Himalayan Journal vol.23
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.23

Publication year:
1961

Editor:
Dr K. Biswas
Index
  1. NUPTSE
    (J. WALMSLEY)
  2. CAMBRIDGE EXPEDITION TO NAGIR, KARAKORAM
    (W. P. GAMBLE)
  3. NAVAL EXPEDITION TO NANDA KOT
    (INST. LIEUT. M. S. KOHLI, I.N.)
  4. HIMALAYAN SCIENTIFIC AND MOUNTAINEERŽING EXPEDITION, 1960-61
    (M. B. GILL)
  5. THE AUSTRIAN KARAKORUM EXPEDITION, 1961
    (ERICH WASCHAK)
  6. BACK TO THE BARA SHIGRI
    (J. P. O'F. LYNAM)
  7. WOMEN'S KULU EXPEDITION, 1961
    (JOSEPHINE SCARR)
  8. THE SALTORO EXPEDITION, 1960
    (P. J. STEPHENSON)
  9. ROYAL AIR FORCE KARAKORAM EXPEDITION, 1961
    (A. J. M. SMYTH)
  10. THREE MONTHS IN WEST NEPAL
    (JOHN TYSON)
  11. NEELAKANTHA-CHOWKHAMBA EXPEDITION
    (COMMODORE S. N. GOYAL)
  12. THE DERBYSHIRE HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION, 1961
    (ROBERT PETTIGREW)
  13. A REGIMENTAL EXPEDITION TO THE HIMALAYAS
    (CAPTAIN J. S. KEEN)
  14. A SUMMER TRIP TO NANDA DEVI
    (HARI DANG)
  15. MANA EXPEDITION, 1961
    (BISWADEB BISWAS)
  16. THE CONQUEST OF MOUNT EVEREST BY THE CHINESE MOUNTAINEERING TEAM
    (SHIH CHAN-CHUN)
  17. EXPEDITION TO KANGCHEN JAU (22,603 FEET), 1961
    (SONAM GYATSO)
  18. ASPECTS OF THE SNOWMAN
    (H. B. GURUNG)
  19. OBITUARY
  20. REVIEWS
  21. LETTER TO THE EDITOR
  22. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1961-62
  23. THE HIMALAYAN CLUB

NUPTSE

J. WALMSLEY

Part I

WE were seventeen days' march from Kathmandu. The following day, Chris Bonington and I left the expedition encamped at Thyangboche. As well as resting after the long march in-a series of ascents and descents, without end it seemed, across the mountain ridges-the expedition would check equipment, cut marker flag- sticks, mark mountain loads, and acclimatize by climbing local peaks. Chris and I with two Sherpas, Nima and Tashi, had five clear days ahead of the expedition in which to reconnoitre the South face of Nuptse. We had to be reasonably certain about a route on the South ridge, a line of weakness only seen on photographs and by our Patron, Sir John Hunt. Nobody else had ever tried to climb on this ridge before or even climb on the mountain. There was a chance, too, of an alternative route. From Thyangboche we had seen a ridge directly beneath the summit of Nuptse which would obviate the two-mile-long traverse at c. 25,000 feet from the South ridge. But was ihis Central ridge possible ?

We tramped towards Bibre at a brisk pace. It was a long day's march away and once there at the foot of the Nuptse Glacier we could start our reconnaissance of the South face. We should also be able to save a day on the expedition's time to Bibre and thus have six days' reconnaissance time.

For two days we climbed around the South ridge from the Lhotse and Lhotse-Nup Glaciers. The ridge was certainly very formidable in its upper reaches. There was a steep rock buttress joining the ridge to the Summit ridge and it was almost bare of snow. This latter feature was a bitter disappointment since a covering of snow of reasonable depth would have covered the difficulties. However, snow-covered or otherwise, there were but two ways to negotiate the buttress as seen from below and both of these were very exposed in position and steep, without any break or rest for camp in their upward sweep. Though the expedition was strong in rock- climbing talent, it would be a very difficult task to get over the buttress and tfie rock wall above it at c. 25,000 feet. And then there would be the long high-altitude traverse after this major difficulty. But the lower sections of the South ridge were much easier. There was a delightful subsidiary ridge, short in length and leading into the main ridge. In the middle section above there was a long stretch of snow-field at an easy angle with some danger from avalanches. Whilst climbing from the Lhotse-Nup Glacier we examined the Central ridge but could get no worth-while opinion from this side of the ridge.

