By J. WALMSLEY
The Manchester Himalayan Expedition left the small town of Skardu, Baltistan, on June 7 and began their 112-mile trek to Masherbrum, 25,660 ft., with 25 ponies, 65 coolies and 6 high- altitude porters.2
Reaching the village of Doghani on June 11, we had to exchange the ponies for more coolies since the track ahead was no longer suitable for ponies. Late snowfalls had caused the River Shyok to rise and cover the normal track. The route now lay over steep cliffs and scree slopes. We left Doghani with 125 coolies. Once over the cliffs above the swift-flowing Shyok, we swung north along the narrow Hushe valley. Tremendous mountain walls towered above the valley. The path wandered and at times almost vanished amongst gigantic boulders washed down by mountain torrents. Occasionally we passed through small villages, nestled in the openings of this mountain fastness on some green space. On the last day's march we left the village of Hushe at a height of 10,000 ft. The track vanished into the broken snout of the Masherbrum glacier. A long moraine ridge allowed us to climb above the ice and snow for about four miles. But the last few miles over steep snow slopes really tested the spirits of our coolies. There were times when the route seemed almost too difficult for them with their heavy loads. On three occasions they refused to move on but we managed to persuade them to continue. Later, we rewarded them with a bonus for their magnificent effort.
It was now June 15, and we had pitched Base Camp at 13,000 ft. at the head of the Masherbrum glacier. The situation was within the precincts of the southern walls of Masherbrum. Daily we could hear the thunder of avalanches breaking free from the walls and falling on to the glacier. From Base Camp we could see the lower part of our proposed route ; the tangled icefalls of the Serac glacier, and above the long, steep slopes of the Dome. A route was established on the left-hand side of the first icefall, and on to the broken shell above. Don, Dick and Mahkmal explored the second icefall before returning to Base Camp. Meanwhile the rest of the expedition sorted stores and made loads for the high camps.
Masherbrum, showing route and camps.(Sketch by R.O. Downes)
Base Camp, 13,500., at the head of the Masherbrum Glacier.
On June 17, Bob and Ted advanced the reconnaissance and made a route up the right-hand side of the second icefall and on to the plateau above. This way climbed steeply alongside ice-walls, amongst seracs and bent into the upper reaches or a large broken eouloit Scaly Alley, where for about 200 yds. it threaded a passage amongst fallen ice lumps and stones from the cliffs above. Heavily laden, Don, Dick and six h.a. porters followed the tracks of Bob and Ted through the two icefalls, dumped their loads on the plateau and returned to Base Camp. After a rest, Bob and Ted continued with a reconnaissance of the third icefall. They crossed a stream of avalanche debris and ascended about half-way amongst the ice- chlts before turning back. As if in the Alps, they glissaded down the steep slopes to Base Camp over the lower two icefalls. They felt muzzy and sick and later at Base Camp decided it must be the result of heat exhaustion, not yet being acclimatized, and glissading at 16,000 ft.
In the meantime, Geoff and I had chopped a route by the side of Scaly Alley. It was a more direct way up the first icefall but it was difficult and dangerous for load-carrying or continuous use. With variations of route, fixed ropes and ladders it could be made safe and relatively easy, but we had gained nothing over the original route which came round comparatively easily from the left-hand side.
On June 18, the whole party of twelve, heavily laden, and our liaison officer, Capt. Rizvi, went up to Camp I on the plateau at 15,500 ft. It was a hot day, the snow was extremely soft and we were very grateful to reach camp and dump our loads. Thankfully we returned to the comforts of Base, leaving Geoff, Don and four h.a. porters in possession of Camp I. It was their intention to advance the route up the third icefall on the following day. At Base we rested while the sun blazed down outside our Stormhaven tent. Suddenly, Bob, who was near the tent entrance, sprang up shouting, Moods!' and dashed away. I was slow to grasp the situation and, scantily clad with but a hastily donned duvet jacket and plimsolls, followed the others to behold the approaching waters of a growing stream, which threatened to flood the camp! This was dangerous. I hurriedly joined the others through the deep, soft snow and helped to dam the water and deepen the natural channel which led away from the camp. With two small shovels, plates and bowls we eventually mastered the situation. It had indeed been a close shave; the expedition might have been wrecked. We had to find a higher camp site. So from then until dusk we worked like slaves moving about three tons of stores to a higher stretch of snow.
On June 19, the advance party moved loads up the third icefall and established Camp II on the lip of the Serac basin at the head of the Serac glacier. The rest of the expedition ferried loads up to Camp I.
