IT was a fine summer week-end in Wales and the last complete gathering of the Jagdula Expedition in this country: in a few days Jo Scarr and Barbara Spark were due to start their long drive to India in a Land Rover. We stood in the Llanberis pass, moodily looking from the mound of gear at our feet to the white faces of the television team who had come to film us on the crags. The producer tilted his head to look at the cliffs and noticed Cenotaph Corner for the first time. His eyes lit up. 'The very thing', he exclaimed,' now you girls . . .'

' Dinas Cromlech is out of the question with all that', we said firmly, pointing to a large cine-camera and other items of filming equipment, including a hamper of food which it took two of us to lift. We settled on Crackstone Rib, a climb on Carreg Wastad which is both photogenic and easily accessible. While we shouldered their gear, the television team concentrated on the ascent to the foot of the cliff. One pale young man in leather-soled winkle-pickers was soon on all fours, clutching at odd bits of vegetation. As I helped him off with his shoes and encouraged him up the screes he informed me that on his last assignment he had fallen out of a second storey window. After a good deal more coaxing and reassuring we sat down thankfully at the foot of Crackstone Rib. It was at this point that a female hanger-on in dark glasses, whom we took to be the producer's wife, suddenly realized that the ground fell away steeply beneath here and began to scream hysterically. 'Why ever did you bring me here, David ? ', she cried, ' I never knew it would be like this!' She and the pale young man had to be led by the hand down the screes to the road.

'Never mind', said Dorothea in a cheerful stage whisper, 'it's another £50 in the kitty.'

We were not together again until the following March when Nancy Smith and I flew out to Delhi to join the other four. After an autumn expedition to Kulu, Jo and Barbara had taken jobs in Delhi for the winter. Dorothea Gravina and Pat Wood had also driven overland, in February, in a Hillman Husky. Our plan was to make our way to the remote Kanjiroba Himal in West Nepal.

There were two reasons for choosing this part of the Himalayas. In the first place it was well off the beaten track. Some mapping and climbing had been done in adjoining areas but none in the Kanjiroba range itself. In the second place we were attracted by a photograph of Kanjiroba's highest peak taken by Dr. Tichy and described in Marcel Kurz's Chronique Himalayenne as a fine pyramid about 22,500 feet high. Judging by the photograph we thought that if we could reach the foot of this peak we could probably climb it. The difficulty lay in getting to it. John Tyson had taken an expedition to this part of Nepal in the spring of 1961, and at the time we were apprehensive that he would take a fancy to what we already regarded as 'our' peak. But although his was known as the Kanjiroba Expedition he was really concerned with the exploration of the mountain areas west of the Jagdula Khola, while our peak lay to the east of this river. On his return Tyson gave us a great deal of advice about the approach: he thought we might be able to reach our mountain from the east but just before I left for India he sent me a photograph taken from the Jagdula Lekh showing a possible line of approach from the west, up a hanging valley that dropped into the Jagdula Khola.

If I had experienced any feelings of unreality as I sat at home typing letters to firms, poring over food charts and trying to decide, for calorific purposes, whether expedition work came into the category of 'heavy manual labour' or 'light blacksmithing' (sic, Manual of Nutrition, published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), they were soon dispelled by the sights and smells of India. We landed at Safdarjung airport before the sun was up. Unfamiliar birds called in the heavy, warm twilight, and faint silhouettes of cupolas were visible in the distance. The drive back to New Delhi took us through shanty towns and past bullock- carts, emaciated horses and cows, squashed dogs, sadhus, cinemas, charcoal fires and wayside stalls. Overpowering odours of incense and dung seemed to hang upon the air, together with a strange smell of burning hoof. The next few days were spent in such a fearful whirl of activity, however, that there was no time for registering impressions.

After that we drove to Nepalganj in two parties, and spent six days at the American Mission in Rapaidiha, on the Indian side of the frontier, with Miss Tomaseck, whose kindness to us knew no bounds. Our liaison officer and Sherpas, who had been waiting for us in a filthy little ' hotel' in Nepalganj, were very relieved to see us arrive. Dawa Tenzing, the sirdar, had brought with him eight Sherpas instead of the six we had asked for. After some hesitation, for we were uncertain that we had either enough funds or food for two extra men, we agreed to employ them. After clearing our boxes through Nepalese Customs, sorting out loads and engaging pony- men, we set off on the first stages of the approach on March 26.

