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

DISTEGHIL S AR, 1960

GUNTHER STARKER

Winter was drawing near as I stood, for the first time in six months, looking at the familiar face of our native hills, somehow grown fonder through long absence. Half-dreaming, I gazed up at the great precipices of the South Face of the Dachstein. But my thoughts went winging away to the greatest and most exacting peak I had yet climbed-to Disteghil Sar in the Karakoram. And the indescribable magnificence of what I had seen during that expedition of ours still seemed to be clothed in unreality.

It was in the spring of 1959 that the question was first mooted: 'Why don't the Austrian climbing clubs send a party to the great peaks?' 'No funds', came the answer. 'Surely that can't be an insuperable obstacle ?' we replied. 'It might be worth trying.' And that was how it all began.

The Austrian Alpine Ciub reacted cordially to our approach and promised us all possible assistance. It was not until December, 1959, when we received our entry-permit from Karachi that we knew that there was no further obstacle to our great adventure. Our objective was finally settled.

There were only three months in which to collect funds, equipment and supplies. Wolfgang Stefan, who had been selected as the leader of the expedition, put in a fantastic stint of work to achieve this. Director Hiedler, who was really the originator of the whole project, placed himself unsparingly at our disposal and it was his advice and energy which showed us the ways and means which would otherwise never have occurred to us.

But our plans would never have come to fruition had it not been for the generous grants made by the Austrian Alpine Club and by the Ministries of Education, Commerce and Reconstruction; the considerable sums which poured in from Chambers of Commerce, the Union of Austrian Banks, from private donors; and last but not least the unselfish efforts of the Committee of the Austria Section, and indeed every section of the Austrian mountaineering fraternity.

The expedition consisted of Wolfgang Stefan (leader), 26; Gotz Mayr, 26; Herbert Raditschnig, 26; Diether Marchart, 20, the'baby' of the party ; and myself, aged 25.

We knew a good deal about our mountain. In 1957, a British party under Gregory had been the first to attempt it. They tried it by the savage south face, swept ceaselessly by avalanches, and had reached a height of about 21,300 ft.[1]
In 1959 Raymond Lambert, leading a strong Swiss party to the foot of the magnificent peak, took one look at its face and said: 'That route is sheer suicide. We'll try the East Ridge.' They reached about 23,000 ft. and then had to give up, owing to the sudden onset of adverse weather.

We sailed from Genoa on March 30, by the Victoria, and arrived in Karachi on April 11. There we received a hearty welcome from Dr. Hartlmayr, the Austrian Ambassador, and Mr. Jaffer, the president of the Austro-Pakistani Cultural Association. After a few hectic days, we travelled by train to Rawalpindi.

Here, Colonel Goodwin, the host to so many expeditions, and his brother Bill gave us a cordial reception. Their home is set in a wonderful garden of colourful flowers, studded with orange and almond trees, We were introduced to our liaison officer, Mohammed Amanullah Khan, a very likeable twenty-three-year-old captain in the Pakistan Army. Having acquired an additional 2,000 lb. of food for the porters, we left for Gilgit on April 21 by the tremendously impressive Dakota flight.

' Chenar Bagh', belonging to the Gilgit Scouts, became our temporary residence. It was the prettiest spot in Gilgit, surrounded by innumerable trees and flowers-beds and hemmed in by debris- covered peaks and giant snow-summits.

Here, we were greatly assisted in our final preparations by the Political Agent, Mr. Habibur Rheman. We paid a visit to the grave of Karl Heckler, the German climber who was killed in a fall in 1954.

