Himalayan Journal vol.21
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

T.H. Braham
  2. MASHERBRUM, 1957
    (By J. WALMSLEY)
    (By K. J. MILLER)
    (H. ROISS)
  9. MRIGTHUNI, 1958
    (J. P. OF. LYNAM)
    (F. SOLARI)



The expedition organized by the Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto (A.A.C.K.) reached the summit of Chogolisa I, 25,110 ft., on August 4, 1958. The mountain had been previously attempted by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1909, and also by Hermann Buhl and Kurt Diemberger of the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition.1
The Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto was founded in 1930 for the purpose of organizing expeditions to the Himalayas. For economic and other reasons we were able at first to send out only small expeditions to Saghalien, Korea, Manchuria and Mongolia, achieving the first winter ascent of Hakutosan in 1935, and scientific researches in the Mongolian steppes in 1938. In 1951, Dr. Eizaburo Nishibori visited Nepal with the object of examining Manaslu, 26,658 ft., but plans for its ascent were transferred from the A.A.C.K. to the Japanese Alpine Club. In 1953, the A.A.C.K. sent its first expedition to the Annapurna Range in Nepal under the leadership of Mr. Toshio Imanishi. A violent November storm forced the party to turn back from their highest camp, about 700 ft. below the summit of Annapurna IV. 24.600 ft. In 1956, Mr. I Imanishi visited Nepal again as a member of the J.A.C Ixpedition led by Mr. Yuko Maki and made the first ascent of Manaslu In 1955, Dr. Kinji Imanishi led the Kyoto University Scientific I xpedition to the Karakoram, visiting the Hispar and Biafo glaciers and the Baltoro glacier as far as Concordia, obtaining valuable information about these regions.

Following the above ventures, the Himalayan Committee of A.A.C.K. decided to send a mountaineering expedition to Chogolisa in 1958. It consisted of the following members:

Takeo Kuwabara 54 ... Leader. President of the Club. Professor at Kyoto University.

Taian Kato 47 ... Deputy leader. Member of Manaslu Expedition, 1953.

Masao Fujihira 33 ... Member of Annapurna Expedition, 1953.

Masaru Yamaguchi 32 ... Assistant at Osaka City University. Chemist.

Ma koto Wakisalca 32 ... Postgraduate student of Kyoto University. Member of Anna- purna Expedition, 1953.

Michiro Nakashima 27 ... M.D. Research member at the Institute for Tuberculosis, Kyoto University.

Kazumasa Hirai 26 ... Lecturer at Kanazawa University. Electrical engineer.

Yasuo Takamura 23... Postgraduate student of Kyoto University.

Goro Iwatsubo 24... Student of Kyoto University.

Member of Joint Scientific Expedition of Kyoto-Punjab Universities to Swat Himalaya, 1957.

Takao Haga 24...Student of Gakushuin University.

Miyoji Ushioda 42....Cameraman.

Yoshinori Imagawa 25 ....Interpreter. Member of Scientific Expedition to Swat Himalaya


Capt. Anwar Wajih 28 ... Liaison Officer.

In May 1958, seven members of the party left Japan on board a freighter, and in June, the remainder left by air for Karachi. The expedition gathered at Rawalpindi and flew across the Indus valley and Nanga Parbat to Skardu. There on June 21, having purchased local food supplies such as atta, dal and rock salt, we started the journey to Base Camp accompanied by 9 high-altitude porters and 152 coolies.

For the first three days the path followed the Shigar river. We crossed the Braldu river on goatskin zaks at Dusso, the swollen waters preventing us from taking the normal river-bed path. There- after, we followed a steep up-and-down precipice path and arrived at Askole on June 26. We stayed there only a day to buy supplies of atta, mutton, etc., and, as a result, the number of coolies increased to 200. During the journey from Askole onward, the coolies approached us almost every day with various demands. Urdokas was reached on July 2 (a whole day's stay on 3rd), and Concordia on July6. On July 8, Base Camp was established on the moraine at an altitude of 16,075 ft., at the foot of the steep precipice falling from the N. W. ridge of Baltoro Kangri.