Camp II at 17,200 ft. was hemmed in on three sides by cliffs. It was threatened by the ice-cliffs connecting the Dome with Serac peak. Successive avalanches had gouged a broad chute down the flanks of Serac peak to form a swollen fan of debris, hundreds of feet deep, over the whole of the west end of the basin. We knew it was about here that the 1955 New Zealand expedition had iost a whole camp to an immense avalanche. We were wary, and there were many avalanches, but none were big enough to reach our Camp II.
When I went up to Camp I with Ted and Capt. Rizvi to spend my first night above Base, the rest of the expedition, except the four porters with us, were at Camp II and possibly beyond.
Rather foolishly I carried a 60-lb. load which made my shoulders raw. It was another hot exhausting day and all I could think about, counting my slow ponderous steps between rests, was the camp ahead and rest on an air-mattress. At Camp II after issuing rations and lighting the primus stoves for the porters we crawled into our tents. All too soon I felt the overpowering heal inside the tent. I was tired, my nose was stulfy and cracked, my eyes sore and inflamed. Altogether, most uncomfortable. Then at last tea, precious sweet tea, followed Abdul's beaming face through the tent's sleeve entrance. By contrast, the night was bitterly cold. I sealed the tent hopefully, but I was always conscious of cold feet, lack of air and a feeling of claustrophobia. Wearing all my clothes -we had no double sleeping bags-I was ever wanting to snuggle deeper into the sleeping bag and yet wanting to get out and feel free of restricted breathing and movement. Somehow the discomforts of high camp life passed, but none of us was ever free from cold feet and few slept without sleeping tablets.
From Camp II Don, Geoff and Ghulam Rasul, the sirdar of our h.a. porters, had made a route to within a few hundred feet of the top of the Dome. It had been exhausting work. They had left camp at about 4 a.m. in 40° of frost. At 7 a.m. the sun had swept away the shadows and covered the slopes with strong sunlight. They were soon covered in sweat. The steep snow became very soft and often they were climbing in it up to the thighs. Progress was laborious ; when possible they would count twenty upward steps and then rest lor live minutes. Off they would go again but after a few steps the snow suddenly collapses-one lurched, gained balance and stood gasping wilh bowed head. A struggle over the now broken ground with a long step and the snow crumbles down again! This was heart breaking. They were only conscious of heavy breathing, leaden limbs and the glaring sun. And so it went on until they had just a bout had enough, then they turned round and went back to Camp II When I arrived at Camp II, Geoff, Don and Ghulam were taking a well-earned rest from their efforts of the previous day. They looked diawn and tired and were recovering from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Dick and Bob had decided to benefit from Geoff and Don's experience and had left Camp II in starlight at 1.30 a.m. in order to avoid the hot sun. I luce hours later they had climbed to within 800 ft. of tin top of the Dome At this point they had to turn back because Dick was ill. At the camp he slept awhile to recover. He looked bad, especially with the dry flaking skin on his unshaven face. I proposed to stay overnight with Bob and Dick and help the advance party. I tried to fix a sun-shade for Dick; it was terribly hot inside the tent. The Serac basin was a veritable heat bowl. Dick by now was showing marked signs of dysentery and fever. He decided very wisely that Base would be the best place for recovery. But he did not want to hamper the party and preferred to descend to Base alone. We considered this unwise and persuaded him to change his mind; and I escorted him down to Camp I. He climbed well enough and we had got over the more awkward parts of the icefall when he suddenly disappeared up to his waist in a crevasse. One leg was totally imprisoned and the harder he struggled the more embedded he became. I tried to pull him free, but even our combined efforts were not sufficient. Eventually I had to dig around him with my hands and finally broke his boot free from the packed snow. Only then could we pull clear. On arrival at Camp I we were met by Capt. Rizvi, who volunteered to go down with Dick to Base.
Alter Dick and Rizvi had left for Base, I rested at Camp I. It was too hot inside the tent so I lay outside with a towel over my face against the glaring sun. Some clouds came overhead and very soon n turned chilly. Then it was time to set about the day's main meal dehydiatcd meat and vegetable-I had had nothing to eat since brakefast. Later, after struggling out of my sleeping bag to blow up the leaking air-mattress for the second time, I had one of my best nights. I dreamt of home instead of facing the reality of discomfort and thinking of expedition affairs. Before I finally settled to sleep, Ted arrived in the dark with Ismail on a late evening ferry from Base.
