Himalayan Journal vol.07
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.07

Publication year:
1935

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. NANDA DEVI AND THE SOURCES OF THE GANGES
    (H.W. Tilman)
  2. THE GERMAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (FRITZ BECHTOLD)
  3. DIARY JOTTINGS NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (CAPTAIN R. A. K. SANGSTER)
  4. THE SCIENTIFIC WORK OF THE GERMAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (I. GENERAL r. finsterwalder)
  5. A VISIT TO NUN KUN, 1934
    (LIEUT. J. B. HARRISON)
  6. THE PROBLEM OF KANGCHENJUNGA
    (F. S. SMYTHE)
  7. TRAVERSES IN NEPAL
    (J. B. AUDEN)
  8. NOTES ON EASTERN AND CENTRAL NEPAL
    (LIEUT.-COLONEL KENNETH MASON)
  9. SIWALIK EROSION
    (A.P.F. Hamilton)
  10. THE FORESTS OF TIBET
    (Captain F. KINGDON WARD)
  11. SIKKIM RHODODENDRONS
    (P. C. DUNCAN)
  12. ON THE MAP OF THE ZEMU GLACIER
    (RICHARD FINSTERWALDER)
  13. THE GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY OF THE HIMALAYA
    (Lieut.- Colonel Kenneth Mason)
  14. EXPEDITIONS
  15. IN MEMORIAM
  16. NOTES
  17. REVIEWS
  18. CORRESPONDENCE
  19. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  20. CLUB NOTICES
  21. LIBRARY NOTICES

THE GERMAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO NANGA PARBAT, 1934

FRITZ BECHTOLD

When in 1932 Nanga Parbat forced us to return,[1] Willy Merkl began at once to work out a plan for a new attack. Wherever he went he sought supporters. With the enthusiastic help of the Workers' Union, of the German Railways Gymnastic and Sports Associations, of the German Association in Aid of Science, and of the Deutscher und Oesterreichischer Alpenverein, he equipped a new expedition, larger and stronger than the first.

For the struggle against the mountain Merkl chose a party, each member of which he knew to be capable of fulfilling the task allotted to him. The nine mountaineers were: Peter Aschenbrenner of Kufstein, Fritz Bechtold of Trostberg, Willi Bernard, the doctor of the expedition, from Hall, Alfred Drexel and Willy Merkl from Munich, Peter Miillritter from Trostberg, Erwin Schneider from Hall, Willi Welzenbach from Munich, and Uli Wieland from Ulm. The scientific group consisted of the cartographer Richard Finster- walder from Hannover, the geographer Walter Raechl from Munich, and the geologist Peter Misch from Gottingen.

In England, where the conquest of the earth's highest summit, Mount Everest, is regarded as a national event, the idea of a mountaineering expedition akin to it fell on fruitful soil. Both there and in India Merkl found a high degree of support from men of influence, in political as well as in alpine circles. For instance, permission was obtained from the Kashmir Government to enter what is otherwise for Europeans forbidden ground, thus considerably shortening the long march to the mountain. The expedition was therefore saved the long route of 1932 over the three snow-covered ridges, 4,000 metres high, to the Rakiot valley.

Our first expedition to Nanga Parbat suffered again and again from the unreliability of the local porters.[2] For the assault in 1934, therefore, we engaged in Darjeeling, with the help of the Himalayan Club, thirty-five Sherpa and Bhutia porters. These men belonged to that elite corps of porters trained in mountain craft and discipline by the British Mount Everest and the German Kangchenjunga Expeditions. The most famous of them bear names closely associated with the conquest of the Himalaya. Nima Thondup (or Tendrup), Smythe's factotum, a member of every Himalayan expedition since 1921, Wangdi (or Ongdi) Nurbu, and above all Pasang, one of the best of Bauer's Guard of 1929. Then Jigmay Isherung, son of the famous cook, Tenchedar, the interpreter and medicine man, and little Nima Dorje, friendly cook for the heights. As first Sirdar, Lewa was chosen, a man who hitherto had distinguished himself on every expedition by his amazing tenacity and endurance both as mountaineer and as leader. Amongst the porters of the last Everest expedition were first-class men, all of whom had been to Camp 4 (22,800 feet), fifteen in Camp 5 (25,700 feet), and Nima Dorje II in Camp 6 (27,400 feet). It was most interesting to observe the solemnity with which this elite corps exhibited their testimonials. All the famous names of the Himalaya appeared as signatories-Bruce, Ruttledge, Norton, Bauer, Smythe, Birnie, Dyhrenfurth, and the rest. When at the close of these negotiations carried on by Wieland, Merkl appeared in Darjeeling and engaged all thirty-five men, their joy knew no bounds.

