Himalayan Journal vol.31
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.31

Publication year:
1971

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. A. R. HINKS AND THE FIRST EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1921
    (T. S. BLAKENEY)
  3. EVEREST REVISITED THE INTERNATIONAL HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION, 1971
    (NORMAN G. DYHRENFURTH)
  4. POST-MORTEM OF AN INTERNATIONAL EXPEDITION
    (KEN WILSON AND MIKE PEARSON)
  5. 'QUESTIONABLE CONCLUSIONS IN EVEREST FILM'
    (KEN WILSON)
  6. ACCLIMATIZATION
    (Dr. PETER STEELE)
  7. THE HIMALAYAN ETHIC-TIME FOR A RETHINK ?
    (DENNIS GRAY)
  8. THE JAPANESE MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1969-1970
    (HIROMI OHTSUKA)
  9. CAVING IN THE HIMALAYA
    (A. C. WALTHAM)
  10. THE BRITISH KARST RESEARCH EXPEDITION, 1970
    (JANET M. WALTHAM)
  11. ‘WHERE NO PLANES FLY'
    (JOHN ALLEN)
  12. MANASLU WEST WALL, 1971
    (AKIRA TAKAHASHI)
  13. GANGAPURNA NORTH-WEST RIDGE, 1971
    (KATUHIKO MIYOSHI)
  14. THE JAPANESE MT. API EXPEDITION, 1971
    (KATSUYUKI FUKUZAWA)
  15. DHAULAGIRI IV, 1969
    (LEO GRAF)
  16. ‘AND AFTERWARDS...'
    (KLAUS KUBIENA)
  17. CHUREN HIMAL, 1969
    (PAOLO CONSIGLIO)
  18. THE FIRST ASCENT OF THE MAIN PEAK OF CHUREN HIMAL, 1970
    (RYOZO YAMAMOTO)
  19. CHUREN HIMAL, 1971
    (MAKOTO TAKAHASI, KATSUHIKO KANO and KOSEI IDETA)
  20. ANNAPURNA SOUTH PEAK (7,195 M.) SOUTH FACE, 1970
    (MAURICE GICQUEL)
  21. PT 21,133 FT.-THE EASTERN OUTLIER OF ANNAPURNA SOUTH,1 1971
    (CRAIG ANDERSON)
  22. DHAULAGIRI II, 1971
    (FRANZ HUBER)
  23. THE CZECHOSLOVAC EXPEDITION TO ANNAPURNA IV (7,525 m.), 1969
    (VLADIMIR PROCHAZKA)
  24. THE INDIAN JOGIN EXPEDITION, 1970
    (AMULYA SEN)
  25. PUNJAB, 1970
    (CORRADINO RABBI)
  26. SOUTH MALANA GLACIER AND THE MANIKARAN SPIRES, 1971
    (GRAHAM CLARK)
  27. THE ASCENT OF KULU PUMORI, 1970
    (ASHWANI SAITH)
  28. PAPSURA, 1971
    (FLT. LT. V. P. SINGH)
  29. THE KISHTWAR HIMALAYA EXPEDITION, 1971
    (CHARLES CLARKE)
  30. MALUBITING - THE MUNICH KARAKORAM EXPEDITION, 1970
    (PETER VON GIZYCKI)
  31. THE ASCENT OF K6, 1970
    (EDUARD KOBLMULLER)
  32. FIRST ASCENT OF CHONGRA PEAK (22,390 FT = 6,830 M.)
    (MASAHIKO KAITSU)
  33. THE SECOND CZECHOSLOVAC TATRA EXPEDITION TO THE HIMALAYA -NANGA PARBAT (8,125 M.), 1971
    (MICHAL OROLIN)
  34. ODYSSEY ON NANGA PARBAT
    (REINHOLD MESSNER)
  35. KHINYANG CHHISH CLIMBED
    (ANDRZEJ KUS)
  36. ISTOR-O-NAL
    (DR. IVO VALIC)
  37. SHAH FULADI (5,135 M.), 1971
    (MASAHIKO KAITSU)
  38. EXPLORATION AND ASCENTS IN THE BUNI ZOM GROUP, 1971
    (ROBERT WAGNER and ALBERT WACHTEN)
  39. ALPINE EXPLORATION OF THE WAKHAN 1
    (HENRI AGRESTI)
  40. THE EXPLORATION OF THE HINDU RAJ
    (Dr. A. DIEMBERGER)
  41. SARAGHRAR AND LANGAR GROUP
    (TSUNEO MIYAMORI (JAC))
  42. HIMALAYAN NOMENCLATURE
  43. BOOK REVIEWS
  44. OBITUARY
  45. LETTER TO THE EDITOR
  46. EXPEDITION NOTES
  47. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1971