On the third day it was very quiet and any sound was muffled. Outside the tent was a world of falling snow, piling up around the tent and covering the landscape with a carpet of white merging into the white mist of snow-flakes and cloud. There was little or no visibility, making any attempted reconnaissance a waste of time, so Chris and I stayed in our sleeping-bags.

Chris was not feeling well on the fourth day so he stayed behind in camp. Nima and I climbed high above the Nuptse Glacier to scout around the west end of the South face and to gain a high viewpoint of the Central ridge. Besides our excursion, Tashi was climbing up the Nuptse Glacier to scout around the lower reaches of the Central ridge. Then we should have an all-round estimate of the ridge besides having some knowledge of the West ridge, if required.

Nima and I climbed to a height of about 19,000 feet. We could now scan from the West ridge to the Central ridge in one sweeping glance. It was certainly an awe-inspiring sight. Between the ridges was a tremendous rock wall, rising quite steeply and stretching many thousands of feet in all directions. There were many small snow-fields balanced precariously in nooks and crannies, as though plastered on the wall, and causing periodic avalanches. But the weakness of this challenging mass lay on the ridge. The West ridge was obviously very long and it rose steeply towards the summit, but the Central ridge showed great promise. The general angle of this ridge was reasonable. It rose quite high and was almost in direct line with the summit. The only apparent difficulty lay in a rock band above the ridge, but there were many points of access on the band giving plenty of scope for possible routes. Also, above a section of the rock band there was an overhanging snow-field which might break away almost any time, but this could be an accepted risk. Beyond the rock there was straightforward climbing across a steep snow-field, into a couloir and on to the Summit ridge and the top. This was all very heartening and, when we got back to camp, Tashi confirmed our thoughts with his description of the day's events. His talk waxed most enthusiastic about our chances on the Central ridge, and we were very pleased to listen to his confidence.

On the fifth day when the expedition would be moving up from Thyangboche, all of us, including Chris who was now much better, climbed along the Nuptse Glacier to see the Central ridge in order to be as sure as possible about our choice of route on it. Besides this we could find a suitable Base Camp-site and a route to it which would be good enough for our porters who would be carrying heavy loads. As the ridge came into view and we got nearer to it our chances appeared progressively better.

There was no doubt, the Central ridge must be the best way. Now we must find a Base Camp with running water, which was quite a problem. Everywhere we searched was dry until, when we thought of having to use the camp-site by the lake about half- way down the glacier, Tashi appeared over the brow of a ridge with the glad tidings of having found a spring. It was truly a fine - camping spot-running water, a clearing covered with edelweiss, moss and short tufted grass, sheltered by rock walls and with a clear view of the Central ridge. The only disadvantage of the camp was being on the far side of the glacier from the ridge. However, we would get some of the porters to stay behind a few days and help to carry the mountain loads as far as the start of the serious climbing. We returned to Bibre, well satisfied with our choice of route and that we had finished our task in time for the expedition to arrive and be able to move straight away to Base Camp.

Early morning, April 11th, the expedition moved into sight. They were very pleased to hear about our success over the last five days and the good news about the Central ridge. Since seeing the ridge from Thyangboche, it had been a favourite with the expedition. At Base Camp, after a long haul up the Nuptse Glacier, the porters were all paid off except for ten who were retained for moving loads from Base to a dump on the glacier. Tents were erected; food was prepared over the camp-fire ; the expedition was at last assembled and ready at the foot of Nuptse. The sun swung over the mountains and the evening star shone before an increasing array of stars as the evening settled in towards the night. The clear starlit sky was a good omen for tomorrow's weather.

