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

THE ASCENT OF TRIVOR

WILFRID NOYCE

Times change. A generation or two ago it would have seemed incredible that by 1960 it would be positively difficult to pick an unclimbed twenty-five or twenty-six thousander off the map. Yet such, only seven years after the first ascent of Everest, is the predicament of those anxiously seeking their share in the Golden Age of Himalayan Mountaineering.

I have always had a preference for a peak like Mach- apuchare, which has not even been trodden before. When the party with the sounding title of Anglo-American Karakoram Expedition, 1960 (on the strength of Jack Sadler from the States), began to form itself, we ruled out Masherbrum, our first thought, on the ground that the route had been too thoroughly trodden already. It was thanks to Eric Shipton and the map of his 1939 party that we lit upon a mysterious summit some eight miles west of Disteghil Sar (25,868 ft.), a mountain we had already ruled out because it had been attempted twice, and both parties reported bad avalanche danger. This new summit was marked: 6 Trivor, 25,330 ft.' So little known was it that when, delighted at my find, I applied for permission, I received a courteous letter from the Surveyor- General of Pakistan, informing me that no mountain of that name or height could be discovered on any map in his possession. The name is probably a corruption of Thale Var. The height our survey officer, Sahib Shah, fixed, finally I hope, at 25,370 ft.

For an unexplored mountain, approached by an equally unexplored glacier, the Gharesa, a reconnaissance party seemed called for. Don Whillans, plumbing being an indulgent profession, sailed from Liverpool with the kit on May 16. Colin Mortlock joined him by air at Karachi, and the two of them, with Capt. M. Yusuf, our liaison officer, made the air journey with the baggage, from Rawalpindi to Gilgit on June 17. The last letter I received, written on June 23, reported them at a Temporary Base Camp three days up from Nagar, the last village, and overlooking our glacier. There were difficulties of food and fuel that must be flown in, difficulties of jeeps for the first stage, difficulties above all of porters on the mud steeps, headaches of all sorts ahead for us . . .

The main party, Sandy Cavenagh (doctor), Jack Sadler, Geoff Smith and myself, with our botanist Oleg Polunin, flew out at the very beginning of July. I pass over in solemn silence the hurdles of plane, jeep and footmarch that had to be taken before July 18, when we, our mountain of food (to feed 150 porters, on the Rum Doodle principle) and our equipment, were greeted at Nagar by WMllans, bearded and looking very fit, with Yusuf. They had good news. Base Camp was a beautiful spot, four days from here, grass and flowers, and a little stream. The obvious route on the map was out of the question ; but by pressing on up the glacier to its very head they had found themselves under the most accessible col on the long ridge between Trivor and Momhil Sar to the north-west. Two camps would be needed here. Camp III would be on the col, at 22,000 ft., which Whillans had just managed to reach.

Our problem was to reach Base Camp. Soon after the route left the main Hispar path, Whillans said, it petered out in the dust and mud of a terribly steep valley wall. They had had difficulty here with the Nagar porters, and on one occasion Don had kicked one of them -prelude to many a row. On the first day, however, the worst did not happen. This was partly due to the Mir's authority, largely to the ropes fixed skilfully by Whillans at crucial points. The steepness of the dust-and-rock bank frightened them, the views down into the Hunza River almost unnerved them ; but they came across. The second day, too, to the glacier snout, they were quite happy. On the third day, on the rough boulder-strewn glacier, discontent began to rear, ugly and disquieting. They were tired and quarrelsome when they drew out at Temporary Base, on a shelf above the glacier. A fight started that evening between Hunzas and Nagar s, neither side, fortunately, being very competent with its weapons. The Nagars complained of everything they could think of.

Base Camp had not been overpraised; grass and primulas by a gentle stream. Unfortunately, a host of worries obscured the view. Food, and specially sugar, had disappeared alarmingly; Geoff Smith sat brooding over desperate calculations on bits of cardboard. We had to send an S.O.S. for 50 lb. of sugar to the P.A. Otherwise, Geoff's skill brought us through, with a little to spare.

Apart from food, our major preoccupation was the stocking of Camps I and II. I admire leaders who can work out an exact day- to-day schedule months beforehand. In our case, both the labour force and the amount it could carry varied considerably. The general plan was to stock Camp I, and then Camp II, which lay right under the North-West Col slopes. This, thanks to our six Hunzas and the dryness of the glacier, went fairly smoothly despite indifferent Weather. By July 29 Camp II was Advance Base, only Cavenagh remaining sick below.