The route we followed was the same as that taken by Tyson the previous spring, and for the first fortnight of the three weeks' approach, as far as the hill fortress of Jajarkot, our baggage was carried by ponies.

The heat in the forests and plains of the Terai was considerable during the middle of the day and we would start the day's march well before dawn and grope our way, not ‘in embalmed darkness’, but amid the smells of sweat and horses, to the accompaniment of jangling pony bells, and of encouragements and fearful expectorations from the gora-wallahs. In spite of their wild looks these were peaceable little ponymen, eking out an existence scarcely less precarious than that of their emaciated and overworked beasts, many of which had terrible sores. In spite of our protests the ponymen insisted that the wretched animals should continue to carry loads and Nancy soon had a flourishing veterinary practice.

On the day we left the plains behind and climbed into the Maha- bharat range we had our first cool camp. It was high up on a grassy knoll which provided excellent grazing. There were horses everywhere, steam rising from their flanks as they whinnied and snorted, tripped over guy ropes and bumped into boxes. The dark faces of the ponymen, huddled in their blankets in small groups, showed up in the light of their smoky fires. The Sherpas brought' out old photographs and Dawa told tales of other expeditions and other sahibs. It was like the eve of battle in Henry V.

At Jajarkot we paid off the ponymen and set about recruiting coolies and reorganizing our loads: the ponies each carried two 90-lb. loads, the coolies could only carry one 70-lb. load. All our heavy low-altitude boxes had to be lightened and this played havoc with the carefully planned low-altitude man-day rations.

After following the magnificent Bheri gorges for a week we reached Kaigaon on April 14, the last village before the Jagdula and Kanjiroba ranges. Here we recruited twenty more coolies for the last few days of the march. Our plan was first to go some way up the Jagdula Khola in order to find the hanging glacier shown in Tyson's photograph, and to see whether it would provide a reasonable approach to the Kanjiroba Himal from the west. If this failed we would have to follow the Garpung Khola, a tributary of the Jagdula which comes from the east side of the Kanjiroba Himal, in the hope that this side of the mountain would prove more 5 accessible. The peak which we aimed to climb is still unnamed as we could find no local name for it; the Sherpas suggested Tarik Himal (‘axe' or ‘blade' mountain) but for purposes of convenience I shall refer to it here as Kanjiroba.

Leaving the main caravan to follow more slowly, Nancy and I went ahead with Mingma Tsering, our cook, Ang Temba, who had been on Tyson's expedition, and Ang Pema, who was one of the Nuptse Sherpas, to reconnoitre the Jagdula Khola. Tyson had warned us about this formidable gorge which his party had been unable to penetrate, and as we made our way along the exposed and back-breaking route to his Base Camp on the west side of the valley, we began to have grave doubts about our coolies. On the east side of the gorge were a number of hanging valleys, one of which, opposite Tyson's Base Camp, seemed to correspond with the one in his photograph: but they were all extremely difficult and dangerous of access, for they were cut off from the valley bottom by formidable rocky walls whose snow-filled gullies were scoured by falling stones. It looked as though approach from the west would be impossible, unless there were other more accessible valleys farther up the gorge.

Ang Temba maintained from the start that there was ‘no road’ and although Nancy and I had little reason to doubt him we felt that we must make quite sure now that approach from the west was impossible. We therefore pushed on for the whole of a second day over execrable ground, negotiating steep neves covered with a tangle of birch branches. The crest of the ridge above us on the left looked more like a rock-climb in the Dauphine than a possible coolie route, and the bottom of the valley on our right seemed an impassable jungle. The ground in between soon proved equally impassable, for every few hundred yards a buttress of rotten rock barred the way. We turned back thankfully and were soon hurrying down the gorge to stop the coolies coming up any further. They had already negotiated a difficult lower section, with what trepidation, near disaster and threats of mutiny we could easily guess by Dawa's graphic accounts: 'Very danger', he kept saying, 'very danger', and we decided to put up a rope handrail for the return.