On May 6, we set out for Nagar in six jeeps. It had rained for two days and the roads, just broad enough for a jeep and carved out of the precipice, often a sheer three to four hundred feet above the river, stretched our nerves to the uttermost. Less than 20 miles from Gilgit the rear wheels of the leading jeep, with Gotz in it, bogged down in deep mud and the drivers went on strike. We felt it unwise to continue with this dangerous and unreliable method of transport, for the road had been completely washed away by waterfalls and landslides at some points. So two days later, we pushed forward with 61 donkeys and horses. Two days' march along a picturesque but perilous road brought us, by way of Chalt, to Minapin (6,500 ft.). There were glorious views of Rakaposhi (25,558 ft.) and of Minapin, also called Diran (23,862 ft.).

The pleasant, fertile vale of Hunza, across the river, with its capital Baltit, made a lovely colourful picture, with countless apricot, peach and mulberry trees in full blossom along both banks.

We spent two days as guests of the Mir of Nagar.

On May 12, we moved on in lovely weather with 80 local porters, each carrying some 55 lb. I had to stay behind for a while. A local barber-surgeon with the help of four4 assistants' treated my hurt foot and it was four days before I was able to start off, with one of our high-altitude porters. Shortly after leaving Nagar we crossed a glacier and then moved up the valley over bare, sandy slopes, high above the Hispar river. On the second day we forded the icy stream and continued along its left bank over steep slopes of rubble. Near the source of the river, we crossed a rickety suspension bridge and reached Hispar (9,843 ft.), where we put up our tent and for the last time submitted to the gaze of the poverty-stricken inhabitants and their innumerable children. The weather had slowly deteriorated all day, and cold flurries of snow began to fall as we encamped.

On May 18, I caught up with my companions, who reported that they were still far from having established a Base Camp. When it began to snow on the previous days, the porters had jettisoned their loads and refused to budge. No amount of exhortation had any effect, so there had been nothing for it but to let them go and to set up a provisional base at 13,945 ft. This meant we had to carry our whole two tons of baggage, with the help of our four high-altitude porters, to our Base Camp site, 1,000 ft. higher up. Every day we humped loads of 55 to 70 lb. and the three hours or so of uphill work, on crumbling and icy moraine, proved to be the finest possible conditioning. On our daily trips we were always glad to take a breather at the remains of one of the Swiss camps and did full justice to the tinned ham Lambert and his men had left behind the year before.

We established Base Camp on May 21. We had got the bulk of the equipment and provisions up. The porters could bring the remaining loads up by themselves, while we made preparations for our assault on the mountain.

At first a blizzard raged incessantly and it was two whole days before we could take stock of our surroundings. Our objective loomed up in front of us. The natives call it Dastoghil; a rough translation would be 'The marshy hand' or 'The snow-covered hand'. Certainly, the ice-armoured and snow-laden fingers of that chilly hand pointed down on us, repellent and attractive at the same time. To our right rose Kunyang Chish, also unclimbed; and a little further back, Trivor, to be attempted by a British party later this year.

At first we stood and stared in silence. All around us lay a deep hush, broken from time to time by the thunder of avalanches. Gradually we began to study the climbing possibilities of our peak and very soon came to the conclusion that there was very little future in the East Ridge, which the Swiss had followed. Success on that route would depend on an impossibly long spell of unbroken fine weather. So we turned our eyes to the British route. True, the 10,000-ft. shattered face of ice was menaced by avalanches, but if we could succeed in establishing well-protected assault camps, it ought to be possible to cope with the most dangerous sectors.

The very next morning at six o'clock, Wolf, Diether and I started off on our first assault. Unfortunately, our start was too late, for the sun burned down on us pitilessly and breaking a trail in the loose snow, always knee-deep and sometimes up to our thighs, was sheer torture. On the avalanche-slopes it was easier, for they had been packed firm by the descending masses of snow. By 12.45 we came to a bergschrund. Our altimeter recorded 18,112 ft. We unroped, took off our crampons and sat down to rest and eat a quiet meal washed down with juice prepared on the cooker. It was terribly hot and we all had headaches. Bemused, we looked up at the way ahead, which started with a thousand-foot couloir leading up from the bergschrund's upper lip. But we had had enough for the day, so we emptied our rucksacks and anchored every bit of equipment with ice-pitons under a bivouac-sack. Then we trudged wearily down again.

