Mustagh Ata

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
It is the courage to continue that counts."

Sir Winston Churchill

Mustagh Ata — 

Mustagh Ata — 

Mustagh Ata — 

Mustagh Ata in the summer of 2019 was Max's chance.

Max has been an avid backcountry skier for as long as he can remember and he'd skinned up and skied down several remote peaks as well as known routes like Chamonix - Zermatt. But the highest Max had ventured his ski equipment was Mount Elbrus (5,642 m - 18,510 ft). So he had yet to venture into the very thin air on skis… Mustagh Ata in the summer of 2019 was his chance.

When a group of Swiss skiers taking part in the 2019 Patrouille des Cedres - ( for which Max was the inceptor and organizer - invited him to join them on Mustagh Ata later that year, he jumped on the occasion. Besides skiing “The Father of Ice-Mountains” halfway across our planet, Max would also investigate further his plan to cycle across the neibouring Taklamakan Desert in China’s Xinjiang province.

‘Father of Ice-Mountains’

Literally ‘Father of Ice-Mountains’ in the local Uyghur language, Mustagh Ata impressively stands alone much farther North than the Himalayas, hence its reputation of being a cold mountain. To stand on its supreme summit with skis on is an audacious feat that can only be dared -let alone achieved- by a rare brave few.

The idea was to attempt Mustagh Ata on skis in August 2019. The backcountry skis are equipped with seal skins and crampons to allow a safe and effective ascent all the way to the summit in order to ski back down. Base Camp would be set up at the foot of the mountain at an altitude of 4,450m. Before that, a long voyage involving multiple flights to Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan, then driving overland in 4x4s to Kashgar in Xinjiang Province, China and finally trekking alongside camels to Base Camp. Although Marco Polo would never have believe it, today, this voyage all the way to Base Camp takes no more than 5 days !

A Gigantic shiny ice cube

The climbing party comprised about twelve European skiers of varying ages and levels; all fond of adventure. They bonded very well as a team and spent fun times at camp while climbing high and sleeping low to acclimatize before their summit push.
Unfortunately, after more than two weeks of clement weather, the Mustagh Ata wind gods decided to wake up all of a sudden when it was time for Max and the team to move past camp one at 5,400 m. The vicious winds blew away any remaining snow from the mountain, leaving the‘Father of Ice-Mountains’ looking like one gigantic shiny ice cube. Eric - the lead guide, who had already aborted a climb on this mountain a few years prior took the harsh decision of backing off again.

Pack and Retreat

After all the hard work, and as Max and the team were poised to benefit from the prior suffering, they had no (wise) choice but to pack and return to Kyrgyzstan empty-handed. In Max's view, this was the right decision knowing that no mountain is worth a life and that it will always be there. A day later, word got to them at base camp that two Russian guides and their clients fell to their deaths on a nearby mountain.


Follow Max On Instagram