(Translated by M. Smidova and Verena Bolinder)


The Himalayan Expedition of the Tatra climbers in 19691 had been a failure due to bad weather and that the permits to stay on in the mountains had expired. In spite of this the leader of that expedition—Ivan Galfy—had not given up the idea to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat. Straightway after the return he started to organize a new expedition for 1971. The expedition of 1969 had consisted of members of the Mountaineering Club Slovan, Stary Smokovec. The one of 1971 comprised members from all Czechoslovakia and was organized by the Slovak Mountaineering Club James for its fifty years jubilee. The expedition had 16 members, its leader was Ivan Galfy, the 37-year-old guide of the mountaineering service in the High Tatras. The main members were the most outstanding climbers of Slovakia. Expedition doctor was Med. Dr. Bohumil Kosmak, surgeon at the Clinic in Stary Smokovec. The film documentation was entrusted to cameramen Miro Filip and Fero Dostal. The equipment was mainly donated by Czechoslovac firms and plants. French stoves ' BluetWest German ‘Saleva’ crampons, ‘Edelried' ropes and Austrian ‘Nanga Parbat' ice axes were used.

The complete expedition material which weighed 6-5 tons was transported to Pakistan by our Tatra 138 cars. The members of the expedition travelled in two groups. The first seven members left by a Tatra truck and a terrain-truck of Rumanian make on 10 April, The route lead through Soviet Russia, by Rostov, Baku. From there they continued by ss. Kalina to the Iranian harbour Pahlevi. From there on by car to Kabul. The second group went by air, from Prague via Teheran to Kabul. On 24 April both groups met. From there we drove together to Islamabad where we met our liaison officer of the Pakistani army —Syed Zabir. The bad weather which we had the whole time did not allow us to get by air to Gilgit. We therefore decided to drive by two cars on the newly-built road along the Indus river to Gilgit instead.


  1. For full article see H.J., Vol. XXX, 1970, pages 249-253. Himalayan Journal


On 6 May we loaded our 5,600 kilos of material on cars of a Pakistani firm and started our 400 miles long drive to the Rakhiot Bridge. On 8 May we arrived and unloaded. The liaison officer did not agree that our expedition should be parted in two groups. Therefore we left our cargo with the military command which is on duty at the Rakhiot Bridge. We continued to Gilgit. There we contacted the political agent and appointed five Hunza porters. After having insured them with the local insurance company we returned on 10 May to the Rakhiot Bridge.

The expedition lacked porters and therefore each stage took several days. On 15 May we had all the material at the upper part of the Marchenwiese. There we put up our provisional camp, as the site where the Base Camp should be pitched was still covered by 70 centimetres of snow.

On 18 May we settled into our Base Camp, which was under the great moraine not far from the grave of Alfred Dexel (3,967 m.). Problems had arisen with the Hunzas whose demands could not be met. Two of them we dismissed already at the Rakhiot Bridge, and only Bak, Mazik and Ajub remained. In the village of Tato we hired another porter who had already served us satisfactorily on the first expedition in 1969. The plan to reach Nanga Parbat was dealt in three stages. In the first we should pitch Camp I; thereafter we should reach the first icefall and pitch Camp II; the third camp to be pitched not far from the Great Plateau under the Rakhiot summit. That camp should be equipped so as to allow a longer stay under the most inclement weather conditions. During the second stage Camp IV should be pitched to secure the Rakhiot wall and Camp V should be erected on the Moors- head. In the last stage the assault group should pitch Camp VI and try to reach the summit.

On 20 May Camp I is pitched on the great moraine at 4,470 m. The first problem is in front of us—the Rakhiot icefall. On 22 May the first group tries to get through the icefall. They ascend up to 4,500 m. and return. On the next day the second group tries and returns unsuccessfully from 5,200 m. Only on the third day, the tent of Camp II is pitched at the altitude of 5,300 m. The icefall is now passed. The most difficult parts we have secured by fixed ropes. On 27 May Camp III is pitched on the Rakhiot plateau at the altitude of 6,200 m. Now starts the tiring but important part of the expedition: the supplying of Camp II with sufficient equipment and food. The situation is complicated by our four porters who carry 12-15 kilos and Nabi is not willing to go up to Camp III.