The following morning Hussein, who was sharing the two-man tent with me, was startled from his slumber by the sound of the alarm clock. I reassured him as to the source of noise. We had the ' standard' breakfast of tea, oatmeal cakes and chocolate, then set out on a load ferry with four h.a. porters. The journey with the fresh soft snow was more wearying than the previous day. On the steep sections every step required a short rest. I would sometimes change rhythm and style of movement so as to rest every other step. Camp II had seemed further away than usual. Ghulam was about the camp and he gestured, ‘Sahib cough' towards one of the tents. Bob had a racking cough and appeared quite ill. Due to his condition he had not been out with Geoff, Don and Ghulam on the day's lift to a prospective Camp III site-Don and Geoff looked very tired and Don's lips were dry, blistered and cracked. Bob's cough sounded more troublesome than the usual h.a. cough which most of us had in varying degrees. There was no choice, Bob must go down to Base. On the way down the third icefall we rested frequently-Bob had little control over his movements and bis cough was most disturbing. At Camp I he could move no furl her. So I left Bob with Ted and continued down to Base for more assistance and medical supplies.
The way over the upper parts of Scaly Alley was hardly recognizable beneath the mass of avalanche debris, so we hurried down this section. And the shelf between the icefalls had changed considerably under the influence of the sun. Many new crevasses, broken ice-cliffs and ice instead of snow slopes had appeared. At Base we found Dick, who was in better health, sorting out the medical supplies.
We rose at 4.30 a.m. the following day and after a brief breakfast left Base. It was snowing as we wended our way through the icefalls but not enough to prevent movement. At Camp I, Bob had a comfortable night but was uncertain of his strength. Dick made him more comfortable and gave him aureomycin and injections of penicillin. We made a rope stretcher and prepared for the journey down but the weather turned very bad and visibility dropped to zero. We eventually left at midday in a light snowfall with Bob well fastened on the stretcher. It was both awkward and difficult moving over the icefalls. The bearers were often falling head over heels in the soft uncertain snow. Crampons were a menace in these conditions. Bob was in really fine spirit regardless of his position. He gave encouragement to our efforts as we pulled with concerted effort up the slopes or as we manoeuvred him over the open crevasses. It was a long heavy drag down to Base, and we were supported admirably by Abdul, Ismail and Mahkmal.
(Camp III, 21,000 FT., ON THE SHOULDER OF THE DOME ; S.E. RIDGE AND TWIN SUMMITS ABOVE.
Upper part of South-East face. Camp VI, 24,000 ft. Camp VII, 24,800 ft. X- highest point reached, c. 25,300 ft. North summit, 25,660 ft. South summit, 25,610 ft.
We spent all the next day at Base in anticipation of some sign of recovery on Bob's part. There was little or no improvement, so the following day, June 24, he was carried down to the jungle at 10,000 ft. by Hushe coolies in the company of Rizvi and Dick. If his condition did not improve he would be taken down to the dispensary at Khapalu.
Meanwhile Geoff, Don and Ghulam without knowledge of the activity below had established Camp III on top of the Dome at 21,000 ft. on June 23. This was to be advanced base camp and from here the ascent would enter a second more definite stage. Now they could see beyond the enclosing walls of the Serac glacier. There was the Hushe valley and beyond, nearly 40 miles away or more, the village of Khapalu. In this direction I hey could see Nun Kun and countless other peaks receding into the blue of the horizon.
From June 23 to July 1 there was little activity beyond the Dome because of bad weather. But there was still ferrying of stores from Base to Camps I, II and III. Above Camp III there was little or' no visibility, and the slopes lacked the protection given by the lower walls of the mountain. Even with just low cloud and light snowfalls it was most uncomfortable to be away from camp in a completely white world without a focusing point. One could be utterly lost except for the freshly made steps behind.
In spite of these conditions, some exploration took place towards a site for Camp IV. On July 2, the first fine day, Camp IV was staked out at 22,000 ft. on the mouth of the basin beneath the Southeast face. The North summit, 25,660 ft., was within reach at last. There were the final difficulties. Beneath the twin summits was the whole of the South-east face covered with ice-cliffs, seracs and crevasses-the lower slopes were littered with avalanche debris. From the North summit swept the exposed East ridge used by the British expedition in 1938. Not so far away on the lower slopes was the highest point reached by the New Zealand expedition in 1955. It was our intention to climb to the centre of the face and up to the couloir between the twin summits.
On July 3 Don, Geoff, Ted and Ghulam were operating between Camps II and IV. I returned to Camp II from a lift to Camp III and was delighted to see Dick coming to meet me with a mug of steaming soup. He was much better now and had come straight up from Base that day, which was a sure sign of fitness. He said that Bob was much better and that he had left him and Rizvi in the jungle where they had pitched camp. There were now Dick, five h.a. porters and myself at Camp II.
