Since 1907 when C. W. Rubenson and I. Monrad-Aas came very close to success on Kabru, the 24,000-foot south-western outlier of Kangchen- junga, Norwegian climbers have had several plans for Himalayan expeditions. These ambitions could not be realized until 1950 when sponsored by the Norsk Tindeklub and the Norwegian Geographical Society, following his reconnaissance of the previous year, Professor Arne Naess led his team to Chitral. The attainment of their goal by the Norwegians was largely due to the willing assistance and benevolence of the Government of Pakistan and the friendly co-operation and kindness of the authorities and people of that country. It proved to be of very great value to the expedition that Captain H. R. A. Streather of the Chitral State Scouts was permitted join the expedition. His knowledge of the region, of the inhabitants and their language, together with his capable handling of the porters, was invaluable.
We are glad to learn that a narrative of the expedition will appear in the Himalayan Journal from the pen of Captain Streather and we take this opportunity of thanking him and all his countrymen who, from the very beginning, were always willing to help us.
(Pres. Norsk Tindeklub)
The fact has not been noted, though a photograph indicates it, that the flags planted on the summit were those of Norway, Pakistan, and Great Britain.—Ed.
It was in the summer of 1949, at the hot weather headquarters of the North West Frontier Government at Nathiagali, that I first met Professor Arne Naess. He had come to Pakistan with Arne Randers Heen on a small expedition to the Himalayas and the adja- cent mountains and his particular interest lay in Tirich Mir in Chitral—a mountain that had been strongly recommended to him by Eric Shipton and by Professor Morgenstine, the Norwegian specialist in Afghan and Khowar languages.
He had also heard from Major Foskett, then of the Chitral Scouts, that there appeared to be a south-east ridge which might prove a possible line of assault to the summit. On this information Naess and Heen decided to go to Chitral and hold a reconnaissance on that part of the mountain—I had myself been to Chitral on leave and was able to offer a little advice as to the journey there. I was also able to help by lending a few maps of the Tirich Mir region.
At that time I was not serving in the Chitral Scouts and little did I guess that the following year, not only would I be living in Chitral, but also was to have such luck as to be able to accept the invitation of the main Norwegian party, which was to follow the reconnaissance, to join them as their guest, and to help them with their transport problems.
Naess and Keen were unfortunate on their reconnaissance expedition in that they experienced trouble from their porters, even before they had reached the mountain. From 13,000 feet on they had the thankless task of trekking back and forth between five camps carrying their 350 lbs. of equipment to the highest camp at 19,000 feet. They had, however, expected porter trouble and it had been said that if Tirich Mir were ever to be conquered it would not be with porters from Chitral. The following year I did all I could to prove this saying untrue. Really well-picked Chitralis can hold their own anywhere. I do not believe for a minute that the average Chitrali could compare with an average Sherpa—as a porter, who could? But to condemn the Chitralis as 'the worst porters in the world5, as I believe has been said, is gross injustice.
Tirich Mir, the highest and most easterly peak in the Kindukush range, lies between the Kunar or Chitral river and the Oxus. Latest maps show the west summit to be 25,263 feet and the eastern 25,237 feet. It lies in the centre of the independent state of Chitral. Both to the east and to the west the surrounding mountains are much lower and so Tirich Mir stands out in its isolated glory dominating the entire Chitral valley with its vast shining magnificence. There is little wonder that there has grown up about the mountain, in the minds of those who live under its spell, a multitude of superstitions and myth. The stories have been passed down from generation to generation and are believed, anyway in part, by even the most enlightened Chitralis. It is said that the summit is in the form of a castle inhabited by fairies. The fairies are guarded by frogs, the size of lorries, which live in the crevasses on the glaciers. Anyone venturing on the mountain will probably be devoured by the frogs, but should they survive these, then they are cursed to die within the next year. It is a cheerful thought and I am keenly awaiting to see what our fate is to be. There are said to be people in Chitral who have been up to visit the fairies, on invitation, and have lived to tell the tale. I have yet to meet one.
