(Lidanda Peak, Himal Chuli NE. Peak)


'If I alone were responsible, I would never try to prevent you climbing mountains, but I am only a poor old man without much influence. I shall have to go back to my village and discuss the question with the head-lama and other leading people ; who are richer and more powerful than I am!' These words (in the local dialect) were repeated over and over again by the headman of the villige of Lho in the valley of the upper Buri Gandaki Central Nepal). His face was full of folds and between their wrinkled walls his shrewd little eyes belied his whining voice.

Our mountaineering team had already waited for a whole week in Lidanda village without being able to do anything, because the chiefs of Lho and Sama had forbidden all mountaineering in their. region. They even had fined the headman of Lidanda the sum of Rs.100, because he had gone with a reconnaissance party up the Lidanda glacier. Our coveted permit to climb 4 Dakura' peak, which we had received in Kathmandu, and even the presence of our 'liaison officer' and the local police commander of Namdu village made no impression on the clever old headman.

His tactics were obvious : he had all the time in the world, whereas ours was very limited. So, when he promised to come on Wednesday to have a talk with the police officer, he would arrive on Thursday and, when he finally agreed to use his influence in our favour, he did not want to return on the same day, because it was too late. After his return he sent a message that a decision was impossible, because the lama had left the village and his presence was imperative. And so on and so forth.

The ‘official’ reason given for their hostile attitude was the bad harvest of last year, which they ascribed to the Japanese expedition to Peak 29 in October and November 1969, who obviously had irritated the gods, according to the lama of Sama.

Of course we knew about the hostile attitude of the population towards several Japanese Manaslu expeditions in the fifties. But the Netherlands expedition, which had climbed the Manaslu North Peak (7,157 m.) in 1964, had met with no trouble and, we believed, neither had the Japanese Peak 29 expeditions in 1963 and 1969.

When we asked why they had allowed the Japanese to attempt that mountain, they explained that they had not been able to prevent that sacrilege because they all had been at the grazing grounds of their yaks across the Tibetan border.

The reconnaissance party up the Lidanda glacier had seen a good alternative : we could abandon our original plan to climb Peak III-Dakura-at the end of the east ridge of Peak 29 and instead would turn our efforts towards Peak 6,770 metres,1 whose triple crown dominated the southern side of the Lidanda valley. This peak seemed to be outside the 6 religious area' of the villages of Lho and Sama. But this proposal was turned down, because even a walk on the glaciers was considered sacrilegious.

We had chosen Dakura from a photograph taken by the Netherlands Expedition of 1964. It looks impressively steep from Lidanda, although it is not very high, probably only a little more than 6,000 metres. The 'Dakura' marked 7,514 metres on the mountaineering list of the Nepalese Government does not exist. It probably originated out of a misinterpretation of previous data.

Already a Sherpa had been despatched with a message to be telegraphed at the checkpost at Jagat for the government at Katmandu, explaining the situation and asking for a permit to climb Peak 6,770 metres on the north-east ridge of Himal Chuli instead of Dakura. From the Lidanda glacier the reconnaissance party had seen a good way up. On our way back we intended to follow the Chhuling Khola and so would pass the other side of the mountain, but climbing possibilities from that side were yet completely unknown. While we were waiting for a reply the negotiations went on and on. The clever people of Lho never prevented the expedition members to enter the valleys, but they kept a close eye on the Sherpas, the porters and the luggage. Our Kathmandu porters had gone back and we had to rely on local people, who would never dare to do anything against the wishes of their lamas! This proved to be a very effective preventive measure. Our Sherpas were threatened not to go beyond Lidanda and the whole atmosphere became daily more unpleasant.

We became irritated because we could not move without some of the villagers walking behind us. To save the morale of the Sherpas and members, and because we could not lose more time, we prefered to take the risk that the other side of the mountain would prove to be inaccessible. So, on 16 April we decided to stop the fruitless talks and to go back to Ngyak. Above that village we could enter the valley of the Chhuling Khola and try to find an approach to Peak 6,770 metres.

This valley had an additional attraction because it is uninhabited and for that reason has no residing deities on its summits!

The Chhuling Khola is one of the loveliest Himalayan valleys. Open spaces alternate with beautiful woods of conifers fringed with blooming rhododendrons in all colours from snow white to blood red.

Small green meadows full of flowers provide lovely lunch and camp sites, dominated by the majestic ‘sugar loaf’’ of the Himal Chuli.

The water of the khola itself was forbiddingly cold, but everywhere we could find little brooks and pools with water of a pleasant temperature to wash and bathe.

On 19 April we made camp on a spot at 3,000 metres which seemed quite near Peak 6,770 metres although we could not see it from the floor of the valley. Reconnaissance parties went up the slopes immediately within a few days and they came back with the reassuring news that they had seen the mountain and that it looked possible to find a way up the enormous glacier-plateau, which covers a great part of the ridge separating the Chhuling Khola from the Buri Gandaki. One of our members compared it with an aircraft-carrier: a large flight-deck with a small commanding bridge.

Much to our displeasure our liaison officer would not give permission to move Base Camp up the mountain, before Kathmandu had signalled the 'all clear’ Short reconnaissance trips (without Sherpas) were the only possibilities of getting some impression of the way up the mountain, as far as the place where later Camp II would be established.

