NOTES AND EXPEDITIONS
After the first part of the Journal had gone to press I received in April, through the kindness of Sen or Fosco Maraini, brief notes together with a map and photographs of the 1958 Italian Expedition to Gasherbrum IV. Senor Maraini has regretted his inability, owing to pressure of work, to prepare a full account of the expedition-he is the author of a book about the expedition which will appear in June 1959. I acknowledge my thanks to Senor Maraini and to the Club Alpino Italiano for providing the material from which the following summary has been prepared (Editor).
The expedition, which was sponsored by the Italian Alpine Club and included some of the best-known names in Italian mountaineering, consisted of the following climbers:-
Riccardo Cassin (leader), 49, from Lecco, Lombardy.
Toni Gobbi (deputy leader), 44, guide from Courmayeur.
Walter Bonatti, 28, guide from Courmayeur.
Carlo Mauri, 28, guide from Lecco.
Guiseppe Defrancesch, 34, guide from Moena, Dolomites.
Guiseppe Oberto, 34, guide from Macugnaga.
Donato Zeni (doctor), 34, from Vigo di Fassa, Dolomites.
Fosco Maraini, 46, from Florence.
Capt. Abdul Karim Dar, Pakistan Army (liaison officer).
The party left Rawalpindi by air for Skardu in three batches on May 18, May 25, and May 27. In Skardu, 424 coolies and 14 high- altitude porters were engaged and the expedition left Skardu on May 30, arriving in Askole on June 4. Here, after purchasing additional rations, the porter caravan swelled to 492 men. Leaving Askole on June 6, the party reached Urdokas on June 11. With such a large army of Balti porters it is not surprising that more than the usual troubles were encountered; after incidents at Paiju and at Urdokas, 8 high-altitude porters were sent back. Concordia was reached on June 15 and here 120 porters were retained to move the expedition's 1 1/2 tons of material up to Base Camp. This operation lasted one week, with one intermediate camp near the junction of the Upper Baltoro and Abruzzi glaciers.
Base Camp, which was established on June 26, was situated at 16,900 ft. on the Abruzzi glacier at approximately the same site used by the Austrian Gasherbrum II Expedition in 1956. Meanwhile, parties of climbers had moved off up the South Gasherbrum glacier to reconnoitre the route and to site the higher camps.
MAP OF THE GASHERBRUM GROUP, SHOWING ROUTE AND CAMPS OF THE ITALIAN GASHERBRUM IV EXPEDITION, 1958. CBJ : JAPANESE BASE CAMP. CBA AMERICAN BASE CAMP. CBI : ITALIAN BASE CAMP.
Camp I was established at 18,370 ft. on June 22; Camp II at 20,000 ft. on June 25; Camp III at 20,835 ft. on June 29. Camp IV was placed at 22,640 ft. on an upper plateau near the head of the S. Gasherbrum glacier, between Gasherbrum III and Gasherbrum IV on July 6. This provided easy access to the N.E. col, 23,295 ft., from which the rocky N.E. ridge led steeply up to the north summit of the mountain, 2,700 ft. above. The N.E. ridge, composed of granite lower down and of a 'marble-like' limestone in its higher reaches, provided right up to the final pinnacle sustained stretches of difficult climbing, classified as Grade IV and Grade V by Alpine standards.
All members of the party, including the Pakistani liaison officer, reached the N.E. col. On July 9, Camp Y was set up on the N.E. ridge at 23,620 ft. From this camp, two assaults were made on the 11th and the 14th, by Bonatti and Mauri. Owing to the difficulties of the route and the length of the ridge between Camp V and the summit, both were unsuccessful. The weather broke on July 15 and, whilst storms continued unabated for over a week, the whole party descended to Base to rest and reorganize.
As soon as the weather cleared on July 24, the second attempt was launched. The climbers began to advance steadily up the line of camps, reaching Camp V on August 2. On the 3rd, Camp VI was established at about 24,750 ft. on the N.E. ridge by Bonatti and Mauri, with Gobbi and Defrancesch in support; the last two returned to Camp V the same day. The next day, Bonatti and Mauri made their first summit-attempt but had to turn back after reaching the 'Black Tower', a difficult obstacle at about 25,690 ft. They spent the next day resting at Camp VI, whilst Gobbi, Defrancesch and Zeni came up from Camp V with loads and returned in the afternoon.
On August 6, Bonatti and Mauri made a very early start from Camp VI, The great difficulties of the upper part of the ridge extended them to the utmost. They reached the N. summit, to find that it appeared to be slightly lower than the S. summit. The traverse between the two summits, mostly on the W. face of the mountain, involved some hard climbing. Finally, at 12-30 p.m., they reached the highest point of Gasherbrum IV. As they turned to descend they saw bad weather approaching; the descent was made in a violent storm. The weather continued to deteriorate during the next few days and the high camps were evacuated a quickly as possible. On August 9, all members of the team returned safely to Base Camp.