It was greatly to do with this superstition that we were particularly worried about the possibility of porters refusing to come with us. However, we need not have worried, for Chitral was then going through such hard days that the villagers would do anything for a few rupees. The Methar, or ruler, had been forced to leave, there having been a revolution against his misrule and incompetence- and the State was only just recovering from virtual chaos. Porters were onlt too keen to enlist, but would they be just as keen when they had been carrying a load for a few days and when they were suffering from mountain sickness at the higher camps ? This was to be our great problem—how long could we rely on the porters? So far all previous reports of them had been bad.
There had been but few previous attempts to reach the summit of Tirich Mir. Survey of India officers had been in the region in 1928 and 1929 and had made unsuccessful efforts to reach high peaks suitable for triangulation in the neighbourhood. They had, however, collected useful data covering weather conditions in these years.
In 1935 members of a mainly scientific German expedition to the Hindukush made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the summit from the south.
In 1939 Smeaton, Miller, and Richard Orgill, with some experienced Sherpas, made an attack from the south by the Owir glacier. They reached the ridge between the Dirgol glacier and the South Barim glacier at a point just above what was later to be our Camp V, and between Little Tirich and South glacier peak, as they were later to be known to us. From there they had an impressive view of the south ridge but were disappointed by the steep drop down from South glacier peak to the South glacier col. Looking across the col the south shoulder looked to them to be very steep and uncompromising and they decided to turn back, as they did not think they had sufficient rope and pitons to make a secure fixed ropeway on the steep part of the route. On return to Base Camp they were to hear the grave news of the outbreak of the Second World War and so had to give up any idea of further attempts on Tirich and return to England. When they turned back from the ridge they had not given up hope and had it not been for the war, their attempt may well have succeeded.
After the war climbers of several countries had their eyes on Tirich Mir, but the Norwegians were the first to make definite plans for a reconnaissance in 1949, and a major assault in 1950.
In 1949 Naess and Heen put in much good work, in spite of having been let down so badly by their porters. On nth July they started up the South Barum glacier and reached a point at about 18,000 feet vvhci e the glacier meets the main central pyramid of Tirich Mir. On the south side of the glacier was a formidable ridge with two main peaks which they called Little Tirich, marked on the map as 20,869 feet, and South glacier peak a little to the west at about 22,000 feet. The north side of the glacier was flanked by the steep south-east ridge, which leads directly to the eastern summit of Tirich.
From the Barum glacier the lower slopes of the south-east ridge seemed very steep and so no attempt was at first made to reach this ridge. Instead an attack was made on an S-shaped side glacier, which led to the ridge to the west of the Barum glacier, where the main south ridge of Tirich begins, at about 21,500 feet. Wide crevasses reaching from side to side of the South glacier forced them towards the west until they reached a point just beneath the summit of South glacier peak. They decided that the crevasses themselves would not prevent an expedition from reaching the south ridge, but in the middle of the South glacier were great ice-towers, which seemed very unstable and ready, at any moment, to start ice avalanches. However, that year they did not see even one avalanche on the South glacier but, even so, concluded that it would not be a safe route for a big expedition, which would entail many crossings of the most dangerous places. The wiseness of their decision was proved only too conclusively in the following year, when we were to experience the most terrifying avalanches roaring down the upper part of the South glacier several times a day.
The next few days were spent by Naess and Heen in establishing a camp just below the south-east ridge. The steep 2,000 feet of rocks and snow-gullies did not prove as difficult as they had expected. They reached the ridge on 27th July and followed it sufficiently far to be certain that an ascent by the south-east ridge would be practicable. As they had only two days left at their disposal they did not attempt to establish camps on the ridge.
