The idea of going to the Himalaya was first broached two years ago. Several of us were very keen but all who had wanted were, in the event, unable to go and the actual composition of our party was: E. P. Hillary (Auckland), W. G. Lowe (Hastings), F. M. Cotter (Christchurch), and myself.

We had not all climbed together before so, in company with W. B. Beaven, one of the original planners, we all went into the Burton during the 1950 1 season as a dress rehearsal, though that trip meant a good deal more to ns than that.

It had become clear that the Garhwal district was the only feasible project and permission finally came through early in 1951. It would be difficult for a parly visiting the Himalaya for the first time to make forward arrangements were it not for the Himalayan Club, who engaged four Sherpas for us. After we had all made our contributions there was still a gap in the budget and I want to say how very much we appreciated the financial help from members of the N.Z. Alpine Club and other friends. We thank all of them for their support then and we also thank most warmly the Everest and Cho Oyu expeditions for all they did to help us.

The months before our departure were very busy and the pace and excitement became more hectic day by day. We left Auckland by air on 3rd May and three weeks later were in India.

The Indian scene had a fascination of Ms own, as we saw it on the long, hot, dusty, five-day train join uey from Colombo up to Madras and Calcutta, and across to Lucknow and Kathgodam. Business is dead slow and we spent hours in a bank at Calcutta arranging money matters. The climax of the heat came in Lucknow. As we journeyed to the U.P. Government buildings in the afternoon by rickshaw, the temperature was 113 degrees in the shade. We wanted to make sure that an Inner Line Pass would be issued to enable us to visit the Tibetan border in Garhwal. On the 30th May we arrived at the beautiful, cool hill-station of Ranikhet, situated on the crests of pine- forested hills and looking out over deep, terraced valleys to the summits of Nanda Devi and Trisul in the distance.

There was much to be done in Ranikhet; the gear to be sorted into 60 lb. loads, coolies to be engaged and food supplies to be bought from the local bazaar. Mr. Frapolli, the proprietor of the West View Hotel and a member of the Himalayan Club, gave us invaluable help. Our four Sherpas arrived, cheerful, hard-looking characters who soon showed that they were willing workers. There was Pasang Dawa Lama, Nima, his brother Thundu, and Ylla Tenzing, the 4boy' of the party, aged 33. No doubt they looked on our inexperience with tolerance. Pasang was a fortunate choice—an exceptionally capable mountaineer and organizer. The fact that he spoke English solved our language problems.

On the 2nd June 1951 we set out on the ten-day walk through the foot-hills to Badrinath with thirty Dhotial coolies. One traverses a series of deep forested valleys, with many small villages and terraced fields, and crosses a series of passes which culminate in the Kauri Khal, just over 12,000 feet high. From here the high Himalayan peaks of Nilkanta, Kamet, Dunagiri, Nanda Devi, and many others are seen in their true perspective. And they look colossal. Once in amongst them, in the high mountain valleys, they are closer to the scale of the New Zealand mountains.

The pilgrim route to the famous Hindu shrine of Badrinath follows the great deep-cleft gorge of the Alaknanda river. At Badrinath (10,200 feet), across the river from the temple and the numerous pilgrim rest-houses, there is a comfortable dak bungalow which looks up a narrow side valley to the conical ice summit of Nilkanta (21,640 feet), only 5 miles distant. Here we paid off our Dhotial coolies and sorted out three weeks' supplies for our first mountaineering venture. The Himalayan Club had recommended us to try Nilkanta and Mukut Parbat (23,760 feet). These had been chosen as our main objectives. There has been much written on Nilkanta. Its magnificent proportions and difficulty have made it famous, but on the subject of Mukut Parbat, which had not been attempted, we could find no information. It had been described to us as 'a lovely unclimbed mountain near Kamet'.

Nilkanta has three ridges; south, east, and west. Smythe had attempted the south ridge and attempts had been made recently on the south and west ridges by Wylie's party. The east ice ridge is apparently considered unclimbable and the south and west ridges are both defended by big pitches of steep rock but Wylie considered the west ridge to be the more feasible proposition of the two. It was this west ridge that we now proposed to attempt from the Satopanth glacier.

After a haggle over pay, eleven Mana porters were engaged to carry our gear up the Satopanth. Mana is the last village below the Tibetan border, at the junction of the Satopanth and the Alaknanda. Its inhabitants are a hardy and independent mixture of Tibetan and Indian blood. It was a two-day journey up the Satopanth, camping the first evening on a pleasant grazing alp, and establishing a base camp at 13,500 feet on the lateral moraine of the Satopanth glacier on the second. The Satopanth is a rather barren valley before the monsoon but dominated by two magnificent mountains, Nilkanta rising 8,000 feet to the south and the great mass of Ghaukamba dominating the head. The weather was a rather unpleasant surprise —heavy clouds coming up every afternoon and some heavy snowfalls around base camp. The steep rock west ridge of Nilkanta looked a difficult proposition and would be hopelessly out of condition with all this snow. Nevertheless, after spending several days waiting for the weather to improve and making a reconnaissance of the northern aspect of the mountain, we decided to go up to the snow col (approximately 18,500 feet) at the foot of the west ridge.

