ALPEX High Alpine Expeditions 2001

Press release no. 1 – Thursday, August 30, 2001 On September fourth the ALPEX Ulugh Muztagh expedition will start with the gathering of climbers and personnel at the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, Xinjiang, China. If things go as planned, upon return in Urumqi at October the 18th the climbing team of seven persons will have performed the first ascend of supposedly 7723 meter high Ulugh Muztagh mountain from its fully unknown southern approach, and with this the second highest unclimbed mountain left on the globe. Some background information: We know of the existence of this giant mountain, South of the main chain of eastern Kunlun range since early last century, when a British explorer spotted it from 200 km distance, but recognized its great height. Although nobody went there for many years it appeared all century in the maps as 7754 meters and thus the highest of all Kunlun. Surprise and puzzlement went through climbing circles as a huge American/Chinese expedition announced that they had climbed, from the North, a mountain in the massif that they measured as 6973, and they thought it to be Ulugh 1. For many years now this value stuck, until recent measurements by satellite showed there is a 7723 meter high mountain in the south of the enormous, (1400 square kilometer), glaciated area of this massif. With this information several expeditions tried to force their way through the road- and wilderness without population surrounding the mountain, none of them however met with success. The complexity of the terrain and the great difficulties of the here over 5000 meter high Tibetan plateau stopped them all, more than 90 km before reaching there goals. Having learned from the failures of our predecessors, ALPEX and its Chinese partners have for the last 2.5 years been planning this pioneering expedition in great detail. Now finally everything is ready; the climbers selected, the personnel appointed, the materials packed and the route been chosen. Overall leader of the expedition will be 39-year-old Johan Heersink from the Netherlands, formerly leader of several expeditions to Muztagata, Kongur, Peak Lenin, Kezi Sel and other high mountains. In charge of base camp and food supplies is 30-year-old Brandon Loudermilk from the USA, also a professional mountaineer with plenty of expedition experience. In charge of the climbing team is 33-year-old American mountain guide Jim Fisher from Colorado, formerly leader of, among others, expeditions to Xixbangma, Cho Oyu and Denali, (new route). The climbing team consists of seven members, (2 Dutch, 2 American, a Russian, a British and an Australian), a truly international bunch, with all extensive experience in high altitude and technical mountaineering. As there is an additional 6-person group of Chinese, (China Mountaineering Association), personnel, the summit flag the team will take is a Chinese one and the expedition language is English. As the team ventures in fully unknown terrain, and will climb on a mountain face of which not even a single photograph exist up to the present day, it will be no surprise, that they will work with a huge amount of the best mountaineering gear available, including plenty of first class special foodstuffs. Knowing that the previous teams have failed, mainly because of the great transportation problems, a great deal of attention has been paid to this. Mr. Kong Baocun (The Chinese think tank of the expedition) has hired the best military vehicles, including a special mountain mineral hauling truck for the materials. In charge of the navigating is a long year Chinese specialist in mountain route finding. The team of drivers is highly specialized in difficult terrain and is able to fully disassemble and assemble again the vehicles. To complete the team there is Chinese kitchen help and an interpreter, who has proved his value on earlier pioneering expedition. As for the chances of success a word from Johan, the overall leader “At least we have done everything which was in our power, but we know all to well we try to reach one of the last more or less blank spots on the map and we might be confronted with unexpected difficulties. Our first success would be reaching the base camp site, the second part, climbing the mountain might be the easier, in view of the overall strength of the team and their backup. I have learned in my years in the mountains, that one should not make to much predictions concerning projects as complex as this one. But we will make sure we keep the world informed about our progress the coming 2 months, and a broadcasting documentary will be made of our achievements!” ALPEX High Alpine Expeditions

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