Another messenger had already been sent to Jagat and on 24 April the reply was received from the Nepalese Government that we could go ahead.

In the meantime the ‘non-mountaineers' of our party had moved further up the valley, and they had crossed the Himal Chuli glacier. At its west side, at an altitude of 3,500 metres, they had found a most idyllic small lake with flowering rhododendrons all around. An added bonus was the temperature of the water. This made swimming not only possible, but even pleasant!

Nearby was the Base Camp of the Japanese Keio University expedition, which was attempting Baudha Peak (6,672 m.). This camp was populated at the time only by the liaison officer and a kitchen boy. All members and Sherpas were on the mountain, where they had already established three camps. According to the liaison officer, success was expected within a few days.

Coming back from a visit to the camp of our climbing party, Sirdar Phu Dorji met us, while we were sheltering from a shower of rain, explaining that a doctor's help was urgently requested by the Japanese, who had met with disaster. One member of the summit party had slipped and all three had fallen down an ice slope. The rope fortunately had caught behind an outcrop of ice and had saved two members, but the third had slipped out of the loop and had disappeared. All search had been in vain. The leader of the expedition had suffered wounds in his face, to which were added frost-bite and infection, and the other man had a chest injury, which made breathing painful.

We treated them for better for worse and some of our Sherpas volunteered to help with the search for their lost comrade.

Several weeks later, when we arrived back in Kathmandu, we heard that the body had been found and also that they had succeeded in climbing Baudha. At the north side of the valley our mountaineers worked hard to make up for the lost days in Lidanda.

As soon as the message had arrived that the Nepalese Government had approved the change of mountain (which they had christened with a rather lofty name of ‘Himal Chuli North-East Peak'), Base Camp was established at 4,000 metres. Within a few days Camp I and Camp II were placed at an altitude of 4,900 metres and 5,600 metres. These camps were further equipped with food and fuel, and now Sherpas joined the members going up and down the glacier carrying supplies. A good site for Camp III was located near the highest point of the glacier and two tents were placed at 6,000 metres on a beautiful plateau with fine views of the Ganesh Himal in the east.

The weather in the morning was always fine. At noon the clouds rose and there was sometimes some snow in the afternoon. In the evening the clouds usually disappeared and the nights were clear and cold.

The distance between Camp III and the top was still considered too great and another camp was placed at 6,250 metres, just under the summit ridge. Already the first attempt proved successful,

Herman Tollenaar went up with Sirdar Nima Dorji and Mingma, while Ang Phurba replaced Chris Korthals-Altes, who suffered from a splitting headache. The weather was not very good and it took them about four hours to reach the summit.

During the following days practically all members and Sherpas of the climbing party followed their trail to the top. The views of Himal Chuli, Peak 29 and Manaslu were splendid and so everybody was satisfied. The return journey took us across the Rupina La (4,670 m.) into the beautiful valley of the Darondi Khola.

We boarded a plane at Gurkha (Palluntar) airport with mixed feeling and our eyes could not take leave of the white mountain tops floating above the haze, as we flew along the Himalayan range. Already we were longing to go back once more to the ‘Abode of the Snows’.


The Netherlands Himalaya Expedition 1970 operated in two groups-a trekking group and a mountaineering party.

Its original aim was to climb Peak III (Dakura) on the east ridge of Peak 29. Owing to religious objections of the people of the upper Buri Gandaki valley, especially of the villagers of Lho and Sama, it had to choose another mountain. This became Peak 6,770 metres on the ridge separating the Chhuling Khola and the Buri Gandaki valleys.

The Nepalese Government indicated it as Himal Chuli NE. Peak. But because its first ascent took place on 5 May (the date of the liberation of the Netherlands) we called it ‘Liberation Peak’. But we agree that the name ' Lidanda Peak’ as proposed by Prof. G. O. Dyhrenfurth, is more appropriate, because it is not ‘eurocentric’.

The members of the climbing party were: Dr. J. F. Saltet (leader), H. van Harreveld, E. P. A. Hopster, Dr. Chris Korthals- Altes, J. Osinga, H. Tollenaar, C. J. van Tooren, J. R. Wouters with the following Sherpas: Nima Dorji (Sirdar), Ang Lhakpa I, Ang Lhakpa II, Ang Tsering III, Mingma and Ang Phurba.

The trekking party had as participants: Dr. J. A. Noordyk (leader), O. E. H. Baron Bentinck, J. A. E. van der Feen, Prof. Dr. J. de Graeff, Mrs. A. de Graeff and their two sons, Jan-Jaap and Pieter, H. Hovinga and C. F. de Stoppelaar. Sherpas were: Phu Dorji (Sirdar), Penuri, Nawang Gyaltso, Ang Kami, Ang Tandi and Ang Chumbi.

The expedition was supported by the Royal Netherlands Alpine Club (K.N.A.V.) and the Netherlands Sports Federation.

One notes that the mania for christening peaks is not confined to Indian climbers. It is perhaps best to stick to an official designation or depend on geographical considerations when choosing names of unnamed peaks.—Ed.

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