It is almost unbelievable that this undertaking has reached its starting point. No more letters of appeal to be written; no more negative replies from firms and officialdom to be read which are the usual formalities in the planning of an expedition. What remains is to plan the expenditures, hoping to have a little left over for unexpected events.
We are a small group of seven men on our way to Nepal. It is late considering that we have a long and difficult approach before we can even attempt our goal. From the day of our departure on 23 March everything went as planned. We did not waste even an hour and by 29 March we have also overcome the customs difficulties in India and Nepal. Needful items have been purchased and our mini-expedition consisting of 65 porters, 3 Sherpas, Liaison Officer and mail runner has started from Pokhara for a week-long march through West Nepal for the north side of the Dhaula Himal.
Almost like an express train our group moves daily from village to village. We pass through high and low passes, through Rhododendron forests in bloom and with the white giant mountains in the background. On first sighting them one almost begins to believe in fairyland. Everything appears exaggerated ; the mountains are higher, the storms more ferocious, rain more plentiful, the sun hotter and nature's colouring more intense.
A difficult pass of 4,600 m. which was in April still partly snow covered gave us some worry. With luck and understanding from the weather gods we overcame this in three days, and the last part of our march brought us into the Barbung Khola. Through this valley north of the main chain of mountains one reaches the branch-off into the Mukut Khola and the little Tibetan village of Mukut (4,000 m.). At this little village we established our Base Camp after a three weeks' march.
Because of a spell of bad weather we could not get on well with our work. Even the Lamas of the village opined that the gods did not approve of us and to show their displeasure they sent so much snow for which the Lamas too had to suffer. We all won them over when we assured them that we hadn't come to make their gods angry, but only for climbing a giant mountain and then the sun at last appeared pushing back slowly the snowline.
Daily our team carried heavy loads up steep and snow-covered mountains, fixed ropes and prepared for Camp I at 5,000 m. height. This camp, 600 m. below the chorten ridge, is really the life-blood of the expedition. After the severe strain of overcoming the ice-covered, steep couloirs of the chorten ridge, we reached the height of 5,600 m. and had the panorama of the Dhaula Himal before us ; I felt a secret assurance that this time we would be successful.1 With these thoughts we descended into the huge unknown hollow opposite the ridge. At a height of 5,300 m. we set up Camp II.
It is unavoidable that one has to traverse two kilometres, past giant ice overhangs. By the grace of God no avalanches hit us. After two attempts we were able to establish Camp III at a height of 6,000 m. Until we could establish this camp properly we had great need to be continuously supplied from the lower camps. Because of bad weather we had to remain here for a full week and could only make three attempts at erecting another camp during that time.
The ice-barrier which cuts off the summits of Dhaula II and III at a height of 6,000-7,000 m. is the main difficulty. It is this ice-barrier which wrecked our attempt in the 1963 expedition. A thorough study of the eventual route which we had undertaken a few days ago from the chorten ridge was of great advantage and, with the blessings of good weather, our fourth attempt to establish Camp IV was successful. It was erected near a protected ice-wall.
The next day, 17 May, we were able to investigate the ice- fall which extended under the summits of Dhaula II and III and an actual ice-gully led to the last steep step and through this we reached the balcony above the breach. At 7,150 m. we erected the last camp and then proceeded through fields covered with new snow which reached up to the corniced ridge between Dhaula II and III.
Early on 18 May the two teams left Camp V. Although technically no problems remained it was most exhausting to progress through knee-deep new snow and there was also considerable activity in Camps II, III and IV to prepare for any eventuality. The weather remained steady, the condition and will-power of the team excellent and the first group reached the 7,751 m. high summit at about 1.30 p.m. The first rope consisting of Adolf Huber and Sherpa Jangbu was followed two hours later by the second group of Adolf Weissensteiner and Ronald Fear. A wonderfully open view could be had of the neighbouring summits of Dhaula III, IV and V.
We all descended in a kind of trauma, hardly realizing the reality of our goal having been reached. Only on reaching Camp V, with the onset of darkness, did we grasp this momentous achievement. Next day we descended to Camp IV which posed much difficulty with snow-drifts and thick fog. With all the camps dismantled and having crossed the dangerous ice- barrier and carried down the heavy loads over the Chorten ridge we could consider our expedition a hundred per cent success.
If one considers the immense efforts by every member of the team and the difficulties that had to be overcome all along the route one concludes that this success was only possible because of dedicated team-work. The return march was over the Mular from where we saw Dhaulagiri II towards the East from its loveliest and most impressive side.
Members: Franz Huber (Leader), Dr. Horst Stych (Vienna), Gunter Gruber (Vienna), Helmut Drachsler (Vienna), Adolf Huber (Palfan), Adolf Weissensteiner (Admont), and Ronald Fear (Seattle, USA).
DHAULA II (CENTRE) AND III (RIGHT) FROM THE CHORTEN RIDGE. CAMP II IN BOTTOM RIGHT-HAND CORNER
DAULAGIRI II (7,751 M.) FROM MULAR