At 3 a.m. the next day I nudged Dick awake and received a drowsy muttered response. His voice came from drugged depths due to taking two, instead of one, Seconal sleeping tablets last night. About 15 minutes later I nudged him again and got the same response. Suddenly Dick struggled to life. He must leave camp at once otherwise the whole working day would be spent in the sweltering heat and deep soft snow. He shouted to Ismail, who for obvious reasons turned a deaf ear. After striking interminably on a rapidly wearing match-box and wasting many matches Dick got the stove alight. He collected snow and ice to melt for a brew. More shouting for Ismail and this time an almost indistinct reply which could have been a snore or the wind. ' The blighter doesn't want to hearsaid Dick and stuck a cold lump of margarine followed by marmalade on a ‘Lifeboat' biscuit. Slowly events progressed. Ismail duly appeared and complained that his load was too heavy. There was a load check and several items were discarded. Dick had trouble fixing his crampons in the freezing cold with hands like lumps of raw meat. Every strap fastening meant several concerted efforts with the pain of bitter cold and much warming of hands. At long last, at 5 a.m.. Dick and Ismail set off wilh loads for Camp III
Later. I went down to Base with (he four h.a. porters. It was a glorious day. There were now clouds shielding the sun and helping ihe cliff shadows to keep the snow reasonably hard and crisp. We were carrying only personal gear. I felt light of heart and full of strength climbing down in such gootl snow conditions. The snow walls, sdracs, crevasses and avalanche debris were quickly and lightly negotiated and soon we reached Camp I. Here we had to re- erect the unoccupied tent which had collapsed due to melting snow. We continued down. The suggestion of using Scaly Alley came from Hussein. It was yet early for the snow, ice and rock falls from the cliffs above the alley so we welcomed the change of route. En route we found huge broken stones, large shattered snow and ice blocks, crevasses, bergschrunds, etc. It was a holocaust of snow, ice and rock. There were the difficulties of descending steeply, having to negotiate wide broken crevasses, cutting steps and having to jump or climb over ice and rock debris. Finally, before the alley swept out into the Masherbrum glacier, we stretched across on to the opposite narrow lip of a crevasse, trod lightly along its edge and then descended to easier ground. It was a jolly good way when in reasonable condition and at the right time of day.
Base Camp was deserted. The Stormhaven tent with sagging eajivas looked forlorn ; the snows had melted down about two feet leaving a shrinking pillar of ice as a base for the wilting tent. Inside, the wet grounclsheet sloped into a chute at the entrance and the sides slipped away beneath the tent walls. Anything near the sides of the tent would slither down beneath the canvas and vanish out of sight,
While we sorted out supplies for the following day's lift, Hussein suddenly cried out,' Bob Sahib!' and there approaching camp from the direction of Hushe were the familiar figures of Bob and Rizvi. The h.a. porters hugged and almost kissed Bob in their delight. He lookrd very lit and showed no sign of his previous illness. Later we decieded that Bob and Rizvi would stay at Base for a few days and we would meet again at camp III or IV.
When I moved down to Base with the porters, Dick and Ismail joined the others, who were busy stocking Camp IV. On July 5, Don and Geoff, with Ghulam and Ismail, moved up and occupied Camp IV. Ghulam and Ismail returned to Camp III and Don and Geoff, after a meal of biscuits and a brew of tea, pressed on and reconnoitred the way to a prospective Camp V. It was a hot day and the snow was very soft as they plodded their way through the avalanche debris on the lower slopes of the South-east face. The whole area and the slopes ahead were littered with avalanche debris. When they had surveyed a considerable area and were feeling the strain of the continued effort they returned to Camp IV, where they spent a restless night within sound of noisy avalanches and a strong wind.
The next day Don and Geoff carried food boxes, stoves, fuel and a tent to a possible camp site at the foot of a gangway running partway across the face from the East ridge. After a hard slog they reached the site and found it unsuitable. They dumped their loads and left them to be picked up at a later date. Don moved along the side of the East ridge to find a camp site and Geoff returned to Camp IV to prepare a meal.
The following day, July 7, Geoff and Don with personal gear and Ted and Dick with heavy loads of food, stoves, fuel, tent and rope, set off at 7 a.m. to the site of Camp V on the side of the East ridge. Don and Geoff arrived at the camp site about midday but had to wait until 4 p.m. when Ted and Dick appeared on the scene with the stores. It had been a long hot day. Because of their heavy loads and the snow in its usual soft condition they were very tired. By now the sun had swung off this side of the mountain and they had to return to Camp III in the rapidly freezing cold, leaving Don and Geoff to pitch Camp V.
