My third Himalayan expedition set out on April 29, 1961. This time the objective was the Diamir face of Nanga Parbat. The expedition's aims were:
We also planned to fill in the existing blank on the Nanga Parbat map by a cartographic survey of the upper Diamir nullah; and, in addition, to carry out medical research work and to film the expedition's doings in colour.
The party consisted of Dr. Karl M. Herrligkoffer, aged 45, as leader, doctor and photographer, Rudl Marek (50), Michl Anderl (46), Dr. Ludwig Delp (40), as commandant of the Base Camp, Toni Kinshofer (27), Georg Lehne (25), Siegfried Low (28), Toni Messner (48), Harry Rost (35) and Gerhard Wagner (40), the expedition's scientist.
As usual, our springboard was the little Himalayan town of Gilgit, which we reached three weeks after leaving our home in Munich. We left Gilgit on May 19 in eleven jeeps, piled high with our baggage ; besides the members of the expedition there was the Pakistani liaison officer, Captain Malik, and eight high-altitude porters from the vale of Hunza. After some ten hours of highly picturesque travel, first through the Gilgit Valley and later down the Indus gorge, we reached the Bunar bridge, which crosses the river of that name about two hours down stream from the Rakhiot bridge. After several hours of very hot work, transferring the loads from the jeeps to the backs of coolies, we started on the final steep ascent up the Diamir nullah to Base Camp, at 13,450 feet, where we arrived two days ahead of schedule and dumped our 160 coolie-loads.
Our first task was to reconnoitre the route up the Diamir face, as a preliminary to which we had to find a site for our first high camp at about 16,400 feet. A number of probing attempts during the first few days resulted in our deciding to leave the central rib, by which we had intended to climb, to the south and prepare a 3,000-foot ice-couloir somewhat to the north for our heavily-laden porters. About two or three hours up this couloir, at the bottom of a rock ridge, we established an intermediate depot, for here the angle of the couloir steepened to as much as 50 degrees and it became necessary to safeguard every foot of it with steel cable. We finally anchored some 2,400 feet of cable and about the same amount of line in the couloir, which we named the Low Ice- couloir. At the top of this route we found a rock pulpit, just large enough for a single tent, and this we called the Eagle's Nest. Here the icy face plunged a sheer 3,000 feet from the threshold of the tent. After climbing a 500-foot rock step, we discovered a rather more roomy spot, adequate for the few tents of Camp 2, at about 19,700 feet. This was intended to be our advanced assault camp for the attempt on the summit, and Kinshofer, Lehne and Low occupied it on June 12 in stormy conditions; at this time it was only sketchily supplied and it took days of hauling 25-lb. loads up the steep face on a rope before the provisioning was assured. While the others were busy establishing the 4 acclimatization campLow was busy reconnoitring the route to a third camp higher up; and on June 19, with Kinshofer and Lehne, he started out at 6 a.m. to occupy its site. Two porters, Hidayat Shah and Isa Khan, followed, while Rost and Anderl brought up the rear of the party. The last 1,300 feet to the site for Camp 3 were over the polished ice of the 6 Kinshofer Ice-field' and every foot of it had to be protected, so that the porters could climb it under their heavy loads and later make their way down again in safety. It began to snow at midday and it was late afternoon before they surmounted a huge cornice to reach the site of Camp 3, at about 21,650 feet. Then Rost and Anderl took the porters down again to Camp 2, leaving Kinshofer, Lehne and Low in their advanced post.
The Diamir face of Nanga Parbat from base camp
LOW AT THE ICE-FIELD (NOW NAMED THE ' SIEGI LOW ICE-COULOIR ' AFTER HIM) BETWEEN CAMPS I AND 2
The summit-party wanted to start early on June 20 to attack the summit, but a heavy snowstorm made any attempt to climb the steep ice-slopes impossible. However, during the morning the weather improved considerably and they decided at 3 p.m. to try to reach the Bazhin hollow that day. They gained height rapidly and arrived at the rocky northern rim of the ice-field before dark. Here they prepared for a short bivouac—short, because they intended to start for the summit at about midnight, as soon as the moon came up over the Bazhin gap. They brewed a few cups of Ovomaltine and pulled the tent-sack up over their feet, while their down-jackets provided body-warmth; but even before nightfall they saw a dark bank of cloud pushing its way into the Diamir nullah from the west.