Don Whillans and the Hunza AM Gohar had already started work above, on a great white slope reminiscent of Everest's North Col. Our chief enemy at this stage was heat since after midday movement became intolerable. Early starts were de rigueur. On August 3 the weather became less good, and Whillans and I, reaching the col with loads for the establishment of Camp III that day, found ourselves alone in our enthusiasm. The others had prudently sheltered in the enormous crevasse that split the slope at two-thirds height. We descended, to be confined for two more days below. It was the 6th before Whillans and Mortlock, the spearhead, could be established at Camp III for the critical reconnaissance along the ridge.

The trouble with our col was that it sited itself as far as possible along the ridge from Trivor, two miles from the summit, in fact, and right under Momhil Sar. Moreover, this ridge obviously had its ups and downs, and in places looked very sharp. It was a relief, when Sadler, Smith and I moved up on the 8th, to receive the others back from a successful second day of reconnaissance and rope- fixing. I now had to make yet another plan, and it was circumstance rather than direct choice which set me packing my bags to join Whillans in establishing Camp IV.

The route to Camp IV was awkward-a horizontal, corniced ice-ridge in its latter part, and perhaps we underestimated it. Sadler, without crampons that day, had to retire despite the fixed ropes. Smith and Mortlock dumped their loads at the ridge-end overlooking our Camp IV site, and set off on the long grind back. Whillans and I, having negotiated a tricky snow-ice slope down to more level- looking ground, then spent 2\ hours digging out a platform in ice that turned out to be steeper than it looked. It was nearly dusk before blessed tea came to control our thirst.

Camp IV (21,500 ft., 500 ft. lower than Camp III) was dramatically sited. Two bumps, well over half a mile of ridge, had been traversed, but there remained a lot more. From our position very near the corniced crest we looked down some 400 ft. to the next col. Thence a sharp crest, rock on the right, snow bending left over the cornice, led up to a great two-headed tower, beyond which there must be another drop. The last 2,000 ft. of the mountain looked more open.

To climb the tower with Don Whillans was instructive. He went straight for the rocks, steep but not too difficult. When my turn came I veered to the snow, and at the top of the first crest found myself a cheval, looking down my right boot into one valley, down my left into another. Before, however, my seat got too wet, Don had spied that a short abseil would keep us on the right-hand rocks, the top, really, of the great precipice overlooking Gharesa Glacier on the right.

SKETCH MAP SHOWING THE POSITION OF THE PEAKS AND CAMPS

SKETCH MAP SHOWING THE POSITION OF THE PEAKS AND CAMPS



We ended the reconnaissance at the tower and descended in a mist, to be confined for another day in camp. The support party had not managed to get along, illness and weather preventing, but on the 12th-a splendid day-we confidently expected them. Whillans enlarged the platform to take another tent, I went back along the ridge until I could see them in the distance. But they never arrived. A minor accident, as it turned out, had deflated the sails of advance, and going back at 4 p.m. we found the loads sitting forlorn on the lowest col, about half-way along. We took enough for a first carry to the site of Camp V.

It was next morning that Whillans complained of ‘growing pains in the legs ' and a bad night. However, we reached the site of Camp V (22,200 ft.) in a dell under a little rocky castle on the next rise beyond the two-headed tower, despite waist-deep snow which drove us to a tricky little rock movement on the right. Whillans was going strong, very strong, till the last few yards. Then his legs seemed to give out under him. The return journey must have been a nightmare particularly the 400-ft. plod up from the cdl. But Sadler and Mortlock had managed to come along, and we continued therefore with our plans for an advance. They would return to Camp III, and come very early with the final loads for V and VI. When they had gone I took Don's temperature. It was 101°.

When the faithful two had appeared shortly after 7 next morning, having made an Alpine start, the decision was tricky. The temperature had descended to 100°, but the patient must clearly stay put. In our hearts we both feared polio, though we had all been inoculated. On the other hand, Cavenagh, the doctor, would be along today with Geoff Smith, and the weather remained perfect. At 9-30, after a rapid change of role and some vigorous repacking, Jack Sadler found himself tramping with me down towards the col. Before 2 p.m., sweating from heavy loads, we were pitching Camp V. What happened below we only learned on the 18th, since nobody was in a position to come up in support, and an elaborate system of torch signals failed completely to work. The doctor, too, had diagnosed polio and made Don lie on his back for 48 hours. At the end of this time he felt all right; the disease had brushed him only with its wing. He was able to return to base, and, at the end of the expedition, to return solo by motor bicycle to the U.K. Don Whillans had done more than anybody to pioneer the route up Trivor. It was bitter luck that the summit should be denied him.

THE TWO-MILE RIDGE OF TRIVOR SEEN FROM THE GREAT CREVASE  (Photo:  W.  Noyce)

THE TWO-MILE RIDGE OF TRIVOR SEEN FROM THE GREAT CREVASE (Photo: W. Noyce)



DISTEGHIL SAR FROM THE NORTH-WEST COL OF TRIVOR, TAKEN  AT A HEIGHT OF 22,300 FT.