Gotz and Herbert, whose turn it was the next day, set off at 2 a.m. in perfect weather. They took with them Hidayat Shah, nicknamed 'Sepperl', our best Hunza porter, who had already distinguished himself with Hias Rebitsch's party in 1954 (1955?).[2]We had a long lie-in and when we began to watch our companions through binoculars at 8 o'clock, they had made tremendous progress. We saw them working their way up the ice-couloir till they disappeared for a time from our view. An hour later, we saw them sit down to rest under an enormous serac, just about where we thought Camp I ought to be sited. By 11.45 they got back to the bergschrund and collected Sepperl, who had remained there- we did not quite know why. We watched closely for a while, but presently we lost sight of them; just before 3 p.m., they rejoined us. Sepperl had suffered acutely from the early morning cold, so Herbert and Gotz had wrapped him up in sleeping-bags and left him behind. They had succeeded in finding a safe and suitable place for Camp I at 18,840 ft.; there they had dumped their loads. Heavy cloud drawing down now, whilst we massaged the porter's toes and were relieved to see that there would be no aftereffects. But we had decided after this experience not to use porters beyond Camp I, if we could possibly avoid it.

On the 26th Wolf, Diether and I trudged off again at 2.20 a.m., hoping doubtfully that it would stay fine. It was pitch-dark, a few isolated stars twinkled down on us and it was not until we were far up the glacier that a pale reddish dawn, shading into yellow and violet, suffused the mountains with a ghostly light. Our misgivings proved to be justified. An hour and a half later when we reached the bergschrund it was blowing pretty hard and the first avalanches rumbled down, counselling all possible speed. While Diether was carefully anchoring the equipment with pitons, Wolf and I climbed into the couloir to fix an additional 300 ft. of rope; Gotz and Herbert had already safeguarded the upper part. Then we hurried down, retrieved our rucksacks and made all haste to get clear of the avalanche zone. We did not allow ourselves a proper rest till we were far down on the level glacier, clear of all danger.

The same evening I was given a special birthday treat, in the shape of a 'Himalaya Cake'. Gotz, who always provided us with splendid meals, also managed to lay on strawberries and cream. The flickering candles illuminated our tent with a romantic light and, when we celebrated the occasion with a toast in wine, we realized that we had been forged into a solid and united team, ready to face anything.

We had to wait three days before the weather cleared and it was not until May 30 that the five of us with two porters, Sepp. and Chaban, pushed off again. Breaking the trail was hard work and we had to change the lead at regular intervals. At about 12.30 we collapsed in the snow at the spot selected for Camp I. Then we started to stamp a level site. After a short rest, the porters went back to Base, while we made another trip to the bergschrund and back, in order to bring up most of the material we had dumped there.

We took a well-earned rest next day. We had every reason to be satisfied with our progress, having established Camp I at roughly the height of the British party's second camp. Late in the afternoon Herbert and Diether went out on a reconnaissance. Not far above camp, they had to climb a vertical 30-ft. ice-wall, cutting steps and fixing another hand-rail. Then they pushed ahead a fair distance. Meanwhile, Gotz and I went down to the bergschrund to fetch the rest of the gear up, while Wolf was busy catering for the inner man.

On June 1 we all climbed the ice-wall early and stamped our way upwards over steep, dangerous avalanche-slopes. .The long traverse which ensued called for everything we had. We were continually going in up to our thighs and the route was overhung by some perfectly frightening seracs. At 20,700 ft. we came upon a huge chasm, barring the way with an almost vertical, broken-off upper-lip about 30 ft. high. We were forced by thick mist and increasingly heavy snow-falls to dump our provisions and equipment and to climb down again. Diether and Herbert, fearing a longish period of bad weather, made haste down to Base Camp, while Gotz, Wolf and I remained at Camp I. We were delighted to find that, during our absence, Amanullah and the porters had come up with fresh supplies for the higher camps.

