The Idea, by Robert Paragot
EVERY important date in the history of French expeditions in the Himalaya: Annapurna, Makalu, the Tower of Mustagh, Jannu marks a step forward in crossing greater hurdles. Foreign mountaineering has had the same evolution till this Spring of 1970 when a strong British party headed by Christian Bonington led the roped mountaineers Don Whillans and Dougal Haston to the peak of the Annapurna by following its southern slope.
This achievement is a landmark in the conquest of Himalayan peaks. It ushers in a period of overcoming obstacles and the use of modern techniques at more than 8000 m.
The idea of the conquest of the western pillar of Makalu is however earlier.
As for myself it dates from 1959. That year, after some days' journey from Dharan Bazar on the Indian border we cross the first great peak of the Siwaliks. Before us stands the barriers of the Himalaya with their fantastic eight thousanders. It is 1959, we are the first part to Jannu, led by Jean Franco. It is my first sight of Makalu; magnificent mountain with perfect architecture, a pyramid erected by nature, deserving to be the shelter of all 1 he gods who rule over this region.
Jean Bouvier who belonged to the party of 1955 and with whom I have been walking from the morning makes me admire the object of his former feats. To tease him I say "Well, my dear Jean, if I had the chance to ascend your mole hill, I would have preferred the western pillar which you claim to be unapproachable."
He simply smiles. He knows that I am joking, but the idea has taken its course—could one dream of a better aim than this pillar, a better problem than that raised by its vertical projection? We have considered for a time that the most beautiful path on a perfect summit is inaccessible, but we have never stopped thinking about it. And then in the autumn of 1962 the Committee of the Himalaya decides in favour of the organisation of an important expedition and fixes the western pillar of the Makalu as its object. The die is thus cast, and what was only an idea is now going to become a reality.
After being chosen as the leader of the expedition, I was to assemble what I would call the skeleton of the party. From the spring of 1970 Berardini, Desmaison, Paris, Seigneur and I formed the "board" of the expedition. The application for the permission to the Government of Nepal was sent. Without waiting for the official reply, we started our preparation with the approval of the president, Lucien Devies.
First of all, we had to ascertain and make a list of our requirements. My difficulties and anxieties made me soon forget the joy of finding myself bound once again for the Himalaya. Wavering between hope and discouragement for one year, but assisted always by the secretariat of the Federation and the patient Mme. Morgan, we summed up in a big volume containing five chapters the plan of the expedition. From the end of 1970, the members of the party were to be selected. Ten mountaineers chosen among the best on the basis of such essential criteria as sociability appeared before the Committee of the Himalaya. The party which was formed was to my liking, quite balanced from the standpoint of age. The youngest was 27 years old, five persons were not above 32 years. The five others were "old com- paigners" between 33 and 40. The tendency of the last few expeditions to the Himalaya was to enlist persons of mature years, capable of sustained efforts at high altitude but this time I thought that it would be preferable to include in our party some mountaineers with the enthusiasm and drive of youth, because we were to cross a prominence stretching 3 to 400 m. at above 7,000 m,, bristling with difficulties. I think that the ideal combination should include both the young and the old.
The Committee of the Himalaya having confirmed our selection, we were on the look out for the "Medical Officer". Strangely, it was with the help of short insertions in the Press that we selected him. An article in Le Figaro explained our difficulty; Dr. Jacques Marchal offered his services.
The party was formed: Lucien Berardini, Francois Guillot, Robert Jacob, Claude Jager, Bernard Mellet, Jean-Paul Paris, Georges Payot, Yannick Seigneur, Rene Desmaison who later had to withdraw and was replaced by Jean Claude Mosca, the Medical Officer and myself the "Patron" of the expedition.
In November, the party assembles at Chamonix and examines for forty eight hours all the details of the scheme of our expedition. Amidst various questions, an important one is raised: that of the Camps. The itinerary can be marked out beforehand on the photos—it is quite reasonable—but the sites of the Camps do not seem to exist. In anticipation that we would have to utilise them, we decide in favour of the manufacture of artificial platforms. To us the classical tents appear to be unfit for resisting the wind which sweeps the pillar, we give an order for a new model like the one utilised by our British friends on the south face of Annapurna. Thus, we elaborate little by little a list consisting of three thousand articles.
While Berardini takes on the task of the proper condition and packing of the articles, the administrative work follows its course. The favourable reply from Nepal comes at last. When we are ready, we find 14 tonnes of goods required to be forwarded.