While Jo and Barbara set off with Sherpas to reconnoitre the Garpung Khola, the rest of us followed at coolie pace. This valley was more open than that of the Jagdula, but at this time of the year it was wild and desolate, for the track and the river were in many places still buried under heavy masses of winter snow. High up on the right, south of the river, rose one of the glittering peaks of the Kagmara Lekh. On April 23 we reached the head of the valley, which had now widened considerably, and found Jo and Barbara camping under a cliff on the north side. This was to become our lower Base Camp (13,000 feet).

Here the valley forks, and the left-hand branch, known locally as the Lasurma Khola, leads approximately north-north-east into the Kanjiroba Himal. Jo and Barbara were certain we could find a way up our peak on this side. They had also found a likely spot for an upper Base Camp, about a thousand feet higher on the southern flanks of Kanjiroba, a pleasant sloping meadow with a clear stream running close by ; above it steep rock ribs led up to the snow. While the Sherpas built a kitchen shelter here and levelled out platforms for tents, we climbed up above the camp with Dawa until we could get a view of the peaks above. Some of us thought that we could stop at this point, but it was soon clear that Dawa had other plans for our acclimatization. Above us on the Kanjiroba watershed was a small, pyramidical peak with a snow ridge leading to it. Without a word we made our way along this ridge, puffing and panting in the deep, soft snow, utterly unused to the height. The top was close on 17,000 feet and from it we looked north-east and saw the long watershed ridge that led to the summit of Kanjiroba, whose steep, western slopes looked, in the swirling mists, magnificent but impossible.

A distinctive feature of the mountain was a large, triangular snow-slope, the apex of which gave access, at about 19,500 feet, to the last two miles of the ridge. Our immediate problem would be to reach the base of the triangle and this could be done by climbing an ice-fall directly beneath it or by joining the ridge at a point closer to us and following it along.

We spent the last few days of April, during which it snowed frequently, measuring out a base line and building cairns for Jo's survey, and climbing one or two smaller peaks. On April 29 Dorothea, Nancy and Dawa went up to find a suitable site for Camp I, taking with them tents and food. The weather was bad and on the descent Nancy fell down a rocky gully and arrived in camp looking battered but fortunately not seriously hurt.

On May 1 Jo and I set off for Camp I with Mingma and Pemba Norbu, who are both first-class climbers. We now had to choose between the ice-fall and the ridge as a means of reaching the base of the steep, triangular snow-slope. The ice-fall looked fairly safe but we decided to try the ridge first and climbed up to it on May 2. It was easy going almost the whole way and we were only a hundred yards from the triangular snow-slope when our way was barred by some rocky gendarmes. We had seen these from the other side of the Lasurma Khola and guessed they might give trouble, for we knew the rock was bad in these parts. We had thought we might be able to contour the gendarmes but this proved impossible, for the ground fell away steeply on both sides. Our steps were already dislodging the thin covering of snow beneath the gendarmes and we realized that this was no place for laden Sherpas unless we could put up fixed ropes. I spent some time trying to knock pitons into rock that was both crumbling and crackless, but it was hopeless. We would have to try the ice-fall after all.

As I made my way back towards the others I could hear snatches of sarcastic conversation:

‘Sherpas no necessary! ... Base Camp ...' Mingma's voice.
‘Memsahibs no necessary ; ... Sherpas climb mountain ..
Jo's voice.

The quarrel was about the question of who was to lead. We wished to lead, as was natural, but the Sherpas felt responsible for us and did not like the idea. It would have been stupid to pretend that we were either as well acclimatized or as strong as the Sherpas, and equally stupid not to make use of their strength and experience, but we did not want to have everything done for us. Disgruntled but determined to reach a compromise, we trudged down to Camp I where we were soon joined by Pat and Nancy.