Home in Norway they were able to report that, with weather conditions as they were in 1949, with uninterrupted sunshine on the slopes between 15,000 and 21,000 feet and with only light snow showers higher up, a major expedition to Tirich Mir would have a very fair chance of success. At the same time, they feared that the fine weather conditions and the resulting avalanche-proof snow would make climbers over optimistic. It would tempt them to climb fast and to site camps in dangerous but convenient positions. If a major snow-storm should break then there would be more chance of disaster than under average conditions. It was quite clear to them from reports of the Indian Survey on weather conditions that, whereas June and July could show long stable sunny periods, at the same time snow-storms and mists at higher altitudes were not uncommon. There had been, at the beginning of June, just before the arrival of the reconnaissance party, a violent snow-storm lasting four days, which had set back the season in the whole of Chitral by about a fortnight. Fruits were late in ripening and snow conditions late into July were still bad, due mainly to this one single storm.
Naess and Heen concluded from their reconnaissances that the south-east ridge would have to be given priority as the likely route of attack to the summit. The South glacier route was in all ways more preferable, but the great danger of avalanches could not be ignored. If, in the following year, both the south-east ridge and the South glacier routes proved impracticable, then there was still a very tempting 'third route,' and short cut, leading directly to the south ridge, just below the summit, between the two main possible routes. This would have been the obvious way for an amateur to choose, but to an experienced mountaineer it was clear that the 'third route' would be suicidal in the event of a major snow-storm, and therefore, when planning a major expedition, it was better to forget about this tempting short cut.
And so it came about that, in Oslo, a major expedition sponsored by the Norwegian Alpine Club and the Norwegian Geographical Society was prepared during the winter of 1949-50 to make an assault on Tirich Mir in the summer of 1950. The party was to consist of five climbers, namely, Arne Naess (38), Hans Bugge (40), Henry Berg (27), Per Kvernberg (32), and Fridtjot Vogt Lorentzen (41), who was also to be doctor to the expedition. There were to be two scientists, Finn Jorstad (27) as geologist and Per Wendelbo (22) as botanist—Ramus Breistein and Arild Nybakken were to accompany as photographers. Professor Abdul Hamid Beg, of the Islamia College, Lahore, was invited to join as liaison officer. The expedition was to be led by Arne Naess.
Soon after I had met Naess in 1949 I was posted to the Chitral State Scouts. I am no mountaineer, but several years of service in the Scouts on various parts of the Frontier had naturally led to a great interest in the mountains amongst which I lived. Leaves spent trekking in Kashmir and Gilgit had fostered this interest and had taught me to look upon the great peaks from a climber's point of view. How well I remember in 1947 spending ten days trekking hard from Srinagar and back just to get a glimpse of Nanga Parbat at dawn, before it was enveloped in clouds. Later I was to have many wonderful views of this great mountain while flying from Peshawar to the new airfield recently built in Gilgit. No one can live in Chitral, dominated as the state is by the vastness of Tirich Mir, without being drawn towards that magic peak—and so it was with great enthusiasm that I read of the plans of the Norwegians for a major expedition in 1950. I wrote at once offering to help in any way I could—for being on the spot in Chitral and having a fair knowledge of local conditions and languages I felt that I was in a good position to help with many problems, particularly the very delicate question of porters. I think even then I had a secret hope that I would get a chance of going high on the mountain but I would not admit this to myself, let alone tin- Norwegians. I was in close touch with Pro- fessoi Beg, and between us w e were able to arrange the details for the reception of die party in Peshawar and the passage of them and their tons of equipment over the Lawari pass into the Chitral and on to the Base Camp.
Pakistan Government authorities were keen to do all they could to help and generously assisted the expedition in every way during the time they were in Pakistan.
On 4th June I met the party at Dir. This was as far as they were to be able to travel by lorry and from here we started our trek through Chitral to Base Camp. Professor Beg had already joined the party at Peshawar, as also had Mr. Chaudri, a young botanist from Lahorewho was to stay with us for some time at Base Camp. The party of climbers as they arrived in Dir were a sad sight and seemed hardly capable of struggling over the Lawari pass into Chitral, let alone tackle Tirich Mir. The long journey from Norway and particularly the last part of their travels across the Sind desert by train had taken cruel toll of their health. I had written to warn them that they could not know the meaning of heat until they experienced the Sind desert in the summer. When they arrived they were more than ready to agree with me. I suspect also that they had been tempted to eat fruit from the dirty bazaar shops. Several days of rest were needed at Base Camp before they were fit again to go on with their work.