‘AND AFTERWARDS...'

KLAUS KUBIENA

(Translated by Mary Guzdar)

[Reprinted by kind permission of the editor, O.A.Z.]

Tuesday, 11 November, 1969.

The three of us, Oskar Krammer, Leo Graf and myself are at the Base Camp. Last night we went to sleep very late, the voice of Richard still rings in our ears as he spoke to us over the radio the day before yesterday night from the wind-tossed Camp V. Enthusiastically he described to us how wonderful the summit looked. Should the next morning be a clear one then they all would attempt the assault on the summit.

Yesterday morning the weather was fine and we are sure that they all started out. We have seen now the weather worsen and haven't had word from them until late night and we have had no reply to our hourly calls on the radio.

Is this something unusual? The way from Camp V to the summit is long; of that we all were aware and perhaps one could not even see it in one single day without a bivouac. They'll probably return to the camp this morning around 11 a.m. or even a bit later after a cold night. One does not leave a bivouac at this height so early. There are six of them so they can help each other. At least one of the assault parties will probably soon get in touch with us to give us all the news.

Thus we talked to each other but one could read each one's anxiety from their faces. Was it only the mighty wind, or the rain beating on our tents and which soon turned into snow? Or was it a communication from our friends that gave us a premonition of trouble?

The ridge on which our friends probably spent the night is not visible from our camp. The ridge is 12 km. from this camp and 4,000 m. higher. In between lie mountains which are extremely difficult to overcome-a difficult ridge and a glacier basin. It took our friends four days to pass these.

We walk between our tents and shiver in the new fallen snow. Our thoughts go back.

I, the expedition doctor, arrived here hardly a fortnight ago. Three weeks ago I started from Pokhara accompanied by two young porters. How we enjoyed the climbing and descending through the lush greenery of Nepal which I so much love; through villages and along the river, and at night we slept in some house of a villager-tired but happy. The following day another lovely scenery. To see again the white mountains of the Himalaya gave so much joy that I forgot the toil and strain of walking along the stony paths of Nepal.

Then the happy arrival at the Base Camp, the joy of meeting again, and the feeling of security amongst friends.

Richard and the other comrades had left the day before and had already prepared three camps on their way overcoming most of the difficulties. Ossie Krammer had explained to me the way and at first I was frightened. What a difficult terrible path! But this was an outstanding team and they had mastered these difficulties in such a short time.

Now they were ready for the second assault to attempt the summit. Richard Hoyer's voice I had already heard on the day of my arrival. He sounded as usual-quiet, kind but sure and ambitious without compromise. Thus we knew him and thus he always knew how to convince others.

A few days ago I went with Sherpa Phurwa Tenzing up to the Base Camp in order to get some medicines ; two lonely tents which stood just before the tricky ridge and yet it was already so difficult to reach that Base Camp.

I am here at the Base Camp and we wait and wait for a reply from them. It is morning and fog rises from the valley and enshrouds our surroundings. It is November, autumn.