The fact that we did the 5,000-foot climb to the col in one day shows our lack of experience of Himalayan conditions. In addition we were foolish enough to carry 30-35 lb. each. The last 1,000 feet up steep slopes of deep soft snow took five hours. The Sherpas followed behind with heavy loads, while we plugged steps in turn, ahead. Two two-man tents were pitched just below the col, in near blizzard conditions. The Sherpas hurried back to base. The weather held us in next day but the Sherpas, misunderstanding their instructions, showed their keenness by returning with more supplies, after the briefest of rests. The weather was better the following day, the 21st June. The 1,200 feet of rock, rising abruptly from the col towards Nilkanta, looked out of the question but there was a virgin peak (20,550 feet) to the west, which might be reached along a long snow ridge. So off we went but we didn't get far. The big day up to the col had weakened us to an amazing degree and soft snow conditions finished us off.

It did not take so long to cover the same ground, in our old steps, on a second attempt the following day and we pressed on towards Peak 20,550 feet. We were still going far from strongly, and trudged on in a sort of stupor, plugging steps in turns. The ridge was heavily corniced 011 our right above long steep ice-slopes (on the Satopanth side), and fell away with increasing steepness on the other side. We kept well back from the edge. Suddenly there was a loud crack and a great rip opened up to the left 6f three of us. We awoke with a start and jumped to safety while the cornice roared off towards the Satopanth. It was a near thing and a very good lesson. This forced us down on to much steeper slopes. We pushed on for a little but were completely without the strength to do the two or three hours' more work required to reach the summit. We turned back just under 20,000 feet and returned to camp. It was obvious that a rest was needed. The decision was made to return to Badrinath for a few days, before going up to the Tibetan border to attempt Mukut Parbat.The monsoon should arrive soon and better weather could be expected up there. Two Sherpas appeared, just as we arrived back at camp. They cheerfully shouldered enormous loads in order to evacuate the camp. Snow conditions were bad and the descent of the top 1,000 feet had to be taken slowly and with care. Climbing results were nil but we had learned quite a lot, mainly that we could not go at anything like the same pace as in New Zealand.

Mukut Parbat, the last 3,000 ft. Camp III site on upper ice shelf in middle distance

Mukut Parbat, the last 3,000 ft. Camp III site on upper ice shelf in middle distance

Mukut Parbat and Chamrao Glacier, Distant snow peak 22,180 ft. on extreme left also climbed by party

Mukut Parbat and Chamrao Glacier, Distant snow peak 22,180 ft. on extreme left also climbed by party

In the last week of our trip, while the other three climbed Peak 20,760 feet, I returned to Nilkanta with Pasang and Thundu and a Mana coolie, a youth named Gopal Singh. I did not want to leave Garhwal without another look at the mountain. There seemed to me to be another possible route. From the col at the foot of the east ridge, an ice shelf leads diagonally upwards across the north face of the mountain, to a point at the top of the steep rock section of the west ridge. From here there is a steep but feasible-looking ice ridge to the summit. Snow conditions would have to be stable if this ice shelf was to be crossed safely but I did not think it was as steep as it looked. From the vicinity of the east col the angle of the shelf would be seen in profile.

Our reconnaissance had shown that the way to the east col from our old base camp was barred by cliffs and slabs. If the col was to be reached a way must be found up through the cliffs which run along the south bank of the Satopanth, from near the terminal of the glacier. It was 10th August when we set off up the valley from Badrinath. A late monsoon was now in full swing and there was little hope of the two-day clearing, after reaching a high camp, which would be the minimum necessary to an attempt. But 'nothing ventured, nothing gained', so off we set in heavy rain and mist. Camp the first night under a big bivouac rock completed happy memories of the West Coast of New Zealand. Pasang's opinion of my plan was not very high but that evening he got into conversation with some shepherds who said that they took their sheep up through the cliffs. Following their directions next morning, we climbed for 900 feet up a sensational track which one would never have guessed at without previous information. Except for one or two tricky places it was quite safe and easy and, clinging affectionately to the vegetation, we soon reached the grazing slopes above. We pushed on for 1,500 feet or so past a big mob of sheep to the limit of the grass and pitched my 7x7 foot tent, a veteran of many West Coast trips, at about 15,500 feet. It continued to rain heavily that night and the following day and night.

Brief clearings early in the morning revealed our magnificent position. We were perched high on the steep-sided valley. The monsoon had turned the lower slopes of the valley to emerald green. The ice ridges of Nikanta towered above on the left. Ghaukamba at the head of the valley was equally impressive. On the morning of the second day a few hours' clearing enabled Pasang and me to climb up rather unstable snow slopes to within 500 feet of the east col. We picked the safest route we could. Straightforward snow slopes led up to the col. The shelf route looked really feasible now, given safe snow conditions, and even the east ridge looked as if it might go with a push. As the mists closed in we returned, packed up, and descended to the valley floor. A fixed rope was necessary to help Gopal Singh, with a heavy load, down one pitch of the cliff track. We returned and joined the others at Badrinath that evening, the 14th August.