On 16 Jan. 1971 Jean-Paul Paris and Yannick Seigneur leave France for Kathmandu as forerunners for last minute on the spot preparations such as contacts with the authorities in Nepal, customs formalities, recruitment of Sherpas etc.
On 16 Feb. the rest of the party sets out. The party is now active. And when I take leave of the president Lucien Devies at the small gate of the international lines I read hope and anxiety in his eyes.
21 Feb, we are at Tumlingtar where an old DC3 transports passengers and luggage in seven trips. A host of about 500 porters cluster round our first Camp on the edge of the river Arun. Recruitment, arrangements and fatigue-everything makes the first day a trial for us. There are so many expeditions in Nepal that we fail to get the Sherpas whom we wanted and ours seem to be inefficient. We succeed in setting out on 23 Feb when Jean- Paul Paris and George Payot who were detained at Kathmandu for certain formalities land from an Alouette III the landing of which causes panic among our porters most of whom have never seen a helicopter.
In three days we reach the bridge of Num, an impressive rope bridge about 80 m. long. The pillar is at last in sight, more magnificent than we thought. After having consolidated the bridge, we cross the river with our loads and it takes two days.
And then the snow appears, earlier than our expectation, we find it at the altitude of 2500 m. and we would have to cross the neck of Barun at 4200 m. during the next day's march. More than half of our porters who are not up to the mark leave us. Only 175 porters remain for 462 loads and this necessitates the going and coming of the porters between the provisional depots. For nine days, we are going to leave tracks in the deep snow. The weather is bad. Every day it snows at the close of the afternoon, the tracks are covered up and need opening the following day.
But with patients everything is possible; on 11 March we are in Mumbuck about 3500 m. on the other side of the neck of Barun—eighteen days have passed since our departure from Tumlingtar.
That evening it snows heavily. The porters come with the last loads. They are worn out and walk barefoot in the snow, their necks wrapped in mufflers which we have given them. One of them dies at the col. Two of his friends bring the body down. We cremate him in the presence of his family and a Lama who comes from Sedoa.
Thus it is on 19 March that we reach the site of the Base Camp after twenty four days' long and troublesome journey. It is strange that there is no snow when we are at the altitude of 4900 m., though the col of Barun is snow-capped.
We install ourselves comfortably in anticipation of a long sojourn. A hut made of dry stones is soon built. I avail myself of the chance to meet Bernard Seguy with his Alouette III in order to make a reconnoitring flight above the pillar. The installation of an advanced base at the foot of the first Twin would not be a problem. The rock band1 is more broken than I thought, but it is as steep as we have expected. Then Seguy leaves us. We are alone with our Makalu. The porters are discharged. Our small party comprises: eleven sahibs, eighteen Sherpas under the leadership of a mediocre Sirdar and seven local porters equipped with the essentials who would ensure the provision of local products such as rice from the valley of Sedoa to the Base Camp.
On 16 April, we are in Camp II. The Camp I was pitched on 25 March at 5300 in. The same site which was selected in 1955 after a difficult passage across a glacier. The Camp II which is our advanced base has been well installed on the rocky shelf, sheltered from the wind from the west. From this roost the lanscape is fantastic, we are surrounded by a crowd of peaks with dizzy heights. This morning, Jacob who has been operated upon, is evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu, the change of the altitude being essential for his recovery. That is a great handicap at a time when the party is going to be engaged. In fact the pillar is no longer far away. It starts from the end of the ridge of the Twins and overwhelms us completely. From this distance the problem of pitching the upper camps seems to be more difficult.
During the following days, the first Twin is attained, then the second. Two of our Sherpas Ang Temba and Pema prove themselves to be efficient and courageous. The weather is good and we must avail ourselves of it. After Berardini, Payot and Seigneur dump the material beyond the second Twin, Jager and Jean-Paul Paris pitch a camp and spend the night for the first time above Camp II. They have a bad night. The violent storm induces them to select a more secure site for Camp III closer to the base of the Pillar. The whole of the ridge of the Twins is now fitted out and we have put nearly 2 km. length of fixed rope between the height of 6000 m. and 6500 m. But the weather worsens every day. Inspite of the heavy snow fall, Guillot and Mosca move forward above Camp III.