On the 2nd of May the whole of our party was assembled in Srinagar. By the courtesy of the Indian Government Capt. R. N. D. Frier and Capt. R. A. K. Sangster were attached to the expedition as transport officers. Capt. Frier was already known to us on the Nanga Parbat expedition of 1932 as a good companion and comrade, his exact local and linguistic knowledge having frequently rendered us priceless service in tight corners.

Our 570 loads were brought up the Jhelum river and across the Wular Lake to Bandipura. Here 600 local coolies awaited us. To facilitate the passage of the Tragbal pass (11,586 feet) and of the Burzil pass (13,775 feet) the march was made in two sections with a day between each on the Gilgit road. Kashmir has peculiar regulations for its transport traffic. The activities of pony-men and coolies are sharply defined. After going one or more marches new men and animals must be engaged and the others paid off. This was our experience in Gurais after the crossing of the Tragbal pass.

The crossing of the wintry Burzil pass made severe demands on the porters and on the whole organization. On the 7th May we had achieved this, the most formidable obstacle of the march. The rest of the journey was accomplished more simply and with less friction than in 1932. On the 13th May we left the wild rocky gorges of the mountains and descended into the flat sandy basin of the Indus. At Talliche we crossed the Indus before the melting of the snow. Here we had our first view of Nanga Parbat at the head of the valley opposite. Slowly the mighty ice-wall emerged from the clouds. The distant mountain shone like silver floating in the air, and all of us knew that she had taken possession of us.

The rest of the way led along the road to Chilas, one seldom trodden by Europeans. After six miles we reached the Rakiot bridge, suspended airily over the chocolate-coloured waters of the Indus. The summit of Nanga Parbat, 26,660 feet1 in height, stands about 23,000 feet above this spot-the greatest relative difference in height on the earth. The Rakiot bridge was in fact the end of our 200-mile march from Srinagar, and exactly four weeks had passed since we left Munich. Yet, in spite of Merkl's preparations, and notwithstanding the happy co-operation of all members of the expedition, this march would not have been accomplished with so little friction but for the help afforded by the British and Indian authorities and by the Kashmir Government.

Since we intended, as in 1932, to attack Nanga Parbat from its safest and easiest flank, the north-east side, we climbed the narrow path leading steeply into the Rakiot valley. As we reached the Marchenwiese (the 'Fairy Meadow'), Nanga Parbat seemed to awake out of her wintry sleep, and great ice-avalanches thundered down unceasingly into the Rakiot valley.

At the edge of the snow the local coolies were dismissed, and forty newly arrived Baltis were taken on. On the 25th May, when the first baggage train had reached the main camp after very great difficulty owing to the deep snow, the first breach had been made in the mountain's defences. Further transport parties followed. While work was continued on the base camp (3,967 metres =13,025 feet),2 the first assault on the mountain was begun on the 27th May. The advance party, consisting of Aschenbrenner, Drexel, Schneider, and Welzenbach, with sixteen Darjeeling porters, had the task of finding a way through the wild rifts of the Rakiot glacier to Camp 4 and of establishing the first few camps.

From low down on the glacier the mighty realm of Nanga Parbat is suddenly revealed. High above flames the first gleam of dawn. Slowly a dazzling glory flows down and over the 4,000 metres of massive wall to the glacier below, and from its icy flanks burst forth the first avalanches of the day. We gaze aloft at the mountain as to something unreal. Yet, though it can overwhelm man, it can exalt him to the knowledge that it is ever and again the victorious spirit of man that reaches out to the last limits of space.