  4. PEAK 20,760 FEET





For two days following the first Nilkanta attempt we rested in the bungalow at Badrinath. Hillary spent much time estimating, weighing, and bagging for the journey towards Mukut Parbat. The map revealed that two glaciers drained the slopes of Mukut Parbat, each of considerable size and needing exploratory examination to choose the more suitable for our purpose. We decided to send on two days ahead a mobile reconnaissance party to report on each, hoping that (his would save time and the expense of keeping the porters waiting for a decision. Accordingly, on 27th June Hillary and I with Sherpa Tenzing and the Mana boy Gopal Singh (carrying respectively 25 lb., 25 lb., 54 lb. and 65 lb. weight indicating social position!) set out to follow the Saraswati river to where the Pachmi Kamet and Chamrao glaciers fed in.

We reached Ghastoli grazing alp the first day. There is an impressive rock defile where the river narrows down to 2 or 3 yards wide and hurls itself down 800 feet in a roaring rock-chamber, so narrow that it twists deep out of sight. A natural rock bridge crosses the defile where a huge rock has fallen and lodged in the gap. The mountain flowers were tiny and of many colours. There were sheep and some cattle grazing. The huge eagles, with their wing- spans of 5 feet and more, soar up at 15,000 feet among the crags and then out along the valley sides. At 3 p.m. we came in sight of Ghastoli bridge; at least on the map it was marked as Ghastoli bridge but it had been dismantled during the winter snows. We found two 35-foot poles on our side of the river and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to bridge the gap. As none of our cunning methods were successful we camped for the night, setting our tent under a huge boulder beside a crystal-clear lake that was fed by a spring. Hillary and I cooked a stew on our pressure cooker; Tenzing made a meal of tsampa; Gopal Singh's meal was extraordinary. He brought a quart pot of water to the boil and added flour, stirring all the time, until he had a nice pot of 'hot water paste'. This he boiled for three or four minutes, then ate the lot with his fingers. It contained no salt or any other ingredients, and he ate enough for five ordinary people. In the morning he made a similar brew of rice. He ate only two meals a day, and refused chocolate and other delicacies. His diet was the usual fare for travelling light, though in the village the diet is more balanced and complete.

Panorama I : Panoramic view of the mountains (from between Camps II and III)

Panorama I : Panoramic view of the mountains (from between Camps II and III)

Panorama II : View of the Yackcale Esane Rast from 4200 m. Routes on Kohe Lashlor:1=P.Jasinski and M.Kowalczyk 8.9.71. 2=J. Wala-8.9.71 (Photo :J.Wala)

Panorama II : View of the Yackcale Esane Rast from 4200 m. Routes on Kohe Lashlor:1=P.Jasinski and M.Kowalczyk 8.9.71. 2=J. Wala-8.9.71 (Photo :J.Wala)

Panorama 3: View looking South-west and West from Kohe SAngi (30, c.5,600m.) towards Kohe Zebak range and the Kohe Bandaka group

Panorama 3: View looking South-west and West from Kohe SAngi (30, c.5,600m.) towards Kohe Zebak range and the Kohe Bandaka group

Next morning Hillary and Tenzing went down valley for 3 miles to where I remembered having seen an avalanche snow-bridge apparently spanning the river. Soon they reappeared opposite me. With stone and rope technique we soon had the 35-foot long, 5 inches square poles in position. Gopal Singh picked up his load and walked across, in spite of mid-river sag. I followed a cheval. We hurried on towards the terminal moraine of the Pachmi Kamet Glacier, and just before we left the main track we met two Tibetans with a flock of sheep and goats. The flock was loaded with small 20-lb. packs carrying salt and borax and home-spun materials to Mana village. Both our companions talked excitedly with them, and they told us later that they were the first visitors for the season and their main task was to inspect Mana village and its flocks to see if there was any disease or sickness. Tilman records this in one of his books, and says that the custom is for these men to inspect the village and to receive a stone from the people of Mana. If any disease or sickness is introduced into the Tibetan flocks they promise to forfeit the weight of the stone in gold. These Tibetans were of the typical type we had read about, broad mongoloid features, slant eyes, long hair done in a bob on the top of the head, skirts of leather with embroidered home-spun jackets, and yak-hide boots. They were healthier-looking and apparently better fed than any people I saw on the Indian side of the border.

That afternoon we climbed up 2,000 feet of the terminal moraine and pitched camp among the boulders at an estimated height of 15,000 feet. The scenery was savage—black rock walls and angular peaks. The glacier was a desert of ice-hummocks and boulders and steep rock-chutes leading up into the range. There was no defined moraine wall, and no easy travelling. A small ragged gully between the glacier and the mountainside received the stray boulders and shingle avalanches from the clifls above. On the third day Hillary and I, with Tenzing carrying our coats and a meal, set off at 6 a.m. We moved quickly and by 9 o'clock had covered about 5 miles and could see the glacier swinging left in a big bend that would take several hours to turn. A rocky ridge to our left looked as if it would give a view to the head of the glacier, and after a pause we bounded on. I say bounded because that is what we did that day. We covered 5 or 6 miles of rough glacier and climbed nearly 5,000 feet in four hours. It was a few minutes after 10 a.m. when we stopped about 250 feet from the peak marked as 19,960 feet and we could see the head of the Pachmi Kamet glacier and the full sweep of peaks at its head. Kamet (25,443 feet) was supreme. It was only 3 miles away across the glacier and from this side presented rock faces of about 8,000 feet. Mukut Parbat (23,760 feet) was to the left of Kamet and showed a similar rock face of about 7,000 feet and filled the head of the glacier—an impressive and worthy objective. The west ridge, i.e. the left-hand one as we looked at it, appeared climbable but a very broken ice-fall hindered access. Over our bread and honey we debated whether this approach up the Pachmi Kamet would be better than the Ghamrao glacier which we had not seen, but we reasoned that the Pachmi Kamet approach was long and arduous and included the problem of a doubtful ice-fall. The Ghamrao appeared from our map to offer a less confined glacier, a more gradual gain in height, and if the approach to Mukut Parbat was not possible about ten or twelve other peaks were available whereas the Pachmi Kamet offered none. After an hour we raced back, dismantled our camp, and ran down the moraine and out to Khati, a grassy camping-site in the Saraswati valley.

