SCARPA athlete, Josh Wharton, was a 2012 Mug Stump Award recipient for his planned expedition to Latok 1. Since 2007, climbing Latok 1 has been a personal dream of Wharton’s. He had been to the Choktoi four times and had invested a lot of time, energy and resources into completing Latok 1. Wharton wrote to us a few weeks ago to let us know that it was an unsuccessful trip – in terms of the climbing – plagued by illness and altitude sickness. But, like all great expeditions, there were small accomplishments woven into the big picture. As Wharton said, “I did succeed on an unclimbed rock spire and had some good times in the mountains with Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy.”
Nate Opp and I arrived at basecamp below Latok on July 11th, intent on trying the North Ridge/Northwest face of the mountain. We set about acclimatizing, using skis to reach a bivouac at 5,500 meters on our third day. After a few days of rest in poor weather, we attempted a 6,500 meters snow peak in the valley north of Choktoi Glacier. It was an enjoyable, classic mountaineering adventure, but we turned around at ~6,400 meters, just shy of the summit due to poor snow conditions.
After 10 days at basecamp, Nate started to express doubts about Latok. He was concerned with the objective hazards involved, and ultimately decided he wasn’t willing to accept the risks. On July 24th Nate left basecamp and headed home.
Although extremely upset with Nate’s decision, I was unwilling to just abandon the trip. This was my fourth Latok mission; I knew more about the mountain, and had allotted more time at basecamp then I ever had before. Going home felt tantamount to quitting, and in many ways my multi-year commitment to Latok has always been about never giving up, about staying optimistic and pushing forward even when success might seem unlikely. I knew that Hayden Kennedy and Kyle Dempster were set to arrive on the Choktoi glacier around August 10th, so I chose to stay, and hoped they would be willing to try Latok.