(Translated by Hugh Merrick)


D. Rudi Weber and I left the Inn Valley on August 11, 1960, to drive to the Himalaya in our heavily-laden Volkswagen camping-bus. We drove through Yugoslavia where we struck some bad patches of road, and Bulgaria, where we found the roads well kept. In Turkey our route took us to Adrianople, the Sea of Marmara and across the Bosphorus into Asia to Ankara, the Black Sea and Trebizond, through a mountain pass to Erzerum and on to Persia. The Turkish roads—better than we expected though with rough stretches—now gave way to the notorious Persian roads, 2,000 miles of whose pot-holed and corrugated surface we had to travel through Tabriz, the Shebli Pass, Teheran, the northern edge of the Kefir Desert and Mashad, the holy city of the Shiites. After Teheran the temperature rose to 112° F. in the shade and by the time we reached the Afghanistan frontier conditions were fairly rough. We travelled through the ancient city of Herat, along the rim of the Seistan Desert, were stopped for five days at Kandahar for quarantine, and then left for Pakistan and the Quetta Pass. At Lahore our excellent transport, which had managed the journey with no trouble greater than a broken bolt on the rear shock-absorber in Persia, was overhauled. We then crossed into India and to Amritsar, and at last reached the foothills of the Himalaya.

Exactly four weeks and 6,250 miles after our departure from home we reached our destination—Manali in the Kulu Valley. Transport and drivers were equally exhausted, but that lovely and memorable day was rich compensation for all the trials and tribulations of the roads of Persia and Afghanistan.

The Kulu Valley has roughly the same character as that of a northern Italian valley. It is still hot enough for rice-growing. There is, surprisingly, a Tourist Office in Kulu and with its assistance we procured horses and porters. For our objective we chose a range far up the Chandra Valley, some sixty miles from Kulu, close to the Tibetan border.

The next day, at Manali, the highest village accessible by car, was spent in lengthy negotiations with porters and muleteers, though we did not need a large number. We finally engaged three porters (Sonam, Baldor and Zumpi) and a muleteer with four horses. One of the porters slept that night close to the loads. At 7 a.m. on September 10 our small train set out on its march, intending to reach the foot of the Rohtang Pass, which divides Kulu from LahuL We made swift progress upwards along the Beas stream, through lovely pine-forests and lush vegetation. I was somewhat under the weather and found it hard work to keep up with the mules. We rested for about two hours in the middle of the day and found that our Sherpas, especially Sonam, were first-rate cooks. Then we pressed on up the pass. At about five o'clock and at the 13,000 feet level, we pitched our camp. At this point we met a Japanese Women's Expedition with a Darjeeling Sherpa, who had been up to the pass as a training exercise. There were seven of them, some of them very pretty, and their object was to make a new ascent of Deo Tibba, around 20,000 feet high and already climbed four times. They were having some difficulty at Manali in raising the 100 porters needed to carry their enormous mass of material. We wished each other the best of luck and they went on down.

The night was pretty cold, with some rain, and we were glad to be on our way to the pass by 6 a.m. At the col, which we reached in four hours, the landscape became Central Asiatic in character. Tibetan prayer-flags fluttered from great cairns, which are called dartschok in these parts. Our men added rags and stones to ensure the blessing of the gods on our undertaking before we went on down into the deeply-scored cleft of the Chandra Valley. Unclimbed peaks of about twenty thousand feet showed up beyond. Down in the valley we came across numerous Tibetan refugees, in their national costume, now employed by the Indian Government on the construction of a road to Spiti and the Tibetan frontier. These roads are essential features of the Indian defences, but once they are built there will be no more virgin peaks. Our days' stages were dictated by considerations of pasture for our mules, since the only sparse patches of grass are about 10 miles apart. Wood for burning is a luxury and one of the porters carefully collected all the droppings left by the mules, to serve as fuel.

We marched for four days, covering fifty or sixty miles at about the 13,000 feet level, the weather changeable with a good deal of cold rain. On our arrival at Batal, I left Rudi to pitch camp and hurried on with a porter, Baldor, to climb a huge moraine and take a look into our chosen valley. I soon found that I was not acclimatized to the altitude, and my pulses hammered furiously in my temples. We crossed a savagely-crevassed glacier to reach the head of the valley, which is barred by an immense ice-fall from which great blocks were continually falling. To its left was a wall which we could not hope to climb. That was all we were able to establish before the oncoming night drove us hurriedly back to the main valley from our extreme point at about 16,500 feet. Down there, we worked by candlelight, preparing to move our tent next day up to the floor of the glacier-trough above. We reached it with our three porters at about 2 p.m. on September 13 ; two of them hurrying back at once by the route we had cairned across the glacier, to the moraine, where they were to spend the night, before bringing loads up again next day from the point where the mules could dump them.