VIEW FROM BASH CAMP, LEFT TO RIGHT GASHERBRUM IV, 26,000 FT., GASHERBRUM III, 26,090 FT., GASHERBRUM II, 26,360 FT. Photo: F. Maraini
East face of Gasherbrum IV seen from Gasherbrum III, showing route to the summit.Photo: R. Cassin
A Tricky Traversae on the North-East ridge.Photo: W. Bonatti
Defranesch on steep rocks above camp V. Photo: T. Gobbi
On very steep snow above camp VI.Photo: W. Bonatti
The ‘Black tower’ on N.E. ridge at c. 25,690 ft.Photo: C. Mauri
Ridge between the North and south summits.Photo: W. Bonatti
August 6, 1958- Bonatti on final stretch below summit of Gasherbrum IV. Photo: C. Mauri
On August 5, Oberto and Maraini attempted to reach the 22,140- ft. col (6,748 m.) between the South and the West Gasherbrum glaciers, but were defeated by a wide bergschrund with an overhanging upper lip. On the 6th, from Camp II, they reached the Gasherbrum La, c. 21,650 ft., situated north of Gasherbrum I.
On August 5, setting out from Camp IV alone, Riccardo Cassin reconnoitred the N.W. ridge of Gasherbrum III up to a height of about 24,000 ft. Although the upper snow slopes appeared moderately easy, there seemed to be a belt of fairly formidable rocky precipices all around them. Gasherbrum III is now the highest unclimbed Karakoram summit.
The expedition left Base Camp on August 13 and returned to Skardu on the 24th. Contact was made with both the American Gasherbrum I party and the Japanese Chogolisa party, whose respective Base Camps were situated nearby.
AUSTRIAN KARAKORAM EXPEDITION, 1956
Mr. Fritz Moravec has asked us to clear up a discrepancy in his account which appears on pp. 26-39 in Volume XX. The subject in question has been referred to in our Footnotes 2 and 4 which accompany the article. Mr. Moravec informs us that, after consultation with Prof. G. O. Dyhrenfurth, whose International Expedition visited the Upper Baltoro glacier in 1934, he had corrected his original appellations of 'Austria' peak and 'Vienna' saddle. It is to be regretted that his communication to this effect reached us after Volume XX had appeared in print. Mr. Moravec has requested us to print the following corrections:-
(a) The name 'Austria' peak is withdrawn. This peak is identified as the westernmost peak of the Sia Kangri Group, c. 24,000 ft. It was first ascended in 1934 by members of Dyhrenfurth's party. The second ascent in 1956, by a new route, was made by Herren Roiss, Ratay and Dr. Weiler of Moravec's party.
(b) The name 'Vienna' saddle is withdrawn. This col is identi fied as the Conway Saddle which, lies between the Upper Baltoro and the Kondus glaciers.
(c) The map which appears on p. 26 should be altered accordingly; also the illustrations. The picture facing p. 34 shows Baltoro Kangri; and that facing p. 35 (lower) shows Sia Kangri.
A TREK IN LAHUL
For my annual leave in September 1958 I went to the Kulu valley, first spending two-and-a-half days in Major Banon's comfortable guest-house, Sunshine Orchards, at Manali. I went alone not by choice, but because of the difficulty of finding someone else with leave at the same time. With Major Banon's kind help I was able to engage a Ladakhi cook-porter with expedition experience, whose name has been variously spelt as Namgyal, Amgel or Wangyal. He was very good indeed-strong, quick, willing and cheerful.
We crossed the Rohtang Pass on September 8 in scurrying cloud. It rained on the 10th, and did not clear until the 12th, after which the weather was mostly fine with four perfect cloudless days from the 17th to 20th. But on the 25th the rain began, and did not lift until it finished with snowfall down to river level a week later.
Limitations of finance and equipment restricted us more or less to the Kulu-Ladakh mule-road through Lahul. I had hoped to visit Spiti as well, but absence of firewood above Chatru, and our lack of a stove and fuel prevented that; also the advice of local officials that it was a bit late in the season for Spiti, as the Kunzum La might become impassable, necessitating a return via Simla. What little climbing we could do was limited to one-day efforts from a rest-house or camp-site.
Most articles of food were available though expensive in Kyelang (rice Rs.1/50 per seer); also small quantities at Sissu, Gondla and Khoksar. But eggs, meat and green vegetables were practically unobtainable throughout Lahul.