The next day, May 3, we all went up the ice-fall, keeping quite close to the cliffs below the ridge we had tried the day before. The crevasses were large, but filled with winter snow; there were no major obstacles and early in the afternoon we pitched Camp II at 18,000 feet on a projecting spur of snow at the foot of the triangular snow-slope. Pat and Nancy returned to Camp I and after tea, Jo, Mingma, Pemba Norbu and I went to investigate the steep slope above, which proved to be a slope of ice covered with snow. It lay at an angle of 50 degrees and was steep enough to make fixed ropes necessary in the middle section for a laden climber. Over 1,000 feet above us we could see plumes of snow whipped up by the wind from the crest of the long ridge leading to the summit.

On May 4 I felt unwell owing to the height and watched Jo and the Sherpas slowly climb the slope and eventually disappear along the ridge. They came back late that afternoon with the exciting news that they had found a place for a third camp from which, unless there were any unforeseen obstacles, we could very probably reach the summit. ‘No', said Jo’, there seemed to be no rock on the ridge, only a long knife-edge of snow.' Pat and Nancy joined us again that evening but next morning Pat was suffering from altitude sickness. Knowing that Dorothea and Barbara, who were bringing up the rear, would be coming up to Camp II later in the day, we left Pat in bed, and started up the snow-slope. It was very hard work and it took us three hours to reach the ridge, which was corniced and delightfully airy. Not so pleasing was the soft, soggy condition of the snow. The place Jo had spotted for Camp III was at a bend in the ridge, just below a steeper section, and it was in fact almost the only place wide enough to pitch a camp. Here at 20,000 feet we put up two two-man Meades, one for the Sherpas and the cooking and one for Jo, Nancy and me. It was windy and cold, we were crowded, we slept badly and were away to a late start next morning.

The ridge continued airy and exposed, though not technically difficult. Most of the time we were on the very crest or, because of cornices, a little to one side. The snow was still very soft and we were scarcely ever able to get a satisfactory axe belay. By midday we had gone about two-thirds of the way to the summit and were still hoping to reach it when we came to the foot of an ice pinnacle that had been prominent from afar. We knew that we must contour it on the left, that is north side of the mountain, for here the top of a small glacier abuts against the ridge. But now the weather so fine to start with, was deteriorating rapidly and we were soon enveloped in cloud. It began to snow and as I sat in the snow having yet another breather, for I was not yet acclimatized, I saw the others grouped below the pinnacle, which was now an indistinct mass rising into the mists. Twenty minutes later it was snowing more thickly than ever and we turned back. Visibility was so poor that we could only see a yard or two ahead and had we not been following a ridge we would have had great difficulty in finding the way. We went down with extreme caution, mindful of the exposure although we could not see it. It crossed my mind that it would be terrible to have to bivouac high up on a narrow ridge like this in bad weather.

We came to a place where the ridge appeared to divide: which way had we come ? The mist lifted for a moment and we just had time to make out our two little tents beneath us. When we reached them we tumbled in thankfully. The blizzard grew fiercer as night came on until we thought we must soon become airborne. But the tents stood up to it. Next morning we had barely emerged to see how much new snow had fallen when Dawa appeared, followed by four Sherpas with empty pack-frames. Niche!he said, grinning, pointing downwards, and we all went down to Base Camp.

The weather was bad for the next few days and it was not until May 10 that it had improved sufficiently for us to go up again. By then, however, Dorothea was in bed with a sore throat and high temperature, taking penicillin. The Kaigaon coolies had had terrible coughs and colds and it seemed likely that the infection had been caught from them. We left her at Base with instructions from Nancy not to stir for at least two days, and went back up to Camp II. There was a lot of fresh snow and the ice-fall was hard work.

The five of us sat in the big Moncler tent at Camp II on the evening of May 12 discussing how we were going to tackle the mountain. Everyone was most self-effacing; a naive observer might have thought that not one of us had any ambition to reach the summit. Dawa looked in and said all five memsahibs could do it at once. He did not seem to be joking and for a while we were very taken with the idea. Then a messenger arrived with a note from Dorothea in which she expressed the hope that we would not do anything rash. At last we came to a decision. Jo and Barbara were better acclimatized than the rest of us and better able to move fast along the summit ridge, which might be important in view of the unsettled weather. Let them go first on May 14 with Mingma and Pemba Norbu, while Pat, Nancy and I waited until the next day to make the second ascent with Ang Pema.