On June 3, Wolf and I went up again in variable weather. At the start of the traverse we halted in amazement-the enormous seracs had disappeared and were lying across our route shattered into huge blocks. We had had a very lucky escape. When we reached the chasm we tried the ice-wall, but could not find a way up it anywhere. So we followed the huge crevasse up towards the west till we found it possible to climb a steep and dangerous couloir at its far end and so found the key to the upper lip. It was perfectly clear that this route was too difficult, time-wasting and precarious for normal use. Snow-flurries were blowing up and the increasing menace of avalanches drove us down to Camp I again. There we found Herbert and Diether, who had come up again from Base Camp, where they had prepared a rope-ladder and brought up some of the porters, each carrying a load of over 30 lb. We were able to snuggle into our tents in the knowledge that we had put the day to the best possible use.

On the following day, Herbert, Gotz and Diether followed our route across the chasm and fixed the rope-ladder above it, thus providing the safest and quickest solution of this major obstacle. Not satisfied with this, they climbed on, reaching 21,325 ft. where they chose a site for Camp II in the shelter of a small serac. Roughly at this point was situated the British Camp IV, the highest reached by that expedition.

On June 5, Wolf and I made good progress in their trail, which for once had not silted-up overnight, and by 9.30 we were able to rope up the loads we had left below the chasm, and bring them above the rope-ladder. It was terribly hot by midday when we got up to the safe site of Camp II, where we decided to spend the night.

On the morning of the 6th, as we were bringing the rest of the ' equipment and supplies up from the ladder, we caught sight of the others at the start of the traverse. They had started late and arrived at about 3 p.m., having been exposed more than usual to the scorching heat of the sun. Now that we were all at Camp II, we decided to take a day off, which we all felt we deserved. Our thoughts ran something on these lines: 'We are about 1,600 ft. below the ridge, where we propose to site our last camp. If we don't run into any unforeseen obstacles, we ought to be on the summit within the next three days, with any luck.' This rest-day at Camp II was Wolf's 26th birthday, but, owing to our somewhat elevated position, we couldn't do much to provide suitable celebrations.

We moved off at 2.20 next morning by the light of an almost full moon, which soon disappeared behind the mountains. We suffered severely from the savage cold and after a few rope's lengths we had to admit ourselves beaten and seek shelter in our tents inside the comfortable warmth of our sleeping-bags. We did not prepare for a second start till the sun reached our camp and we did not get away till 9.20 a.m. We carried unusually heavy rucksacks, containing all the essential food and equipment needed for our third and last camp. With 45 lb. on our backs we made our way upwards leaving a deep trail behind. We began to feel the effects of altitude and had to stop with increasing frequency. At each halt we gazed around us and marvelled at what we saw. Our surroundings were indescribably impressive with high, shapely, giants of snow and ice, ranking among the world's great peaks. And, when our eyes followed the track downwards, Base Camp on the moraine, and the tongue of the Kunyang glacier flowing down the valley, seemed incredibly far below. However, there was little time for looking around. A long and difficult way lay ahead to the white line of the ridge, which was our day's objective, cutting into the sky high above. After a seemingly endless period of trail-breaking, during which we kept changing the lead, there remained only a steep ice-slope to be climbed. Gotz and Herbert worked their way up it first and by 5.30 p.m. we were all on the ridge which sweeps up from the west col to the summit of Disteghil. The aneroid made the altitude c. 23,000 ft. It was with a great sense of relief that we flopped down in the snow and shed our crippling loads. We fought hard for breath and gazed out towards the north where, beyond ranges of lower mountains, we caught a glimpse of the Tibetan plateau. Our bodies cried out for rest, but there was still plenty of work to be done. With our last remnants of strength we tottered around in an attempt to level the camp-site. A strong wind had got up, clouds were starting to gather, and it was dark by the time we were able to crawl into the tents. We could only hope the weather would not break.