On July 8, Don and Geoff set out to make a route to a site for Camp VI. They picked up the loads which had been left two days previously at the end of the gangway and began to break trail. It became too much for them with the heavy loads and eventually they had to dump them and climb on, making trail to a possible site for Camp VI beneath a serac. Having reached the possible site and finding it favourable they returned to Camp V. On their way back, an avalanche swept the slopes and sent a few lumps uncomfortably close to them. They were apprehensive as to the safety of the Camp VI site, but there seemed to be no alternative. The next day, they found that fresh snow had filled in their tracks, which had to be remade. The weather was now full of wind and swirling mist and made their ascent uncomfortable. They found the loads which they had dumped yesterday and carried them to the site of Camp VI at 24,000 ft. The tent was pitched on a filled-in crevasse beneath the overhanging serac. It was a tremendous overhang, some 30-ft. wide at its broadest point and about 20-yds. long. The situation was virtually a deep pocket in the mountain-side ; and despite the sounds of shifting, creaking snow, which were disturbing at first, the camp was quite safe and well protected.
In the meantime, Bob and Rizvi had joined me at Camp III. Bob had ascended alone from Camp II in the amazing time of hours. This showed a high degree of fitness and was indeed a time which was never equalled or improved upon. Rizvi followed behind at a more sedate pace in the company of three porters. Then we moved on to Camp IV where we found Ted and Dick recovering from their ferry to Camp V. This now made a total company of six of us at Camp IV, including Hussein, whom Bob and I wanted to take to the summit.
After two days of bad weather, which penned Don and Geoff in at Camp VI, the first summit assault set out at dawn on July 11. It started as a reconnaissance and with the good conditions developed into an attack. Don was well ahead of Geoff and got into the couloir between the twin summits. He first found himself on steep slab rock covered by a layer of uncertain soft snow. Moving over to the right he was soon ' swimming' in chest-deep powder snow at a steep angle. By using his right arm and leg on the rock-wall he managed to propel himself up the snow couloir. It was a difficult and dangerous business. Laboriously he made headway until he slipped and skidded down the steep slopes. Fortunately, he managed to brake himself finally with his ice-axe on the snow-covered slabs. By this time Geoff was nearby-together they might be able to climb the couloir despite its dangerous condition. But the hour was late, so they descended to the shelter of a serac at c. 24,800 ft., where they bivouacked with thoughts of an early morning attack on the couloir in good snow conditions.
On a small shelf, beneath a low overhanging arch of ice, they sat crouched beneath a plastic bag with a primus stove alight between them. They had insulated themselves from the ice-floor with ropes and rucksacks. The sun went out of sight and with the deepening shade came the creeping icy cold. They dreamed of their sleeping bags and the tent at Camp VI, and of their companions in relative comfort below. They talked of another fine day tomorrow and a very early start in tinner snow. There appeared nothing between them and the summit. The small stove battled on throwing out heat in this small pocket on the steep ice-slopes. They could feel heat towards the stove but everywhere else was freezing. Then the stove spluttered for several minutes and finally burnt out. There was no more paraffin. Nearly a whole box of safety matches was wasted trying to light a candle until there was no striking surface left on the match-box. So they struggled through the weary hours with just the warmth of their clothing. They dozed with gloved hands nestled beneath armpits and occasional stamping and rubbing of feet. In the early morning; before dawn they peered out from their shelter and thought of the summit. But the stars had now vanished in the heavy dark sky. There was a high wind with large snow- flakes falling outside. Several hours later there was no change in the weather, so reluctantly they packed their gear and returned down the slopes to Camp VI.
Whilst Don and Geoff moved down to Camp VI, Dick and Ted were climbing up in support of the summit attack. They had left Camp V at about 7 a.m. In the bad weather and the soft deep snow their pace was a crawl. At Camp IV Bob and I through the monocular could watch their movements through occasional breaks in the cloud. They were moving very slowly amongst the ice-cliffs and over the avalanche debris. Bob had a very good idea of Camp VI location and felt certain that their direction was wrong. Later there were shouts from the cloud-covered face which persisted until about 6 p.m. Bob and I were anxious for their safety. Don and Geoll heard the shouts and went to the entrance of Camp VI; peering down into the swirling snow they called back. At last, emerging from the white world below appeared Ted and Dick on the steep slopes. They were very exhausted ; and Ted was quite ill.
The weather worsened and the four climbers were penned in the two-man tent for the next three days. It became very uncomfortable in their overeramped quarters. There was no room to lie down, so they sat crouched or lay curled up as best possible. By the end of the first day most things were quite damp from the moisture of breathing and cooking, and at night they iced up. By the third day, in addition to the growing discomfort, there was little or no variety of provisions-all the best foods had been eaten and they were left with such unpalatable items as dried cabbage, dried egg, and ‘Lifeboat ' biscuits. Ted was very sick, and would have to go down as soon as possible. At the first sign of a break in the weather, on July 16, they all left Camp VI without further thought for the summit. Ted had to be assisted down the slopes to Camp IV. And .Don whilst glissading on the descent fell over an ice wall and sprained his ankle. At Camp IV there was a shortage of accommodation, so Dick and Geoff continued down to Camp III.