Every hour Ossi tunes in the radio and we listen with Shrestha, our Nepalese Liaison Officer, for any slight sound. Sometimes we imagine we hear voices but it is only an illusion. There is no reply. Should their radio be out of commission and have they perhaps already happily reached their camp? No one can believe this. Tomorrow Leo Graf will go up with a group of Sherpas.

Today also we received no reply. On 12 November, Leo Graf goes with the Sherpas up to Camp I. He will try in three days to go up to Camp III. Only from there can he plan further. Originally he was to go that far to receive the successful team. This of course would still be possible if the only reason was the breakdown of their radio. But we are not convinced that each one of the team is safe.

Our plans do not succeed; Leo cannot get beyond Camp I. Two of his Sherpas are already exhausted and have to be left behind, and the third gives up half-way to Camp II. Leo has sent us a letter, ‘Don't know what to do ; am in despairAnyone who knows Leo, can imagine how desperate he feels.

We have quite realized that the team here at the Base Camp is not capable of attempting a rescue which would prove successful. We all knew that beforehand ; knew that such an event had not been included in Richard's plans. For this great distance our team was too small. The summit and assault team knew that it would have to make the attempt without any possibility of outside help.

If we could get a modern helicopter, capable of reaching those heights, there could be hope of reaching in time to find perhaps someone still alive.

The next radio station is at Beni. It had taken this expedition full seven days from there to their Base Camp. But a fast walker, who knew all the short cuts, could perhaps manage the descent in a shorter time.

I was chosen. Quickly I got together a few things at night for the march into the valley. On 17 November the cook Kala and I leave the camp. One porter carries a few cooking utensils and provisions. We march the whole day up to darkness and then stumble into any house to sleep on the floor and with the first grey of the morning we start again.

On the third afternoon we reach Beni, tired and with burning sensation. We rush to the Police station, the District chief. Everyone is full of sympathy but know their limitations regarding quick help.

A radio message is despatched at once. But the text first goes over Pokhara to be sent on but since the station does not function the whole day it would take at least till tomorrow night until a reply can be expected.

I realize that we cannot do anything else but wait. We wait the whole of the next day. People constantly ask us, 'what happened',-we ourselves do not know. Everyone here feels so sorry that they are not able to help. Their sympathy is as great as the lack of technical facilities.

Next morning we hear the purring of a motor in the sky from the southern direction. We rush into the open. The noise of the motor gets louder but we cannot see anything in this narrow valley. Then suddenly a helicopter appears at the bend of the valley and lands directly near our house on the meadows, where all the children of the place at once surround it. The captain alights and introduces himself as Captain Jai Singh of the Royal young porters. How we enjoyed the climbing and descending through the lush greenery of Nepal which I so much love; through villages and along the river, and at night we slept in some house of a villager-tired but happy. The following day another lovely scenery. To see again the white mountains of the Himalaya gave so much joy that I forgot the toil and strain of walking along the stony paths of Nepal.

Then the happy arrival at the Base Camp, the joy of meeting again, and the feeling of security amongst friends.

Richard and the other comrades had left the day before and had already prepared three camps on their way overcoming most of the difficulties. Ossie Krammer had explained to me the way and at first I was frightened. What a difficult terrible path! But this was an outstanding team and they had mastered these difficulties in such a short time.

Now they were ready for the second assault to attempt the summit. Richard Hoyer's voice I had already heard on the day of my arrival. He sounded as usual-quiet, kind but sure and ambitious without compromise. Thus we knew him and thus he always knew how to convince others.

A few days ago I went with Sherpa Phurwa Tenzing up to the Base Camp in order to get some medicines ; two lonely tents which stood just before the tricky ridge and yet it was already so difficult to reach that Base Camp,

I am here at the Base Camp and we wait and wait for a reply from them. It is morning and fog rises from the valley and enshrouds our surroundings. It is November, autumn.