By midnight it had begun to snow and a few hours later they found themselves enveloped by a blizzard, which put off any idea of pressing on towards the summit; and the next day drove the trio back to Camp 3. The days of bad weather which ensued disposed of the slightest hope of renewing the assault, for the food in the high camps gradually gave out, and there was nothing to do but come down to Base Camp and rejoin the main party. Clearing the high camps proved a tough job, for the porters had given all they had to give and even the climbers found their enthusiasm evaporating. It was clear that we should need several weeks before we could mount a new assault and then not unless we could get porter reinforcements. I could see no future in all this ; so, during the last days of June, we decided to call it a day and start down the track to the Bunar bridge.
In spite of the monsoon's denial of any attempt on the summit itself, we were all in good spirits and very happy that we had achieved the expedition's main objective: we had found a feasible route up the repellent Diamir face and climbed right through it to its topmost rim. We also brought back with us entirely new geological knowledge of the Diamir Glacier, till then unsurveyed.
The 1962 Expedition
The work done in 1961 could not be left incomplete. We now knew all the difficulties of the Diamir face and could rely on our experience. First and foremost, I wanted to use my experiences on the return march to the full, by insisting that our approach through the Diamir nullah should be directly by its shepherds' tracks and rock pitches. All that was required to make this route safe for the coolies with their 65-lb. loads was for the Hunza porters to safeguard the dangerous precipitous sectors of the rock walls with fixed ropes and to give a hand there to each individual coolie on the spot.
The second problem not solved to our entire satisfaction the year before was the way to defeat the 3,000-foot Low Ice-couloir between Camps 1 and 2. To facilitate the carrying of loads between Camp 1 and the depot at 18,000 feet, and then up the sector of the ice-couloir above that point, with its fixed steel cables, we signed on ten experienced high-altitude porters at Gilgit, under the leadership of their proven Sirdar Isa Khan. Among the Hunza men there were four who knew their job from the previous year. To this well-qualified team I added two strong lads, who turned out excellently in the event, and finally one of the best of the 1953 high porters, Hadji Beg.
This time we intended to fit our Camp 2 at 19,700 feet, which is only reached after climbing the 500-foot precipice between the Eagle's Nest and its own more roomy platform, as our 'acclimatization camp'. The idea was to equip it with sufficient tents and provisions for a numerous party of climbers and several high-altitude porters to be able to see it out safely up there for at least a week if the weather should break. To make this at all possible, we would definitely have to replace last year's primitive rope-lift by a proper cable-hoist. So I had got in touch with several makers at home and, with Michl Anderl's help, cannibalized three prototypes into one of our own design, which borrowed the crank used in the type the Bergwacht employ. We provided 950 feet of strong 5-mra. steel cable—of which the hoist eventually required 900 feet to lift a 120-lb. load up the cliff in an hour to a point 80 feet below Camp 2. The heavy sacks then had to be pulled up the steep slope to the tents by two or three men.
This year, too, Toni Kinshofer made a considerable variation from my route (which crossed the Kinshofer Ice-field above Camp 2 almost directly upwards) by engaging in a big traverse immediately on leaving the rock ridge only an hour's climb above Camp 2, to reach the snow ridge leading up to Camp 3. This turned out to be a much less dangerous route from 2 to 3, since there was no sheer ice at all and only occasionally a deep blanket of snow through which one had to struggle upwards, sinking in up to the knees.
There were changes, too, in the composition of the team. Lehne and Messner were not available this time. I wanted to strengthen the summit-party, so I added three newcomers to the Himalaya— Anderl Mannhardt (22) who had been with Kinshofer on the first winter climb of the Eiger's north face, Manfred Sturm (27) and Hubert Schmiedbauer (29)—to the old hands, Kinshofer and Low. Michl Anderl was our ropeway specialist and liaison man between Camp 1 and the summit-party. Rudl Marek had the sole responsibility for supplies. My own responsibilities were once again the leadership and medical care of the expedition. In undertaking 24 scientific researches I had the support of my technical medical assistant Sieglinda Ulbrich, who also took on herself the job of looking after the health of the porters. Anderl and I once again did the colour filming of the whole venture.