Eight of us left for Camp III on the morning of May 13. I felt more than usually tired on the ridge above the steep triangle. Depressing, I thought, not to be getting used to the height. That evening in the tent my throat grew tighter and my temperature rose and I realized that it was not the height but 'flu. May 14 dawned extremely cold and windy and we could hear Jo and Barbara cursing as they put on the crampons with numbed fingers. Feeling ghastly, I dozed off and woke up some time later to hear voices coming back towards camp. ‘Can't have had time to do it', I muttered to Nancy. But they had, and in record time, for they were on the summit at 9.30. The altimeter read 21,500 feet. It turned out that the top was only another hour and a half from the ice pinnacle we had reached before. We bombarded Jo and Barbara with questions and congratulations while they ate some food before going down to Camp II. Regretfully I decided to go with them.

We spent the night at Camp II, where Dorothea and Dawa were waiting for us, and the next day, which was brilliantly fine, we were able to watch Nancy, Pat and Ang Pema reach the summit at about 9 a.m. I then went down to Base Camp with Dawa, Mingma and Pemba Norbu. My legs felt very strange and I was relieved when we were able to wind plastic bags about us and glissade down the last few hundred feet above Base. When I took my temperature and found that it persistently registered 105, even after vigorous shaking, I went to bed with Nancy's copy of Doctor Zhivago.

Kanjiroba from the Kagmara lekh

Kanjiroba from the Kagmara lekh

Looking from Kagmara III to Kagmara I whose north face is in shadow

Looking from Kagmara III to Kagmara I whose north face is in shadow

Now that the mountain had been climbed, Jo and Barbara decided to take a Sherpa and spend a week surveying on the west side of Kanjiroba. This would involve going over the col above Camp I and steeply down the other side into unknown country. Meanwhile the rest of us would move down to our lower Base Camp in the Garpung Khola and, after a few days' rest and recuperation from 'flu, would carry a camp into the Kagmara Lekh, which bounds the south side of the Garpung Khola.

From the Kanjiroba Himal we had very good views of these mountains which form a chain about twelve miles long and 20,000 feet high. The highest peak, lying at the west end of the chain, seemed inaccessible except by climbing five other peaks to get to it. The high peak at the east end of the chain, however, which became known as kagmara I, looked much more approachable. Below its impressive north face was a flattish ice-field which we were able to reach quite easily. From the first Mingma and Pemba Norbu had favoured the north face but Dorothea and I were not so enthusiastic because of various tottering and unhealthy looking seracs. The east ridge we ruled out because of a number of spiky rock gendarmes, but the west ridge, which could be easily reached, looked reasonable. On it there was only one small rock gendarme, about a third of the way long, but it was enough to turn us back. As on Kanjiroba, it was clear that we could not traverse round the gendarme and that climbing up the rock, which came away in fistfuls, belonged to the ‘very danger' category. We retreated, determined to try the face after all. As Mingma pointed out, with a sly grin, it was a more direct route, which would involve much less walking.

Pat and Nancy had joined us by now and we spent the next day carrying a camp up to the glacier below the north face. The seracs growled and grumbled all afternoon and evening and snow fell thickly. The next morning, however, the weather seemed to be clearing and Dorothea and I set off with Mingma and Pemba Norbu, while Nancy and Pat followed with Ang Pema. The climbing was steep and invigorating, with here and there an icy bulge where hand- and footholds had to be cut. From below it had looked as though the lower part was the steepest and that the angle eased off higher up, but in fact the slope was concave and steepened considerably towards the summit ridge. We reached the top at midday and started slowly down, taking great care on the top slope which, covered with fresh snow, felt as though it might avalanche. We were just negotiating an awkward corner where the snow tended to come away in slabs from the ice beneath when Pemba Norbu, who was bringing up the rear, shot past us with a dismal shriek. Dorothea, next on the rope, brought him to a stop.