The next day, June 9, was the decisive day. We stayed late in our sleeping-bags, unable to force ourselves to get going. We had all suffered severely from the almost superhuman exertions of the day before. It was 8.30 when I heard Diether's voice from the next tent, asking loudly: ' What are we going to do ?' I waited a while for someone else to answer, before my brain at last started functioning somewhat on these lines: 'We have got up to this considerable height in a surprisingly short time. The summit up there looks close enough to touch, and the weather looks like going bad on us pretty soon. There's a full moon too-so, we'll just have to have a go at it.' In the end, hardly able to credit it myself-for we were all badly exhausted-I said aloud: 'We'll have a go.' Very slowly, I peeled out of my sleeping-bag and tried to get up. It was not until then that I realized how tired and worn out I was. Gotz and Herbert both had a temperature, and I looked around busily among our medical supplies trying to find the right pills. Then I asked Wolf if he agreed to our making an attempt. ' Of course', he agreed. ' Take the pennants with you.' It took me more than 20 minutes to get one boot on and, with all the necessary preparations, it was 10.30 before Diether and I were ready to start. Wolf called after us: ' Good luck, and don't get frost-bitten', as we started laboriously step by step up the ridge. Very soon one of my crampons came loose and I was quite unable to fasten the straps myself, because my fingers were too stiff. My circulation has never properly recovered since I got frost-bitten on a winter-climb in 1959. I kept on for a while, trailing the crampon, but in the end I had to ask Diether to fasten it for me. I was furious at having to make such a demand on him, but he only grinned. Unfortunately the performance repeated itself several times and I was on the point of giving up all hope of reaching the summit. The wind had formed steps in the slope, first of hard- pressed snow, then of soft, loose stuff, which lost us much time and made progress painfully hard work. We changed the lead from time to time and it was a tremendous relief for the second man to get a brief rest while the rope ran out. It was with the greatest difficulty that we got moving again each time. We were staggering at every step and over and over again we felt we simply couldn't go on. The beauty of the surrounding peaks was quite forgotten as we stared almost indifferently at the snow in front of us. We didn't know any more what force was driving us onwards-it certainly wasn't any effort of our conscious will-power. We just toiled on upwards mechanically, obeying some subconscious instinct, but the last slope to the summit never seemed to draw any nearer. An icy wind, coming in fierce gusts across the ridge, drove sharp particles of snow painfully into our faces. Meanwhile dark ragged clouds swept across our peak. At about 2.45 we had at last laid behind us the steadily rising' plateau' slope and had to start on a long traverse. Looking back we could see the two lonely tents of our camp lying like an eagle's eyrie, fearfully exposed, far below us. At this point we were almost engulfed by the loose, slushy snow, which provided no support whatever. Then we came to a solitary rock, the first since leaving Base Camp; and after a long time a couloir, apparently leading up towards the summit, opened in front of us. I had to remind Diether that it was long after 3 p.m., the hour at which we had decided to turn back. His reply, ‘we'll be on top by 6 o'clock', was so confident that I accepted it cheerfully and trudged on. Up there was the summit and it had definitely come a good deal nearer.

In a steep ice-couloir I lost hold of one of my ski-sticks. We did not stop, for I hoped to retrieve it on the way down. We could not be far from the top now. Indeed next time I moved up towards Diether, I could see to my delight that he had actually reached the ridge. I looked at him as I panted for breath. 'Was it the top ?' He didn't answer, but simply pointed along the broad crest to a slender pyramid of ice rising, some distance away, from its further end. It was terribly disappointing, and it was only now that we realized what a long detour we had made in trying to reach what we thought was the summit. We turned off to the right and followed the crest until there was only a sharp icy blade leading sheer to the top of the needle of ice, which was the highest point of Disteghil Sar. Diether climbed slowly up it-it was so narrow that he had to plant his feet on the steep slopes on either side. I followed him, and at 6 o'clock we were both standing at 25,868 ft. on the summit of our mountain. It was so sharp that we had to take turns in occupying its extreme tip. Our expedition had achieved its objective.