On July 17, Bob, Hussein and I, with Abdul and Ismail, went up to Camp V. Here, after dumping their loads, Abdul and Ismail wished us good luck and returned to Camp IV. The following day we had to break trail above Camp V. The tracks had either been filled in by fresh snow or swept away by avalanches. Along the gangway we crossed an ice-slope where a ‘carpet' snow avalanche had broken away. Bob and I climbed across in crampons but Hussein wouldn't follow until we had cut steps and roped him up. The best ways were where avalanches had passed, leaving a hard broken surface of snow or ice, I Isewherc it was almost impossible to make any upward progress, since each climbing step would collapse deep in the snow. The sun blazed down. We would often rest in the latter stages of the route for 15 to 20 minutes. Rather foolishly we had drunk little at Camp V before leaving at 6 a.m., so we suffered badly with dehydration and heat exhaustion. We were literally exhausted on arrival at Camp VI at 2 p.m.-the last 50 yards had taken us exactly 12 minutes!
We all recovered fairly quickly and the rest of the day was spent drinking, eating, taking photos and entering the day's log. Hussein would not have any of the warm green-pea soup and appeared in low spirits. Bob had been in good spirits until late evening when he developed an aggravating; cough. Rowntrees' pastilles and Tyrozet throat tablets relieved his throat slightly but the persistent phlegm and difficulty of breathing made me fear the worst. I gave him liquids and aureomycin and later thought of increased air pressure and pumped air into his mouth with a Lilo air inflator. This gave him some relief and eventually at 2 a.m. he was able to sleep. He appeared comfortable and I thought the danger was passed. At 4 a.m. Bob awoke and said that he felt much better. There was no sign of coughing or spitting now. He proposed that we stayed in camp that day and put off our summit assault until the following day. I set about making breakfast and whilst preparing a warm drink Bob became delirious. Soon his bad cough returned and again he had great difficulty with breathing. I held him up and gave him further treatment but his strength was slowly leaving him. His breathing was dying away ; then he sagged in my arms. I could not believe that he was dead.
Because of storms Hussein and I were penned in at Camp VI that day and the next five days. For the first few hours after Bob's death Hussein appeared well, then he started coughing and moaning. He chanted
and groaned and often asked to get away despite the bad weather. I explained repeatedly ill simple English, simple Urdu and simple sign language that it would be suicide to leave the camp in such bad weather. But this left little or no impression. I was at first anxious since his cough sounded treacherous, but later it improved and showed itself as a troublesome h.a. cough. That night and the following nights I gave Hussein sleeping tablets. Without them real sleep was impossible and Hussein needed rest. Each day he would repeatedly ask that we go down. Each day I would vary the version of why we should not move from the camp. I was a mixture of being kind and stern with him. He would not eat or drink anything, but occasionally scraped up spoonfuls of snow and ate this in preference to the soup and tea which I would offer to him.
At last, on July 24, the weather cleared sufficiently for movement down to Camp V, where hurriedly we had to shelter from a howling gale which threatened the camp's existence. We had to brace ourselves along both sides of the tent against the piling snow outside. Several hours later, there was a relatively fine spell allowing us to move rapidly down to Camp IV, where I broke the sad news of Bob's death to Geoff and Dick.
That evening was comparative luxury, though we were crowded in the two-man tent. The concave tent floor of some 10 depth, caused by many days of living on snow, was no longer uncomfort- able and inconvenient. And when Geoff knocked the melted snow over the floor and burnt his duvet jacket against the candle flame it brought me back very quickly into the routine of camp life with my friends again.
From camp IV on July 25, the four of us made our way down towards Base. Lower down, on the Serac glacier, it was about impossible to recognize any characteristic features of the route. Most of the snows had melted away leaving black serried shelves of breaking ice. It was especially difficult down Scaly Alley. As we descended the ice-grooves, a huge stone block slid down the alley towards us and caught Dick a glancing blow on the arm as he stepped to one side. On a most awkward section of Scaly Alley, where we had to descend a small ice- and rock-wall and then strike down on to the opposite narrow lip of a bergschrund, we were caught in the gathering darkness. Hurriedly we retraced our steps for a short distance up the steep slopes, then branched out on to the top of a large broken ice-pile. By starlight and torchlight we saw just enough room for the two-man tent which we had brought with us from Camp I We slept well enough that night but early the following morning we very quickly packed the tent and gear and moved off down to Rase. At Base Camp we broke the news of Bob's death to the rest of the expedition.