Every hour Ossi tunes in the radio and we listen with Shrestha, our Nepalese Liaison Officer, for any slight sound. Sometimes we imagine we hear voices but it is only an illusion. There is no reply. Should their radio be out of commission and have they perhaps already happily reached their camp? No one can believe this. Tomorrow Leo Graf will go up with a group of Sherpas.

Today also we received no reply. On 12 November, Leo Graf goes with the Sherpas up to Camp I. He will try in three days to go up to Camp III. Only from there can he plan further. Originally he was to go that far to receive the successful team. This of course would still be possible if the only reason was the breakdown of their radio. But we are not convinced that each one of the team is safe.

Our plans do not succeed ; Leo cannot get beyond Camp I. Two of his Sherpas are already exhausted and have to be left behind, and the third gives up half-way to Camp II. Leo has sent us a letter, 4 Don't know what to do ; am in despair \ Anyone who knows Leo, can imagine how desperate he feels.

We have quite realized that the team here at the Base Camp is not capable of attempting a rescue which would prove successful. We all knew that beforehand ; knew that such an event had not been included in Richard's plans. For this great distance our team was too small. The summit and assault team knew that it would have to make the attempt without any possibility of outside help.

If we could get a modern helicopter, capable of reaching those heights, there could be hope of reaching in time to find perhaps someone still alive.

The next radio station is at Beni. It had taken this expedition full seven days from there to their Base Camp. But a fast walker, who knew all the short cuts, could perhaps manage the descent in a shorter time.

I was chosen. Quickly I got together a few things at night for the march into the valley. On 17 November the cook Kala and I leave the camp. One porter carries a few cooking utensils and provisions. We march the whole day up to darkness and then stumble into any house to sleep on the floor and with the first grey of the morning we start again.

On the third afternoon we reach Beni, tired and with burning sensation. We rush to the Police station, the District chief. Everyone is full of sympathy but know their limitations regarding quick help.

A radio message is despatched at once. But the text first goes over Pokhara to be sent on but since the station does not function the whole day it would take at least till tomorrow night until a reply can be expected.

I realize that we cannot do anything else but wait. We wait the whole of the next day. People constantly ask us, 'what happened',-we ourselves do not know. Everyone here feels so sorry that they are not able to help. Their sympathy is as great as the lack of technical facilities.

Next morning we hear the purring of a motor in the sky from the southern direction. We rush into the open. The noise of the motor gets louder but we cannot see anything in this narrow valley. Then suddenly a helicopter appears at the bend of the valley and lands directly near our house on the meadows, where all the children of the place at once surround it. The captain alights and introduces himself as Captain Jai Singh of the Royal Flight Service. It is the private helicopter of the King which he has given to be of service to us. My first question is, of course, as to how high the machine can fly. 6,000 m. it can manage, which should suffice to look at the glacier basin though not high enough to see Camp V.

After a quick study of the map we at once set out. The helicopter rises fast and soon we view the Annapurna group, . over the Nilgiris and the Dhaulagiri summits. Soon we near the western Dhaulagiri group but as we are about to fly over the Base Camp our machine is assaulted by strong winds and we have to turn away. We have to climb high and now the air is still and we get a clear view of the glacier basin. Around us are glistening ice walls and crevasses and before us at a height of about 1,000 m. lies the massive Dhaulagiri IV. We fly around the glacier basin a few times and can see quite close the way from Camp III that leads to the glacier. The helicopter has risen now to a height of 6,300 m., so that we can fly also into the secondary basin beneath Camp I. We fly a few rounds there and are so close to the ice wall that we could almost touch the saddle on which Camp V stands. But nothing can otherwise be seen; not a track, not a piece of clothing-nothing. The mountain lies peacefully in the sun and all one can make out are little snow avalanches that have descended but everything looks untouched, as if never a person had set foot here. I take photos and scan through binoculars, while the helicopter circles around. The ridge apears to be overhung at some places but does not look problematic even from so close.