The expedition left Munich on April 29 and embarked at Genoa next day in the m.v. Asia, complete with 4½ tons of baggage. Marek, Ulbrich and I flew on ahead, to regularize the somewhat fluid formalities, the Pakistani Embassy in Munich having failed to deal with my request for an entry permit in time and, to complete the ensuing chaos, having tried to compel us to wait in Munich by means of an urgent telegram, which arrived two hours after our departure. Of course, that was too late, so Marek and I, with the help of our good friend, Menezes of K.L.M., spent a lot of time in Karachi stirring up the German Embassy and the Pakistani Foreign Office. A special plea for our undertaking by our Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Erhard, eventually resulted in our obtaining the essential permission two hours after the Asia docked. So we were able to get our baggage on to the train en route for Rawalpindi the very same day, May 12. The team flew to Rawalpindi via Lahore next day and on the 14th took full possession of its baggage again. The next two days were the most important Moslem feast days of the year, so we could not get anything done; and, since our written permit had still not arrived from Karachi, we wasted eight precious (and hotelwise, costly) days at Rawalpindi.
However, on May 24 we were at last in a position to leave friendly little Gilgit with our eleven piled-up jeeps on the road to the Indus Valley. At 16.00 on the same day we were at the Bunar bridge, 80 miles away, where we were met by our old friends of last year, the Lambardars. At first the coolies, many of whom had brought donkeys, wanted to carry the loads in, as last year, by the long roundabout route of the Bunar Valley and then over the 13,000-foot pass into the Diamir nullah and so to Base Camp. I opposed this idea resolutely and negotiated with the Lambardars, with the result that after some argument it was decided to travel the shepherds' tracks to Diamirai and, on the following day, up the gorge straight to Base Camp. In contrast with last time, we marched as a column; the four days' uphill journey separating us from Base at the foot of the Diamir Glacier occupied from May 25 to 28.
As I have already explained, the second day's ascent through the Diamir gorge with its rock pitches went off without a hitch, thanks to the protection provided at the dangerous and precipitous sectors of the cliffs by the ropes which the Hunza porters had fixed there. We finally reached the old Base Camp-site at 13,450 feet during the early hours of May 28 and tents were pitched that very day.
SAFEGUARDING THE ROCK STEP BETWEEN THE EAGLE'S NEST AND CAMP 2 (19,700 FEET) BY THE PROVISION OF ROPE-LADDERS TO ENABLE THE PORTERS TO CARRY THEIR 3°-LB. LOADS UP IT
MANNHARDT AT THE FIRST TRAVERSE ON THE WAY TO CAMP 3
In order to stock Camp 1, whose site was already fixed, with the bare necessities of life, I sent ten Hunzas and five Diamir men up with loads next day. Kinshofer, Schmiedbauer, Sturm and Mannhardt went ahead to break the first upward trail. They all returned to Base that evening, but another 15 loads were carried up on the following day.
The weather was not too good, with frequent snow-showers coming up the Diamir nullah ; there was snow lying at Base Camp all the time. Still, conditions were good enough for provisioning Camp 1 and the main consideration was the arrival of a high- pressure system by the middle of June, when we should be pushing on to the summit.
On June 1 Kinshofer, Low and Marek went up through Camp 1 towards the depot, while Schmiedbauer and Anderl stayed at Base Camp to prepare rope-ladders for the ascent of the rock wall just below Camp 2. At the same time Sturm and Marek were busy provisioning Camp 1, while Mannhardt carried steel cables up from the depot on the moraine. So everyone was fully occupied. We used the next two weeks to establish our acclimatization Camp 2, at 19,700 feet, having once again safeguarded the 3,000-foot Low Ice-couloir with steel cables. There followed the very tough job of installing the cable hoist at the top end of the couloir, a labour which called for the employment of every porter, the object being to defeat the 500-foot cliff below Camp 2. Anderl Mannhardt dragged the winch, later capable of lifting 120-lb. loads to just short of the camp within the hour, all the way up. Low carted the cable, which weighed just as much. During the succeeding days the cable was hauled to the top, the supports were anchored and, from June 12 onwards, the highest cable-lift in the world was in daily operation. It was now possible to equip Camp 2 as a fully- fledged ' acclimatization camp'.
One June 15 Kinshofer and Low set about fixing ropes on the route up to Camp 3. Two days later they occupied Camp 2, at 19,700 feet, in stormy, cloudy weather. A specially strong gale swept down in gusts on the tents at Camp 3, in spite of which they crawled out of their sleeping-bags very early and by 8 o'clock were on their way over the frozen crust in the direction of the southerly rock ridge which sweeps up to the North summit. After about 1,000 feet they were above the ice-fall and then moved on to the right towards the Bazhin gap. Here they fixed some 500 feet of 7-mm. line, before returning to Camp 3 at about midday.