We expected to find Cotter waiting for us with ten or twelve Mana porters, but he only arrived much exasperated in the evening. The Mana men were being paid by the day and with undeniable logic reckoned that the more days they took over the job the more they would get paid. Between smoking and loafing they managed to do 2 ½ to 3 hours walking pet day, and on reaching the Ghastoli bridge they refused to carry their loads across the doubtful pole. When Cotter had carried most of their loads over himself they did cross, but then sat down for a smoke and then set to work to build the bridge up ready for the yak and sheep trade to Tibet. Cotter and Pasang grew righteously angry and an hour's argument ensued before they agreed to move on. We fared little better next day and after coaxing the porters for 2 miles to the terminal moraine of the Cham- rao glacier we chose a camp-site (more from necessity than choice) and called it Base Gamp. The Mana men were paid off and we pitched our tents in cold wet drizzle and mist. Late that night Riddiford arrived, having rested a few extra days in Badrinath to try and recover from the weakening stomach disorder which had been troubling him. The day following, 1st July, was declared a rest day. It was a perfect day and we identified various peaks, and gazedlong and often at the magnificent rock pyramid at the head of the South Branch which was Kukut Parbat.

West ridge of Nilkanta, 21,640 ft. from 14,500 ft.

West ridge of Nilkanta, 21,640 ft. from 14,500 ft.

Mukut Parbat (23,760 ft.) and Kamet (25,447 ft.) from Peak 20,760 ft.

Mukut Parbat (23,760 ft.) and Kamet (25,447 ft.) from Peak 20,760 ft.

In the next four days we explored up the Dakkhni Chamrao and chose the site of our Camp I, and from there Cotter, Hillary, and I reconnoitred through the first ice-fall and traversed Peak 20,330 feet. On this day we chose the site of Camp II and found that the approach we were making was the best available. The climb of Peak 20,330 feet was an interesting but long day—some thirteen hours. From the glacier at 18,000 feet to nearly 20,000 feet we climbed up a steep, well-broken rock ridge. Altitude affected us badly and we climbed sluggishly, breathing heavily, and experienced what Cotter termed 'The Nineteen Thousand Foot Blues’. At 20,000 feet we had a long spell, ate a few dates, and then seemed to move on more easily. The climb was very similar to a traverse of Lendenfeld Peak in New Zealand. We were cautious of cornices. The descent took six laborious hours, breakable crust dropping us through to our hips, mist obscuring everything and later sleet and snow falling to freeze our beards and faces. We traversed a rock peak marked 18,740 feet, and dropped down in late evening to Camp I. After a month in the mountains we had opened our score with a modest but attractive 20,ooo-footer, and we were unfeignedly jubilant.



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On 29th June I set out from Badrinath to catch up with the others. Nima was with me, looking after me and carrying my load. For two days we followed up the broad barren valley of the Saraswati river, reading with interest on the way various little notes left by the others under boulders, telling me how the bridge stringers had been pulled across and of the results of the reconnaissance up the Pachmi Kamet glacier and how the Chamrao glacier had been decided on as the line of approach to Mukut Parbat.

On the evening of the second day we were sitting having a brew of tea in rather desolate circumstances and wondering where base camp might be. Close by was the terminal of the Chamrao glacier which comes almost down to the Saraswati river from the east. The river continues north for another 10 miles or so up to Mana Pass, a trade-route into Tibet. Suddenly a crowd of cold and disgruntled Mana coolies appeared. They told us where base camp had been established together with their opinion on things in general as well. Cracking on all speed we found the camp just as it got dark.

Next morning a fine array of ice peaks was to be seen gleaming in the sun at the head of the various branches of the Chamrao glacier. One big rocky mass dominated everything else—Mukut Parbat. It was exciting to find that our objective was such a fine looking peak. Two days later Camp I was established in a beautiful little oasis of flowers and grass behind the moraine wall, under Peak 18,700 feet. Thereafter it became our base. Meanwhile Lowe, Cotter, and Hillary were carrying on the work of reconnaissance and on 4th July they pushed far enough up the Dakkhni Chamrao glacier to establish the vital fact that snow and ice slopes led up to the col at the foot of the north-west ridge of Mukut Parbat, and climbed Peak 20,330 feet on the way home, as already related by Lowe.