The road is now jeepable as far as Kyelang. Our marches were short; the longest, Kyelang to Jispa, being 14 miles. Our furthest point was Darcha, 10,840 ft., beyond which the Inner Line prevented further wandering.1
From there we noticed a route up a tributary nulla, S.W. of Darcha Peak, 14,757 ft., to a saddle between that peak and its neighbour. Namgyal informed me that a 3-man Japanese party whom he had accompanied about three years ago had crossed over from Khoksar to Darcha via a pass at the head of the Milang glacier. 2
At Jispa, the last rest-house this side of the Inner Line, there is a permanent station of the Punjab Armed Police whose personnel, numbering about thirty, were most friendly and hospitable. Their Sub-Inspector-in-Charge had taken the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute's course in Darjeeling.
1 A Suspension bridge is under construction over the Barsi nulla below Darcha village.
2 The Milang valley was first visited in 1939 by the National Union of Students' Expedition when Mulkila and other peaks were climbed. For article and map see H.J., XIII, p, 54.
Returning from Jispa to Kyelang with the P.W.D. Sectional Officer, we visited Thakur Partap Chand, who entertained us in the beautiful Tibetan-style drawing room of his fort-like residence. He offered his assistance for any future visit to this area and I imagine would be helpful in obtaining supplies, mule-transport and porters. Thakur Fateh Chand of Gondla, also a hospitable host, advised that as far as the southern part of Lahul is concerned, it is more convenient to make all arrangements at Manali.
Kyelang being the administrative centre of Lahul, its two-roomed rest-house is often fully occupied by officers on duty. It has a Post Office and Telegraph Station, the latter being the only means of communication throughout the period from November to May each year, when the passes are many feet deep in snow.
From Kyelang, four hours' climbing behind the village brought us to the foot of the southern glacier draining a group of 19,000-ft. peaks. The soft soil seemed to be covered with wild strawberry plants, unfortunately out of season; there was a magnificent view in all directions, particularly of the Mukar Beh and Shikar Beh groups, and of the west side of the Biling valley. Two days later from the ridge above Tandi, we viewed the east side of the valley and saw the shepherds' track which goes right to the glacier. It is about two days from Kyelang to the head of the valley; between the valley's head and the main peaks are numerous minor peaks with small glaciers in between.
Baroh Goh, 18,325 ft., would be an interesting ascent for a small party. With that in view we camped in a delightful willow grove just above Tandi village but found that it was a little too far away for a starting point, and were content to reach the rock towers on its South ridge. For this peak, the nearest village is Koring and a few hundred yards above it there is an excellent camp-site.
Between Gondla and Sissu we picked out the highest house on the hillside and on reaching it were able to hire a cosy room for a couple of nights. From here we climbed up to the ridge and were rewarded with a fine view of Kyelang across the Bhaga valley. Spread out below us was the whole eighteen miles of road from Tandi to Jispa, while in the distance were the white saddles of the Bara Lacha La and the Shingo La. The tinkle of mule bells drifted up to us, but we were so far away that we could discern only a dark line moving on the track. Continuing on up to the right, five-and-a- half hours after setting out we reached the highest point of the ridge, c. 17,000 ft. Here it dropped for about 200 ft. to a narrow saddle before rising to Dilburi Peak, 18,930 ft. We were very close to the mountain, which looked climbable by a rock ridge leading to its north summit. Without proper climbing equipment it would have been foolish to go on. It looked about two hours' rock work to the summit, but appearances are deceptive. The rock on our ridge was scaly and rotten, and that on Dilburi was probably the same. For an attempt on Dilburi a camp could be placed in the snow beds a little below our peak.
We spent one afternoon looking into the Sissu nulla; there is a route from a village on the Bhaga, four miles below Jispa, over to Sissu, though Thakur Partap Chand had requested me not to use it at this time of year.
I had hoped to make two other minor ascents in the final week, but the weather broke and rain continued almost incessantly for six days, with snow down to 12,000 ft. We went to Chatru, where there is now a rest-house, with the Hamta Pass in mind; but some passing Spitial travellers estimated that the new snow would be waist-deep on the pass, and they themselves were avoiding it and going on to the Rohtang, so we reluctantly followed suit. Point 16,843 ft. above Chatru looked a straightforward climb, as did Point 16,207 ft. opposite Khoksar, though perhaps a bit steep near the top. There is a fine suspension bridge at Chatru3
beyond which the road to Spiti continues along the northern bank of the Chandra. There is no means of crossing the river between Chatru and Khoksar.
On our last night in Lahul there was a snowfall of 4" at Khoksar, with a depth of 15" on the Rohtang as we crossed it the next day, October 2, returning to Manali. The bad weather had been very widespread over India, and apparently it was the monsoon's final flourish.