The next morning, April 12th, Les Brown and I moved away from Base to reconnoitre the route to the ridge. Other members of the expedition with the ten porters followed behind with gear and food in order to establish a glacier dump. We traversed the glacier moraine and slid down on powdered rock debris to the glacier below. All around was virtually a battleground of ice and rock. The unceasing forces and movement of the ice shifted tons of rock blocks and rubble which crashed into crevasses and rumbled over the glacier. We climbed over mounds of unsteady rock and ice, sometimes slipping and falling, skirted around craters of ice, and occasionally climbed through fangs of ice set like spears to catch animals. There was no hint of a track nor was it worth while making one for the later crossings, but cairns were built to show the best of a rough passage. Everything was tottering, broken and unsteady, and so it was a great relief to reach the far side of the glacier and step on to hard snow. We then rested awhile and admired the shapely spire of Ama Dablam. I thought of Mike Harris and George Fraser near the summit in 1959, and then my thoughts wandered away.

From the glacier it was a series of easy snow slopes which in the latter parts rose steeply into the flanks of the ridge. We climbed slowly beneath the hot sun and soon reached the spot where Camp I was established later. From this site the shortest and easiest way on to the ridge appeared to be via a short chimney, but this proved to be much steeper than we had anticipated and was also very dangerous. Almost every other movement in the chimney disturbed loose rock-this was certainly no route for anybody, with or without a load. So we moved over into a couloir whose most obvious feature was a trail of debris from broken rock. The couloir had been seen from Base and earmarked as an alternative to the chimney, but the ‘avalanche' trail of rock had made me want to try the chimney first.

At the beginning and for some considerable way up the couloir the route lay on loose broken stones on a slope of dirty ice. Almost every other foothold was unstable. We seemed gifted or fated to choose the most tortuous and arduous ways at first, later an easier passage was used to the right of the couloir. About half-way up the flank of the ridge, having left the couloir behind, we moved into a shallow chimney of steep ice and rock slabs. At first we climbed on to a fluted ice rib at the side of the chimney but progress was slow. So we then decided to follow the line of the chimney. It was similar ground to the ice, rock and snow we had climbed below, just above the couloir, and we had moved with little pause or hesitation. There were loose slabs on the chimney route which required care but our progress was fairly rapid, and soon we were not far away from the crest of the ridge. By now we were beginning to feel the effects of having climbed all day long in the hot sun with little pause for rest. It was also late afternoon and we had no idea how long it would take us to return to Base. About 150 feet from the top of the ridge we saw no obstacle ahead, the way was now clear to the ridge. So we returned towards Base ; there was no advantage going any further now.

The following day, April 13th, Dennis Davis and Nawang Dorje established the route on to the ridge. They avoided the shallow chimney on the flank of the ridge and climbed over the fluted ice rib to a steep snow-field which they ascended to the crest of the ridge. This certainly gave a better and easier route to the position of Camp II on the ridge. Chris Bonington, Jim Swallow, Simon Clark and three Sherpas moved up in support and occupied Camp I. We were certainly doing very well at this time. In the space of two days we had climbed well over 2,000 feet from Base and made a route as far as Camp II. Also at this time we received a great moral boost with mail from home which had been brought into Camp by Ed. Hillary's mail runner from Mingbo. This was certainly a very welcome and generous service from the Hillary camp.

Chris took over from Nawang Dorje the next day, thus leaving J. S. and Simon with four Sherpas for carrying loads to Camp II. J. S. and Simon also moved Camp II to a better camp-site further along the ridge, just past a rock gendarme which had the shape of a bishop's mitre. It was a much bigger site with room for a number of tents and a stack of food and gear.

Chris and Dennis moved to Camp II with personal gear and later explored ahead and extended the route along the ridge. From Camp I the ridge rambled along in a broken fashion with no great rise in elevation until the way was barred by a rock wall with steep ice slopes above it. Chris and Dennis traversed below the wall to the first natural break which was a Vee-chimney with smooth side walls and an ice-filled crack about 3 inches wide at the back of it. At this point the snow traverse had tapered into a smooth ice slope beneath the chimney, sweeping down for over a thousand feet to the snow-field below Camp I. Looking up, there was a small overhang at the top of the chimney, and a trace of ice slopes above it against the blue sky. Chris jammed his way up the chimney by using the friction of his body and legs against the smooth walls of rock. At the overhang there was a crack on the right wall which gave a good jammed foothold and a welcome rest. Chris knocked in a piton in the side of the overhang for security and then climbed round and over it. It was a very fine effort on a severe rock pitch at c. 19,000 feet. After regaining breath he brought Dennis up to the stance, and then they continued up the ice slope above.