We reached camp to find Jo, Barbara and Ang Temba, all looking much thinner after a successful week of exploration on the west side of Kanjiroba.

It was by now May 23 and we only had a few days left before starting on our homeward journey. We put a camp on the col between Kagmara I and II, and from it were able to climb Kagmara II and III and a small peak south of the Kagmara Lekh overlooking the Tibrikot valley. After this we were obliged to make our way down to the Garpung Khola where negotiations with Tibetan yak- men were taking place. These men bring their herds of yak into Nepal for summer grazing, and they agreed to hire us fifteen yaks to carry our baggage back to Kaigaon.

When making our way northwards on the approach we had enjoyed early morning views of the Dhaulagiri massif away to the east and had decided that instead of returning to Nepalganj via Jumla and Dailekh, as originally planned, we would like to go in an easterly direction towards the Dhaulagiri massif, by way of the valleys of the Thuli Bheri and the Barbung Khola which lie to the north of Dhaulagiri. From the head of the Barbung Khola we planned to cross the Mukut passes and so make our way southwards to Tukucha and then Pokhara in central Nepal. While we were climbing, our liaison officer, whose dislike of the snow had prevented him from venturing up to Base Camp, had been busy in Jumla making known our change of plan to the authorities in Kathmandu, who raised no objections.

We now split up again. While the main party went down to Kaigaon with the yak caravan, sorted out our remaining food and equipment there, and hired more yaks to take us on the first stage of the return down the Tibrikot valley, which leads into the Thuli Bheri valley, Dorothea and Jo and three Sherpas crossed the col at the head of the Garpung Khola and made their way eastwards in the direction of the remote village of Ringmo. No European had visited this area since Snellgrove in 1956. They then followed the Suli Ghad river in a southerly direction to Dunei, in the Thuli Bheri valley, where we all met on June 3.

The further we went up the magnificent but sparsely populated valleys of the Thuli Bheri and Barbung Khola, the more difficult became the transport of our baggage. At first we alternated between coolies and yaks, but later we were obliged to rely on yaks alone.

Each time we changed our means of transport, the loads had to be remade. There was a disastrous incident at Kakkot where we almost came to blows with the yakmen and their wives. We were told that their yaks were allergic to boxes and we were made to empty our carefully re-packed boxes into inadequate yak-hair bags provided by the yakmen. It took us a little time to realize that the housewives of Kakkot were hoping to acquire our boxes in exchange. We were certain to need them in the monsoon rains, and angry screams went up as the women realized that we were not going to part with them.

It was a relief to get away. We had barely gone a few hundred yards when we were confirmed in our suspicions that yaks are also allergic to memsahibs. The sight of one of us out of the corner of an eye was enough to send them charging about furiously, tossing off boxes right and left. A number of loads rolled down into the river, three yaks got their loads soaked wading through the Barbung, and several kit-bags were ripped open on sharp stones so that their contents hung out of them like entrails. That evening we took stock of the damage. Much of the medical kit was smashed, our tins of food were yakkedmy possessions were soaked, while Dorothea's rucksack had disappeared altogether.

The weather became progressively cloudier as we went up the Barbung Khola, but it was not until we reached Mukutgaon that we had any heavy rains. The monsoon seemed to be held in check by the Dhaulagiri massif, which forms an indescribably steep and forbidding barrier on the south side of the river. From Mukut we climbed up to the 19,000 feet Mukut passes, and enjoyed some wonderful views of the Dhaulagiri range. Between the first and second passes we crossed the high, barren hills south of the Charka- bot region and met pathetic families of refugees begging for food and clothing. We were not far from the Tibetan frontier.

On June 17 we climbed over the last of the Mukut passes and camped on a small platform high up the mountainside. It was our last high camp. A few thousand feet above us twin snow peaks, outposts of the Dhaulagiri range, caught the sun's rays as it went down behind us on the other side of the pass. Before us, far away to the east, we could see the cloud-capped Annapurna range. Tukucha, with its wealth and sophistication, was only a few days away now, and beyond were the heat and the humidity of the monsoon, and the vastness of the plains.

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