Route Taken By The Netherlands Expedition

Route Taken By The Netherlands Expedition


Prof, Dr. C, G. Egeler, leader
Dr. T. de Booy, deputy leader
geologists of the University of Amsterdam, both also participating in the climbing
Dr. J. W. A, Bodenhausen, geologist
Dr. G. Schaar, geologist topographer
Dr. H, J. Nijhuis, geologist
University of Amsterdam
Dr. A. Tammes, surgeon
Lionel Terray, leader of the climbing party (Chamonix, France)
Holger van Lookeren Campagne, engineer
Peter van Lookeren Campagne, dentist
Paul van Lookeren Campagne, medical doctor
G. B. Kalikote-liaison officer appointed by the Nepalese government.



The expedition was organized by Professor Egeler and Dr. de Booy, both geologists on the staff of the Geological Institute of the University of Amsterdam. During the past ten years these had paid three visits to the Peruvian Andes with the twofold purpose of geological exploration and mountain-climbing. In 1952 they made, with the French guide Lionel Terray, several first ascents in the Cordillera Blanca, among which was Nevado Huantsan (6,395 metres), and in 1956 they were with Terray in the Cordillera Vilca- bamba, where they climbed a.o. Cerro Veronica and Pico Soray. The third Andean expedition, in 1959, was entirely devoted to geology.

These previous expeditions gave Egeler and de Booy the invaluable experience needed for organizing the expedition to Nepal. This time again the first objective was geological exploration, to be followed by the ascent of the northern summit of Nilgiri (7,031 metres), near Annapurna I. Three more geologists of the University of Amsterdam joined the party and as climbers the brothers van Lookeren Campagne were invited. These three brothers were well trained in the Alps, where they have accomplished many very serious climbs, partly also together with Lionel Terray. However, they had no experience of climbing outside Europe. The expedition was extremely fortunate to find Lionel Terray willing to lead the climbing party. The team was completed by the surgeon Dr. A. Tammes and the Nepalese liaison officer, G. B. Kalikote.


The Climbing of Nilgiri (7,031 metres), 23,068 feet

Towards the end of September, 1962, after an eight days' walk from Pokhara, a general Base Camp was established near Jomoson in the valley of the Kali Gandaki. From there the north face of Nilgiri looked extremely steep and unprepossessing, not unlike the famous north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps. During a three days' reconnaissance Terray, however, found it possible to attack the face via a rock-buttress ending at about 6,000 metres, and to continue from there by a traverse to the right through a very steep section with numerous ice-flutes up to the west ridge. If this ridge could be reached at an altitude of about 6,300 metres, one would be able to follow it up to the summit without severe difficulties. Terray's route proved to be a very direct way of approach and from a climber's point of view, a very interesting one.

An Alpine Base Camp was established at about 4,000 metres and a first assault camp about half-way up the rock-buttress already mentioned, at 5,350 metres, where snow was available for water supply. Camp II was then established at the top of the buttress, where excellent opportunity for the attack was offered by a small snow-ridge leading to the steep part of the north face. It took five days to prepare a way through the steepest fluted section, first of all horizontally to the right until a small suspended glacier was reached and from there obliquely up to the west ridge.

Terray found his way through the extremely steep ice-flutes in truly grand style, preparing with fixed ropes a safe track for the heavily-loaded Sherpas. In many places the angle of the slope reached over 70 degrees, whereas the mean dip is estimated at about 60 degrees.

On October 18 the attack party spent their first night on the west ridge in Camp III at about 6,400 metres, the severe technical difficulties having been conquered, thanks to Terray, with very little loss of time. It should be pointed out that Terray had chosen between two possibilities, i.e. either a rush up the mountain with no time for serious acclimatization, or moving much more slowly with enough time for adaptation to height but also with the risk of weather conditions failing. Terray chose the first possibility and undoubtedly made the right decision. Actually we can say that the race with the oncoming winter was only just won. On the other hand the ‘rush' up the mountain took heavy toll of our reserves and the climbing above 6,300 metres—though technically without many difficulties—went very slowly.