DISTEGHIL SAR FROM THE NORTH-WEST COL OF TRIVOR, TAKEN AT A HEIGHT OF 22,300 FT.



Meanwhile, at Camp V, a reddish-brown sunset gave promise of a perfect morrow. This promise was outrageously broken. The 15th dawned dull, with snow in the air, and black cloud battalions down the valley. Sadler, suffering from an ulcered throat, vomited his breakfast. We set out doubtfully, in a phoney clearing, and soon found ourselves at yet another col, the very last. Then the clouds gathered again, and on the broader ridge above, snow started to fall. We went on. As the wind livened we found ourselves drifting left, on to the lee side, and shortly before 2 p.m., there we were, at a handsome little crevasse with an embryo platform some way down which would just take a tent. Camp VI, 23,200 ft.

So sheltered was this crevasse that I thought, looking out on the 16th, that we might be able to start, and only on emerging found myself in a young blizzard. We spent all that day in confinement, digging out the tent occasionally from wind-drift. At about 5 p.m. a miracle of clearance took place. The peaks all glowed golden in their new mantles above black valleys, the stars shone. Hope sprang again.

We slept uneasily, waking at 4 a.m. on the 17th. But it was 5-45 before we stepped out, into a great cold, to clamber over the awkward lip of our crevasse and through the deep powder snow beyond. The upper part of the face into which our ridge had broadened was simple in structure. Two rock ribs vertically one above the other split it, and we ploughed knee-deep towards the lower of these. Fortunately, it was steep enough for the snow at its side to be hard. We rested at 9 a.m. on its top, and rubbed Jack's toes. Three of these, and some fingers, proved later to be very mildly frost-bitten. What with this, and his throat, I do not know how he hung on that day. It was a heroic effort.

After a failure to get easily up the snow-ice, we took to the rock of the second rib itself; surprisingly useful rock, distinctly difficult for the first 150 ft., broadening above into a great shattered crest. But the weather, again! From nowhere in particular light clouds started to drift over the summit ridge, a light snow to fall upon our bent and despondent heads. This summit ridge, which had seemed so near, looked just as far away when we halted for sardines at 1 p.m. At 1-30 p.m., when suddenly, unexpectedly, we were on it, the second miracle started to happen. The clouds rolled back, the summit itself, a great cone still over an hour away, seemed airily to invite us. At 2-40 p.m., after nine hours out with very little halt, we had arrived.

The prospect was noble. Before us stood Disteghil, backed by the brown of what must be China. Then Pumarikish, Kanjut Sar and the great fang of Kinyang Chhish (25,762 ft.), with the mighty Hispar vignetted at their feet. The southern skyline was still dominated by Rakaposhi-a superb triangular shape lolling on cloud. Then round to the ferocious Batura and beyond these, on the horizon, the Pamirs in Russia, standing clear and delicate like fairy castles. But we could not stay long. We had noted that our ridge caught the sun at evening, and we needed all of it. As we chipped and crawled cautiously down those slopes, the clouds rolled still further back, revealing new valleys and glaciers tipped with that last, unearthly light. But by this time We were too dehydrated to do much more than watch our step. At 7-15 p.m., after 13J hours out, we scrambled over the crevasse lip into the frozen twilight of Camp VI.

Next morning the primus ran out at breakfast, and we had to descend to Camp V for the tea stage, Still nobody-indeed nobody until, late that afternoon, we plodded up to Camp IV to be greeted by Colin Mortlock. He, after nursing Don, had gallantly stayed on alone at Camp IV to receive us. By August 22 the whole party was back at base.

There this episode, perhaps, should end, but for me it ended some time later. It took a week to get everything down from Camp III and below. During that time a little exploration of the side glaciers was done, in the vain hope of finding a different exit. When we finally went down, I broke out, alone, to follow the route taken by Polunin and Sahib Shah across the Gharesa ridge and down to the Hispar, before we all joined up at Nagar for a few days' visit to the State of Hunza. across the valley. Lying in my sleeping bag beside the muddy Hispar I could not help being nagged by the eternal why? Why spend months, and years, and thousands of pounds, in order that two men may stand on a patch of snow for twenty minutes ? And do not we, who build our altar to the Unknown Mountain and then harness ourselves so heavily that we cannot step out of the traces into the country around, deny ourselves pleasures of sight and sound, bird and flower, which we could have for comparatively little in cash and effort ?

Achievement. It seemed a strangely nebulous word, just then. And yet, when I thought of the fun and good companionship, of the sheer beauty of those cloud visions, I knew that I had had the best of at least one world. I remember shrugging my shoulders in my sleeping bag and laughing, foolishly, aloud.