not find information on the party).
2014  August2017 August2018 July
Luka Krajnc, Luka Lindič, Martin Žumer and Janez Svoljšak of Slovenia turn back at 5,900 meters in deep snow.Anton Kashevnik, Valery Shamalo and Alexander Gukov reach 6,700 meters, but foul weather and a case of pneumonia force a retreat. Both Shamalo and Kashevnik lose mulitple digits to frostbite.The north ridge stymies the efforts of Gukov and Sergey Glazunov. Glazunov falls to his death during a rappelling accident on July 25 as the pair retreats from a highpoint of 6,975 meters.
2018 August
Tom Livingstone, Aleš Česen and Luka Stražar make the first ascent of Latok I via the north ridge!*This table only includes known teams who set foot on the mountain and made headway, not any of the numerous parties who acquired permits but did not begin an attempt due to weather or other circumstances.**Thomas Huber and Rainer Treppte of Germany, the Italian Simon Gietl, and the Frenchman Yannick Boissenot are currently en route to Latok I.

 

 


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