Then Berardini, Mellet, Payot and Seigneur tread on an impressively difficult traverse of 120 m., full of snow covered slabs interspersed with cornices. On 14 April, we proceed with Mosca in the direction of a very steep neve. Bad weather is imminent. The storm swoops down on us, when we are fixing our last rope. We make good our escape on the ropes and come back to Camp III.
During the following days, the storm lays hold of the mountain. Despite this frightful storm, Guillot and Mosca get up a little farther, then have to retreat.
The Camp III, a vulnerable spot, is devastated by the storm; the Makalu tents start collapsing. Jean-Paul Paris, Georges Payot and Yannick Seigneur still hold out for some days but eventually have to return to Camp II.
The situation here is hardly better. We come out every moment from the tents to clear them of the snow which covers them up and which creeps everywhere. The kitchen is deserted; it is also covered with snow. We somehow take our meals in the mess tent where we are constantly sprinkled with snow. After some days the situation becomes critical; the supply from Sedoa is blocked and our stock of rice for the Sherpas decreases. 21 April arrives, the storm continues, unabated. Our reserve rations for high altitude camps are opened. It is long since such a violent and prolonged storm has been experienced. In what state are we going to find Camp III? Would we have enough provisions? Would we find the fixed ropes on the ridge of the Twins? Our reserves of the big bottles of gas and petroleum are used up; we are forced to send Sherpas to find wood in the valley. What are then our chances of success? Even if the weather is fine again, it would take four days to make further progress. We know that several other expeditions are already abandoned. Should we think of a retreat even before Camp IV is pitched? We decide to wait upto the eighth day of the storm.
22 April—the storm calms down a little but it snows all the time. We have to convince our six Sherpas that it is still impossible to go to Base, the rice which they expect would not be found there; any descent to Camp I would be full of hazards.
The following day it snows even in the region of the Base Camp where Guillot takes stock of our reserves. If our porters of Sedoa do not turn up quickly, the result would be critical.
However, four roped mountaineers fit themselves out and attempt to reach Camp III. They come back after having reached the foot of the second Twin, the track is difficult to follow and it is dangerous too because of the steep slopes. At certain places the climbers sink upto their shoulders.
On 27 April a second attempt to reach Camp III fails. Jager, Mellet and Seigneur come back from there, worn out. Cold persists and the storm does not abate. Jager and Paris go down to the Base Camp; it takes them eight hours to reach, whereas three hours were sufficient before the tempest.
Thirteen days have passed since we were blocked, but our tenacity is at last rewarded, everything settles down as if by a miracle. We learn that twenty one porters have come to the Base Camp with rice, petroleum and other products. The Sherpas have traced the track once again in the direction of Camp I.
The weather is clear; Berardini, Mosca, Payot and myself climb up to Camp III. So violent was the storm on the ridge of the Twins that the ropes are found loose and the snow hard. We are helpless, when we come to Camp III. Everything is devastated, the tents have collapsed, altogether torn to pieces. The storm has come to an end and hope reappears; we start forgetting our past anxieties. However, everything remains to be done. The pillar and its couloir separate us always from this small cone of snow lost in the sky at 8481 m.
The Rock Band, by Bernard Mellet.
On 29 April after two weeks' troublesome detention in Camp II in the storm, Seigneur and myself reach the sharp edge of the snow which leads to the foot of the rock band. While I toil on the last metres, Seigneur passes beyond a last small overhang which brings us to the site of Camp IV. In fact, there is no level stretch of rock here and we have to carve one on the slope in order to pitch our first tent, it is a very long and extremely strenuous work at this altitude. The rock band dominates us. It is there, now, very near to us, and I hurry to touch this granite. The wind has changed and this evening it snows again. May all this settle down tomorrow! All the night the tent has snapped because of the wind and it is still blowing this morning. The sky is cloudy but we have decided to make a move today and Seigneur selects the top of a crag covered at places with snow and ice.
He crosses on the right and ascends a small snow capped couloir which we did not see before and which helps us to climb rapidly. Thus we reach the monolithic portion of the rock band.
Seigneur discovers some more beautiful passages, but the weather has changed quickly and we get down to the Camp IV to pass our second night.
We do not at all feel the altitude though we are at about 7300 m. and we have had a busy day. We suffer only from the cold.