We shook hands joyfully. By sheer chance, I had had the luck to climb this great peak with the very companion who had shared my most difficult Alpine climbs with me. Suddenly we were conscious of the cutting cold, and I looked in dismay at my hands, which were yellow and frozen stiff. Diether tried to massage my fingers, while I puffed at a cigarette specially reserved for a 'summit' smoke. Then he fussed around getting his camera out, to take a picture of me with the pennants. It was only likely to have a symbolic interest, for he couldn't find a reasonable place to take it from and dark clouds had in the meantime come up all round us.

After half an hour we had to think urgently about getting down. While Diether used his ice-axe for belaying, I went down supported on his ski-sticks. We went as quickly as possible straight down the couloir, to avoid our detour of the ascent. The all-important thing seemed to us to be the negotiation of the traverse before darkness fell; after that we wouldn't have anything to worry about. We managed it safely and went stumbling on down across the high plateau. At one spot Diether suddenly pointed down to the moraine, near Base Camp, where he thought he had seen a light. I couldn't see it and, in any case, whatever he had seen didn't appear important enough for me to have to concentrate on it. We lost our crampons and finally decided to let them go, though Diether fortunately managed to keep one of his on. In the existing conditions it was an extremely laborious and dangerous descent. On the hard, wind-swept hummocks of ice we kept slipping and falling down, frequently hitting our backs, or the backs of our heads, hard enough to make us wonder each time how on earth to stagger to our feet again. On one of these falls, I found it impossible to check my descent and went sliding at increasing speed towards the southern precipice till a fierce tug brought me to a standing position once more. Diether, very much awake, had managed to dig his axe into the hard snow in time and so held me and saved us both from falling off the mountain.

In the end, even that endless descent was over and a few minutes after 9 p.m. we drew near to the tents. We were on the verge of total collapse. By the gentle light of the moon we wrestled with the knots in the rope. 'Good show', said Wolf, when we reported briefly that we had got to the top. Then we crawled into our flimsy shelter which, at the moment, appeared to us the essence of comfort and, as soon as the tent was closed, we experienced the utter bliss of lying down in a warm sleeping-bag. It was not till then that a feeling of peace and comfort and complete joy came over me. ' We've done it!' I kept on thinking, 'we got to the top', before falling into a restless sleep, with the hardest day I have ever lived through behind me.

On June 10, we woke to find the mist swirling round the isolated little camp at 23,000 ft. which, like some small island, gave shelter to five human beings. Soon it was blowing a blizzard; a clear warning for us to leave with the least possible delay. Preparations for the descent took a long time, especially as Diether and I, whose hands and feet were severely frost-bitten, could take no effective part in the work. And so it was midday before we could evacuate our camp, leaving one tent behind. The descent of the steep face called for extreme caution. Diether and I had to be safeguarded as we had no sensation in our feet and found great difficulty in putting them down with any assurance. Our rate of progress was therefore terribly slow and the descent seemed endless before we arrived safely at Camp II about 5 p.m. It had been Wolf's intention to go on down, but we were afraid of being benighted and therefore decided to stay.

The weather continued to be bad all the next day; the gale and the snow never let up for a moment and the thunder of descending avalanches boded no good. We lay dozing in our tents and hoped for a temporary improvement, for a dangerous part of the descent lay before us. To add to our troubles, our fuel ran out and this caused us great concern.

On the 12th we held serious consultations to decide the best thing to do. The freshly-fallen snow was over tw,o feet deep, greatly increasing the danger from avalanches, and the very idea of going on down seemed utter folly. On the other hand, the snow was getting deeper, and we had no means of cooking meals, which meant that our strength would be increasingly sapped by hunger and thirst. We felt we had no alternative but to continue the descent.