On 6th July we all moved up the Dakkhni Chamrao glacier and established Camp II on a low col—a magnificent site on the ridge dividing the Dakkhni Chamrao and the Pachmi Kamet glaciers and commanding a view of both. It had been a long plod up the snow-covered glacier under a hot sun and we were very tired at the end of the day. The Sherpas carried up and returned to Camp I. Next day was a rest day for us but not for the Sherpas who brought up more loads. We were now at the foot of the ice-fall leading up to the col at the foot of the north-west ridge of Mukut Parbat. The mountain towered above us and the uncertainty as to whether we would climb it could not have been more complete. The weather during this period was settled; fine every morning with some mist coming up in the late afternoon. The mountains to the south lay under hea vy cloud. We never saw Nanda Devi but Kamet, of course, was in full view just across the smooth neve of the Pachmi Kamet glacier. We were all much better acclimatized now.

The task for the 8th was to see if the ice-fall could be negotiated up to the col. Lowe and Miliary did quite a lot of cutting on the steeper slopes for the benefit of the Sherpas but on the whole the ice-fall went easily. It was nothing likr as broken as a comparable ice-fall in the Southern Alps would be. The chief memory of the day is of the agonizing cold during the two hours before we reached the sun. It made us go as fast as we could. Once in the sun we spent an hour rubbing back circulation into the feet. There were some difficulties below the col: several big crevasses, and finally an exposed slope of ice which required some cutting. At 11 o'clock, after 4J hours' work, we cramponed over gentle ice slopes to the crest of the col, 21,000 feet. From here we had our first view of Tibet—brown mountains 21,000 feet high, bare of snow, and the yellow, rolling plains showing beyond. A cold biting wind blew steadily over the col from the south. A good site for Camp III was picked out on an ice ledge a little below the col on the route of ascent. During the day the Sherpas did their final carry to Camp II. It had taken three relays for them to carry up an adequate supply of food to Camp II as well as our gear and theirs. This shows what a mushrooming task it is if a large number of camps have to be established. The carry to the final camp is always a simpler business.

Leaving Gamp II after the sun arrived next day at 8 a.m., we cramponed up in four hours to the site of Gamp III. It was a bad day for me, every step was a dragging effort. The Sherpas, carrying 60-lb. loads, gave us an hour's start and came up behind us just as we arrived. Pasang was keen to do the climb and we wanted to have him with us. So he stayed at Camp III while the other three Sherpas returned to Gamp II. This meant three of us crowded against the sides of a two-man tent, which iced up during the night.

July 4th was the day of the climb. We got away soon after eight as the sun reached the tents. There were two ropes; Lowe and Hillary on one and Gotter and I with Pasang in the middle on the other. From the col there was a difficult traverse in steep soft snow to reach the crest of the north-west ridge of Mukut Parbat. Once there we cramponed up the hard ice crest without much difficulty, for three hours, to the summit of a subsidiary peak, about 22,500 feet, which was reached about midday. The main adversary was a cold steady wind, from the south, of almost gale force, which swept over the ridge. We climbed in full windproof clothing. Photography was almost impossible as circulation left the hands as soon as gloves were removed. Three times during the climb we had to remove crampons and boots and socks in slightly sheltered positions in order to rub back circulation into the feet. Pasang proved adept at this, massaging and rubbing vigorously in a painful but effective way.

From the subsidiary peak difficult work showed up ahead. A short distance below was a little col, from which a narrow crest of ice, corniced higher up, rose abruptly. On the left very steep snow slopes descended to a long, clean, blue glacier below in Tibet. On the right steep slopes of green ice descended a short distance to the crest of the southern rock precipice of the mountain. The unusual feature of this face was its sustained steepness. It appeared to descend vertically for about 2,000 feet. Lowe and Hillary came up behind over the subsidiary peak and on seeing the amount of work ahead decided that the climb could not be completed that day, and turned for home. I must say I agreed with them but decided to cut down to the little col, to see the going ahead at close quarters. Pasang, who was dead keen, came out with some timely words of encouragement, 'Very little time to top, long way come, two hours to top'.

Actually it took six slogging hours, battling with the wind all the time, but fortunately we decided to push on. From the col it was possible to avoid the worst of the cutting on the green ice by a delicate traverse up the crest of the ridge with one cramponed foot in Tibet and the other in Garhwal. Soon the cornice forced me to cut across to the right and round on to another crest. Ahead was a series of little bumps of mixed ice and rock which were more sensational than difficult but they took time, perhaps two hours, and I was again in doubt as to whether we could make it, but both Cotter and Pasang were keen, and we went on.

Now came a long traverse up a narrow ice crest, passing over several crests, climbed mostly as before with one foot on either side. We were beginning to get very tired. At last about four o'clock we reached the long summit shoulder of the mountain and the technical difficulties lay behind, but worse lay ahead. We struck soft snow. The wind, now much stronger, was direct in our faces and made each step in the soft snow a stagger. We didn't know whether we could make it but managed to push on slowly up the final snow slope to the summit (23,760 feet) at a quarter to six. It was a moment of exhilaration. We closed up and shook hands. There was a basin on the summit which gave a little shelter and made it possible to take a few photographs. Below us the great blue Tibetan glacier llowed away towards the yellow plains of Tibet. We looked straight across to Abi Gamin (24,130 feet) and Kamet (25,443 feet).