1 The latest Survey of India map, dated 1934, gives 26,660 feet (8,120 m.). Burrard gives 26,620 feet in his Table III, page 2, Sketch of the Geography and Geology of the Himalaya Mountains and Tibet, Part i, 2nd edition, 1933. Bechtold's paper in German and his sketch-map gave 8,136 m. (26,712 feet); Finsterwalder's stereo- photogrammetric survey 8,126 m. (26,680 feet).-Ed.

2 Heights have been corrected throughout to those obtained by the stereo- photogrammetric survey.-Ed.

The first assault was favoured by the most splendid weather and excellent snow conditions. In spite of hard work and many false paths amid the ice precipices and crevasses, the advance party made rapid progress. Camps i and 2 were established almost at the same spots as in 1932. Between ice towers of gigantic size, the advance guard opened a route farther to Camp 3. Parties of porters climbed up daily with supplies. On the 4th June Bechtold and Miillritter were established at Camp 2 (5,350 metres = 17,566 feet), and organized the transport from here. Sahibs and porters were in the best of form. Everything seemed to point to Camp 4 being established and stocked with food in a few days, when a terrible blow of fate broke the power and the elan of the assault. On the evening of the 7th June Alfred Drexel, who had been feeling unwell, came back to Camp 2 suffering from violent headache. The same night his condition became decidedly worse. Messengers were sent post-haste- for help. All the powers of the expedition were put in motion to save his life. On the afternoon of the 8th June, Bernard, the doctor, arrived at Camp 2, and at 3 o'clock during the night Wieland with those two trusty porters, Pasang and Pal ten,1 arrived with oxygen. It was too late! At twenty minutes past nine in the night Drexel had died of inflammation of the lungs, in the arms of his comrades.

With Alfred Drexel the expedition lost a mountaineer of the first rank. The assault on the mountain was postponed in order to give our comrade a worthy burial. Both piety and reason dictated the solemn funeral. Without it, the Balti porters most certainly would never have gone beyond Camp 2. The organization of an assault on an 8,000-metre peak demands that everything on the lines of communication must be left in order. We prepared a mountaineer's grave for the dead on a moraine mound above the main camp below the blue light of the eternal snows. Nanga Parbat herself watches over his deep peace.

The renewal of the struggle with the mountain was now the set purpose of all of us. The trusty Darjeeling porters had given a wonderful proof of their fidelity. Some of them-Pasang, Pal ten, Angtenjing, Nima, and Kusang-had in their attempts to save Drexel's life accomplished within twenty-four hours the work of three or four days. On them we could rely absolutely. With a new assault on the mountain we knew that they'would work hard and willingly. Even while we were still at the grave-side, planting it with flowers, Lewa took twenty Balti porters to Camp 4 with loads. Capt. Frier and Herr Kapp, the German Consul from Bombay, who spent his furlough with us in the main camp, arranged and managed the transport. At this time a Job's messenger brought news of a delay in the arrival of our tsampa supplies, due to a snowstorm on the Burzil pass. Tsampa, or ground barley, is the indispensable food of the Darjeeling porters for the higher regions. Before the arrival of the supply we could not begin the assault. Thus we again lost some precious days of fine weather. At last, on the 22 nd June, the second assault started in the high camp. By the end of June Camp 4 had been established as an advanced base, and the whole of the assaulting party was collected there at 6,185 metres (20,307 feet).

1 Or Palden.

The way chosen in 1932 to the summit ridge of Nanga Parbat across the steep 800-metre wall, called by us then the Mulde or 'Trough', was impassable in 1934 owing to the threat of avalanches. We were also anxious to get out of the sun-drenched snow-hollows on to the open ridge. If the new plan, whose most ardent advocate was Aschenbrenner, should succeed, then we should save ourselves the intermediate Camp 6 of 1932. The only question was whether it would be possible to make a safe route for the porters over the bold Rakiot Peak.

On the 26th and 29th of June Aschenbrenner, Schneider, Welzen- bach, and Miillritter took two parties of laden porters to Camp 5. Meanwhile, preparations were made in Camp 4 for the assault on the mountain. Merkl and Sangster arranged with Lewa the distribution of the porters. Wieland laboured untiringly, weighing out food for the higher regions in 50-lb. loads. On the 1st July the start was made. The whole camp breathed desire for the assault. It was bitterly cold, the thermometer registering inside the tent 13 degrees of frost.