The two climbers made steady progress cutting steps, knocking in ice-pitons and placing a fixed rope on the 50° ice slope. The climbing position on the 4 nose' of ice could not have been more exposed. When the ice slope became less accommodating they aimed for a chute gouged into the ice by the side of a rock pillar. Their line of approach was along a traverse that gave everything a climber wanted ; exposure and steepness with good footholds and handholds, and the intoxicating sense of having to climb with good balance and careful movement. It was a very fine traverse which led without undue difficulty into the chute, which was ascended for about 200 feet to the top of the pillar. On the last 40 feet handholds as well as footholds had to be used to climb the very steep ice- wall. On the platform where the tents were erected for Camp III there was little or no space to spare-6 to 12 inches on the sides and about 2 feet at the ends. Behind the tents was an overhanging ice- wall ; all about was space ; and in the distance wonderful views of the mountain ranges. Camp II was within sight and hailing distance ; and down below there was now a line of red fixed rope marking the route from the Vee-chimney.

On April 16th, Simon on returning to Base Camp produced a list of requirements for Camps II and III with first and foremost the need for a rope ladder in the Vee-chimney. At the moment they were using a knotted fixed rope. The ascent of the chimney with a load on one's back was about the most tiring thing possible and a rope ladder should make it easier. Could I make this top priority ?

Meanwhile Chris and Dennis were making the route from Camp III. They were finding it to be the most difficult part of the route so far. Almost as soon as they moved from camp they had to climb steeply on the east side of the ridge and were then forced to climb to its crest to avoid vertical rock walls and broken snow. From the crest they had to use the east side again and descend to a niche by the side of a small rock gendarme. It was best to traverse around the side of the gendarme, and a small boss of ice virtually stuck on the rock wall required extreme care for fear of it breaking away. There was a visible sigh of relief when they had both crossed the boss and were back on the relatively safe ice ridge. They moved round a pillar of ice into a further niche which brought them out on the west side of the ridge. A tunnel appeared which they easily crawled through and out on to the east side again. An awkward mantelshelf movement followed by a rising traverse led them into yet another niche. The twists and turns of the ridge were most confusing, so much so that Chris and Dennis thought there was little point in going on like this. The ridge was quite a long one and they were filled with dismay at the thought of these complicated moves all the way. But they climbed on, most of the time on the west side, and they now found, as a form of reprieve it seemed, that the way was more open and straightforward than before.

The route continued with a series of ‘knight' moves along the ridge, with nearly every position protected by fixed rope. Two places were especially difficult where the climbers were pushed outwards as the ice-wall leaned over from the crest. Handholds as well as footholds had to be cut as big as possible before reaching and climbing over the top. As Dennis and Chris climbed higher they reached an amphitheatre where they paused and deliberated which way to go next. This amphitheatre was truly beautiful in form. It had the shape of the cutting edge of a scimitar gouged into the ridge and plunged like a chute into the depths below. The way resolved itself into a traverse on the steep curved wall which once started proved to be much easier than had appeared at first. There was a fracture below the crest which gave reasonably easy footwork. Shortly after this section there was a gendarme with a steep wall facing the ridge. From the amphitheatre it appeared to be a difficult problem, but closer inspection revealed a broken corner and a cracked ledge which led fairly easily to the top. The route now eased away from the steepness below but, alas, there was no room anywhere for a camp-site. Every possible place seen from a distance proved on closer examination to be too small. But at their farthest point, along the ridge they spotted a small hollow which would just take a small tent. This would have to do as a temporary campsite unless something better could be found or made. Dennis and Chris returned to Camp III and intended on the following day to descend to Base for a rest period.

On the day, April 19th, that Chris and Dennis returned to Camp III, Trevor and I accompanied John to Camp I, where he stayed overnight before climbing up to Camp III to join Les.

