Himalayan Journal vol.22
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.22

Publication year:
1960

Editor:
Dr K. Biswas
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. INDIANS ON MOUNT EVEREST, 1960
    (BRIGADIER GYAN SINGH)
  3. AMA DABLAM, 1959
    (J. H. EMLYN JONES)
  4. ANNAPURNA II, 1960
    (Lt.-Col. J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  5. DHAUL AGIRI, 1959
    ( DHAUL AGIRI, 1959)
  6. DHAULAGIRI, THE 'WHITE MOUNTAIN': A CHRONICLE OF THE 1960 EXPEDITION
    (KURT DIEMBERGER)
  7. THE ASCENT OF MASHERBRIJM
    (THOMAS F. HORNBEIN, M.D.)
  8. YUGOSLAV EXPEDITION TO TRISUL GROUP, 1960
    (A. KUNAVER)
  9. SIKKIM, 1960
    (H. V. R. IENGAR)
  10. ACROSS THE INNER LINE
    (ANNE DAVIES)
  11. SURVEY OF KASHMIR AND JAMMU, 1855 TO 1865
    (COLONEL R. H. PHILLIMORE, C.I.E., D.S.O.)
  12. WANDERING IN THE HIMALAYAS
    (FUKATA KYUYA)
  13. A SMALL EXPEDITION TO GANESH HIMAL
    (P. J. WALLACE)
  14. NORTH-EAST OF POKHARA
    (GORDON JONES)
  15. DISTEGHIL S AR, 1960
    (GUNTHER STARKER)
  16. THE ASCENT OF TRIVOR
    (WILFRID NOYCE)
  17. HIMALAYAN SCIENTIFIC AND MOUNTAINEERŽING EXPEDITION, 1960-61
    (NORMAN HARDIE)
  18. A HIGH WALK IN THE CENTRAL HIMALAYA
    (A. D. MODDIE)
  19. ASCENT OF NOSHAQ
    (DR. YAJIRO SAKATO)
  20. OBITUARY
  21. REVIEWS
  22. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1959-60

A SMALL EXPEDITION TO GANESH HIMAL

P. J. WALLACE

MY original plan for 1960 was to attempt an ascent of Trisul and the first ascent of Bethartholi Himal in India. However, I was unable to get permission and it became necessary to find a suitable mountain at the last moment. In discussion with the Sherpas Pa Norbu and Gyalzen, it was decided to travel to Kathmandu with our equipment and seek permission to climb on Annapurna IV as Pa Norbu had been on that mountain with Tilman's party in 1950, and we thought that we had a good chance of climbing it. We were informed that Robert's party were climbing Annapurna II, and that the route was thought to follow the Annapurna IV route and we could not be given permission unless Roberts had been consulted. This consultation could not take place as that party had already gone to their Base Camp. Colonel Proud, of the British Embassy, suggested that we should try Ganesh Himal, and showed me Tilman's account of his visit to that hill, which indicated that the SW. ridge would offer a straightforward route if it could be reached. With the help of Mr. Naja Man Singh, Under Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colonel Proud and Mr. Pradhan, Hon. Secretary of the Himalayan Society of Nepal,, formalities were completed quickly, and on the 25th April I was given permission to go to Ganesh Himal.

On the 26th April, the party consisting of myself and the Sherpas Gyalzen and Pa Norbu, who had been with me in 1955 and 1958, and the Liaison Officer, Mr. A, P. Raya Maghi, the Sherpa Rinsing, and eight coolies, left Kathmandu. We marched to Chilime in six days, passing through Trisuli Bazaar and Syabru. The weather was miserably hot until we gained some height. In a few places the track was difficult, with rocky staircases stuck on to steep cliffs. The local people tell of horses and sheep falling off, but not people. What we could see of the high mountains showed that there was no new snow, but that they were very iced up, which we thought would make climbing slow but safe from snow avalanches.