Avalanches in the Upper Sona glacier
Naess and Streather on the summit, planting flags of Norway, Pakistan, the United Nations, and Great Britain
Arne Naess near the summit
The journey from Dir to Base Camp was not without event. Our troubles started when we tried to get the hundred or so porters, who were to carry the equipment the first stages, started from Dir. It was late in the morning before the chaos of shouting and arguing ceased, and the last load left on its way.
The main route into Chitral from Pakistan is through Dir State and over the 10,000 fool I.awari pass. All goods going into Chitral must be carried over the pass by pack animals or by coolies. The pass is closed by deep snow, sometimes for weeks on end, during the winter, and it is not possible to get animals over until well into June. If we had been able to carry our equipment on mules our transport problem would have been much simplified, but there were but few animals crossing the pass at the time. Our first night was spent at Ziarat, a small post on the Chitral side of the pass. On the second day we rejoined the few miles of road which have been built in the State, and late in the evening reached the town of Chitral. The lorries in which we travelled had been dragged on the hard snow over the pass by hundreds of coolies many years earlier. Rough use on the roads of Chitral had done them little good and the 26-mile journey from Drosh to Chitral took us nearly four hours. In Chitral the party was welcomed by the Board of Administration which was at the time ruling the State in the absence of His Highness the Mehtar.
Accommodation was arranged in the grounds of the Palace, and a State Banquet was given in the evening. Unfortunately, the party were in no form to appreciate the splendid eastern food, but Professor Beg and I were able to do it full justice. The Assistant Political Agent, Mr. Mir Ajam, was also there to welcome the party to Chitral and he kindly made many arrangements for their comfort. He generously offered to send on mail by porter to us at Base Camp every few days. The Political Agent of Malakand, Major Mohd Yusuf, M.C., who is responsible for maintaining contact between the Paki- slan Government and the three Frontier States of Dir, Swat, and Chitral, was at the time on tour in Chitral. He showed very great interest in the aims of the expedition, and sent us on our way with every good wish for success.
Later, when returning to Peshawar, we were to enjoy the generous hospitality of his charming wife and himself to lunch at his house in Malakand.
After a short rest in Chitral we were ready for the four days' trek which was to take us to our Base Camp. We had engaged fresh porters to carry the equipment, and we were all looking forward to getting up to the cool mountains and away from the stifling heat of the Chitral valley. Even on the mountain it was the heat which was to prove so troublesome to the Norwegians, whereas to Beg, the porters, and I it was a welcome sight to see the sun rise in the morning and slowly feel our blood warm again, having spent the night in freezing agony.
We trekked for two days north, up the main Chitral valley, camping for the night at Koghozi and Barenis. On the third day we crossed the river by a very primitive and frightening bridge at Par- pish and reached Barum. This was the last village before Base Camp, and it was from this district that we hoped to enlist porters who would work on the mountain.
We called for volunteers and many came forward. The next day, 11 th June, Base Camp was established at a height of about 12,000 feet at the snout of the South Barum glacier. Some of the keener and stronger-looking porters from Chitral and from Barum were selected to remain for work between the high camps, and the rest were paid off.
It had been arranged through the kindness of H.Q. Frontier Corps at Peshawar that a wireless station, manned by the Chitral State Scouts, should be established at Base Camp, and should remain there to enable the expedition to be in direct contact with Chitral and through Peshawar with the outside world. This proved very useful when it became necessary to call up further supplies from the porters from Chitral and it meant that news of our success was able to reach Norway the same day as we returned to Base Camp, and not after about a week, as would have been the case if it had had to be sent from Chitral after our return there.