Route through fluted section of N. face, Nilgiri, from camp II

Route through fluted section of N. face, Nilgiri, from camp II

Traverse on N. face between camps II and III

Traverse on N. face between camps II and III

After a very cold and uncomfortable night in Camp III the climbing of the west ridge was taken up again on October 29. From the camp the highest summit seemed very near, and though there were still over 600 metres to climb, we hoped to reach our goal—over-optimistically—before lunch. In reality it was half past three before we had climbed a seemingly endless succession of snow bosses and reached the culminating point of Nilgiri North. Towards the east we looked upon the tremendous glaciated wall of Anna- purna I, the first Himalayan adventure of Lionel Terray, in 1950. For him it was quite a moment to be able to recapture old memories from this elevated position. As for my brothers and myself, we couldn't have chosen a nicer place to stand together. Sirdar Wongdhi joined in our delight !

Getting down to Camp II was more quickly accomplished than expected, and we arrived just in time to avoid darkness during the descent. Our four Sherpas, Mingma Tsering, Phengo, Ang Phurba and Sona, awaited us with a good meal and their invaluable care.

Next day a tent and some supplies were left at Camp III for the planned 'follow-on' by de Booy and we then descended with great ease along the fixed ropes in the steep north face, back to Camp II. Here we were welcomed by Egeler and de Booy. The former had concentrated his activities on organizing the supplies and taking care that everything went well in Camp II during the assault. De Booy had originally planned to participate in the climbing of the summit, but had unfortunately not completely recovered from pneumonia, acquired during the approach of the monsoon rains. For this reason the plan for a ‘follow-on' by him and some Sherpas had to be cancelled.


Some Remarks about the Weather

It is evident that the time chosen for our expedition was a very favourable one, both for geological exploration and for climbing. Monsoon rains stopped definitely during our approach at the end of September. During the climbing of Nilgiri clouds were almost absent, except for some clouds and slight snow on three occasions during the afternoon. Snow on the north face was well settled, so that there was almost no danger of snow avalanches. The route through the face was well protected from the west winds, which otherwise could have offered severe difficulties had they continued during our stay on the west ridge. However, we were very lucky that these usually strong winds dropped almost completely on the day of the ascent.

Temperatures at night dropped to -23° C. in Camp II and in the day-time stayed below -15° C. in the north face, which did not catch any sunshine. Protection against cold proved to be of utmost importance. We were well equipped with the best available clothing and tents of French make. Boots from Bally with reindeer fur on the outside were just able to keep our toes warm enough and no severe frost-bite occurred.

It may be concluded that the autumn is a very favourable time for climbing 7,000 metre high peaks in this part of the Himalayas, provided the party is well protected against cold, which is more severe after the monsoon than at springtime, and further if the party has some good luck with regard to the then prevailing winds, Ujitil the end of October the weather stayed fine but it became colder every day. The cold was very severe when we visited the Tilicho lake (at about 5,200 metres) at the beginning of November. Strong snowdrifts were then seen from all the higher ridges in the vicinity. It also gradually became cloudier.


Time-Table of the Expedition

Sept. 22 Departure from Pokhara with 10 Sherpas and about 16 local porters.
29 Arrival in Base Camp near Jomoson in the Kali Gandaki valley.
Oct. 6 Alpine Base Camp installed at about 4,000 metres.
7 Camp I installed at about 5,350 metres.
10 Camp II installed at about 5,850 metres.
18 Camp III installed on west ridge at about 6,420 metres.
19 North summit of Nilgiri, altitude 7,031 metres, reached by Lionel Terray, Sirdar Wongdhi, and the three brothers van Lookeren Campagne.
3o Visit to Tilicho lake.
Nov. 2 East col of Tilicho reached.
4 Return to Jomoson.
7 Visit to Muktinath.
13 Arrival at Mustang.
15 Climbers return to Pokhara, where they arrived on Nov. 27.


The geologists continued their explorations from Mustang southwards to Butwal, thus completing a cross-section through the Himalayan ranges from the Tibetan border to the Gangetic plain. They returned to Holland at the end of December.



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