So most part of the material is transported by the members of l he expedition. The shortwave transmitters of Czechoslovac make gave us good service between the different camps. On 3 June Krissak, Mladon, Orolin and Zahoransky find the way up l he walls of the Rakhiot peak. On .the following day Urbanovic and Fiala fix the Rakhiot wall with ropes. Their work was relieved somewhat by the ropes from 1969 which were still in good condition. Everything was ready to attack the summit of Nanga Parbat. The weather is still fine. The leader of the expedition decides that on 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of June Camps V and VI shall be pitched and that the summit group Krissak, Orolin, Psotka and Zahoransky will make the assault.

On 8 June Fiala, Haak, Mladon and Urbanovic reach Camp IV and after a short rest they climb the Rakhiot wall. They plan to pitch Camp V and return to Camp IV. On the way to the Moorshead it starts snowing heavily. The material for Camp V they leave at the highest point and return to Camp III. From this day on the weather is horrible—it is snowing incessantly. With great difficulty we hold Camps III, IV and V. In somewhat better weather the Southern peak of Chongra 6,448 m. is climbed.

On 29 June the weather improves. On 30 June Filip, Haak, Dieska, Puskas and Urbanovic try the ascent to the Moorshead. In the afternoon the weather starts to get bad—the group remains in Camp IV. In the night one metre of snow has fallen and this continues during the next few days. The surroundings of Camp IV are avalanche prone. In Camp IV the situation starts to get critical. Urbanovic and 'Haak retreat to Camp III. The other three wait in Camp IV. In Camps IV and III food difficulties arise. On 4 July we try to get food from Camp III but are forced to return due to the heavy snow. In the nights of 4 and 5 July it snows very heavily. Early at dawn Camp III is completely snowed under. Camp IV is manned only by superhuman force. In the evening of 5 July it stops to snow. The Pakistan radio predicts better weather. On 6, 7 and 8 July we refurnish Camp III with food. The comrades from Camp IV return to Camp III. On 8 July our leader makes his assault plan known. On 9 July our support party establishes Camp V and climbs to Camp VI. The summit group climbs on the same day to Camp V, stays there overnight and early on 10 July, they climb to the Silver plateau where they establish Camp VI.

On 11 July we try to climb the summit of Nanga Parbat. Yet on the 10th the support group has returned to Camp V and on the 11th they try to climb the fore-summit of Nanga Parbat.

At 7 o'clock in the morning we leave Camp IV in two groups. The assault group consists of: Ivan Fiala, replacing Josef Psotka who was ill, Milan Krissak, Ludovit Zahoransky and Michal Orolin. The second group consists of: Ivan Urbanovic, Arno Puskac, Gejza Haak, Ivan Dieska and both cameramen, Milo Filip and Fero Dostal. Ivan Galfy remained below to wait for the porters and climb with them up to Camp I.

Slowly we advance, we carry food for Camps V and VI. In front of the first barrier Dieska gives up. His load is divided between us and we continue over to Camp IV, 6,590 m. Quickly we cook some tea and soup and pack further material. I push aside the memories about Himalayan expeditions where the assault group climbed carrying light weights! But it is different with us.

One hour after the first group, at about 2 p.m., we follow. In their track we soon reach them on the slope of the Rakhiot wall. There are fixed ropes but all the same we rope up and over the Rakhiot spur, we reach the Moorshead. We see the Hindu Kush, both summits of Tirich Mir, Haramosh and the region around Rakaposhi. In the east lies the pyramid of K2 and other peaks of Karakoram.

We traverse under the Rakhiot peak. Far off, Ivan Urbanovic is fixing the last of his rope. We have reached the place where the last Czechoslovac expedition ended. Further on is unknown land. Haak, Puskac and Urbanovic want to get on to the Rakhiot summit. We divide their cargo and bid goodbye.