Chongilisa seen from Base Camp is a snow and ice mountain with a small rock pinnacle at the summit. From the summit, a gentle snow slope falls to the N.W. to an unnamed peak of 20,875ft.; to the east, a steep ridge over 3,000 ft. long falls to an Ice Dome,3 and then continues at a gentle gradient to Kondus Pass. The North face between these ridges is a great ice-wall of almost 9,000 ft., rising without a break to the summit from the glacier in front of Base Camp. As a result of our observations, we decide on the only possible way to the summit. In the first stage we go up the Chogolisa glacier, which starts from the lowest col between Chogolisa and Baltoro Kangri and forming a labyrinth of icefalls, joins the main stream of the Upper Baltoro glacier. Next, we tread up the snow ridge, traverse the south flank of the Ice Dome, and get to the col between it and the summit. The last stage is the climbing of the final ridge leading to the summit. Descriptions given in the report of the Duke of Abruzzi's Expedition are ambiguous concerning the route above 20,000 ft., and no photographs are attached to it. At any rate, the first and the greatest difficulty seemed to be the ascent of the icefall.

Sketch map of Chogolisa group, showing route and camps.

Sketch map of Chogolisa group, showing route and camps.

Ice-fall between base camp and camp I.

Ice-fall between base camp and camp I.

View of Chogolisa from near base camp: summit (right), Ice dome (left sky line) and icefall (centre).

View of Chogolisa from near base camp: summit (right), Ice dome (left sky line) and icefall (centre).

Fine weather while we were still on the Baltoro glacier made us impatient. There is no knowing when the monsoon might come. Therefore, a whole day was devoted to checking the luggage and boxes at Base Camp, and without delay we launched the attack against Chogolisa on July 10. Three parties were despatched to reconnoitre the way and fortunately one of them, after heavy labour, succeeded in finding; a way through the seracs and crevasses and in fixing the site for Camp I on the plateau there. All three parties returned to Base Camp late in the evening.

Transport of stores weighing about 1,400 lb. to Camp I commenced on the next day. This continued until July 14, while we kept searching for the way to Camp II. According to our original plan, we were to take the direct way from Camp I to the foot of the Ice Dome, but this turned out to be impossible. On the gentle slope beyond the plateau, seracs and crevasses grew much larger than before, and forced us to go to the left. On July 18, we established Camp II at an altitude of approximately 19,350 ft., a little lower than Kondus Saddle and not far from the foot of Baltoro Kangri. The snow was knee-deep in this section. We were compelled to make a detour and many days were spent in this effort. We had to make the summit assault without delay. Impatience began to drive us all. However, everyone was in good physical condition and well acclimatized. The high-altitude porters were feeble in strength and many of them, complaining of various symptoms, left their work at this early stage ; hence the ferrying of loads fell mainly to the climbers themselves.

Although we intended at first to go (as did Hermann Buhl) on the ridge to the Ice Dome, and then cross the upper flank of it, later it tnrned out to be very difficult and dangerous. There is a steep ridge of nearly 50° which leads to the Ice Dome, four hours' march from Camp II on the gentle slope of the glacier with a number of hidden crevasses. We expected to traverse this slope at a stretch and build the next camp on the shoulder of the Ice Dome. From the viewpoint of trasport it proved impossible to do so, and Camp III was pitched at the very foot of the ridge at 21,000 ft. After a strong attack on the steep slope, we reached the plateau near the shoulder of the Ice Dome and pitched a tent for Camp IV at 21,980 ft.

....... Close by a rock in the vicinity, we found a faded vermilion tent half covered with snow. This was Hermann Buhl's tent;4 inside, there was a sleeping bag thickly covered with snow and ice, also two notebooks, some biscuits, canned sardines, a little honey, a hat, toilet articles, a roll of film, a cooking set and a petrol-burner. I had heard from the Italian Gasherbrum IV Expedition that Mrs. Buhl wished to recover mementoes of her husband. Hence these items were handed over to Mr. Fosco Maraini of the Italian Expedition who visited our Base Camp on August 9.