At Chilime we paid off the Kathmandu coolies and engaged local men to carry our equipment to Sanjen, a high valley pasture for yaks and sheep, which is the way on to Ganesh Himal. There are routes to Sanjen on both sides of the Chilime Khola, which are used when the sheep are brought up in the monsoon, and another short route following the river line, which the local people rarely use as there are few occasions to take a man to Sanjen, unless he is taking animals to graze on the hills. We had decided to follow the river line as in discussion and from the accounts of Tilman and Lambert- we knew that hill tracks would have a great deal of snow on them. We were surprised when, on the first day, the nine local coolies said that we should go over the southern hill route. We reached Sanjen in four days instead of the two we had expected. On this southern route we went over a pass about 15,000 ft. high, and we, the climbers, had to wear our high altitude boots and lend our approach march shoes and mountain boots to the coolies. Even so there was no footwear for one man and two others preferred to go barefooted. The 6th May was, for me, a nightmare march. The western slope of every ridge had snow on it and we had to stamp out a track, or cut steps, and place a fixed rope for the coolies. When at last we got down off the snow in the late afternoon, I treated all the coolies for snow-blindness, as some were complaining of headaches. There were no ill-effects. However, when the coolies were paid off at Sanjen they chose to go back by the river line. We established Base Camp on 7th May. At this time, in spite of the fact that Ganesh Himal filled the head of the valley, we only saw it for a few minutes as it was covered by clouds.

On the following day Gyalzen and Pa Norbu and I went up the Sanjen Glacier and identified the route used by Lambert's party. To reach Camp I it would be necessary to climb over ground threatened by ice-fall. The couloir beyond Camp II looked terribly steep. It was immediately evident that to reach the SW. ridge was impossible. The route was by a SE. ridge up to 20,000 ft. and after that there were alternatives.

By the 11th, Advanced Base Camp had been established at the Sanjen Glacier, and I went up alone to examine the dangerous ground in front of Camp I. At this time there was little sign of recent ice- or stone-fall, but the place was potentially very dangerous. On the following day the three Sherpas and I made a carry up to Camp I at 16,500 ft. There is only one good place for tents there, Lambert's tomb, which is marked with an inscription and carved cross. The Sherpas went down to bring up more stores and I remained. The next day the camp was in cloud and as the Sherpas returned I was able to guide them in.

On the 14th, we four climbed up to Camp II at 18,700 ft. On the way, on some steep ice, we found a fixed rope from 1955. We made the camp in thick cloud. It was decided to leave the Sherpa Rinsing here and climb up the couloir with one tent the following day, and try the summit, leaving the Assault Camp in the small hours of the 16th. This was because the mountain was now in good condition but the weather was deteriorating. I realized that rushing so high a mountain would be difficult, but the couloir now just above us was very steep. Unhappily there was thunder and snowfall all night. We decided to spend the day in camp and watch developments. The night of the 15th was clear, although the dawn of the 16th was cloudy, and we decided that much of the couloir was too steep to allow any great depth of snow to bind on it, and we started up. Quite soon we were hit by the edge of a very fast, but small, snow avalanche. We followed the true right side of the couloir and by 5.30 p.m., after a great deal of very steep climbing on snow, ice and rock, we saw through a gap in the clouds that we were close to the crest of the ridge but that there was very difficult ground just ahead. All day we had seen nowhere that we could pitch a tent and so we cut a cavern in the ice and by an hour after dark we pitched the tent. It was held by a piton and our axes. There was not room to extend it laterally. Nevertheless, we spent a warm and comfortable night but were disturbed by the fear that if a high wind got up we would be in great danger. There was snow all night and the dawn of the 17th was one of thick cloud and snow, and we decided to go down. We left some food and kerosene at the place and fixed a hundred feet of rope in the ice. The climb down in the snow-storm was very difficult. The falling snow would not bind to the ice and came hissing past us throughout the descent, filling any steps that were cut. At one time a small ice avalanche swept through us, fortunately at a place that was not very steep. Both Pa Norbu and I were hit but neither of us was hurt. We found the Sherpa Rinsing in good spirits at Camp II. The next day we climbed back to Base Camp in a snow-storm which turned to rain as we got down. A piece of ice fell on to the dangerous ground near us as we crossed. On the 19th we rested at Base Camp, and the next day the three Sherpas went back to Chilime to forage as we intended to wait for a change in the weather, if it would come, and make another attempt in the expected lull just as the monsoon broke. It was arranged that they should return after a week. I would remain at Base Camp and watch the weather.