At Camp IVa John and Les had established themselves with a small tent in the hollow. There was insufficient room, and the sides of the tent fitted badly in; the restricted space and hung so loosely that the strong wind across the ridge worried the tent like a dog with a bone. They climbed further along the ridge, placing more fixed rope until, after getting over two awkward rock platforms, they reached a notch in the ridge which certainly offered more camp space than at Camp IVa site. The rest of their day was spent moving the tent, provisions and gear from the hollow to the notch, now Camp IVb site. Chris, Nima, Nawang Dorje and Angtsering Cook, who had just lifted loads from Camp III, gave them a hand with this task.

When John and Les continued from Camp IVb they climbed near the crest of the ridge and more often than not on thin blades of ice. As they used their ice-axes the shafts frequently went through the ridge from one side to the other. It was obviously a dangerous route. They tried several times to climb lower down, but smooth rock slabs below their position prevented escape or break through from the edge of the ridge. So they had to return to camp without any material success except the useful knowledge that any other way must take a lower line. They settled in camp again amongst all their damp gear. This did not give John's suspected fibrositis much of a chance to improve. He had had a lot of trouble and pain with it in the relatively salubrious quarters of Base Camp. Les, too, was feeling the discomforts of their camp. His length of 6 ft. 3 in. did not fit into the small tent, even though the small stature of John gave him the best possible room. His frame poked into the sides of the tent and into John as well. They were not feeling well enough, and were dispirited and disjointed, so they returned down towards Base, giving Simon and Chris a chance to move forward into their places. (Simon was then taking cine film of climbing action along the ridge.)

When Chris and Simon moved from Camp IVb they knew about the danger and difficulty of climbing high on the ridge and went straight from the camp on a long horizontal traverse. This way was well below the line taken by John and Les, and proved to be more accommodating. The rocks jutting out from below gave more stable snow conditions and much safer climbing. They came to an interesting section of steep ice-walls which they had to traverse across for several hundred feet. The angle was just right for easy careful movement, and when the thin rope handrail was fixed the stretch was quickly traversed. At long last the main mass of the mountain was coming within easy reach and measurable distance. A steep, direct rise of approximately 200 feet followed by a long traverse below the crest led Simon and Chris to the end of the ridge. Where the ridge joined into the face there was plenty of room for tents. Now we could have a permanent Camp IV above which could be seen steep ice slopes having no apparent technical difficulties except for the dark rock band. On April 28th, Simon and Chris established Camp IV with tents, gear and provisions.

Part II

Summit

By D. Davis

After spending seven days on the mountain, making the route with Chris Bonington nearly up to Camp IV, I arrived down at Base Camp just as it was dusk, and looking back up the mountain I thought of the others I had left up at Camp III and hoped that in the next couple of days they would be able to establish a camp on the snow saddle where our ridge merged into the face.

A day down at Base is always pleasant and when the mail arrives as well you feel life is not so bad after all. The next day I started the long journey back up the mountain, spending a day load-carrying at each camp before moving up myself. At last I was back at III and had done a lift up to IVb. It was now time to-move up to IV, but the weather was bad up there and the ridge was even more difficult, now Being plastered with new snow.

My companion was ill and turned back, so I continued up the ridge alone, passing the temporary camp-site at IVb which was still in use. So they hadn't moved up the final site for IV yet.

This was my first time along this section of the ridge. To avoid the tottering ice pinnacles on the crest of the ridge the route traversed across some very steep rocks, which with the present spell of bad weather were now heavily plastered with new snow. I was very glad that Clark and Bonington, who were now at the front, had fixed ropes along this treacherous section. Once off the rocks a steep ice path led to a horizontal traverse across to a small plateau, where I met Bonington and Clark descending from a reconnaissance of the slope above. After helping me to pitch my tent they descended to the lower camp, leaving me to spend a lonely night high up the mountain. The clouds slowly rolled away leaving me bathed in evening sunshine. I was reluctant to retire to the warmth of my sleeping-bag, but at last I crept inside, out of the cold, and began preparation for the evening meal. I looked out of the tent door to admire the view over to the peaks in the west. The weather certainly looked more settled now and my spirit rose. We had overcome the main difficulties on the lower half of the mountain, there now remained the last problem, the rock band high above. I felt sure we would surmount this difficulty, but it might mean a lot of hard work in making the route and establishing the higher camps.