We went outside wrapped up to the eyes and Herbert began to work his way down in the deep snow. Visibility was practically nil. At the very first slopes he started to slide with the loose, chest- deep masses of snow, but Gotz managed to hold him and restore the situation. Just before the big crevasse it mercifully cleared up a bit. This enabled us to check our direction and find the rope-ladder, the passage of which demanded long and exhausting struggles. We trudged on downwards, falling in the snow one after another as if we were drunk, and somehow managing to stagger to our feet again. Steadily, desperately, Herbert and Gotz ploughed a deep furrow across the long traverse, and we followed. Our nerves were stretched to breaking point for fear that the snow on the long, unconsolidated slope would refuse to hold. It seemed almost impossible but it did. After hours of exhausting work, we came to the cliffs above Camp I, and managed to find the best route down. Soon we found the fixed rope down the ice-wall, though Herbert had to dig it out of the snow. The short descent of the almost vertical ice-cliff was terribly difficult for Diether and me, but Wolf belayed us down it with great care. By the time we reached Camp I, Gotz was busily engaged in preparing a hot drink, a luxury we had been denied for days. We fell on food like a pack of ravenous wolves and washed it down greedily with drink upon drink. Gradually our spirits rose and we began to feel increasingly confident that we would get through safely.

Now that we had enough fuel and food, we could afford to rest for a day at Camp I, but the fury of the weather had by no means abated. The blizzard continued to rage incessantly and on the 14th we were forced to complete the descent in very unfavourable conditions. The steep couloir once again demanded all our reserves. Finally we crossed the bergschrund and reached the more level surface of the glacier where, certain at last that we were clear of all danger, we sat down for a rest, with a blessed feeling of peace in our minds at last.

On the glacier, we had to make wide detours to avoid newly- opened crevasses. At last we reached the moraine and stared at each other in silence, all thinking the same thing. Team-spirit forged like steel, incredible luck and, by no means least, the kindness of the Almighty had helped us to escape from the inhospitable desert of snow, with its roaring avalanches, and find our way back to life itself.

We dispensed with the rope, our companions took our crampons off for us and, while Wolf was gathering up the rope, Diether and 1 went stumbling on down the moraine towards Base Camp with clumsy, uncertain steps. An indescribable joy came over me as 1 tottered the last few paces of the long descent, leaning on Herbert's shoulder.

All the porters came rushing wildly to meet us, shouting: ' Dastoghil finished, Sahib: Dastoghil finished !' Crying with joy, they kept hugging us, kissing our hands and staring at us incredulously, as if we were ghosts returning from another world. Aman, our liaison officer, who had become our firm friend, shook hands with us with deep emotion. ' I knew you would do it', he said simply. 41 prayed for you day and night, and so did my people at home.' And yet they had all doubted whether they would ever see us again. For five days, while they knew we were climbing down the immense mountain through that raging tempest, they had been unable to see a single sign of life. On the ascent, they had been able to follow us through the glasses and, at the very moment when we were perched on the ice pinnacle which is the summit of Disteghil Sar, they had lit a big bonfire on the moraine. So Diether had been right about what he saw.

Gently and solicitously those splendid lads carried us into the tents, made us comfortable in bed, took off our boots and stockings and started to massage our feet. We laughed and were happy, ate and drank till the evening. And we steeped ourselves in the mail from our friends and families at home, which had been brought up by runner while we were away.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the frost-bite Diether and I had incurred was more serious than we had realized. Accordingly, our companions urged us to go down at once, so as to get medical attention at Gilgit or, better still, in Rawalpindi. Although we were at first very much against such an idea, we had to admit in the end that it was essential for us to follow their advice. It was, however, a sad decision to leave our friends, knowing that they intended to climb Disteghil's menacing face again, in order to evacuate the camps and, if at all possible, to have a second go at the summit.