Most of June was spent in establishing advanced Base Camp or Camp IV, near the top of the South Barum glacier, at about 17,800 feet. There were no serious obstacles, and a huge ice-fall between Camps III and IV proved easily climbable by a narrow path of snow on its east edge. Unfortunately, I missed much of this early work as I had been recalled to our headquarters in Drosh, from Base Camp, as there was still some doubt as to whether or not I was to be allowed to remain with the expedition. Eventually I was able to obtain leave and rejoin them at Camp IV later in June.
The three Hunza porters, who were to work with the expedition, were late in arriving at Gilgit, and did not join us until much of the heavy work in establishing the lower camps had already been completed. In many ways this was an advantage, for although only two of them proved fit for the work they were fresh for carrying at the higher camps. The third was a veteran from the German Nanga Parbat Expedition and although keen and efficient was much too old for any climbing. He spent most of the time in hospital at Camp IV. We had held high hopes of the Hunza men being our mainstay for the summit but as things turned out they did not prove better than the best of our Chitrali porters. Apart from the old veteran they were not pleasant to work with, and when the time came to pay them off two of them refused to accept their money, saying it was not enough. This was hard to understand as the Chitrali porters were more than pleased with their pay and the Hunza men were to receive an extra two rupees a day as travelling allowance while on their journey to and from Hunza. We sent their pay on to the Mir of Hunza. From what little I have seen of Gilgit, 1 do not think these two were typical of the likeable straightforward Gilgit people.
Soon after Advance Base Camp had been established the south-east ridge was inspected and it was soon found that the snow conditions were bad as compared with those at the time of the 1949 reconnaissance. It was therefore decided to give up the idea of an attack by this route—anyway until late in July.
These first days in Advance Base Camp were made all the more interesting by the frequency of avalanches from the hanging glaciers on the main Tirich marine. Three times one or more of the tents were levelled to the ground. There was, however, no part of the glacier completely safe from avalanches and so there seemed to be little point in moving the camp.
Having given up the idea of an assent by the south-east ridge, our attention was turned to the South glacier route. On 3rd July Camp V at 19,000 feet was established, and reconnaissance of the upper South glacier was started.
We very soon realized that whatever had been the condition in 1949, the route this year was quite out of the question. The spirit of the glacier had quite changed. Several times a day avalanches were thundering down the steepest parts. The unhappy conclusion was reached that the South glacier route, too, must be given up.
This was a critical time for the expedition. Both the main possible routes of assault had proved disappointing, and the conclusion was forced upon us that we would have to try the more direct but dangerous route—the highly tempting short cut running between the other main routes directly to the south ridge. There was a narrow snow-ridge running from the summit walls of Tirich and looking very attractive from Camp V. It seemed easy to reach about 21,000 feet and from then on it seemed necessary to make a formidable traverse of a steep but very smooth glacier covering the main wall of Tirich. Then there was a last very steep, partly rocky, climb until the upper part of the south ridge was reached at about 23,000 feet. Should we try this route? If the weather held we would have a very fair chance of success. Until then the weather had been very much in our favour and had produced what seemed to be avalanche- proof cone-ridge snow. On the other hand, we were getting well into July, and could we trust the fine-weather conditions to last for ever? If the weather changed and we experienced a major snow-storm above 21,000 feet and particularly on the summit ridge, then complete disaster would be almost inevitable. Both the traverse and the final climb up the summit ridge were highly exposed to snow avalanches and, as any storm inevitably would come from the west, with the prevailing wind, masses of fresh snow would be swept across the very broad summit ridge and would fall down the smooth and steep flanks which we had to traverse. If we saw a storm threatening there may be time to make a rapid descent to Camp V, from even as high as 24,000 feet, but having got height it is unlikely that the mere possibility of a pending storm would deter us from making a bid for the summit. High up only a real storm would halt us, and this would be too late, for even if we survived the storm descent of the steep flanks of the ridge, with fresh snow lying on the old hard snow, would have been well-nigh impossible. Every step would create an avalanche.
