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Alpinists at Large: 1978 Attempt on the North Ridge of Latok I Video

© American Alpine Club

In 1978, a team of American alpinists consisting of Jeff and George Lowe, Michael Kennedy and Jim Donini set off for an unclimbed peak in the remote mountains of northern Pakistan. The infamous attempt is now considered one of the greatest failures in the history of American alpinism.

The team had seen a black and white photograph of the North Ridge of Latok 1 (7145m) and they all shared a vision of what could be achieved with a small group of climbers and a fast and light, alpine approach to a Himalayan expedition. The team's approach differed to other expeditions in the 70s which would seek to establish camps and fix ropes - a method which Jim Donini describes as 'beating the mountain to death.'

Their high point on the ridge still hasn't been matched, despite roughly twenty attempts since. Although a British-Slovenian team of Tom Livingstone, Aleš Česen and Luka Strazar made the first ascent of Latok I from the North, but opted to avoid the ridge line for the last quarter due to the inherent danger.

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25 Jun


And profoundly humbling.


26 Jun

Yes, extraordinary.

I attended a great talk by Jim Donini, about his career as a whole, in Leicester about 9 years ago; after the talk there was a group trip to the pub which Jim joined...but as he was still getting used to manual gear shifting in his rental car, he didn't want to drive and NAVIGATE, so I offered to help as I knew the way and I was not in town with a car. I can now claim to have guided Jim Donini :-D

26 Jun

Truely astounding,


26 Jun

Think you're straight into the hall of fame!

Here's my own - considerably lesser - Jim Donini story. In 1977 (I think - long time ago) he came to the UK on a previous lecture tour. Among other interesting events, he lobbed off the top pitch of Carnage, at Malham. His belayer, John Barker, was pulled up, hit his head off the roof of the cave and was briefly knocked unconscious. Still held the ropes though. John was properly hard.

It was a pretty spectacular fall. The watchers below were suitably bemused. And then one prat muttered, "Oh f*ck, look at that guy soloing!" Although I had a couple of hundred feet of space under my feet, it was all totally under control. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?

Delyth, my girlfriend at the time, was right by aforesaid prat and freaked out completely. Asked me to stop climbing. Blinded by love (or lust?) I did. But, as the weeks slid into months, the longing deepened and deepened. In the end, I needed to go back to it - soloing and all.

The next day we broke up. Just one of those things. Would it have lasted otherwise? Who knows? It wasn't Jim Donini's fault, that's for sure. The next year, he went to Latok...


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