Update, 8/14: A representative from Mountain Equipment, one of Tom Livingstone’s sponsors, told Outside that while they’re still waiting for details on the exact route the climbers took, it appears the team did not in fact do an integral ascent of the North Ridge. Rather, it seems that at a certain point they branched off to the North Face after climbing around two thirds of the North Ridge. The representative did confirm that the trip took a total of seven days, five days up and two down. We will continue to update the story as details become available.
After four decades of attempts by some of the world’s top alpinists, Latok I’s North Ridge has finally been conquered. A team comprised of Slovenians Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar and Briton Tom Livingstone, completed their historic ascent with a safe return to base camp on August 11, according to a post on the Alpine Association of Slovenia’s website. If confirmed, they will have claimed what has been lauded as one of the holy grails of modern climbing.
The line up the 23,442-foot peak in Pakistan’s Karakoram range has eluded climbers since 1978, when an American expedition was forced to turn back just a few hundred feet from the summit after one of its members became too ill to press on. In the 40 years that followed, more than 30 teams have attempted the North Ridge, but none have come close to the original team’s high point.
That is, until July 25, when Russians Alexander Gukov and Sergey Glazunov reportedly came within 600 feet of the peak before being forced to descend due to weather conditions and insufficient food. The disappointment turned to tragedy when Glazunov fell to his death while rappelling, leaving his partner stranded at 20,000 feet for six days before being plucked from the mountain by Pakistani Army helicopters.
Now, less than three weeks later, it seems a group has finally finished those last unclimbed pitches. While details are scant as the team makes their way back to Slovenia, gear company CAMP—one of Strazar’s sponsors—backed up the team’s claim in a congratulatory Facebook post. “...The ‘impossible’ Latok I (7145m) was finally climbed from the north by our Luka Strazar together with Ales Cesen and Tom Livingstone!” They wrote on August 12. “We congratulate Luka and mates for this huge, astonishing achievement.”
Strazar is best known for his 2012 Piolets d’Or for the first ascent of the northwest face of K7 West, while Cesen was awarded the prize in 2015 for the first ascent of the north face of Hagshu. In April, Livingstone forged a new route up the north face of the 9,650-foot Mount Jezebel in Alaska.