The next day (1 May) as it is settled, we go to the foot of the arete below Camp IV in order to receive the goods brought by the Sherpas with Berardini, Mosca, Paragot and Payot. We are without Sherpas, which compels us to go up and down. I start climbing up, utilising the ropes placed yesterday. It is indeed a magnificent mountain! It is most unfortunate that there is such violent wind and so much cold. I come to the place which was reached the day before, then I confront a veritable barrier of very steep slabs dominated by an overhanging "nose"; I remove my crampons. What a pleasure to feel beneath the slopes a splendid mountain and to grip this beautiful granite.
I make an attack upon a crack which admits me but I am forced to exert myself like an athlete while trying to come out of it. I cannot go forward anymore and when I come out, I find it difficult to breathe freely ... I am surprised to find myself weeping, my hands holding my head. But it is time to get down. We have already gained about one hundred metres. It is three days since we have worked at more than 7000 m. and this evening we have to go back to Camp III to recuperate.
It is with pleasure that I find there an impressive number of letters; the friends who are not fortunate enough to join us, count on us and know how to encourage us. Paragot who has observed us with binoculars from Camp II is very pleased with our progress.
The next day we have good news: the famous "nose" which troubled us so much with its compact and overhanging slabs has just been conquered: Mosca and Payot have finally crossed the first hurdle of the rock band.
At the Camp II I was sharing the tent of Marchal and we are already thinking of the successive ventures of each party in the direction of the summit. But after the nose? these overhangs? On 4 May, there is a violent storm and we keep our feet with difficulty on the sharp arete of snow which leads to the Camp IV. But it is fine again and we can arrange for the transport of goods. Five Sherpas accompany us. We have a small number of efficient Sherpas, but these people are admirably courageous; they have never advanced in such a perilous terrain; during the first days, they worried us and we hardly banked on them beyond Camp III: they helped us much in the long run. And today, at Camp IV, they lay down their loads, one after another. After having saluted us, they return once again to Camp III.
We remain alone and start carving a new platform. We do not want it to be spacious, for each blow of shovel or ice axe requires a strenuous effort on our part. Once the tent is pitched, its top could follow the line of the slope without any balcony! The wind blows so strongly that we have much difficulty in supporting the tent; the wind goes on unabated all the night but that does not prevent us from lying in bed till late in the morning.
We decide however to set out and equip ourselves, wearing thick jackets of down. We come to the notch reached by Mosca and Payot. Seigneur goes farther. He crosses over a small steep diedre and disappears from my sight. I encourage him but I cannot move forward. Strong gusts of wind hustle me several times and I resist with difficulty. Seigneur "clings" to the rope. I have removed my anorak. I do not succeed in putting it on again. The wind has rushed into it and has swollen it like a balloon. I feel that I have neither hands nor feet. At the exit of the diedre I find Yannick tossed by the wind. I beckon him to turn back.
We get down exhausted when the storm is at its height; we have covered only 50 m. above the "nose". A difficult spot, the most serious portion still remains.
This morning of 6 May, the wind is still high but perhaps a bit less than yesterday. We reach the highest point of yesterday in three hours, we are certainly in good form. Then Seigneur decides to cross some fifteen metres to the right of the overhang. It seems that it would be less abrupt and that a path would be found afterwards to the left. Seigneur forces a beautiful pitch of artificial climbing. He draws the rope which we are going to fix and I find myself alone with my jumar which I do not feel any more in my hands. I am exhausted, breathless. Yannick can do nothing for me. I get up little by little in the direction of the belay. My fingers are insensitive and all white. I show them to Yannick.
"One cannot continue in that way, they must be warmed up."
I strike my hands one against the other, then against my thighs, my arms ache, but to no purpose.
"Do not bother, Yannick, let us continue, we shall see later on."
"No give me your hands" and Yannick takes my hands one after the other in his. He rubs and slaps them softly, then all of a sudden they become alive and rose-coloured. I do not think about it any longer. My dear Yannick! He sets out once again, it is less steep now. I join him again. A less difficult path; some thirty difficult metres remain to be covered. We have just reached the altitude of 7550 m.
Always tossed by the wind, we trudge back to Camp IV. We hardly see them. Everyone of them has taken shelter in his tent ruffled by the gusts of wind. We are dead tired. As for myself it is the most tiring day.
I am hopeful that Mosca and Payot would pitch the Camp V at the exit of the pillar and that Guillot and Paris precede us towards Camp VI. But after three days' rest, it is our turn to follow them in order to storm the pillar.
