History is made: The first summit of tallest unclimbed mountain Muchu Chhish
High above the rugged terrain of Pakistan's Karakoram Range, an extraordinary adventure unfolded as three ordinary people from Makhachkala, Dagestan, embarked on a journey to summit one of the world's most elusive peaks, Muchu Chhish. Ibrahim Najm, Magomed Chimaev, and Abubakr Magomedev, everyday individuals with a passion for adventure, set their sights on this formidable challenge, and their endeavor captured the imagination of mountaineering enthusiasts worldwide.
On September 10th 2023 Ibrahim Najm, Magomed Chimaev, and Abubakr Magomedev became the first humans to summit the tallest unclimbed mountain: 7452m Muchu Chhish (official confirmation still pending as of writing)
Video: Summit of Muchu Chhish at around 7352m (c) Ibrahim Najm
The Quest for the Tallest Unclimbed Mountain
Muchu Chhish, rising majestically to an altitude of approximately 7,452 meters (24,591 feet), is renowned as the tallest unclimbed mountain on Earth. But what exactly does "unclimbed" mean in the context of mountaineering?
An unclimbed mountain refers to a peak that has never been successfully summited by any human before. While it may seem surprising that such towering giants remain unconquered, two key factors contribute to their untouched status.
1. Extreme Difficulty: Unclimbed mountains are often extremely challenging to ascend due to their steep, technical terrain, unpredictable weather conditions, and remote locations. Climbers must possess exceptional skills and experience to even attempt such peaks.
2. Legal Restrictions: Beyond ethical considerations, some mountains are off-limits due to legal restrictions. These legal barriers may be in place to protect indigenous lands, cultural heritage, or for other reasons.
How the expedition unfolded
Ibrahim Najm, Magomed Chimaev, and Abubakr Magomedev represent the spirit of adventure and determination. Hailing from Dagestan, they embarked on a multi-faceted journey to conquer Muchu Chhish, overcoming numerous challenges along the way.
Their preparation included acclimatization in the Caucasus and Zagros Mountains, ensuring their bodies were well-adjusted to the high-altitude environment. They also paid close attention to their blood profiles, focusing on hemoglobin levels and other critical metrics to mitigate the risks associated with high altitudes.
Their journey began with a team of 30 hired porters who shouldered the weight of their gear, transporting it from the airport to the base camp, a crucial logistical step in their expedition. The base camp served as their launchpad for this monumental adventure, and it was there that they made their initial preparations and organized their supplies.
As they embarked on the ascent, they encountered the stark reality of Muchu Chhish's remoteness. The region was far more isolated than they had initially anticipated. This isolation meant that there was no readily available infrastructure or rescue team to provide assistance in case of emergencies. They were, in essence, on their own in the face of this formidable challenge.
They almost faced death multiple times during their journey, having to rest in the most precarious locations. At one point, during the summit climb, they encountered a knife-thin piece of ice, requiring a vertical ascent that was nothing short of perilous. This experience differed from their initial expectations, as they had anticipated a predominantly technical climb. Surprisingly, they found that most of the ascent was an arduous hike, a challenge they would have preferred to a technical climb.
In the final 200 meters, every step they took demanded five deep breaths due to the punishing altitude. On their initial attempt, they had to turn back at 6000 meters due to severe Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), despite months of acclimatization in the Zagros and Caucasus mountains. There were moments when they woke up shaking uncontrollably during their sleep, even though they didn't feel particularly anxious, leading their companions to suspect it might have been an anxiety attack.
Their nights were marked by minimal sleep, ranging from 3 to 5 hours, owing to the harsh conditions. They were compelled to leave their heavy bags at campsites as they struggled to breathe during the ascent. On the descent, their ordeal continued as one of their friends began to hallucinate, a distressing situation. Nevertheless, they managed to survive these challenges and proceeded with their second attempt, even in the face of identical adverse weather conditions.
Their chosen route, the South Ridge, was the same path taken by previous expeditions, recognized as the most accessible route to the summit. However, despite the familiarity of the route, the ascent presented its own unique set of challenges.
High winds at 6000m and turning back
One of the most significant hurdles they faced was the unpredictable weather conditions at high altitudes. As they neared the 6,000-meter mark, they found themselves at a critical juncture. Turning back at this point would have been perilous, as the lack of infrastructure and the remote location left them with very few options for retreat.
Video: High winds on Muchu Chhish at around 6000m (c) Ibrahim Najm
The reason we went on the trip in the first place is because we haves a lot of struggles at home. We never believed we would make it to the top.
Throughout their ascent, they relied on Russian MREs and canned food to sustain themselves. The harsh conditions and extreme altitudes demanded meticulous planning and preparation in every aspect, including nutrition.
Video: Muchu Chhish at around 6800m (c) Ibrahim Najm
Video: Summit of Muchu Chhish at around 7352m (c) Ibrahim Najm
One camp just fully vanished
While the journey of these three climbers is filled with tales of determination and resilience, it is also marked by an unexpected twist. On their way back from their high-altitude endeavors, one of their base camps disappeared beneath the relentless snow, resulting in the loss of not only their planned access to essential gear but also over $10,000 worth of equipment. This serves as a stark reminder of the unforgiving nature of the mountains and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of the summit.
The next peak: The Unclimbed and Unlawful
While Muchu Chhish is often hailed as the tallest unclimbed mountain, there exists another category of peaks that are not only unclimbed but also illegal to ascend. One such example is Gangkhar Puensum, standing at 7,570 meters (24,840 feet) in Bhutan. This magnificent peak remains off-limits to climbers due to Bhutan's strict regulations aimed at preserving the country's culture and environment. Climbing Gangkhar Puensum is prohibited, making it the tallest unclimbed and illegal mountain in the world.
New Tallest Unclimbed Mountains
Kunyang Chhish West Summit (7350m) and Summa Ri I&II (7286) - both in Pakistan - are considered to be the next unclimbed mountains that are legal to summit.
All three climbers are from Makhachkala, Dagestan (Russia).
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