Snowshoes and Shipton: Climbing Muztag Ata in the Chinese Pamirs
by Mark Horrell
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"The dazzling-white dome ... crowned with a shimmering field of eternal snow," was how the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin described the Father of the Ice Mountains. The 20th century explorer and mountaineer Eric Shipton was unimpressed, describing Muztag Ata much more soberly as, "an isolated peak somewhat resembling a volcanic cone in appearance."
Yet Shipton failed to reach the summit after walking for several hours in thick snow trying to find it. He vomited from exhaustion on the way down, and returned to his tent with frostbite which left him unable to walk for several weeks afterwards. The man famous for his many expeditions to Everest later said he'd never felt so cold on a mountain in his life.
Undeterred by Shipton's failure, Mark Horrell thought he'd have a go at the mountain himself. Despite its gentle appearance, Muztag Ata reaches an impressive height of 7546m. It presents no particular technical challenges, but the steep slog through snow for several days is a true test of physical endurance at such an extreme altitude.
- Mark Horrell, March 2013
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