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Estonians First Ever Atop Remote Chinese Mountains

The Himalayas at sunrise
The Himalayas at sunrise Source: Photo: Xinhua/Scanpix

Plucking consolation from mixed results on an extended campaign in China's Kunlun range, seven Estonian mountain climbers became the first ever to summit two peaks and now may have the right to name them.

The actual goal for the Estonian team led by Kristjan-Erik Suurväli was a 6,045-meter peak above the Koktaki glacier, first climbed by Finns two years ago, according to the daily Postimees. The Estonian mountaineering blog said that the mountaineers assessed the situation while in base camp and the 6,000-meter peak would have been too complicated.   

While in the area, the Estonians decided to make for a nearby peak of over 5,000 meters rising above Qontagni glacier. On August 3, Marko Aasa, Priit Joosu and Suurväli made it to the top, where GPS readings showed the altitude to be 5,227 meters. On August 8, the mountaineers followed up with the first-ever ascent of a peak between Kokos and Saldwor glaciers, which appeared on maps as an unnamed summit of 5,419 meters. GPS readings showed the actual height to be 5,740 meters.

The news of the August 3 and 8 ascents trickled out slowly as the mountaineers found their way back to civilization hampered by deep snow and a damaged bridge.  

According to the text messages from Suurväli related in the blog, the descents were technical and conditions were difficult. "Some call the Kunlun mountains snowy, some say gravelly. It's actually the best of both worlds and the cliff faces are very crumbly."

Suurväli said that Priit Simson and Joosu made it to the top of a pyramid-shaped cliff capping the summit of the second peak and planted an Estonian flag there.

In other mountain climbing news, premier Estonian mountaineer and Everest veteran Alar Sikk is preparing for another campaign, this time in Georgia, after being laid low by a stroke at altitude in May.

Sikk was 7,000 meters up Cho Oyu, an 8,000-meter peak in the Himalayas, when he suffered a medical emergency. Sikk said he "made mistakes" on  that climb and was suffering from dehydration. He  now says he takes aspirin and consumes adequate water. Sikk, who is a noted smoker and is often pictured with a cigarette, says he will not quit smoking as recommended by his attending physician in Nepal after a post-stroke examination, according to Postimees.

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