It was a hard decision which the leaders had to make, but eventually it was decided that fine weather would be a fair gamble and that we should try the 'third route’.
On 6th July Naess and Bugge held a reconnaissance on the first part of the route, but at about 20,000 feet they reached a step of about 200 feet, on the sharp snow edge. This was covered with waist- deep soft snow and at times it was almost impossible to get a foothold on the very narrow ice-edge under the snow. There was a great tendency to step out to one side or the other, both of which were extremely steep. Danger of starting an avalanche was great and the conclusion seemed warranted that further attempts should not be made here. There was, however, a very strong counter-argument for as yet we had not actually seen one avalanche on the surrounding very steep slopes. Below 22,000 feet all the avalanches seemed to be produced by hanging glaciers which broke off from time to time. The snow-slopes, even the steepest, were in an exceptionally stable condition due to the long spell of fine weather.
If this line of assault should be abandoned then we faced the depressing decision of having to transport all our equipment down again to Camp IV, and then to try again the south-east ridge in the hope that snow conditions there were more favourable than at the beginning of June.
As seen from Camp V it was clear that not only was the ridge very long but also that one could be faced with considerable technical difficulties. The morale of the few porters we then had with us was low, and it seemed unlikely that they would stay with us much longer if there was any further serious delay. Further, my leave was coming to an end and if we were to return to Camp IV I would not be able to stay long enough to help with the porters in an attempt by the south-east ridge.
Although it had tentatively been concluded that the 'third route’ should not be further tried, it was decided that the other climbers should have one more look at the critical 200 feet the next day.
This day was to prove the most cheering we were to have during the climb. Naess and I went up some steep rocks between South glacier and the 'third route’ in the hope that this might prove a possible by-pass to the critical snow-ridge. Although I had not previously experienced any difficult rock climbs of this sort, to follow Naess seemed easy—he climbed with such grace and simplicity, up what from below appeared to me to be quite impossible rocks, that I had no option but to follow.
Away on our right the main party had arrived at the ice-ridge, heavily laden with ropes, ice-axes, crampons, ice-bolts, and snow- shoes. On return to Camp V in the evening we were to hear that Kvernberg had suggested and tried an unusual technique. With snow-shoes attached in a curious way, and with an ice-axe in each hand, he had managed to struggle up the 200-f00t step with a kind of swimming movement through the loose surface snow. The critical place having been secured by fixed ropes, the party returned to Camp V.
That evening, in high spirits, it was decided that next day an attempt to reach the summit by the 'third route’ should start. Lots had already been drawn as to who should be in the first assault. Berg and Kvernberg had been the lucky winners.
On 8th July Camp VI was established, at about 20,500 feet, but when it was seen that this was at the tip of a hanging glacier, efforts were at once made to carry a little higher to Camp VII, at about 21,500 feet.
This first day of the attack, 8th July, was to prove a sad anticlimax after our high spirits of the previous evening. On our way to Camp VII two porters had left us, and only young Abdul Karim and Mutaib, my orderly, were really fit. The effort of carrying the two extra loads between us, in addition to our already overladen packs, had exhausted us all. Late in the evening I had returned to Camp V with Abdul Karim and Mutaib, leaving Naess, Bugge, Berg, and Kvernberg to establish Camp VII. The plan was that, on the following day, they would make a reconnaissance of the route forward, and I should return to Camp VII with Abdul Karim and Mutaib—the three of us to act as porters for the assault.
