Late last month, we covered the developing story of Alexander Gukov, a Russian climber who had become stranded on the North Ridge of Latok I after his partner, Sergey Glazunov, tragically fell to his death on July 25th. That left Gukov unable to descend on his own. With no food, Gukov’s situation soon became dire.
The seriousness of the situation was enhanced by the fact that many rescue attempts had to be called off because of poor weather conditions. The altitude at which Gukov was trapped (over 20,000 feet) made a helicopter rescue extremely difficult. However, on July 31st an incredible rescue was finally made as a Pakistani helicopter managed to retrieve Gukov, the first successful mission of that kind at a 20K+ foot altitude.
It took eight attempts to finally reach the Russian climber.
The two Russian climbers began climbing Latok I’s North Ridge on July 14th, taking only a five-day supply of food with them. They encountered poor climbing conditions during their entire ascent thanks to the unseasonably warm weather that Pakistan has experienced this climbing season. On July 23rd, the team was just shy of 7,000 meters—the second highest point that any climbers have ever reached on Latok I. Given their shortage of food, Gukov and Glazunov opted to head back down and make another attempt at a later date. During their descent, Glazunov fell to his death, leaving Gukov trapped at about 6,200 meters and unable to descend any further on his own. The distress signal was transmitted by Gukov on July 25th.
On the day of the rescue, a helicopter dropped down a tether with a D-ring attached. Gukov had to attach this D-ring to his harness before being hauled off the mountain by the helicopter. Gukov had actually forgotten to unclip himself from the anchor he’d set in the mountain, and for a few critical moments, he was actually attached to both the mountain and the aircraft trying to rescue him. Thankfully, his anchor gave away and he was carried to safety.
Gukov is currently recovering in a hospital in Skardu, where medical officials have said the climber is in good health.