My meal was fairly simple, a tin of meat with some powdered potatoes, finishing with some biscuits and jam. I was tired after my long climb from Camp III and soon fell asleep.

The next day I descended to the temporary camp below and helped to bring up the tents and equipment. So that night we were all united again and ready for pushing on up the mountain. Looking out to the south we could see Ama Dablam still high above us, and further round to the west lay the distant peaks of the Rolwaling which had been the scene of my first Himalayan Expedition in 1955. It was there under the shadow of the 23,500 feet peaks of Gauri- Shankar and Menlungtse which now dominated the distant skyline that I dreamed of climbing a really big mountain.

The next phase of the expedition was to locate a site as high up the mountain as possible for another camp. But after several attempts at this, we decided that it was necessary to place this camp at the top of the steep ice slope just above IV to avoid continually repeating this section of the route, which was always very tiring and could take up to four hours in bad conditions but only took one hour if all the steps were clear of snow.

It took us hours to cut a platform from the camp, where Jim Swallow and I spent the next few nights on our own. It was here that I discovered my inability to sleep once daybreak had arrived, and this didn't go down too well with some of the other members. In fact, it was this insomnia which was the reason for so much solo climbing on the mountain, as it was an hour or two later that I would see a lone figure on the ridge behind me, our ropes just not being long enough to cope with such a time lag.

At last we had found a site for Camp VI and fixed ropes down the steeper section of the route, but I was beginning to get worried by the apparent lack of activity lower down, for by this time our own food supplies were running low. I went down to see what was happening. That day several loads came up, but best of all Pemba and Tashi had come up to stay ; which meant that we would no longer have to cook for ourselves.

With these reinforcements Tashi and I moved up next day to establish Camp VI with Jim and Pemba lifting some more food and tents up for us. This camp was placed on the bottom corner of the lower snow-field and it was here that Tashi and I spent several days in fine weather trying to force our way through the difficult and dangerous rock band which could prove to be the key to climbing the mountain. Each morning we would be away from our tents at 7.30 just as the sun struck the face. It always seemed to be windy up here. We had had long fine days and the route was progressing well, but we were puzzled that no one had moved out of Camp IV or V in support. We had only limited supplies of food left and I felt a deep sense of frustration that this was going to be yet another failure. I had so wanted to get a big mountain but had previously been prevented from doing so by bad weather. Was it going to be the same this time ? Did the people down below realize that it was perfect weather up here ?

Perhaps the clouds I had seen down below were bringing snow and they thought it was the same right up the mountain.

Were we to push on whilst we could or were we to wait for further supplies to arrive ? This was the problem we had to face and we were worried by it, but after a lot of thought we decided to move up to Camp VII and, if necessary, push ahead for as long as we could. That evening as we descended we saw another tent being put up at Camp VI. So they had come up after all. I could see that this would have its complications as no doubt they would want to go through to VII next day. Still we couldn't complain ; we had had our share of the lead.

Tashi and I therefore set off early next morning to remake the route and to carry all the necessary equipment for Les Brown and Chris Bonington to stay up at VIII.

To avoid the very steep rocks of the rock band we had gone up the ice to the right and had found a shelf plastered with soft new snow which seemed liable to slide off at any moment taking us with it. This shelf led to a steep snow-filled chimney down which we fixed 150 feet of nylon rope as a handrail. The chimney was strenuous even with the fixed rope and always left me gasping for breath at the top.

We dumped our loads at the camp-site and left Brown and Bonington to pitch the tent on the very restricted platform, on the edge of the upper snow-field at approximately 22,500 feet. It would be their job next day to make a route across the snow-field to the foot of the couloir which led up to a saddle just to the left of the summit. Tashi and I joined them at VII after another night at VI. It took us four hours to cut a platform for our tent, and it was quite late in the day when we saw them come over a distant pile of snow, moving very slowly indeed. They were obviously very tired and joined us for a meal when they arrived.