After a short descent under the Moorshead at 6,950 m., we pitch Camp V. The weather remains ideal, we wave to our descending comrades and cook our dinner. We feel splendid, are well acclimatized. As soon as we are in our warm sleeping bags we fall asleep. At 3 o'clock we are woken up by our alarm clock. The sky is full of glittering stars, and strong frost is on the earth. As soon as we are ready with breakfast dawn has come. We are still in the shadow but the first rays of the sun are already gilding the Southern wall of Nanga Parbat. Nature in all her glory, a sight we shall never forget.

At 6 a.m. we leave Camp V, pass again the Moorshead. Deeply moved we read the plate in memory of the victims of the Expedition in 1934. After two hours more we start to traverse the Silver saddle at 7,451 m. Three more hours pass until we again can cook some soup. We still have before us the last part of this day. We climb to the Silver plateau, which is almost three kilometres long, framed by peaks of 7,785 m., 7,816 m., and 7,910 m. and which ends at the Diamir gap—the goal of this day. But now I feel that I am going slower and with more difficulty. Also Krissak is tired. Fiala and Zahoransky have to make the track alone. One hour, two hours and the plateau does not seem to end. I cannot continue, I remain sitting, I could not care less. I remain alone, because Krissak finds some force to continue. After a little while I pull myself together and force myself to continue. My comrades have already arrived at the goal. Altitude 7,600 m. which without acclimatization would be the border-line of life.

Our little tent for two persons must accommodate four climbers. Sleeping bags have remained in Camp V, we only have warm trousers and eiderdown jackets. The sun is setting and it gets colder. The night is bad and very long. At last at about 3 o'clock Milan tries to cook something. After great difficulties one litre of tea is ready. Unsuccessfully we try to eat something, but without some drink it is impossible. We have been preparing ourselves for the last three hours, and still we are not ready. Everything takes an enormous long time. At last we are off. Our goal? The summit of Nanga Parbat.

After a very difficult hour we reach the end of the plateau at the Diamir gap (7,712 m.). The way ahead seems to be inviting. Quite excited we fix the crampons. The frost is very strong, I have lost all feeling in my toes. I beat my shoes with the ski- sticks until I feel the toes hurting again. Zahoransky and Fiala climb up, but I remain waiting for Krissak. He comes, but hands me his ice-axe and gives up. We both keep silent. It is better to give up in time than perhaps never be able to return.

I concentrate completely on the ascent. Relaxing a bit, I admire the surroundings. In front of me is the large Diamir wall, deep down in the valley I discern lovely green lawn. What a contrast! I arrive at the Bazhin gap (7,812 m.). The ground inclines still more. At some parts there is ice. For the second time my right-hand crampon is getting loose, always in a exposed spot. Slowly I have to hack a footstep for my foot. I have to concentrate seriously as it is very inconvenient to remain standing on one foot on a slope of 40°. Again I am completely exhausted and want to return. But Zahoransky and Fiala are already fixed to the rope, my rope is waiting. I decide to return. Then I remember all the former endeavour and strain and command myself You have to continue, you must hold out, you must achieve it!' The ridge leads us on to the critical place of the ascent. A 20 m. high chimney, degree IV. Fiala easily gets through, Zahoransky and I follow him. I feel better. The ground looks good, we leave our ropes behind us at the chimney. The fore- summit 7,910 m. is already behind us and to our great joy we realize that at this moment it is reached by the three climbers— Urbanovic, Psotka, Puskac. But we have to continue towards the summit...

Left, right, left, right,... slowly we drag ourselves along the ridge. A strong wind is blowing. My two companions hurry up which bothers me since both crampons give trouble. We reach another cliff. But now we miss the ropes which we have left at the chimney. We try without them, but in vain. It won't do. Only Fiala has enough strength left to turn back and fetch the ropes. We find a sheltered place and rest. We see the whole route like the open palm of the hand—the icefall, the camps, the Rakhiot peak, the Silver plateau, everything is far below us. What an amount of strength all this has required to arrive up here! Already we see Ivan coming back and admire his energy. Somewhere, on the way, we have passed the 8,000 m. border. We force another cliff and another ramp leads us up to the ridge. Again we unrope, even though the ground is not easy. We climb very carefully. On the left is the greatest and most powerful walls which I have ever seen. To look down in the depth of 4,000 m. is not encouraging. The right side is a bit better. The ridge ends at a short icefall. Fiala and I use our ice-axes, but Zahoransky gets on badly with his ski-sticks. Suddenly he calls out: 61 have promised my wife not to take any risksHe remains standing and does not continue. We find no words to dissuade him. Our reaction at this altitude is not normal. Everyone must fight for himself.