There was no time to be lost. Six o'clock had been the deadline for turning back. I took a tight rope and kept a close watch on Pasang as Cotter led off down. But he gave a faultless exhibition of cramponing as we descended off the shoulder, down the steep ridge we had climbed. It was a worrying descent with one eye on the setting sim. The wind howled over die ridge but did not seem to be able to upset our balance except on the narrow rock section. We pressed on, belaying the rope only at the most difficult places. Once over the subsidiary peak we could crampon down at top speed to the col which was reached just as it got renlly dark. Lowe was out to meet us with a torch. It was a weary twenty-minute trudge back to camp. We were thankful to have boots and clothing taken off us and to crawl into the sleeping-bags. Later in the night Lowe rubbed my feet for an hour. I had numb finger-tips and toes for two or three weeks but no frostbite. Cotter was snow-blind and had a trying day or two at Camp III. Pasang and I returned to Camp II next day. It was hard work getting downhill. By the 15th we were all back at Camp I and all set off for Badrinath for another rest.



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Back in Badrinath after the Mukut Parbat climb we rested for a week. Hillary was less restful than the rest of us and he soon had read all the books, written his letters, weighed up and indexed all our food and supplies, sketched out three or four plans for exploratory journeys, and was after some more peaks. So he and Cotter set off to re-establish Camp I while Riddiford and I remained at Badrinath to complete the newspaper articles.

The day that Hillary and Cotter departed, the French party from Nanda Devi arrived. Their tragic story is told elsewhere in this Journal. The survivors were six in number and they had with them a seventh, an Indian Army Officer to act as interpreter, a liaison to facilitate the many difficulties. The officer was an Indian of 25, a keen and experienced mountaineer with a very English attitude towards climbing. He had been to the French party's top camp on Nanda Devi (Camp IV) and recounted the story of their attempt in detail. As the French spoke only fragments of English and we spoke only fragments of French our discussions were limited but it didn't stop us from talking for two days and almost all of one night. Their equipment was of great interest to us. Their tents were well designed but far too expensive and luxurious for our pockets. The high- altitude tent (of which they had thirteen) was of orange poplin, with sprung guy ropes, nylon inner linings, and waterproof floor which was detachable (to enable them to get snow from under the floor without having to go out in the storm). These tents weighed 9J lb. They had other larger tents—mess tents, store tents, Sherpa tents; all large enough to stand up inside. Their single sleeping-bags were shaped too close to the body and were inferior to ours. Their packs were just light sacks, their ice-axes no longer than 2 ft. 6 inches with 4-inch well proportioned picks and tiny spade blades—quite inadequate, we thought. When they saw our ice-axes they roared with laughter and thought we were crazy to carry such monsters. We told them we had difficult ice mountains in New Zealand, and these ice- axes were standard equipment. They were interested to know about our mountains and naturally inquired about the heights. When we told them that our highest was 12,349 feet they were just a little patronizing. Their main baggage required over 100 porters to shift, and their food, climbing equipment, and special valley walking ensembles were for our admiration but not imitation.

At the end of July I returned to Camp I and joined Hillary and Cotter. The weather had been patchy—foggy days with afternoon snow, and had prevented them from doing any climbing. On the morning following my arrival Hillary was out of bed at 3 a.m. The weather was doubtful with only a few watery stars showing, but he hounded me out and after a meagre breakfast we two left to cross a dividing ridge and make an exploratory journey into the Uttari Chamrao glacier. We moved rapidly that morning. A small skiff of fresh snow covered most of the rocks and we reached the crest of the range just as the sun came up. The sun cleared away low-lying valley mist and the peaks lit up with the pink that we know so well in New Zealand. It was cold and we dropped down on to the ice of the Uttari Chamrao and made for a rock peak marked on the map 19,560 feet. The climb was easy—long scree slopes, snow patches, and then a short scramble to the top of a rocky thumb. The new angle on the peaks and the valley systems was the most interesting part of the clay. To the north of us was a symmetrical snow peak marked on our maps 120,760 feet, and we decided to attempt this without delay. We returned to Camp I at about 3 p.m.

The next day Cotter, Hillary, and myself carried a light camp into the Uttari Chamrao glacier. As we pitched camp it began to snow and during the night some 4 inches collected on the ground. We debated for too long the following morning and procrastination lost us the climb. It began to rain about 9 o'clock but eased off and we left at 10 and spent an enjoyable day rock climbing. We climbed Peak 19,450 ft. reaching the top about 1 o'clock in mist and cold conditions. Our food had run out but we decided to exist for the night on a small pannikin of rice and to leave early without breakfast to attempt Peak 20,760 feet. Hut next clay the weather was even worse and we lay in our sleeping bags discussing queen-bee raising, bulb culture, the sex life of a queen bee, marriage and divorce, education, and finished on New Zealand mountaineering. I may say that by far the most popular topic on the whole trip was the subject of New Zealand mountaineering. We returned to Camp I in a snowstorm.