At noon on June 16, we said good-bye to them and to the mountain. We were almost in tears as we shook hands, for our common ordeal had brought us close together.

Accompanied by Aman and two porters, Shaban and Safer Ali, we turned our backs on Base Camp which had almost become a home. It was the start of a hard and painful journey. Slowly we dragged our way down on numb feet, our hands encased in linen mittens and hanging limp in the slings of our ski-sticks. It was not till late in the evening that we got off the torturing moraine of the Kunyang glacier. Next morning, in glorious sunshine, we had a last glimpse of Disteghil Sar in all its magnificence.

The swollen glacier torrent had obliterated the track to Hispar, so we had to cross the Hispar glacier above its snout, involving a detour of several hours. We arrived at Hispar at 9.30 p.m. After a comfortable night we limped across the suspension bridge to the other bank and on down the valley, over fans of debris and rubble. We used up our final reserves of strength over the last trackless stage. Throughout the exhausting march, Diether, characteristically, remained quiet and introspective, while I expressed my anguish by swearing aloud incessantly. In the end it was evening again, the porters set up the tent for the last time and prepared a hefty meal out of our remaining tins. The fourth and last day saw us creeping towards Nagar in the last stages of exhaustion under the full glare of a pitiless sun. Fierce gusts kept on whirling the loose sand up so that, for long minutes on end, we moved on in a thick cloud of dust. Our gloomy feelings matched the bleak surroundings of sand, debris and water. When Nagar, with its lush green meadows, suddenly came into view, it was like a glimpse of another world. Aman had hurried on ahead and sent horses back to us, so we were able to ride the last stage. Weary, but in some strange way utterly detached, we lay down to sleep at the Nagar 6 Rest-House'.

On the 21st a jeep came to fetch us and a 7J-hour journey along the hazardous road brought us to Gilgit, where the peach and apricot trees were rich with fruit, and the Political Agent and the Mir of Nagar received us most cordially. We had to spend a day in hospital before we could embark on the flight past Nanga Parbat to Rawalpindi. There the pessimistic utterances of the doctors convinced us that it would be best for us to get to Vienna as soon as possible, since our fingers and toes needed prompt and careful treatment. Thanks to the active and very friendly assistance of Aman, Colonel Goodwin at Rawalpindi and the Austrian Ambassador and his Attache in Karachi, Dr. Hartlmayr and Dr. Maschke, we touched down at Vienna on June 28, exactly three months after our departure.

We shall never forget the warm reception our friends and relatives had prepared for us at the airport. It brought home to us the extent of their participation in our venture. And while we entered our long period of treatment under the care of Professor Tappeiner at the Skin-Clinic of the University, our friends in Asia were climbing again with the remaining porters as far as Camp II. Once again a break in the weather called for a rapid retreat and, after evacuating both camps, they had to fight their way down to Base with their heavy loads.

Later, our friends came home safely. The injuries inflicted by the mountain are rapidly healing; the permanent damage suffered by Diether and myself will be confined within bearable limits.

Our grim descent from the summit is losing its terrors with the passage of time; and the unforgettable experience of our climb up Disteghil's enormous face to the tip of the slender pinnacle of ice, which is its summit, crowd in to remain the real and shining memory of our adventure.

DISTEGHIL SAR,  25, 868 FT., SEEN FROM BASE CAMP, SHOWING ROUTE AND CAMPS

DISTEGHIL SAR, 25, 868 FT., SEEN FROM BASE CAMP, SHOWING ROUTE AND CAMPS



MAKRONG CHISH (6,608 M.) ABOVE THE KHIANG GLACIER

MAKRONG CHISH (6,608 M.) ABOVE THE KHIANG GLACIER



KUNYANG CHISH (7,850 M.)  TELEPHOTO FROM CAMP I ON DISTEGHIL SAR

KUNYANG CHISH (7,850 M.) TELEPHOTO FROM CAMP I ON DISTEGHIL SAR