As regards acclimatization to altitude, the 500 metres difference in height between Camp 4 and Camp 5 was a considerable jump. Movement became slower, pauses for breath between strides longer. Steep and exposed, the road wound upwards over the snow slopes, and it was here that Lobsang, one of the strongest of the Darjeeling porters, unfortunately became ill and had to be sent back to Camp 4.

The site of Camp 5 (6,690 metres=21,965 feet) was in many respects excellent. It was so near the foot of the Rakiot Peak that after a thorough rest we were fresh to attack the decisive and arduous wall. We had an unobstructed view of the long gleaming chain of the Muztagh-Karakoram, the mighty K2 (28,250 feet) and the incredibly bold Muztagh Tower (23,710 feet). There were now about 15 loads of food for the higher regions in Camp 5. It fell to Mullritter, who had also come up, to see that these were carried to the higher camps. Bernard, in Camp 4, organized the carrying parties from here to Camp 5, and Frier and Sangster had charge of the transport from the Base Camp. On the 2nd July we brought the packs, which had been deposited under the saddle of the Rakiot Peak, to Camp 5. Meanwhile, Aschenbrenner, Schneider, and Welzenbach attacked the ice-wall of the Rakiot Peak. We watched them with astonishment and some anxiety; they appeared to us like flies on the steep wall, as they drove in their ice-pitons, and arranged a rope balustrade. The whole wall had to be provided with a safe ladder, so that a safe descent could be made in bad weather.

The next morning Mullritter went down to Camp 4, while Merkl, Welzenbach, Wieland, and I, with Angtenjing and Kitar set to work to prepare the upper half of the ice-wall. Slowly we approached the gap in the rocky northern ridge of the Rakiot Peak, which still hid from us the sight of the route beyond. At last we sat down on the sunny rocks and breathed freely. But our first look was not to the mighty summit bastion of Nanga Parbat, but to the long traverse that led over to the snow ridge of the 'Silver Saddle'. There appeared to be no great difficulty, and we set to work to make the whole of the steep wall safe with ropes from above. Such work at a height of 22,300 feet is terribly difficult and tiring. When we had finished, nearly 600 feet of rope hung on the steep Rakiot wall; with its aid we descended quickly, and reached camp tired out.

On the magnificent morning of the 4th July Merkl roused the whole camp early and gave his last instructions for the start. In excellent order the single parties set out. Schneider and Aschenbrenner, unhindered by packs and porters, were to prepare the traverse across the west wall of Rakiot Peak. At definite intervals, Merkl, Welzenbach, Wieland, and I followed with seventeen Darjeeling porters. Some of these had never been on so steep an ice- wall. The route across it was certainly the limit in difficulty for laden porters. To-day the high altitude school of the 'Tigers' was to be put to the test on Nanga Parbat. Everything went perfectly. If one looked back for a moment one saw behind one the smiling, ardent faces of these men. On the ridge above there was a section of the route that called for the greatest care and attention. Below the ice-covered rocks the wall breaks steeply away to the upper glacier surface of Camp 4. The advance guard had meanwhile stretched here a rope balustrade. All the porters, safeguarded on both sides, were brought over this difficult and exposed place. Slowly we approached the flat snow saddle in which the famous Camp 7 of 1932 had stood. This is the beginning of that sharp snow ridge leading upwards to the 'Silver Saddle'. While we pitched our tents here, Nanga Parbat slowly unveiled her icy magnificence. From the surge of the sea of fog below us emerged, 5,000 metres in height, the enormous southern buttress of the main summit. The porters left their work and gazed with us at the mountain.

Once the Rakiot Peak, the strongest bulwark of the mountain, had fallen, the conquest of Nanga Parbat seemed to us only a matter of three or four days. The weather that for days had treated us regularly to a magnificent morning and, after a brief midday mist, to a splendid evening, seemed most favourable for the assault. A proof of our satisfaction is shown by the fact that not one of us had raised a doubt about the weather during these days. In Camp 6 (6,955 metres = 22,835 feet) we had all slept excellently in spite of the cramped position inside the tent. But the morning brought us no joyous awakening. Three of our best porters, Angtenjing, Pal ten, and Nima, declared themselves mountain sick, and begged permission to descend without being accompanied.