C.B. 12 taken from south side of C.B. 13, 20,550 ft

C.B. 12 taken from south side of C.B. 13, 20,550 ft

C.B. 12, ca. 20,300 ft, and the SW.ridge

C.B. 12, ca. 20,300 ft, and the SW.ridge

That afternoon I took Baldor with me to search for a route upwards for the following day. We were extremely lucky, for we were able to reach the plateau, which lies some 2,000 feet higher up, by tolerably easy climbing, part of it up a waterfall, to the right of the ice-fall. From the plateau a glacier and a ridge swept on up to the peak we had selected. To our left a second, almost uncrevassed plateau, rather like that on the Zugspitze, stretched away in the lovely sunset light. Directly facing our peak rose a sharp, ice- armoured pyramid, with a great hanging glacier on it, which I christened the Schneefernerkopf, about 20,000 feet high, In the late afternoon light I had a strange feeling that I never wanted to go back to camp again, but Baldor was insistent and down I had to go. He cairned the route and we got back to camp just as darkness fell. The three of us spent the night in a two-man bivouac bag; the porter snored endlessly and we hardly slept at all. We got up at 6 a.m., brewed tea from ice and were on our way by first light three-quarters of an hour later.

The rock wall was soon behind us and we were having a go at the ridge. We were at about 18,500 feet and found it very hard work, with frequent breathing difficulties ; but our prize snorer went very well indeed. We pushed on up the ridge, over rubble at first, then on hard snow, till we had to put crampons on. The view on to the snow pyramid opposite and across the level snow-field was always with us, fantastically beautiful. To the right, above Spiti, we could make out the passes into Tibet. Presently the ridge became more bouldery. We took our crampons off and roped up for what soon became a real rock-climb. Though the difficulties never exceeded grade III, the altitude and the friable nature of the rock added considerably to them; every second handhold came away, and owing to the relative heat of the day stones kept on coming down. The difficulties increased, and several times I chose the wrong side of the ridge so that we had to come back. We were using up our time and the summit was still a long way off, but we decided to press on till 2.30 p.m. and then turn back, for we did not like the idea of a bivouac at this height and at this season of the year. At 2.30 we had not reached the summit, but it was near enough to warrant a try, though mist and clouds were now rising from below. It was exactly 3 p.m. when we reached the end of the rock ridge, but found ourselves still separated from the true summit by a corniced ice-ridge some 250 feet long, which took us nearly half an hour more. Then we were there at last, and overjoyed to have done it.

We took a few quick photographs. The north side of our peak, which we called 6 Baldor Parbat' in honour of our porter, fell away just as steeply as the flank of the 6 Schneefernerkopf' facing us. It was only then that we realized that the true east ridge of CB. 12 would have been an easier proposition.

The view seemed limitless, with majestic peaks everywhere, most of them unclimbed; ours was one of the highest in the area. It was now nearly four o'clock and we would have to hurry if we were to get off the rock ridge before dark; after that, it should not be difficult to do the rest by lantern-light. At about six, we unroped and ran down over scree-shoots in the direction of the plateau ; we were all in, and then it was suddenly night. Baldor now led, and reached the start of the rock-face safely, working by native intuition. There we each took our own line and gradually lost height, foot by foot, longing by now for the comfort of our bivouac bag, even as a threesome. The candle lantern didn't help much, for at this altitude there wasn't enough oxygen to feed it; so I broke the side-glasses only to find that the wind kept on snuffing the flame. There was nothing we could do to avoid a bivouac at about 18,500 feet; and our Zdarsky sack was a blessing indeed, even if it was only meant for two, as we sat all through the apparently endless night on a narrow rock-ledge. By morning the cold had become bitter; we were enveloped in mist, but at last daylight dawned. Down we went, moving somewhat stiffly, to be met on the glacier by Sonam and Zumpi, who came running towards us, waving their welcome. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged one another; for they told us how worried they had been on our account, repeating their prayer, Om mani padmi hum, all night through. They had rigged up prayer-flags outside the tents and had brewed tcha for us inside—and we were grateful for it! They took our boots off and Sonam in particular proved to be a most expert masseur. Then we struck camp and the Sahibs, too, humped enormous packs, so as to spare the porters a second journey up the glacier. We were very happy and very tired when, a few hours later, we arrived at Batal, where our muleteer told us that he, too, had offered prayers on our behalf. In the afternoon it began to rain down there and to snow higher up. The Indian surveyors explained that they were to leave the valley that very day, as from September 15 onward there would be persistent bad weather right through the winter and it would often be impossible to cross the passes.

We marched through teeming rain for the next two days; occasionally there was a touch of snow in it, too. All thoughts of another climb were effectively quenched by the downpour. We crossed the Hamta-La from Chattru to Manali, while our mules went by the ordinary route over the Rohtang Pass. That day we covered over 20 miles and crossed the Hamta-La, which is as high as Mont Blanc, and saw Deo Tibba, the Japanese ladies' party's objective, on the way.

I do not know whether they succeeded in climbing it, but I am quite certain that we had exceptional good fortune, not only with our weather, but in finding the right way with so little difficulty.

Editor's Note : The peak climbed by the party was C.B. 12, ca. 20,300 ft Its position is approx. 32° 20' N. and 77° 45' E., about 1 mile SSW. of C.B. 13. The latter is shown on Mr. J. P. O'F. Lynam's map in Vol. XXI facing page 97. C.B. 12 is shown on the map accompanying Mr. McArthur's article in the Alpine Journal, Vol. LXI, 1956, pp. 279-295.

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