The porters were useless on account of mountain-sickness, and a few of the climbers were so exhausted by the effort of carrying heavy loads that they were ordered to rest at the lower camps. Nevertheless there was no other way than to force the attack on the summit immediately ; the monsoon seemed to be approaching, About 650 ft. above the steep ridge from the plateau, the intended route cuts the south flank of the Ice Dome to make a detour to the col, where we expected to pitch Camp V. However, cutting across the Dome flank at an angle no less than 50° in the prevailing bad weather only allowed us to pitch a tent on the unstable rock shelf at 22,960 ft. on the 29th ; to the south of this hangs the precipice of a great ice-wall enclosing the snowfield between the Ice Dome and Kaberi Peak.

On July 31, Fujihira and Hirai made use of the fine weather to attempt the summit from Camp V. They started at 3.50 a.m. After carefully crossing the flank and breaking through the unstable snow on the steep slope of slate rocks, they reached the ridge above the col in three hours. Thence a ridge of no less than 60 leads down to the col itself, and it took four hours to descend this precipitous ridge which has a huge snow cornice on the Baltoro side. Al 4.30 p.m. they had reached a height of 23.620 ft. on the corniced ridge ; it seemed rash to continue, so they decided to return from this point leaving oxygen bottles there. They did not like to take the ridge route again. The broad and gentle glacier lying to the south of the Ice Dome gives a circuitous way to Camp ill, and it seemed to be the route taken by the Duke of Abruzzi 50 years before. As a result of their observations from the final ridge, they thought that going down via this glacier would not be very difficult and it was sound judgement on their part to make this detour. The moon was shining brightly and the snow was hard enough to take a man's weight. Without difficulty, they returned to Camp III at 9 p.m.

That night Kato and the two summiters discussed the matter at Camp III, and they decided to adopt this glacier route. In the meantime the support party at Camp V, Yamaguchi and Nakashima, were uneasy about the summit party, and awaited their return, searching up and down the ice-wall until midnight. As soon as they were informed of their safe return to Camp III, by two others coming from there the next morning, they at once withdrew Camps V and IV and rejoined the party at Camp III. (The wireless apparatus had been out of order since July 29.)

After a whole day's rest, five climbers with five porters went up (lie new glacier route on August 3. Though this was a longer way, tliey gained a good distance owing to good snow conditions and clear windless weather. The porters were in relatively high spirits. We intended to establish a new Camp IV and a new Camp V as high as possible on August 3 and 4 respectively, and make the summit assault on the 5th. Gaining height, they saw that clouds covering the mountains far to the south warned of the monsoon's arrival. Consequently they decided that the attack on the summit must be made on the 4th. They decided to carry the minimum of equipment and food for a new camp to be placed as high as possible. When they came up to a point about 650 ft. lower than the col, the porters refused to proceed any further, and unwillingly they pitched a tent there, 21,980 ft., knowing that this height would be disadvantageous for a dash to the summit. This camp was called Camp YVa. After the support party Yamaguchi, Nakashima, and Takamura went up as far as the col to trace the next day's route, they turned back to the snowfield after sunset, and pitched a tent there, Camp TVb. This site had been chosen so as to send out on the next day a climbing party to Kaberi Peak.

The summit party again consisted of Fujihira and Hirai. On August 4 from Camp TV a, they started for the summit at 4.30 a.m.; a splendid fine day without a cloud. It took only 40 minutes to gain the 650 ft. to the col without difficulty, making use of the previous day's snow steps. Higher up on the main ridge they got to the place where they had left oxygen bottles on July 31 and, equipping themselves with oxygen apparatus, they went up again, breathing oxygen. According to their calculation they had enough oxygen for about six hours at a flow rate of 2 litres/minute. They carefully walked up the East ridge of Chogolisa taking precautions against the gigantic cornice on the right. The higher they went up, the,steeper the slope became, and the deeper the snow lay. Some- times they sank to the breast, and broke the crusted surface to clear the unsound snow from their steps ; so in order to gain a single step they had to tread the snow several times. They covered only a poor distance after many hours' work and it was already 1 p.m. when they finished ascending the steep slope on the left of the arete from which the Duke of Abruzzi might have been compelled to turn back ; there was a serious danger of avalanches. The oxygen was consumed by this time. But they decided to continue ascending without oxygen. They got to the top ridge at 4 p.m. after finishing the long steep slope of snow. Quite a strong and cold wind blew from the west. Above stood a rock pinnacle about 130 ft. high ; it was the top of Chogolisa. They left their loads there and began to climb the rock wall. Hirai, who was leading all the way, gave over the lead to his elder, Fujihira. At the very foot of the final pinnacle, they saw clearly a Brocken spectre in the mist rising from the side of the Baltoro glacier. It was 4.30 p.m. on August 4 when they stood on the top of Chogolisa. The top was too small to be occupied by the two.