Unfortunately, things were not to work out as planned. The 9th of July was to prove a fatal day. Early in the morning Abdul Karim came to my tent to say that Mutaib was ill. I very soon learned that this was no understatement. I went to the porter's tent and found him in the throes of an epileptic fit. I had not realized the fight that had been going on in his sub-conscience. In spite of all his outward joking about the fairies, he had now seen them. Inwardly he had been worrying about them from the day we left our headquarters at Drosh. This recalled to my mind an incident that had occurred while I was packing warm clothing for the expedition before leaving. I had a bright red polo-necked jersey that was very warm, and I put this out on my bed with the other things that I should be needing. When I came to packing I found that it had been put back in the cupboard. I asked Mutaib about this and he told me, with a guilty smile, that he had put it away as I could not wear it on Tirich Mir. He told me that the fairies did not like red and if I wore it they would certainly throw stones at me. I did not take this very seriously at the time but the red jersey was left behind. Now, in his mad state in Camp V, I was to see him scream and struggle every time he saw even a speck of red on a label of a tin.
The porters who had fallen out the previous day had left early for a lower camp and, apart from Abdul Karim, the only other person in Camp V at the time was Nybakken, the photographer who followed us to 21,000 feet. It took all the strength of the three of us to hold Mutaib and prevent him throwing himself and us down the steep rock-face to Camp IV. Eventually we had him securely roped and then we had to decide on our next step. Up in Camp VII the others would be wondering why the three of us had not set out to join them with further supplies. Should Abdul Karim and I go on, leaving Mutaib with Nybakken? When I mentioned this idea to Abdul Karim he flatly refused to leave Mutaib. They had become very good friends and he was determined to stick by him now that he was not well. This speaks well for the boy and was typical, as we later learned, of the spirit and manner of this very gallant little Chitrali. There seemed little point in my going up to Camp VII alone, and anyway I did not feci I could fairly leave Mutaib in his present state. I decided to go down as quickly as possible to Camp IV and fetch Lorentzen, the doctor. We had given Mutaib strong doses of sleep- ing-tablets, but these had little or no effect. He continued to struggle and scream and to talk about the three fairies which were sitting on the tent watching him. He was not quiet until Lorentzen arrived and gave him a strong shot of morphia.
When we had not arrived in Camp VII the others had realized that something was wrong, and had amended their plans. They had decided to make an attempt without porters, but their luck had been no better than ours. They were all exhausted after the hard climb, with heavy loads, on the 8th, and on the next day Bugge had developed pneumonia. The advanced party tried to get forward but returned exhausted on the 12th. However, Camp VIII, at about 23,000 feet, had been established, and they were able to confirm that the summit ridge could probably be reached without serious technical difficulty by the 'third route'. To add to our troubles, during this critical period we had experienced a violent earthquake. Avalanches had come down all about us and we were quite sure that our end had come. Later we learned that the epicentre of the quake had been at Tirich Mir. This was little consolation.
Mutaib had to be taken down to Base Camp and sent home to his village, where he rapidly recovered, and Bugge taken down to Camp IV where careful treatment by Lorentzen soon put him right.
It was decided to make a second and last attempt by the 'third route5 when we had rested. Snow conditions were deteriorating and so we could not wait for long. The weather might also change any day.
Bugge and Naess were to have taken the lead in the second assault, but Bugge would not be fit to climb for some time. It was decided that Naess and Berg should go and that I should attempt to accompany them to encourage the porters. Abdul Karim was still with us, although I had had great difficulty in persuading him to stay and not go down with Mutaib, and we had also two of the Hunza porters, who had been in Camp IV and were still fit.
Kvernberg was to try alone, knowing that he could fall back 011 our camps, moving steadily up behind him, if he should experience any difficulty.
On 21 st July, as we reached the summit ridge, at about 23,400 feet, we could see him about 1,000 feet above us, having spent the night in the open, at about 23,500 feet. He had a fair chance of reaching the summit that day. Late that evening he joined us in Camp IX and we learned that he had reached the summit, in beautiful weather, at about 6 o'clock.
The summit ridge did not offer any serious technical difficulties, but the snow was very deep and treacherous. It proved much easier to gain height after we had reached the protruding ribs of rock which led to the ridge.