Anderl, Mannhardt and Sturm, with their heavily-laden porters, reached Camp 3 on the same day. It was essential to pitch another tent; so, while the two porters were getting ready to go down again to Camp 2, the other new arrivals were soon hard at work levelling a platform to accommodate it.
It was now June 20. On the very same date as a year before, great activity reigned at Camp 3, 21,650 feet up on the Diamir face, as the assault was mounted. In 1961 Kinshofer, Lehne and Low had made for the northern rock rim of the ice-field. This time the plan was to climb towards its southern crest, so as to get into the Bazhin hollow as directly as possible.
By 6 a.m. the assault party was on its way. Kinshofer took the lead, followed by Mannhardt, Low, Sturm and Anderl, all carrying 15 to 20 lb. of bare necessities in their packs. Mannhardt carried the Perlon tent, the others the primus stove and provisions. Quite early in the ascent Low complained of pains in his toes, which had been frozen during his work on the fixed ropes above Camp 2 on June 16. He had already reported that one toe had broken open, but he insisted on carrying on, so as not to miss being one of the party to make the final assault on the summit.
Towards noon they reached the crest, to find an icy wind sweeping the Bazhin hollow, whirling long snow-banners into an azure sky. It was still sunny, but out beyond the Diamir nullah they could see a thick bank of cloud, slowly but continually pushing its threatening edges closer and closer to the mountain.
They pitched the big light-weight Perlon tent immediately behind the ridge sweeping up the North summit, in the wind-break of an ice-fall at about 23,500 feet. It was, of course, nothing more than a bare shelter against driven snow and the high-altitude gale, affording the five men just enough room to sit, without the comfort of sleeping-bags or air-mattresses. There were numerous crevasses around the tent and, as they intended to start during the night, they had to reconnoitre a safe route through them. Looking around the 3-mile-broad Bazhin hollow, they saw the summit structure to the south, eastwards to their left the 25,950-foot subsidiary summit with its many pinnacles, separated from the main massif by the Bazhin gap. The height differential between them at Camp 4 and the summit of Nanga Parbat was still over 3,000 feet. There they crouched on their rucksacks in the Perlon tent, all huddled together, with condensation running in cold streams down the walls, all hoping that during the night the great moment would arrive and the final attempt on the summit be under way. But the weather of June 21 was anything but summit-weather. A thick pall lay over the Diamir nullah; the clouds boiled up and at about 2 p.m. a thunderstorm was raging over the little tent. The roar of thunder vied with the roar of the avalanches. In such conditions, the only course was to see it through in the shelter of the tent until the fury of the elements subsided ; but cowering there gradually became sheer torture—food was running low and it was clear that a final decision faced them during the coming night. If it cleared up, they could set out for the summit: if not, they would be forced to return at least to Camp 3, possibly even to the assault Camp 2.
Soon after midnight, during the early hours of June 22, the weather cleared, though there was still an icy wind blowing over the ridges. In spite of the intense cold, they decided to have a go at it. Only Michl Anderl had to admit that he had reached the limit of his resources and remained at the tent. So it was the four younger men who moved off into the night to the assault of Nanga Parbat's summit. Low was in good shape and took the lead, followed by Kinshofer and Mannhardt; but Sturm soon felt unwell and suffered continually from a stitch in his side. After about two hours he realized that he could not keep pace with the others and reluctantly turned back.
The three men climbed on by the pale light of an almost full moon. At about 4 a.m. the eastern sky, above the Bazhin gap, began to lighten. They were already well into the 'Zone of Death', above 25,000 feet, where the human body can no longer restore its own energy, even when at rest, but steadily deteriorates in strength; and they had been climbing for hours. Toni Kinshofer's forecast—that they could reach the rocks below the shoulder of the summit structure in four hours—naturally proved idle. Even in our armchair conferences at home, we had allowed six to seven hours for the stretch. Once again the clarity of the air at these altitudes had misled a climber into underestimating distances. It was not till 9 a.m. that, having searched the rocks in vain for a possible route up the face below the shoulder, the rope of three reached the Bazhin gap (25,630 feet) and so, at last, joined Hermann Buhl's climbing route of 1953.
