TOWARDS the fall of the year 1971, the Assam Mountaineering Association decided to send an expedition to Kamet (25,447 ft.). The peak lies in the Garhwal (UP) areas of the Himalaya. I was selected leader of the proposed expedition. As the days and months rolled by, arrangements were being geared up. But unexpectedly, a circular from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation came which had barred the leader of an expedition to take part in the final assault. It was like a bolt from the blue to all of us who were preparing for the expedition. I was so keen on reaching the summit that I searched for .m alternative arrangement. I persuaded Mr. Atanu Prasad Baruah, who was the leader of the last Bethartoli Himal Expedition to act as the Leader who had earlier refused to bear the responsibility of leadership due mainly to personal reasons. Ultimately he agreed to lead the expedition. As everything in correspondence were done by me I was chosen to be the Organising Leader.1 The other members were Parbati Prasad Gautam, Subodh Kumar Datta, Jagat Singh, Amio Kumar Mukherjee, Ajit Kumar Sarma, Dr. Saktipada Choudhary, and Santosh Arora who could not join the expedition at the last moment as he joined the Army. Besides these members five Sherpas from the Sherpa Climbers' Association, Darjeeling were included. They were: Gyalzen Mikchen, Nima Norbu, Nim Dorjee, Kami Tsering and Chonjay.
Collection of fund was the main problem. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation made a timely grant of Rs. 5000/- the UP Govt, granted a sum of Rs. 2000/- plus free transport from Rishikesh to Malari and back and the Assam Govt, granted a sum of Rs. 3,700/-.
We left Gauhati on 31 May and arrived at Joshimath on 4 June. Here we came to know that the Sub Divisional Magistrate was out of station for which the Notified Area Permit and also the Camera Permit could not be had for another ten days.
Photo Plates 34-37
The Tehsildar who was competent to issue such permits to trekking parties, refused to issue us permits for we went as an expedition. After much persuasion he agreed to issue us a provisional permit so that the party could go up to Malari, the roadhead. I immediately rushed to Gopeswar, the District H.Q. of Chamoli 55 kms. away and managed to send a wireless message to the Tehsildar for issuing the necessary permits. On 6 June I caught up with the party at Malari which is 64 kms. away from Joshimath after obtaining the permits. On 7th we arrived at Niti, the last village en route after an easy five hour trek. The next camp was at Dhaman (13,000 ft.). On the 9th the Base Camp was established on the banks of Vasudhara Tal (15,730 ft.).
10 June was the day of rest. Atanu fell seriously ill apparently due to non acclimatisation. On the 11th except three all went to ferry loads at Camp I which was established on the lateral morain of the East Kamet glacier. Camp II was established on the glacier just opposite Deoban at an altitude of 17,500 ft.
On the 18th Camp III was finally occupied which was established just opposite to the gully leading to Camp IV (old Camp III). Here I decided to make two assault parties, one of which would support the other. The stronger one would take the first chance. I decided to go in the first party with Amio, thiee Sherpas and one Garhwali.
On the morning of 19 June we moved up to establish Camp IV, through the gully. It took us 2 hours 25 minutes to reach the Camp IV site. Camp IV was established on a flat ground at the face of the famous wall, the only obstacle to the summit.
It was snowing on the morning of 20 June and I decided to take rest as I had virtually taken no rest in three weeks except one day at the Base Camp.
On 21 June, along with three Sherpas and porters Tez Singh and Jagat Singh, I moved up to establish Camp V. Nima Norbu and Nim Dorjee left an hour earlier to fix ropes. After eight hours of hard work Camp V was established at an estimated altitude of 22,000 ft. just a hundred feet above the wall. Tez Singh and Nim Dorjee started climbing down by 3 p.m. to Camp IV.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of 22 June, we moved to establish Camp VI at Meade's col. Crevasses were there in abundance.It took us four hours to reach the col. We established the camp just below the spur of the Meade's col to avoid the strong winds prevalent there.
On the 23rd morning, we moved towards the summit at 5-45 a.m. Jagat could not stand up at his head was reeling. Although we could not sleep the whole night we were in high spirits. I felt I was in better strength than on any other day in the expedition. For an hour it was all right. As we started climbing the last 2000 ft. of the pyramid, the wind started again and within a few minutes a strong gale came whipping, with snowdust of the size of rice. Whenever the wind came we took firm positions. Snow was knee deep almost throughout the route. By 10 a.m. Kami started complaining of numbness in his left toes. Gradually his pain became acute. Approximately at a height of 25,000 ft. we halted for some rest. I was in a dilemma. It would take two hours to reach the summit at that pace of work I reckoned. I decided to move up, but after a few minutes, at 11-15 hours, we decided to withdraw. Approximate height gained by us was 25,100 ft. I took some hurried shots with my Canon towards all directions. Abi Gamin (24,130 ft.) looked to be under our feet.
We reached the Camp VI by about 3 p.m. Jagat was sleeping quietly. He was no better. Staying there for another assault was out of the question since there were two sick companions. Nima Norbu went down ail alone to Camp IV to bring some help the next day. Some cold tea was available in the flasks which we gulped down. We had no patience to melt the frozen fruit I nice. I was very much upset for the summit was missed by a bare 350 ft. or so. It was within an arm's length.
On the 24th morning we moved down with all the paraphernalia we had carried to that camp. Jagat and Kami virtually carried nothing. Just above Camp V site Nim Dorjee and some high altitude porters greeted us. We reached Camp IV at 1-30 p.m. On the 25th morning we moved down to Camp III with two sick companions, Parbati Prasad Gautam and Kami Tsering. Gautam reached Camp IV (20,500 ft.) in two days from Base Camp but could not acclimatise well. Jagat Singh improved a lot and managed to pull on himself.
On 26th morning we moved down towards Base Camp. Because of the sick companions some persons stayed at Camp I and arrived at Base Camp next day. On 28th we made the homeward journey. Though not so kind Kamet was never too hostile. It gave us enough experience and self-confidence to attempt peaks of such magnitude. We returned with a promise of visiting Kamet again in 1974.
27. Aspe Safed I-IV. To the right of Aspe safed IV is the steep ice couloir the Berchtesgadner couloir
Photo: H. Schindibacher
28. North Peak of Malubiting from the Upper Chogolungma glacier
29. North Buttress of Malubiting (7,459 m.)
Photo: H. Schindibacher
Photo: Nitai Ray
30. Chamba Kailas (18,556 ft.)
31. Chobia Pass (16,441 ft.)
Photo: Nitai Ray
32. Climbing to the 19,000 ft. watershed ridge
33. Tony smythe at base camp. Ahead lies the Tapni Laluni glacier leading to the dominating Pt. 19,777 ft. on the watershed
34. Kamet (25,447 m.) from Camp II
35. Gully leading to Camp IV
36. Mana (23,860 ft) from Camp IV
37. Looking towards Mana and Deoban, from the highest point reached
38. Route to east Col of Parbati Parbat
39. Parbati Parbat (6,275 m., 20,587 ft.). The rast ridge leads to a conical point c. 20,000 ft.). True summit is beyond on the right.