At Base Camp wr made plans for bringing down Bob's body from Camp VI. It was also decided that, given time and good weather, we should thereafter make another attempt to reach the summit. Since we would require more food and paraffin, Ted and Rizvi went down the llushe valley to the village of Muehilu for the remainder of our stores which had been left there for possible further exploration. Don and Dick stayed behind at Base with three porters in order to maintain camp. Whilst Geoff and I, with Abdul and Ismail and also Cihulam who had been siek for the last week or more, went down to the jungle to cut trees for a sledge and stakes.
The jungle with its warm green earth, overhanging trees and a small stream near our camp gave a peaceful pleasure which seeped through flesh and bone. It was good to enjoy the sunshine and feel the warmth of Nature. During our activity of felling and trimming trees, Ghulam would stand about anxious to join in with us, such was the spirit reflected in his eyes. But he was still sick, and there was no doubt he would have to go down to the dispensary at Khapalu to receive treatment. We had many visitors from the nearby village of Hushe. They would bring chickens, eggs and apricots for our meals, since we had brought no provisions except tea, sugar and dried milk. Before returning to Base with the completed sledge and stakes, Jabir, the expedition mail-runner, appeared with mail from Khapalu. He was a very welcome sight especially since there had been no mail for the last three weeks due to bad flying conditions between Skardu and Rawalpindi.
Back at Base Camp there were two days of heavy snowfalls which prevented any movement to the higher camps. Ted arrived on the scene, completely wet through after a forced march with supplies from Muchilu.
On August 2, Geoff, Don, Dick and I with five h.a. porters moved out of Base Camp. (Ted was feeling sick and had to stay behind.) We were heavily laden with stores to supplement living at the various camps In addition we had the sledge, stakes and 1,000 ft. of spare rope. It was by then our seventh week on the mountain- seven weeks of activity with little or no respite, so we felt tired and our loads were very heavy.
The line sunny days were a mixed blessing. They allowed movement, but were very hot and exhausting. Each day we promised ourselves a much earlier start to avoid the hot sun and soft snow, but the freezing cold before sun up, as much as 20o
C.-30°C. below zero, apart from tired limbs and the body's natural reluctance, kept us in our sleeping bags until the very last minute.
The major and most difficult part of our task was to get Bob's body down the steep slopes and ice-cliffs between Camps VI and V. We selected Rahim Khan and Abdul Rahim as the strongest of our porters to help us on this difficult section. At Camp III both tents were half buried in snow, so we had to spend several exhausting hours digging them out. Here, too, Abdul went sick with a high temperature, so we had to replace him with Ismail for the special duty. Hussein complained of his health, but we managed to coerce him to lift a light load as far as Camp IV with Mahkmal. At Camp IV, Hussein and Mahkmal dumped their loads and returned to Camp III with instructions to come back in two days' time. The following day Ismail groaned and moaned and showed signs of being sick with a high temperature. Also, Dick's arm, which had previously shown signs of infection, was now badly swollen. Don slashed open Dick's arm to relieve the swelling. Poor Dick must have lost about a pint of bad blood in the operation.
In view of the circumstances we considered it best to leave Ismail at Camp IV and send Dick down to Base for treatment. Dick, however, despite his disablement, generously carried a load to Camp V before returning to Base. It was therefore a reluctant and unhappy Rahim who then accompanied the three sahibs. He was now without his fellow-countrymen, he was climbing into the upper regions of mist, increased cold and superstition, to fetch down the body of a man who had died up there. At Camp V all we could see of the tent was the top four inches of the poles. Fortunately we had another two-man tent with us so the four of us squeezed into this for the night. We spent all the next day digging out the buried tent. It was exhausting work at 23,000 ft.
It was August 9, seven days out from Base, when we reached Camp VI. As we had anticipated, the tent was half buried in the snow. We spent several laborious hours digging before we were able to settle in and eat and drink and make preparations for the morrow.