They had taken fully eight hours to climb 2,000 feet. Any idea of reaching the summit and descending on the same day to Camp 3 had gone by the board. A night in the open had now to be reckoned with ; but like Buhl nine years earlier, they had seriously miscalculated the distances and, in the certainty of returning to Camp 4 or even 3 the same evening, they had not taken a bivouac- sack or a stock of provisions with them. All they had was a little pocket provender stowed away in their packs.
After resting for half-an-hour, the three men roped up on a 100-foot rope, Kinshofer in the lead, Low and Mannhardt following. There was ice all over the rocks and they were in a dangerous state. The technical difficulties were only somewhere between Grades II and III, but half-way to the summit a big gendarme entailed two ropes' lengths of Grade V climbing. The party chose the route along the ridge to the shoulder. To their left the eastern wall of the Bazhin hollow plunged 15,000 feet into the Rupal nullah—an overwhelming downward glimpse into fantastic depths. Suddenly the rope went taut and the second man had disappeared from sight; but Mannhardt held Low's fall, as he broke through a snow bridge and fell some 15 feet on the side towards the Bazhin hollow. After a while Low reappeared, gasping for breath, having lost his ice-axe, but otherwise unharmed—a lucky escape indeed.
Conditions on the ridge were bad and a threesome naturally moves much more slowly than a solitary climber. Nothing else can account for the fact that the rope of three took fully seven hours for this sector, as against Bhul's four in 1953. By the time they reached the northern shoulder (26,478 feet) at about 4 p.m., the summit structure had long been hidden in clouds; all they were granted were occasional glimpses down into the Rupal or Diamir nullahs, or back across the Silber plateau. Stumbling on up the Diamir side of the ridge, they finally reached the 26,658-foot summit of Nanga Parbat after 5 o'clock, thoroughly exhausted. A few feet below the summit ice-cap, they found the little cairn Hermann Buhl had built on July 3, 1953.
It was 16 hours since they left Camp 4 but in spite of the long and laborious route they had traversed, they were in good spirits, though Low had lost all sensation in his feet, while the other two could still feel the cold in their stiff, frozen toes. After photographing each other on the summit, they at once set out on the return journey. There was obviously insufficient time for a descent over the shoulder, so the trio decided on a bivouac in a crevice in the rocks only 300 feet or so below the top. Their clothes were their only protection against the cold. They pressed close against the rock and huddled against each other in an effort to protect their backs and sides to some extent from the high-altitude gale, which ceaselessly swept these men of the highest open bivouac in the history of climbing, robbing them of their body-warmth, already pitifully reduced by their exertions. Kinshofer and Mannhardt, too, both lost all sensation in their feet during the night. They tried to keep awake, fell asleep momentarily every now and then, woke again shuddering with cold all over their bodies. Hardly a word was spoken as they waited in anguish for the warmth of the new day's sun. During the night Low, who was suffering painfully from frost-bite, was overcome by an attack of faintness, owing, most probably, to his having taken too much Katovit during the ascent. This is a kind of dope which energizes a man's reserve strength for hours, but eventually devitalizes the body, with aftereffects of great weakness, disturbances of the circulation, hallucinations and sometimes a state of fear.
The three men left their ice-cold bivouac-niche at first light and climbed the few feet separating them from the crest of the ridge, where they spent a long time warming themselves in the sun's first rays. At 6 o'clock, however, they prepared for the descent along the horizontal ridge and reached the shoulder at about 7 a.m. Climbing on down towards the gendarme, they tried to turn its familiar difficulties on the Diamir side and eventually succeeded in finding a relatively easy gully running down to the upper part of the Bazhin hollow. There were no great technical difficulties here and in the upper part of the gully they were able to climb down erect on their feet. For the sake of greater speed and since there seemed to be no more danger, the three men unroped at this point. The gale kept on whipping snow particles into the faces of the exhausted climbers; their beards and eyebrows were iced-up, the cut-outs in their Anorak hoods frozen stiff. From time to time they tried to take their bearings through screwed-up eyes, each taking his own line. Then, suddenly, the gap between Low and the two others ahead had lengthened appreciably. Worried at his comrade's slow progress, Kinshofer shouted back up the slope. In reply came Low's voice, from fully 600 feet above, begging them to come up to him. Kinshofer, convinced that Low was suffering from another bout of giddiness, such as had already attacked him following the heavy over-stimulation of his central nervous system, started to climb up as quickly as is humanly possible at such an altitude in answer to his shout.