The porter question became still more precarious when the day afterwards in Camp 7 (7,105 metres=23,328 feet), lying below the last steep slope of the 'Silver Saddle5, two other men, Tondu [Ten- drup?] and Norbu, were rendered useless by illness. They were so exhausted that it was with the utmost difficulty that I was able to bring them down to Camp 4. Norbu's exhaustion was like a complete faint, and lasted two days.

When I departed from Camp 7 on the morning of the 6th July it was a magnificent, clear morning.[3] This is proved beyond doubt by several films and photographs taken at that time. It was only in the belt between Camp 5 and Camp 4 that we got into fog during our descent and later into a blizzard. As, however, Bernard and Mullritter said that bad weather had been raging for days in Camp 4, while on the ridge above the sun had been shining, we had not the slightest fear for the situation of the advance party. On the contrary, I was convinced that the summit would be captured on the 7th July. It was only the depth of the new fallen snow and the continued blizzard that prevented supplies from being sent up.

Meanwhile, the assault on the mountain was continued with energy. On the 6th July, Aschenbrenner, Schneider, Welzenbach, Merkl, and Wieland, with eleven porters, reached the 'Silver Saddle' (7,451 metres=24,464 feet), and with that the great snow plateau. The two east and the north summits form its corner stones. To the south-west it ascends slightly, and ends in a snow dome 7,910 metres (25,971 feet) in height, behind which a sharp snow-ridge leads upwards to the main summit. While Merkl, with Wieland and the porters, had remained somewhat behind, Aschenbrenner and Schneider in a strong wind climbed over the plateau upwards in order to push Camp 8 farther towards the summit, and to find a place sheltered from the wind. The view over the free unencumbered way further filled them with the joy of battle and the confidence of victory. When about 2 o'clock the last porters with Wieland emerged on the 'Silver Saddle', they decided to wait for them under the summit of the before-mentioned snow dome (7,700 metres=25,280 feet). They believed they were then about four or five hours' climb from the main summit.

In spite of the blue sky the storm increased vastly towards evening and became during the night a raging hurricane. The large tent1 in which Merkl, Welzenbach, and Wieland lay was bent completely double by the terrible blasts of wind. It was not till the following morning that it was possible to fasten it down with ropes. The tent walls clattered unceasingly in the blizzard, but the climbers believed that the weather would improve. The rucksack for the assault on the summit remained ready packed. It contained little, but everything that was most important, the flag for the summit, a camera, and something to eat. On the morning of the 7th July, however, the storm raged so vehemently that the advance party had to give up their plans for the summit, and once more took refuge in their tent. With maddened speed dense clouds of wind-driven snow raged over the plateau and hid the sun, so that it was quite dark at 10 and 11 o'clock in the morning. Both sahibs and porters felt comparatively safe in their tents, and no one suffered from the bitter cold. Nevertheless, the terrible storm prevented the preparation of the simplest meals, although the besieged had actually enough provisions for five or six days. The hurricane increased from hour to hour. A second terrible night at Camp 8 was passed while it raged. The morning of the 8th July brought no improvement in the weather. Existence in the tent became almost unbearable.

All were now agreed that the first assault on the summit had failed. Merkl, therefore, gave orders for the descent to Camp 4. Aschenbrenner and Schneider were to go in advance with Pasang, Nima Dorje II, and Pinju Norbu to make the track. Merkl, Welzenbach, and Wieland were to follow immediately with the other porters. At the common start all were fit enough for the descent. Not a single one of the party 'thought only of flight and saving his life' as Marcel Kurz has written. On the contrary, the march down from Camp 8 took place with full reflection and in the best order. The storm on the 'Silver Saddle' was so fierce that the first party had to exercise the utmost care during the descent of its steep flank. Schneider went 1 Camp 8, height by stereo-photogrammetry, 7,480 m. = 24,560 feet.