The next day Hillary and I, with three Sherpas carrying a week's food and our five-man tent, left for the site of Camp II. We re-established this camp and on 1 August the weather developed into a storm. This lasted for two days, and we emerged at 5 p.m. on the second day, dried out our sodden gear, and prepared to climb to Camp III on the following day even though deep new snow covered the ice-fall. The next day we were going exceedingly well and the feelings of altitude were being overcome. While traversing the lower lip of a huge schrund the lip broke immediately under Hillary, who was leading. I jerked the rope tight, which overbalanced him at my side of the slope. The breaking of this lip was most unusual and as far as we could make out was caused by the rotting of the snow in the crevasse wall. The episode completely upset our breathing and heartbeats and although we had been moving well together we found we could only go a few yards before we were breathless. From Camp III we had two objectives. Our first was Peak 22,180 feet and our second was Mukut Parbat. For two days in Camp III we were demobilized by another storm. On the second day wet-snow avalanches roared off into the ice-fall below us and made the line of retreat seem dangerous. The weather cleared a little, and after a day to let the snow consolidate Hillary and I climbed the snow peak 22,180 feet. We left at 9 o'clock and were on top about 11. There were very few crevasses and the slopes were not excessively steep, but we pigeon-holed the last 200 feet to the summit. Apart from the route we had climbed every other approach to this peak was sensational. We looked down a tremendous cliff of rock and ice to a very large north-flowing glacier that drained into Tibet and looked as if it would give good access to the peaks of Abi Gamin and perhaps Kamet. The descent was easy although we were apprehensive about the condition of the snow, which was thigh deep. We had ample time to study the ridge of Mukut Parbat, which was heavily snowed up, and a strong wind was blowing the loose snow into Tibet; and as the monsoon was properly about us with breaks of fine weather lasting no more than four or five hours we decided that an attempt would be unwise. The four days which we had spent at 21,000 feet had stripped the flesh off us —our appetites were gone, and we were not really fit enough for a long, hard day. So the day following our climb of Peak 22,180 feet we descended to Camp II, and then on to Camp I. Between Camps III and II we crossed some easy slopes which we could not avoid but which had a thin crust, and two or three times the crust settled with an ominous crump which alarmed us not a little.

Riddiford was with Cotter at Camp I, and it was decided that finance would not permit any further exploration or other plans. We had five days' kerosene and four days' food left, and while Riddiford went back for a last look at Nilkanta the rest of us packed a tent and light rations for another attempt at the more approachable but none the less virtuous Peak 20,760 feet.



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4 PEAK 20,760 FEET


A young Mana porter arrived at Camp I as we were about to leave for the Uttari Chamrao. He had come from Badrinath with our mail, and after hearing the latest news and glancing through the mail we saw him off down the moraine wall towards the Saraswati valley, which was enveloped in cloud and fog. Then we shouldered our packs, Hillary, Lowe, and I, accompanied by Sherpas Nima and Tenzing.

We crossed the rock spur below Peak 18,740 feet, down to the stable moraine of the Uttari Chamrao glacier, then headed towards our goal, the glacier head. Three hours after leaving camp we splashed through cold glacial slush across the glacier and on to the rocky slopes of Peak 20,760 feet. We established our camp on a moraine shelf 100 feet or so above the ice. This site provided a magnificent view-point. At the head of the valley Peak 22,760 feet, a breath-taking pyramid of rock and snow, soared heavenwards, its translucent ice-fluted summit shimmering above the steep, unbroken ridges.

Our camp at 17,500 feet made cosy and a meal under way, we put on a singsong, entertaining our Sherpas with part-songs, solos, and Maori hakas, Lowe proving himself as a man of many parts—song- leader, soloist, and Maori warrior. The unrestrained and boisterous laughter of the Sherpas, though quite understandable, was, nevertheless, rather dismaying—we were doing our best. It was later on that we came to learn that their demonstration was the normal manner in which the Nepalese hill-folk show their appreciation of an entertainment.

The morning dawned fine and we left our tents early to be sure of a view from the summit ridge before the daily deterioration of the weather set in. A steep rock rib led on to the summit ridge. The higher we climbed the more doubtful we became that our degree of acclimatization was as advanced as we had believed it to be. The climbing was straightforward, the ever-widening panorama astonishing. Once on the summit ridge breathing became less strained and cameras clicked busily as heavy cumulus cloud rolled over the Tibetan border, obliterating some of the peaks in the panorama. Kamel and Mukul Parbat were already lost from view, being enveloped in the all-embracing cumulus so prevalent in this region. The ridge on which we stood rose 800 feet to a snow dome, 20,760 feet. In the reverse dim lion we gazed up to the soaring summit of Peak 22,760 feet .

In his writings Smythe has often referred to the pleasure of climbing 20,ooo-foot peaks. This, of course, had been recognized by all three of us, but in order that the truth of I he claim be verified I was handed one end of the rope together with a compliment on my physical fitness. I accepted the end of the rope together with the doubtful compliment, and plugged up the 800 feet of deep powdered snow to the summit. Like the ridge the summit itself was heavily corniced, so we belayed one another in turns on to the summit, each in turn peering through a hole in the summit cornice down to the moraine of the Balbala glacier, 3,000 feet almost directly beneath our feet. Across the valley the 22,ooo-foot peaks topped by Balbala itself looked inviting, particularly one which was similar in appearance to our Mt. Sefton. Shouts from Nima and Tenzing accompanied our arrival on top. Hillary hacked a staircase down the now frozen steps to the rocks and energy was kept in reserve to roll boulders down the 3,ooo-foot drop on the Balbala side. Down at camp we packed the gear and set out back for Gamp I, rain soon setting in.

