Legendary Latok I North Ridge climb for Livingstone, Cesen and Strazarine

Posted by Alex Messenger on 13/08/2018
North Ridge of Latok 1. Photo: Andy MacNae.

Early news is coming in that a major Himalayan line has been climbed by a British-Slovenian team, with support from the BMC.

A British-Slovenian team consisting of Tom Livingstone, Aleš Česen and Luka Strazar have made what looks like the highly sought-after first ascent of the North Ridge of Latok 1 (7,145m) in Pakistan.

Tom, a BMC member, successfully applied to the BMC for a BMC expedition grant and received the highest grade award. Aleš is an IFMGA mountain guide and Luka is an aspirant IFMGA guide. 

The North Ridge of Latok 1 has been a prize for generations of alpinists. However, despite 30 or so attempts on the ridge – often dubbed the Walker Spur of the Karakoram - by a variety of highly talented parties, no one has come even remotely near the high point of c7,000m, achieved on the first ever attempt in 1978 by Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy, George and Jeff Lowe.

These four, arguably the strongest American alpinists of the time, spent 21 days on the ridge climbing over 100 pitches. They had probably surmounted all the difficulties, when a combination of wind, cold and Jeff Lowe’s rapidly deteriorating condition due to altitude sickness, forced a retreat.

Since then the ridge has gained a formidable reputation, enforcing the fact that the 1978 attempt was one of the most impressive in the history of alpine-style in the Greater Ranges.

The list of climbers to have tired this line reads like a who's who of world mountaineering, with names such as the Benegas brothers, John Bouchard, Doug Chabot, Catherine Destivelle, Colin Haley, Wojiech Kurtyka, Mark Richey, Steve Swensen and Josh Wharton, and includes British alpinists Rab Carrington, Choe Brooks, Martin Boysen, Andy MacNae, John Yates and Dave Wills, the latter partnered on two of his attempts by Brendan Murphy.

The ridge was recently in the news due to an accident and high-stakes helicopter rescue, when Alexander Gukov was rescued after spending six days stranded on the face following the death of his climbing partner Sergei Glazunov.

The summit of Latok I had only previously been reached once by a Japanese team climbing from the south side in 1979.

Livingstone, Česen and Strazar aren’t back yet, but a brief message on the Slovenian Mountain Union website reveals that:

Saturday, August 11, 2018
Aleš, Tom and Luka returned to the base a few hours ago, we climbed a new direction in the north bay and came to the top of Latok 1. Follow ... sleep.

Congratulations!

The ascent took seven days round-trip from base camp. Early reports suggest that they chose a variation off the ridge, taking a line on the face in the upper section, rather than the main ridge. Whatever the exact line, this is a major achievement and we look forward to hearing all the details. 

This was Tom's first Himalayan trip. Congrats Tom, Aleš Česen and Luka.

Views from a previous attempt

One of the previous attempts on the North Ridge of Latok 1 was by a British team which included former BMC staff member Andy MacNae. We asked Andy for his thoughts:

The North Ridge of Latok 1. Photo: Andy MacNae. 

Tell us about the route:

"It is awesome to hear that Latok 1 has finally been climbed from the North. And with BMC funded British involvement too! We tried it in 1991 and it's just the most inspiring line."

What’s the climbing like?

“It’s a massively intimidating 2,500m route with very little easy climbing and what is always in your mind is that you have to get back down the line climbed. We worked out it would take over 90 abseils. So, kudos to the boys and I am looking forward to hearing the full story!"

There’s some discussion on whether their line is the exact line of the ridge. What’s your opinion?

“Some people will always refer back to the 1978 line as definitive, which in my opinion is odd, given the difference in styles. What the boys have done is made the first ascent of a massive face/ridge via the line that went. Doubtless future trips will straighten it out but eyes are probably already moving to the centre of the wall and the very obvious ultra-hard direct line to the summit.”

From Aleš Česen's Facebook:

From Tom's Instagram:


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more like Slovenian-British team than the other way around...
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