first, the porters next, and Aschenbrenner brought up the rear, ready at any moment to arrest a fall. About 100 metres below the gap Nima Dorje II was torn by the storm from the steps. It was only with the utmost difficulty that Pasang and Aschenbrenner succeeded in holding him on the rope, and so saving the whole party from death. But the storm had swept the sleeping-bag from Nima Dorje's back. Like a balloon the big pack sailed away over the Rupal side of the crest. The five men had now only one sleeping-bag, and it therefore became absolutely necessary to reach either Camp 5 or Camp 4 that same day if they were not to be frozen. In the raging snow-storm it was impossible to see more than 10 metres ahead, so that many false tracks were made. To save the porters from making these exhausting detours, Aschenbrenner and Schneider unroped themselves from them on the easier ground opposite Camp 7, telling them to follow immediately in their tracks. When the storm tore the clouds asunder for a moment they saw the second party coming down from the 'Silver Saddle'.

After superhuman efforts Schneider and Aschenbrenner, completely exhausted and covered with ice from head to foot, reached safety in Camp 4 the same evening. They had lost sight of the porters, but believed them, together with the second party, close behind them. We waited in Camp 4 the whole evening and the whole night expecting them, but Willy Merkl and his men did not come.

Pasang, Nima Dorje II, and Pinju Norbu got no farther than Camp 7, where they spent the night in the tent that had been left behind. The plight of the main party was worse, as they had to rig up a secondary camp under the 'Silver Saddle' without a tent. How it was that our comrades with their porters only covered such a short distance on the 8th July will never be satisfactorily explained. The only four of these brave porters of the second party who returned related that Merkl and Wieland were incapable of going farther. This does away with the suggestion that with a more complete equipment of Camps 6 and 7 the disaster might have been avoided. It was the sufferings entailed by the terrible bivouac on the night of the 8th in the raging blizzard that led to the rapid exhaustion which prevented the greater part of the main party from reaching safety in the lower camps. Nima Norbu died the same night in the secondary camp. In the morning Merkl's right hand and both of Wieland's hands were frostbitten.

During the descent on the 9th July Angtsering, Gaylay, and Dakshi had to stay in the secondary camp as they were partly ill, partly snow-blind. Uli Wieland died the same morning, 30 metres in front of the tent of Camp 7. Merkl and Welzenbach remained alone in this camp while Kitar, Da Thondup,1 Nima Tashi, and Kikuli descended farther. On their way over the ridge they tracked breast-deep in snow. The storm was so terrible that they could not reach Camp 6 and were forced to shelter in a snow cave a short distance from Pasang's party without knowing it.

10th July in Camp 4. A day of storm in whose icy breath the mountains smoked. On the 'Silver Saddle5 and from the ridges snow pennons hundreds of metres long were driven horizontally over the Rakiot side of the mountain. In the afternoon seven men were seen descending the ice wall of the Rakiot Peak. These men were the now united parties of Pasang and Kitar. Once more we tracked up to the steep slope above Camp 4, where our further progress was once more made impossible by our sinking in impassable snow. This had already happened previously when attempting to send on supplies or rescue parties. There were now, however, only four men who waded down to us: Pasang, Kitar, Kikuli, and Da Thondup. Their comrades Nima Tashi and Nima Dorje II had died amid the ropes of the Rakiot Peak, and Pinju Norbu 3 metres before the safety tents in Camp 5. The four brave survivors were absolutely exhausted, at the end of their tether; all four had badly frost-bitten hands and feet. Bernard carefully gave them a little soup, and then each of us took a porter by the arm and brought him gently to Camp 4. Throughout the first half of the night we rubbed their frost-bitten toes and fingers with snow. At last, at midnight, Kitar was so far restored that he was able to give us an account of those terrible days of storm on the ridge.

During the night of the 11 th July poor Dakshi died up in the secondary camp above Camp 7. The next morning Gaylay and Angtsering descended to Camp 7, where Merkl and Welzenbach had remained. Every morning for a few minutes when the storm clouds parted they could see our rescue party climbing up from Camp 4; they did not know how we were for ever being repulsed by storm and deep snow. So they waited in quiet hope that help would come.