We get to 8,072 m. The summit is very near. Ivan Fiala is again a bit ahead. I remove the crampons and want to hurry after him, and take some quick steps and suffer from an attack of giddiness. I must sit down and I have the feeling that my lungs will burst, the head will split. Only very slowly the trouble abides and I continue to climb. At last I am on the summit. We have made it.

Ivan Fiala awaits me and we embrace each other. It is 2 p.m. on 7 July 1971. My thoughts travel back home. We both take photographs. The strong wind and the bitter cold force us quickly to descend.

Soon we arrive at the place where I have left my crampons. Now I only have one thought—do not fall, do not fall. On the sharp ridge I dare not descend upright. I kneel down and on hands and feet I crawl over the worst part. On the slope with the fixed ropes it goes well and quick. Ivan Fiala is one hundred metres in front of me. Now the chimney, another fixed rope and I am at the bottom. The last part of the slope I glide down on my stomach. Here Zahoransky awaits us. We drink tea and swallow stimulating pills, unfortunately quite useless. Still the Diamir gap remains to be traversed. After every two or three steps I must rest. I can only think of the yellow tent far down below. At 6 p.m. we had made it.

I get soup, but I am clumsy. I spill it on the ground. I bend down and lap it up as well as I can as there is no other fluid to be had. So as to make more room for us Zahoransky and Krissak descend to Camp V. A bad and cold night awaits us, as the stomach does not stand any pills.

Already at the first glimpses of dawn we start preparing the further descent. Again the unending plateau, the Silver saddle, the traverse to the Moorshead. I gather all my wits to get through. I do, but I am terribly thirsty. The camp is in sight. I want to shout, but not a sound leaves my throat. I must march on. At last I fall into the arms of my friends. And then there is tea, lots and lots of tea.

Zahoransky and Krissak have also gone through a lot during their descent. Already at the Silver plateau the night fell. A strong wind blew, and Milan lost his spectacles. Orientation got almost impossible. Only at midnight did they stumple into Camp V.

In the meantime, Psotka, Urbanovic and Puskac had climbed the South-eastern1 summit, 7,530 m.


  1. Pt. 7,530 m. is North-east from the main summit—it really should be designated North-eastern summit.—Ed.


From 12 to 15 July we removed the high camps and began to organize transportation to the Rakhiot Bridge.

Ascents of the members of the Nanga Parbat Expedition South Chongra, 6,448 m.: Puskac, Dieska, Galfy, Psotka, Zahoransky, Haak Urbanovic, Orolin

Rakhiot peak, 7,070 m.: Puskac, Galfy, Urbanovic, Dos-tal, Filip

South-east summit, 7,530 m.: Puskac, Psotka, Urbanovic, First ascent 11.7.71

The Fore-summit, 7,910 m.: Ptiskac, Psotka, Urbanovic, First ascent 11.7.71

Nanga Parbat: Fiala, Orolin, 11.7.71

Members of the expedition

Leader: Ivan Galfy (38 years) Cameraman: F. Dostal (30 years) M. Filip (39 years) Eng. I. Dieska (30 years) Eng. I. Fiala (30 years) Gejza Haak (27 years) M, Jaskovsky (45 years) Med. Dr. B. Kosmak (58 years) J. Korsala (30 years) M. Krissak (27 years) M. Mladon (29 years) Eng. J. Psotka (37 years) Arno Ptiskac (46 years) L. Zahoransky (32 years) M. Orolin (28 years) I. Urbanovic (39 years)

⇑ Top