Camp IX, just as Camp VII and VIII, was nothing more than a small snow cave, but somehow we managed to keep some pretence of warmth and to make plenty of hot drink. The three porters had stayed with us to the last camp, and from there had returned to Camp VII, and then down to Camp V. We had hoped that we might have Abdul Karim with us to the summit, but the last two days had been too much for him and we had to send him down with the others. He had been keen to come on, but was suffering from both head- and stomach-aches, and this was too much even for his indomitable spirit. The hardest job at these high camps was to get the porters started in the morning. We would have liked to have set out early, when the snow was still hard, but it seemed impossible to get them to move until the sun had risen and slowly brought them back to life. By this time they were carrying so little that we would probably have done better to go on without them.
Having reached Camp IX and sent the porters down, Naess, Berg, and I set about making our snow cave. None of us by then was thinking too clearly, and we committed the first of our two serious mistakes that night. We made much too big an opening to the cave, and in the morning were covered by snow, which had been blown in on us by the Strong wind from the west. Later, when we crawled into our sleeping-bags, we committed our second serious mistake. We failed to take our boots into our bags with us and, in the morning, they were, of course, frozen hard. It was some time before the sun had enough heat to melt them, and the few candles we had with us proved of little help. This one mistake might well have spoilt our chance of reaching the summit.
Because of the delay over our boots we were very late in starting, and at one moment it seemed that we would not have time to reach the summit and return to Camp IX before dark. We had with us nothing but cameras and flags and a little extra warm clothing, but even so my rucksack seemed to weigh a ton—as also did my boots. I had slept badly for the last three nights and had little energy left for the summit. Berg did all he could to help me, for which I was more than grateful. It was surprising how well he and I got along together. He could not speak a word of English and I could not speak a word of Norwegian. I soon realized that I was very nearly exhausted when I saw, coming down the snow towards me, a large black elephant—not pink. I ducked down, hoping that it would pass over my head, but when I looked up again it was still there— a small rock firmly bedded in the snow many yards above me.
We reached the summit at about 6 o'clock. The view was magnificent, in spite of the clouds to the north and north-west. The Western Karakoram and the Kashmir mountains, with Nanga Parbat, could be seen above the clouds 150 miles away. We could look down, across the Oxus, into the Soviet Union, and at the same time north-east into Chinese Turkistan. From where we stood, with a turn of the head we could look into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Kashmir, and possibly even Tibet.
A few days later we were all back again at Base Camp. Only then did we appreciate the beauty of this peaceful Morain Camp at the snout of the South Barum glacier. The trees were green and the ground was carpeted by countless mountain plants. For weeks we had seen nothing but snow, ice, and rocks.
We had been very slightly frost-bitten during the last day to the summit, but did not realize this until we had returned to Camp I. We found it difficult to walk for many days, but luckily there were no more serious consequences.
The scientists had been working hard and had gathered much interesting material. They had been in the same camp for nearly two months, but even so were reluctant to leave when the time came to pack for home.
Looking back there seems so many things that contributed to the success of the expedition. The months of careful planning in Norway, the really good, well-chosen equipment, and the vast experience of five of the best Norwegian climbers all played their great part. But I think we should not forget how perfectly the weather favoured us. Surely no one could have hoped for better.
As 'Chief Coolie', as I later became known in Chitral, I should like to pay tribute to those many Chitralis and three Hunzias who worked with us as porters. Although on many occasions they tried our patience to the utmost, and at times even let us down, we could not have achieved success without them. They may have many shortcomings, but I am sure there is not one of us who could but help liking these distant, simple folk. And particularly I shall remember those two gallant Chitrali boys, Abdul Karim from the village of Awi in the Barum valley, who served us so well, and Sepoy Mutaib of the Chitral State Scouts, from the village of Tirich, who was doing so well before he was overcome by the superstition of the mountain. With better luck these two friends may well have reached the summit with us.
Lastly, I must thank the Norwegians for inviting me to join them, and for giving me the chance of being with them to the summit— a privilege and an honour which I shall never forget.