They stayed there for half an hour, while they took photographs of the surrounding views in colour and monochrome film and also on 16 mm. cine-film. At 5 p.m. they started down. They descended carefully on the steep slope in the gathering dusk, and the sun set completely when they got down to the arete. The support party of Nakashima and Takamura met the deadly exhausted sum- miters at 8 p.m. at about 23,000 ft., and it was not until 10.30 p.m. that they came back to Camp IVa. It had taken them 18 hours of hard work to reach the summit and come back to this camp.

The movements of the summit party were observed all day from Camp III through binoculars by Kato, Ushioda and Imagawa ; Ushioda succeeded in taking a cine-film of every stage of the ascent with a telephoto lens. Next morning, August 5, Imagawa hurried down accompanied by a porter and conveyed the good news to Base Camp where Wakisaka, Iwatsubo. Ilaga, Capt Wajih and I were waiting.

From Camp III Kato, Ushioda, and Imagawa had made use of a line day on August 3 and ascended an unnamed peak of 22,175 ft. towering on the south of the Kondus Saddle. We called it ‘Kondus Peak.’

Fujihira and Hirai came hack to Camp III on August 5 accompanied by the porters, who went up to withdraw Camp IVa. On the same day, three members of the support party cut across the snow- field and ascended a pure white peak of about 22,965 ft, which stands just to the south of the Ice Dome. In spite of the steep slope and breast-deep snow they succeeded in reaching the top at 2 p.m. They named it 6 Kaberi PeakAt this time clouds were closing around them and when they came back to Camp III, a snowstorm began.

On August 6, last night's snowstorm continued all day and it was the most violent one we had ever experienced during the whole expedition. In the midst of a heavy snowfall, all the members of Camp III left there and came down to Camp II on the 7th. Good weather returned on the 8th and all climbers, except two, returned to Base Camp. Many crevasses gaped in the vicinity of Camp I and the condition of the icefall below the camp had changed completely. As for red flags, which had been put in every 160 ft. to show the way in the labyrinth, only a few of them were still to be seen. The two of the rearguard party put Camps II and I in order and returned to Base Camp on August 10.

View from the summit of Chogolisa: left to right -K2, 28,250 ft., broad peak, 26,414 ft., Gasherbrum IV, 26,000 ft., Gasherbrum III, 26,090 ft., Gasherbrum II, 26,360 ft., and Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak), 26,470 ft.,

View from the summit of Chogolisa: left to right -K2, 28,250 ft., broad peak, 26,414 ft., Gasherbrum IV, 26,000 ft., Gasherbrum III, 26,090 ft., Gasherbrum II, 26,360 ft., and Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak), 26,470 ft.,

If the weather permitted, we had intended to reorganize the expedition at Base Camp and try other mountains. But it was too late to do so and autumn had already arrived in the Baltoro. Accordingly, while we waited for the coolies' arrival from Askole, I ordered Hirai and Haga to go up the Biange glacier5 and to reach the Seste Saddle in order to view the Sarpo Laggo glacier and the Shaksgam river.

Our return journey was a pleasant one, bathing in the hot-spring at Chongo, and eating apricots in the villages down from Chokpiong. Takamura and Iwatsubo, both students of agriculture, went on foot with the transport caravan to Skardu, while the rest of us enjoyed the goatskin zaks on the rapid Shigar river. On August 31, we returned to Skardu.