Today (11 May) it is snowing. Is bad weather going to set in again? It would be fatal to us. We pass the night in Camp III and in Camp IV on the 12th. Paragot and Seigneur stay in one tent, I am alone in another and I have all my comforts this evening.
13 May, waking at 6 a.m. Departures at 8.30 a.m. We cannot set out earlier because of excessive cold. It is almost fine. We reach very rapidly the maximum limit equipped with fixed ropes. The former roped mountaineers have not gone beyond it. We reascend the overhangs with two jumars one for a leg to rest on, the other round the waist and our bag between the two legs.
The empty space beneath us is impressive. Robert and two Sherpas remain on a small neve beneath the overhangs and start carving out a platform for a tent which would comprise Camp V.
We are again on virgin ground and we advance despite the snow which has started falling. At about 5 p.m. we reach the upper snow-covered slopes, the rock band just below us. We have at last come out of the pillar. It is formidable. Unfortunately it snows more and more and we get down quickly to spend the night in the tent at Camp V which must have been pitched in a notch. We shall set out tomorrow. Why would it not be in the direction of the summit?
Alas, when in the midst of whirlwinds of snow and squalls we have a glimpse of Robert and the Sherpas who are getting down, we understand that they have not succeeded in pitching Camp V. I am very much disappointed. So there is the end of tomorrow's venture in the direction of the summit. It is night when we at last arrive at Camp IV. We are all white. Our clothing and gaiters are covered with snow. The night is troublesome, my hands and left foot are very much swollen; the wind goes on jostling the tents.
Next day, we go back again to Camp II. Jacob is there, I left him on 3 April, about a month and half have passed since then. I am happy to see him again with us. Berardini and Marchal would take two days to install the Camp V at the notch. Two days' laborious tasks against squalls and snow. Once this Camp is pitched, we shall say at last "the pillar is conquered".
The Summit, by Yannick Seigneur
It is for the fifth time that Bernard Mellet and I are reascending towards the upper camps, from Camp II. The other roped mountaineers are already in the higher camps. It is their fourth assault and they would be certainly fortunate to reach (he summit before we do. But that is of no importance, we would bring the adventure to a close and we would be doubtless the fourth party to arrive at the peak. We are accompanied by Robert Jacob who has recovered after his operation and has just climbed without stopping upto Camp II from the Base Camp; Robert Paragot, whom I would like so much to see on t he summit of the Makalu, is also with us.
This climb to Camp III is irksome. Today we are however inspired by a great confidence. By reading again the notes which I have made in each Camp till this last ascent, I see that we are dominated by something stronger than human courage at certain moments in our life. I would not dare compare it to the super power of Buhl on Nanga Parbat or of Bonatti 011 (lie south-west pillar of Dru, but each of us feels on certain days of one's life that "This is my day".
The events did not however take place, as was anticipated. We had to be the last roped mountaineers. We thought we would enchain the heights with Camps at our pleasure. Because of the fact that the summit is already attained by the former ropes, we would be like the last bouquet. In fact as we went beyond the camps, we met mountaineers who were descending without having reached the summit.
In Camp III, we find Berardini and Marchal who have pitched Camp V in a superhuman way. On the last day when they were getting ready to set out in the direction of the summit, bad weather set in, depriving them of the opportunity to proceed.
In Camp IV Mosca and Payot inform us that Camp VI is pitched but the bad function of the oxygen masks stands in the way of their movement towards the summit. So they have utilised their time to arrange for the transport of goods and to install fixed ropes above Camp IV. We would find that they have installed about 400 m. of ropes and we would be immensely grateful to them, when getting down from the summit in the night; we would catch hold of the upper end of this thread of Ariane which would lead us to the camp.
The night in Camp V goes by relatively well. We are however three in a tent meant for two and the means by which we provide for our necessaries are laborious. Robert Paragot has left us between Camps III and IV, an inter costal pain prevented him from breathing freely. He came down,tears in eyes, but his confidence in us remains unshaken. Jacob prepares breakfast for us.
Today, a strenuous task awaits us. We have to lift all our equipments from Camp V to Camp VI: 1 tent, 2 down mattresses, gas, 5 oxygen cylinders, ropes and articles of food. Each weighs about 30 kgs and this is to be done at the altitude of 7700 m. without oxygen.