The following day gave very poor visibility, but the route was sufficiently well known to allow a descent. We tied Bob's body with an air-mattress to a rope stretcher (the sledge had been left near to Camp V); a stake was driven into the snow at the entrance of Camp VI. Then 300 ft. of rope was led diagonally from the stake down the steep slope, another stake was driven into the snow at the loose rope end and the tension line made tight and secure. A rope leading from the front and a rope from the rear of the stretcher completed the arrangement. With the rope stretcher clipped on to the tension line with karabiner clips we swung slowly but surely in a diagonal line down the South-east face. Rahim Khan by now had got over a good part of his mental and spiritual sickness and was helping nobly with all the strength of his strong body. Each section of the descent had its trials and tribulations. In many places the stretcher had to be manhandled for distances up to 20 or 30 yards. The weather deteriorated into a snowstorm, and an avalanche poured across the way in front leaving a trail of soft, deep snow. Instead of traversing the steep ice slopes of the gangway between the ice-cliffs, we dropped straight down over the dill's. Kahim would not come this way, so whilst Geoff escorted him clown to Camp V, Don and I were left amongst the ice el ill's. There were many anxious moments when we doubted our safety as we moved first down a steep ice-chute and on to a lilled-in crevasse. Then across one serac, around another and down steeply, etc. The blinding snowstorm made the situation worse. But eventually we won through on to easier slopes near Camp V, where we staked the stretcher for the night. The most difficult and dangerous part had been done. At this point Geoff would bring all available support from the lower camps. On the way down with Bob he would break up all the camps in preparation for moving off the mountain whilst Don and I made the third and last attempt to reach the summit.
On August 12, Don and I moved up to Camp VI again and were penned in by bad weather there for the next two days. Avalanches swept the face, making life uncomfortable, but the camp was safe enough despite the shifting, creaking sounds about the camp site. One particular avalanche which swept over the camp was so great that it literally sucked all our breath away and left us empty, not knowing what was going to happen next.
At 3 a.m. on August 15, beneath a clear starlit sky, we climbed the steep slopes below the South summit, with the intention of pitching the Tinker tent beneath the serac used by Don and Geoff for their bivouac on the first assault. The snow was quite firm but When the sun appeared it became progressively so soft and unstable that it was physically impossible to go on. Not a single upward step would bear weight. We then dug a cave into the slope and sheltered from the hot sun and avalanches until sunset. Then the slopes would freeze and allow further progress. Unfortunately, (he cave was in a bad position. A powder snow avalanche swept overhead with uncomfortable regularity. The cave was not very big and the avalanche back-lash would enter the cave easily, partly burying us and putting out the primus stove on which we were trying to melt snow for a drink. At long last came sunset and we moved out thankfully and on up to the prospective Camp VII site at C. 24,800 ft.
The camp site was in a sheltered position beneath an overhanging serac. There was just enough room for'the small Tinker tent. For the sake of light loads we had left our sleeping bags and air- mattresses behind at Camp VI, so we arranged what insulation we could from the tent floor with ropes and rucksacks. We dozed and fitfully slept through the night with a lighted primus stove between us. It was cold-whenever we had occasion to handle metal it would stick to our fingers.
By 12.30 a.m. we were glad to think of making ready to move out. We brewed tea and by 2.30 a.m. we had made ready and set out under a clear starlit sky. The snow was firm and our progress steady. Our hopes rose high for the summit. By the time we had reached the summit rocks, the sun had risen high and swung on to our tracks. There was little time for the sun's influence in the couloir but we found the snow in a rotten soft condition. We made several attempts to climb the couloir but always found our crampon points scraping on smooth slab rock beneath the snow which was breaking away under foot. Any attempt up the couloir whilst it was in this condition was obviously dangerous, so we broke out on to a rock buttress on the left-hand side of the couloir. At first the rocks appeared comparatively easy, until we were hanging by finger tips with crampon points jammed sideways in narrow cracks.
We were climbing rocks as difficult as many we find at home at sea level. It was too strenuous and difficult. Some of the moves had been of more than severe standard. Most of the rock was covered with ice and snow. It took us 6 to 7 hours to climb 200 ft. on this rock buttress, so we had to take stock of our position. It was possible to continue, but the way ahead showed smoother and apparently more difficult ground. To climb on would most certainly mean sleeping out near the summit. There was no support from below since everybody was going off the mountain as planned. Don had dropped his gloves and lost them down the slopes. I had frostbite in my fingers and toes. The summit was not worth the risk. So at c. 25,300 ft. we abseiled off the rocks on a single length 300-ft. rope and returned to Camp VII. We were weary, glad to be rid of climbing such obstacles as rotten soft snow and severe rock at 25,000 ft., but sad to have the summit taken away from us when it seemed within our grasp.
We returned to Base Camp on August 18. It was not an easy journey, nor had it been for the others with the sledge. We could see the tracks of their tramping straining feet in many places, showing the tremendous effort of pulling the sledge. The lower parts of the Dome had changed completely into a mass of breaking ice. The Serac glacier was even worse with its dirty shelves of breaking ice. The only way down was by Scaly Alley. The transport of the sledge in these conditions down to Base must have been a laborious, difficult task.
Apart from falling down the slopes near Camp VI and off an ice- wall in Scaly Alley, Don and I reached Base safely enough, giving the expedition a total period of just over nine weeks on the mountain.