At last I give the sign for our return. We fly over the ridge from where we can see the tents of Camp I which have remained. As we descend we see the Base Camp dismantled and the route which I traversed the day before yesterday on foot, and then we land at Beni.

We have found nothing, not even a pointer of what happened. We are now almost convinced that they all are no more alive.

After the departure of Captain Jai Singh who has returned to Kathmandu, I am alone. Alone with my thoughts for four days.

What happened? Was the risk of which each of us was aware, reasonable? Why had all of them to be at the same time in the same place? Yet, just because they were such a large group it was meant to serve as a great safety factor. Without this risk one would have had to abandon the assault attempt. The thoughts turn bitter. Is it worth while to risk such young lives over a pile of dead stones, even if it happens to be so high? But all amongst them knew no greater happiness than to come here in order to climb this mountain. And I myself, who have reached some summits would not give up this experience for anything in the world. Oh, it was much too early to have any clear thoughts. The wound still hurts too much!

Then appear our friends from the Base Camp with Shrestha, the Sherpas and the porters who, as planned, had disbanded the camp. They had no news.

Together we go with our lightly loaded group towards Pokhara, the small remainder of a team that had taken the same path in the opposite direction with so much hope, such a short time ago.

During these days we have taken our farewell from our lost friends. In long discussions the talk always reverts to them. No one dared to picture how this most unhappy news would be received in their homes.

As we came to know later the post-runner did not act as expected and did not forward our direct telegrams so that the people at home were kept for a long time in torturing suspense.

In Pokhara we met our geologist Muller-Jungbluth, who had received the sad news, and at once chartered the Swiss Pilatus- Porter machine and arrived at Pokhara almost at the same time as we, on 27 November.

The next day Leo Graf, who was the most knowledgeable about the terrain, started with the Swiss pilot Hardy Fiihrer. Unfortunately, the high winds these days were so severe that they could not even approach the mountains.

Partly with the Pilatus-Porter, partly by regular flight we reached Kathmandu the same day. For many days our time was taken up with the various authorities. Although inwardly we had come to terms with the thought that our friends could possibly not be alive any more, yet we did not want to leave even the slimmest chance of investigation.

A chance came. A small American military plane was expected at Kathmandu. Muller-Jungbluth who heard of it at once visualized the opportunity. The American representatives were most willing to help us to get this machine which could climb to great heights. Since this terrain lies close to the borders of Tibet and Red-China, we had still formalities before us with the Nepalese Government, but on 5 December we were ready for yet another flight.

This small strong plane flew easily over the summit. We could clearly view the whole summit ridge and the place where Camp V had been but no tent or anything remained visible; they must have been long ago blown away by the dreadful, freezing winter storms of the Himalaya.

This was our last effort to investigate this great tragedy. No one knows even now, what happened to our friends. An avalanche on that ridge is rather out of the question. Rather, it could be a cornice break or a slip of a roped team. In that case, the others may have gone to help and thus found death together. Because even in case of a break of a cornice one would not expect experienced mountain climbers to be all on the same cornice at the same time. We even do not know if they even reached the summit, or not. There are equal chances for that. Or, should the summit cornice at the moment of their greatest triumph have pulled them down into the abyss? Because at that moment they would probably all be together?

Unquestionably, some later expeditions would reach the summit of Dhaulagiri IV. They may provide clarification.

The winter has set in and we have to plan for the home journey.

For me the departure came a few days earlier than for my comrades and many of our new friends from Kathmandu cariie to the airport to see me off.

The plane rises into the night sky in a southerly direction, where behind dark fields of clouds the Indian valleys lie. In the north, behind us, lie the Himalaya ; the long line of snowcapped mountains still glows in the setting sun.

Then clouds race past the cabin window, obliterating the view which is now only memory and longing,

I lean back in the comfortable seat. Again the thoughts race past, but they have become milder, conciliatory, understanding.

Our friends are gone

Where to?

Are they already at their destination?