At last on the 12 th July Aschenbrenner, Schneider, and Miillritter, with Norbu, Angtenjing, and Lobsang, succeeded in reaching Camp 5. They went without loads of any kind only to blaze a track in the flood of snow. They reached Camp 5 after the most arduous work, lasting for six hours, and found poor Pinju Norbu lying in the snow in front of the tents. Aschenbrenner and Schneider wanted to bring down the bodies of Nima Dorje and Nima Tashi from the ropes of the Rakiot Peak, but a renewal of the storm drove them back. Late in the evening they arrived back, completely exhausted, in Camp 4.

1 Dawa Tendrup.

Willi Welzenbach died during the night of the 13th July in Camp 7. On the morning of the 14th the last survivors descended towards Camp 6, Merkl painfully supported by two ice-axes. At the ascent of the 'Mohrenkopf' his strength gave out. Here they built themselves into a small ice-cave.

From down below in Camp 4, a man was seen pressing forward across the level saddle. Now and again the storm bore down a cry for help. The solitary figure reached and came down over the Rakiot Peak. It was Angtsering, Willy Merkl's second orderly, who at length, completely exhausted and suffering from terrible frost-bite, found refuge in Camp 4. With almost superhuman endurance he had fought his way down through storm and snow, a hero at every step. Since he brought no letter from Merkl or Gaylay, his simple tale was the last news of the heroic struggle of our comrades and their faithful porters high on the ridge above.

On the 15th and 16th July Schneider and Aschenbrenner, throwing sense and reason to the winds, once more made a rush to Camp 5-using their last reserves of strength and with no prospect of success. It was in vain. Again and again they were engulfed in the gigantic flood of freshly fallen snow.

On the 17th July Raechl and Misch, who had returned to the base camp from their scientific tour round Nanga Parbat, and had come up to Camp 4, undertook one last attempt at rescue. They too were beaten back.

The weather remained bad. The last cry from above had ceased. Willy Merkl and his trusty porter were no more. Merkl, throughout his life the best of comrades and the staunchest of friends, was to receive in his last days a testimony of comradeship as yet unknown in the history of the Himalaya. Gaylay, who might possibly have saved himself with Angtsering on the 14th July, stayed with his master and kept troth with him till death.

It was impossible to contemplate a further assault, nor even to reach our dead. We could give them no coffin, but in our hearts they are enshrined. By the 22nd July all the lower camps were struck. And as we left the Rakiot valley in early August, the terrible memory of those days of storm was laid to rest. As our backward glance at the mighty mountain grew more distant and all embracing, so grew ever greater the picture of our dead comrades and porters who gave their lives in combat for a great aim.


[1] 'The Attack on Nanga Parbat, 1932.' By Willy Merkl, Himalayan Journal, vol. v, pp. 65-74.

[2] It must be remembered that these men were inexperienced and completely untrained in technical mountaineering.-Ed.

[3] I stress this point because M. Marcel Kurz, in his article 'Le desastre au Nanga Parbat', in Die Alpen, says that the weather at Camp 7 on this morning was hopelessly bad. [See also Captain Sangster's diary printed below. No mention is made of bad weather on the 6th, and progress was rapid.-Ed.

Telephotography of Summit Plateau between East Peak (left) and North Peak (right)- Nanga Parbat

Telephotography of Summit Plateau between East Peak (left) and North Peak (right)- Nanga Parbat



Nanaga Parbat and Rakiot Valley from Jalipur Peak

Nanaga Parbat and Rakiot Valley from Jalipur Peak



Among the seracs below Camp 2

Among the seracs below Camp 2



Among the seracs below Camp 2

Among the seracs below Camp 2



Ascent to Camp 3

Ascent to Camp 3



Ascent to Camp 2

Ascent to Camp 2



The Route to the 'Silver Saddle'

The Route to the 'Silver Saddle'



Nanga Parbat from Buldar Peak

Nanga Parbat from Buldar Peak



Summit of Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft.) from Camp 6 (22,835 ft.)

Summit of Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft.) from Camp 6 (22,835 ft.)



Summit of Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft.) showing Southern Precipice on left

Summit of Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft.) showing Southern Precipice on left