It seemed unbelievable that we were now within striking distance of the top. We discussed our next move. The other two had got a considerable way along towards the couloir ; it had been steep and difficult and they were tired. It seemed logical therefore that Tashi and I should complete the route to VIII. Up early, we had a quick breakfast and were soon on our way. Our job was to continue the route into the couloir and find a camp-site as high up as possible. The traverse was steep and with 35 lb. on our backs it was a long slow job. We were now at over 23,000 feet. This was no place to spend a night without a tent. We looked back anxiously and were relieved when we at last saw the others following slowly behind with the equipment. The couloir offered no suitable site and at 3.30 we broke out to the right to a small rock ledge. It would mean building up its outer sloping edge with the ice that would have to be cut away from the back. The other two dropped their loads in the snow and set off down again. It took us two hours to pitch the tent. In a sudden gust of wind the two main guys broke and the tent was nearly carried off the ledge. At last we crawled inside, but the ice we packed underneath slid away leaving a great hole down one side of the tent under the ground sheet. We slept across the tent that night with our feet down the hole.

It would be our job next day to cut the steps up the couloir to the small saddle 700 feet below the summit, whence we would all join forces and go to the summit the following day. It all seemed so unreal, all my earlier anxiety seemed without justification, my earlier frustration was turning into a great determination to get to the top. There was sufficient food for our meagre needs and we had plenty of warm clothing, but it was a keyed-up pair who retired to their tent late that evening. I fell into a fitful sleep, but at 4 a.m. I was awake again. I nudged Tashi and we made preparations for the long day ahead. We were still 2,450 feet from the summit. Our breakfast was simple-tea, porridge and corned beef. The inside of the tent was coated with frost and every movement showered this down on us. We thawed out our boots and at 6.30 a.m. on May 16th we started cutting slowly up the couloir. We cut large steps all the way, for we knew it would be a long day and it would be late when we returned. Each time we looked up we thought the saddle was only a few rope-lengths away. But, disillusioned, another three hours of step-cutting would pass and it would still appear just as far. It seemed we would never reach it. Eventually after seven and a half hours of step-cutting we were there. We sat on some rocks nearby to rest. We were at over 25,000 feet and only 650 feet from the top. Should we go on whilst we had the opportunity? We had had an exhausting struggle up the couloir, but sitting in the sunshine we were beginning to recover. The summit was within our grasp, and who could tell, perhaps the weather would break next day. With a slight sense of guilt at not waiting for the others we carefully moved up the narrow ridge of snow-plastered rocks. It would have been foolish not to, after all the work that had been put into the expedition by others. Glancing behind us we saw the West ridge of Nuptse sweeping up above us with great cornices hanging from its crest, and as our eyes ran along the ridge they were led to the mighty 26,000 feet peaks beyond. There were Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang dominating the view, beyond which lay the rolling plains of Tibet.

Still cutting steps we moved slowly upwards. Glancing behind again, the ridge which had dominated us at the col was now well below us. We must surely be near the top now ; and then as we turned a corner there it was, just visible beyond a pile of snow which rose up in front of us. It was already 4 o'clock and it was obviously too far for us to do. It appeared to be miles away. I moved on to the snow pile and to my amazement it was no longer a distant summit; it had been an optical illusion after all and was now only 200 feet away. I stopped just short of the summit to enable Tashi to go through so that I could photograph him as he reached our goal. So it was a delighted Tashi who went through along the knife-edged ridge and trod the snows of the summit first, followed closely by myself.

Nuptse, central ridge and south face. ( Lovelock )

Nuptse, central ridge and south face. ( Lovelock )



Tashi on the steep ice below III

Tashi on the steep ice below III



Tashi descending from the summit

Tashi descending from the summit



Looking down beyond the summit was a fantastic ridge twisting and turning its way in great steps towards Lhotse. It fell to a saddle and then rose in a jagged line to the summit of Lhotse, only to fall again to the South col and rise once more to the giant of them all, Everest. So the trident was completed. And what more could I wish for than to be standing on the summit of Nuptse with a Sherpa as my companion-one of those men who had made Himalayan climbing such a delightful experience and who were always so wonderful to be with.

My own personal ambition had been achieved, the expedition had been a success. This was indeed a great moment and the climax in my own climbing career. Our descent was made quickly, but we realized it had been a wise decision to put a torch in the rucksack, for this saw us the last few hundred feet back to camp.

On the 17th Brown, Bonington, Swallow and Pemba reached the summit in the morning, really clinching the mountain.