He had hardly climbed 150 feet when a swiftly-moving shadow crossed his path.
Low had fallen, and was flying downwards on his back, his arms and legs spread wide, without a movement to save himself, without uttering a sound. At the foot of the ice-gully his falling body was catapulted over a swell in the ground, as if over a ski- jump, to cannon head first into one of the few remaining excrescences anywhere near, and so sustain, by sheer bad luck, a head- wound which was to prove fatal. Mannhardt, far ahead down the slope, was at first quite unaware of all these horrors; but, alerted by Kinshofer's shouts, he joined him in a prompt downward race to the site of the disaster.
They found Low with a gaping wound in his forehead and internal injuries as well. He was unconscious and his head, arms and legs hung limp, as if he were dead. After they had mastered their first terrible shock, they decided to get their seriously injured friend down to Camp 4 ; but it took them only a few yards to establish that they were totally beyond such super-human exertions at a height of nearly 25,000 feet; for they, too, were very near to utter exhaustion. Instead, it was agreed that Kinshofer should stay with the dying man while Mannhardt, pepping himself up with some Pervitin tablets, started down to get help up from Camp 3 as quickly as possible. Not only was there no one at Camp 4, but the many hidden crevasses around the tent spelled great danger to a climber moving alone. So he held to a rather higher line and, three hours later, reached the upper rim of the arete falling from the ridge of the north summit to the Kinshofer Ice-field below. Then, heedless of all elementary mountaineering prudence, he climbed straight down the last slope to Camp 3 in a direct, vertical line. We knew from the speed of his descent, long before he reached us in camp, that something extraordinary, nay some terrible tragedy, must have happened. At a quarter to six we heard the shattering news that Siegi Low was lying in Toni's arms at 25,000 feet, and Toni was waiting for our help from down here.
Kinshofer will never be able to forget the moment when Low met the end of his triumphant climbing life—without even knowing it—high up in the Bazhin hollow, cradled in his friend's arms. Alone up there, by the side of the dying man, Kinshofer had kept watch over his friend, in the erroneous belief that help would come up from below in a few hours. Lapped in a kind of heroic solitude he remained there—hardly conscious of it, for he, too, was by now suffering from hallucinations, seeing figures moving, hearing voices calling him by name, until yet another icy gust savagely awoke him again to his true predicament.
It was after 7 p.m. when our cheerful, lovable companion fell painlessly asleep in his friend's arms and so died. It was high time for Kinshofer to think of his own safety. He started down at about 8.30, following Mannhardt's track as long as he could recognize it. He soon lost his ice-axe and had also forgotten that both cameras with the summit pictures in them were in the rucksack into which he had put Low's feet for warmth. While he was crossing the hollow in a northerly direction one of his crampons came undone and he had to keep on fastening it again and again. Why, he scarcely knew ; for the altitude had seriously confused his senses and he stumbled along under the impression that he was wandering through a tobacco plantation. Hour after hour through the seemingly endless night he climbed on, down towards the ridge by Camp 4—every now and then crawling into a snow hole, to rest and renew his strength. The gale blowing up there mitigated the greatest danger threatening him—that he should fall asleep ; again and again it shook the lonely wanderer at above 23,000 feet so wide awake that he decided to press on again. And so the moonlit night limped by, and Toni, whom we believed to be at Camp 4, having instead circumvented the terribly crevassed area which surrounded it, at last arrived, soon after 8 a.m., at the top of the ridge leading down to Camp 3. It was just on 9 o'clock when the rescue team met him. The sad confirmation of Low's death was tempered by our joy at Toni's safe return after fighting his way back to life through that long and terrible night. For 56 hours he had withstood the deadly menace of his savage surroundings without recuperative rest, without liquid or solid nourishment.
To bring Low's body down in the circumstances was out of the question, though a rescue operation was mounted from camp to camp during the night of June 24. But the priority of the moment was the transport of the survivors, with their severely frost-bitten feet, down to Base Camp and thence to a hospital at home with the utmost despatch.
At Base, we devoted an hour to Low's memory after erecting a memorial cairn on the place where his tent had stood, and set out the next day in rain- and snow-showers towards the lower levels of the Indus Valley. Neither of the climbers could walk, and the local hillmen performed wonders in carrying them down the rock pitches of the Diamir gorge in hammocks and sling-seats. We reached the Bunar bridge early on the third morning, to find the jeeps waiting for us. Only a day later we were on our way home by air.