Late the following afternoon we had packed the last of our stores and equipment into kitbags, and most of these we carried down to base camp at the entrance of the valley. Hillary, Lowe, and I set out for Badrinath next morning, the Sherpas to carry down the last of the supplies from Camp I and to await the Mana porters, who were due any time. The porters and Sherpas arrived at the Badrinath bungalow about midnight, the Sherpas very drunk, and we discovered next morning that some tinned butter and other food had disappeared from the kitbags. Our larder was now completely bare, so as soon as the Nilkanta contingent arrived back plans for the homeward trip were made.

Pasang's suggestion that horses rather than men be hired to transport the expedition's equipment, on the grounds that 'horses no talk', produced all-round agreement, and an opening bid was made to a man who had four horses available. We estimated three animals would be all we needed, although those who were doubtful if they would make the 120 miles to Ranikhet had thoughts of travelling a cheval. He was a likeable old chap and finally had his way by insisting that we hire the four horses or none at all. So four it was.

Hillary and I spent our last afternoon at Badrinath in making a dash to the head of the Rishi Ganga, a small stream rising under the precipices of Nilkanta. We were by then extremely fit, and sad that this was the last we would ever see of the flowers and mountains of Garhwal; but the Himalayas, unrelenting to the human body, had brought us to the state of the pilgrims in J. E. Flecker's Hassan who, when challenged

But who are ye in rags and rotten shoes,
You dirty bearded, blocking up the way!


We are the pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little farther: it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain, barred with snow.

The local Indian postmaster and doctor were fine friends to us and farewells were said on the doctor's veranda next morning as we prepared to leave. The cold rain only dampened our spirits the more as we jogged down the pilgrim track to Joshimath, twenty miles down- valley. Smythe's Valley of Flowers (Bhyundar valley), which rises from the Alaknanda valley, was soon by-passed and later the 1,500- foot climb from the river to the Joshimath bungalow was made more pleasurable by the purchase of peaches and oranges. Joshimath is best remembered for its orchards and for the evening quiet and serenity which is such a lasting memory of Himalayan foot-hill travel. To say farewell to Joshimath is to say farewell to Garhwal, for on this steep, terraced mountainside at the confluence of the Kamet and Nanda Devi watersheds one holds for the last time that affinity with nature which makes us mountain lovers. Ahead lay the plains, and as we left the bungalow, the prettiest of all we had sheltered in, and stared down to the yellow ribbon of water in the gorge, we knew our thoughts would always return to the mountains and valleys which lay at the source of that same flooded mountain river. Soaring mountain eagles wheeling above our entourage ushered us out of Joshimath and down the grassy track towards the plains of India.

The pilgrims along the track whispered rumours of a slip, and the farther we went the louder the whispering became and the bigger the slip. It was indeed a nasty sight-the whole hillside washed away and an ugly brown river of mud boiling down to its junction with the big river. A cloudburst was the cause o£ the slip, and the only way of by-passing it appeared to be the heart-breaking packing of the gear thousands of feet up to the head of the valley. Hillary and I surveyed the scene of destruction from high up on the hillside, and a discussion later produced a solution. Our pitons and caribiners, which to date had not been used, would be tested on this slip. Early next morning we stamped out a track in the mud to the edge of the 150-foot cliff face and Riddiford was lowered down the steep face to the water's edge and on to a rock in tiie stream, where he took in some rope before preparing to jump for the far bank. It looked suicidal and nearly was, lot lie dropped face first into the middle of the torrent, disappeared from sight, and emerged several yards downstream. By a great effort on his part lie got to the bank and so the torrent was spanned. I lundreds of leet of rope were used to provide an endless pulley system which took first our packs and then us to the far bank, which was still falling away, hurling large boulders down into the stream. Pasang was last ac ross and was left suspended 50 feet above the river for quite some time. Even his knowledge of fifteen languages didn't help to get him untangled, and his usual superior air and dignity were badly upset.

The journey to Ranikhet was straightforward now, the bare hillsides changing to open jungle of pine and fir. Three days out from Ranikhet we had to part company from the horsemen, who on account of flooded rivers on the usual track went a different route, double marching so as to reach Ranikhet the same day as we did— for a considerable fee, of course. The danger of being attacked by tigers and panthers became a secondary thought when we found loathsome blood-sucking leeches attached to our legs.

Every tea-shop we came upon received our patronage, till our last night away from civilization, at the Gwaldam bungalow at 6,500 feet. The bus terminus was yet another 14 miles off and we left in the dark to make the 8 a.m. departure time. But we missed it and caught another later in the afternoon, to travel a dangerous and hectic 20 miles to a small village; and late that night we reached Ranikhet. Big news awaited us—two to go to Everest with Shipton's party. So ended our three months' mountaineering in Garhwal: yet was it the ending or rather just the beginning?

The New Zealand Alpine Club have courteously permitted us to make use of the foregoing article which is also appearing in their Journal.—Ed.

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