During this time the weather never really cleared up, but in the occasional clear periods it was possible to see that in spite of the heavy snowfall no major cone appeared under the couloir although the hills thundered with the sound of avalanches.

On the 26th May the Sherpas returned with one coolie by the river line, with a supply of fresh meat and other stores. The following day we moved up to Advanced Base Camp. In the morning the weather was fine, but from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. there was rain and snow and the night was comparatively clear. The Sanjen Glacier, almost surrounded by mountains, thundered with avalanches.

On the 28th we sent the Sherpa Rinsing back to Base Camp and in eleven hours climbed steadily up to Camp II. The ground in front of Camp I was strewn with fallen seracs. There were signs of heavy snowfall and a rise in temperature. The tent we had left on Camp II was nearly buried in snow and we worked for an hour to dig it out. From 3 p.m. until dusk there was light snowfall. On the next day we rested and watched the weather. The weather was fine and so on the 30th we made an early start up the couloir, making this time for the true left side. As we crossed the mouth, pieces of ice and snow came whizzing past us and I was struck on the left hand by a small piece of ice which drew blood and made my hand and wrist swell. At the first halt I asked the Sherpas whether they preferred to turn back, but we decided to go on. Stone and ice continued to come down in quantities and the Sherpa Pa Norbu was struck heavily on his rucksack. Again I offered to abandon the climb, but the majority opinion was for going on. In time we reached a rock ridge on the left of the couloir, and we could see Lambert's pitons and fixed ropes skylined. This rock ridge changed to steep ice with occasional rock outcrops on it. At 4.30 p.m. we made camp on a ledge in the ridge at about 21,300 ft. We had left Lambert's route and taken the steeper but shorter ridge.

The night was bright with stars but towards morning there were terrific wind gusts. At 5.15 a.m. we started up the ice ridge. Here it was very steep but it soon gave way to easier angles. Mixed ice, snow and rock took us to the summit, the great snow dome visible from the Chilime valley, by 2 p.m. We saw another summit over a saddle to the west. This summit appeared to be higher by a little. We were very surprised to see it, as we had understood that the northern summit was the higher and it appeared to us that we were on the more northerly of the two. Much later, when looking at Peter Aufschnaiter's photographs taken from Kyserong, it was decided that we had climbed the east summit and the other was the main summit climbed in 1955. In any event we could not get on to the other and back to camp. There was a cloud-bed low over Tibet, but I got photographs of some features above the cloud and was twice blown over from the kneeling position while doing so.

We climbed back to camp through the clouds. We then discussed plans for getting off the mountain. The Sherpas thought that we might be killed by falling ice or stones in the couloir. I suggested looking for a route that would avoid it! Perhaps the route by which Eric Gauchat's body had been brought to Camp I. However, it was decided to throw the tent and purely high altitude equipment down the couloir and to climb down as fast as possible.

The 1st of June was windy with cloud and snow. We started down by 6.15 a.m. and at the head of the couloir, threw the tent down. As we left the rocks and climbed into the couloir one of my crampon straps broke. By good luck one of Lambert's fixed ropes was close at hand and we cut it to tie the crampon. While doing this we heard the whistle of falling rock and lay against the face. I was hit on the rucksack very heavily and winded. While this was going on Pa Norbu dropped a woollen glove which we later found 12 paces from the jettisoned tent.

We climbed on down the couloir at a terrific pace in cloud, wind and snow. There was only one more fall of ice and at last we came to the tent and the glove and were out of danger.

The next day we were away by 7 a.m. and after rushing across the dangerous ground under the ice-falls, where I skinned my hand and nearly pulled a pile of boulders over myself, we climbed down on to the glacier where we met the Sherpa Rinsing, and the climb was over.