Muztagh Ata, or Muztagata, is the second highest of the mountains which form the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. It is sometimes regarded as being part of the Kunlun Shan, although physically it is more closely connected to the Pamir. It is also reputedly one of the easiest 7,000 m peaks in the world to climb, due to its gentle western slope and the comparatively drier weather of Xinjiang.
Muztagh Ata lies just south of Kongur Tagh, the highest peak of the Kunlun Shan. Together they form a somewhat isolated group, separated from the main chain of the Kunlun, and also separate from the Pamir Mountains to the west. (Both peaks are sometimes regarded as being in the "Chinese Pamir", and are more closely connected to the main Pamir group than the main Kunlun group.) Not far to the north and east of this group are the lowlands of the Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert. The Karakoram Highway passes very close to both peaks.
The Swedish explorer and geographer Sven Hedin made the first recorded attempt to climb Muztagh Ata, in 1894. Additional attempts were made in 1900, 1904 and 1947, the last by the strong team of Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman who came very close to the summit but were turned back due to cold and deep snow.
The first ascent of the peak was in 1956 by a large party of Chinese and Russian climbers, via the west ridge, which is now the standard route.
Since the first ascent, many ascents of Muztagh Ata have been made. In 1980, a party led by Ned Gillette made a ski ascent/descent of the standard route, the first ski ascent of a mountain over 7,500 m (24,600 ft). An ascent of the much harder south-east ridge was made in 2000.
The Tibetan Plateau, also known as the Qinghai-Tibetan (Qingzang) Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in East Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province in the People"s Republic of China and Ladakh in Kashmir. It occupies an area of around 1,000 by 2,500 kilometers, and has an average elevation of over 4,500 meters. Called "the roof of the world," it is the highest and biggest plateau in the world, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers (about four times the size of Texas or France).
The Tibetan Plateau is surrounded by towering mountain ranges. It is bordered to the northwest by the Kunlun Range which separates it from the Tarim Basin, and to the northeast by the Qilian Range which separates the plateau from the Gobi Desert. In the south the plateau is delineated by the Yarlung Tsangpo River valley which flows along the base of the Himalayas, and by the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain. To the east and southeast the plateau gives way to the forested gorge and ridge geography of the mountain headwaters of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers in western Sichuan. In the west it is embraced by the curve of the rugged Karakoram range of northern Kashmir.
The plateau is a high-altitude arid steppe interspersed with mountain ranges and large brackish lakes. Annual precipitation ranges from 100mm to 300mm and falls mainly as hailstorms. The southern and eastern edges of the steppe have grasslands which can sustainably support populations of nomadic herdsmen, although frost occurs for six months of the year. Proceeding to the north and northwest, the plateau becomes progressively higher, colder, and drier, until reaching the remote Kekexili region in the northwestern part of the plateau. Here the average altitude exceeds 5,000 meters (16,500 feet) and year-round temperatures average -4°C, dipping to -40°C in winter. As a result of this extremely inhospitable environment, the Kekexili region is the least populated region in Asia, and the third least populated area in the world after Antarctica and northern Greenland.
The plateau was formed by the collision of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates near the beginning of the Cenozoic era (approximately 55 million years ago). The tectonic uplift of the plateau is thought to have had a significant effect on climate change, and it is believed to affect the Asian monsoon. In the Indian monsoon season (June to October) when the winds bring humid, tropical air from the south, the Himalayas create a rain shadow which makes northern India very wet and keeps the Tibetan Plateau very dry. As the winds continue over the plateau, they drop what little moisture remains in the air, becoming drier as they move northwards and creating deserts such as the Taklamakan Desert and the Gobi Desert.
Several of the world"s longest rivers originate on the Tibetan Plateau. Between them, these rivers carry 25% of the world"s soil erosion to the sea. These include the Chang Jiang (or Yangtze River), Huang He (or Yellow River), Indus River, Satluj River, Yarlung Tsangpo River ( known as the Brahmaputra in India), Mekong, Irrawaddy River and the Salween River. Its many brackish lakes include Tso Ngonpo, Nam Tso, Dagze Tso, Lake Yamzho Yumco, Lake Puma Yumco and Lake Paiku.
The Tibetan Plateau has experienced a number of glacial advances as indicated by glacial landforms and deposits.