Last evening I climbed over two overhangs which dominate us, with four oxygen cylinders, that would help us advance today. The method of crossing these overhangs is already familiar to me: a junar at the shoulder belt, a jumar at one leg and the bag suspended from the shoulder belt at the distance of 1.20 m. After the Americans in Yosemite, we (my friends and myself) have thus carried our loads on several paths. Mellet is very much accustomed to this system of carrying.
After having reascended the two overhangs, we collect our oxygen cylinders; we go on climbing up while Jacob struggles at the overhangs. After several hours of exhaustion, we reach Camp VI. I start preparing tea for my two comrades and for Guillot and Paris who are to descend shortly from the upper slopes. Jacob arrives and returns again to Camp V; he has toiled quite a bit today and cannot hope to venture further towards the summit. He is going to have the moral responsibility of being our prop in Camp V. In fact we have no longer anybody behind us upto Camp II and we feel encouraged to know that Bob would be at Camp V. He is going to stay for two days all alone in a small tent completely caged in at a height of 7650 m., fighting against cold, want of oxygen and hunger, because there is already scarcity of food. Guillot wishes to descend to the lower camps; one can see fatigue and discouragement in his face. He thinks that the summit is lost for him. I try to convince him that he should stay the night with us and venture on the summit the next day. In fact we have two tents, four duvets and seven oxygen cylinders. The following day we can try in two groups, Paris and he, Mellett and L As for food, we would restrain ourselves. But Guillot has worked hard today, he is worn out with fatigue and he is in a hurry to get down.
Jean-Paul Paris comes late, I repeat my proposal that he would accompany us towards the summit. He accepts. A long night for three in a tent which is even small for two. We are at about 7800 m. and respiration becomes difficult, some amount of oxygen during the night invigorates us a little. It is cold, it is blowing hard. Can we set out? We must. We cannot fail. In fact, we are far away from the summit. We calculate how small is the margin between success and failures. I remember some of the past expeditions, for instance Buhl's success when he had 1200 m. to cover and more than 20 hours of walk, For a difference of 700 m. in altitude how many hours or perhaps for how many days would we require; would we have to bivouac tomorrow? Should we take risks? Mellet's hands make me anxious. Would it be cold? Would he be able to continue? Am I to climb to the summit alone? During this short night how many unanswerable questions? Midnight—we have to prepare ourselves if we want to set out at 2 a.m.
23 May—2-30 a.m.—we set out, each carrying a load, unroped we resort to the jumar. We avail ourselves of oxygen, a single cylinder in a rucksack. Each of us would take the second one left by Mosca and Payot some 100 m. higher up. Jean-Paul Paris is getting late, we would know later that he is having troubles with his oxygen apparatus. Here is the end of the fixed ropes. We rope up rapidly. Steep slopes of snow then cornices. We are now near the Japanese route, the junction of the West and South-east ridges. We have already climbed the west pillar of Makalu, now we have to reach our goal: the ascent of Makalu by its western face.
Our breathing appliances work badly because of the cold. These are covered with hoar frost and I breathe with trouble. We adjust it at 1 litre per minute for the cylinders last for five to six hours and perhaps 20 hours' mountaineering awaits us. One cylinder is already empty. We get rid of it. Jean-Paul Paris joins us again without oxygen, he has abandoned his apparatus which does not work at all. I envy him. I am tempted to lay down the 15/18 kg weight which I have on my back and which gives me very little relief. I defer this decisions, I can still carry.
This time, all three of us roped up. We reach the arete of the Japanese. We are at about 8050-8100 m. Halt. We melt the snow, but we drink the water before it is transformed into tea. I dump a camera and a load. A walkie talkie is also left behind. We simply carry batteries so as to keep them warm in our down jackets. Pi tons and hammers for the rocky and vertical portions between 8200 and 8300 m.
We set out this time unroped. In fact the arete is more easy and each must go in his own way, one can stop when it is nacassary, witnout impeding the movement of the others. What does security mean here? Each of us is sure of himself and others and has the will to reach the summit and come back to his own people in the valley. No victory admits of sorrow or mutilation.
Slopes of snow, rocky projections. We are here at the foot of the last real obstacle; a vertical cliff of red granite of more than 100 m. height. We rope up.
I like to move forward to the left; Mellet and Jean-Paul Paris insist on my going to the right where they have seen an end of a rope. I accept their suggestion and I find in fact 12 m. of fixed rope left by the Japanese last year. After a number of rope lengths on rock, one on snow and ice, brings us to the top of the rock band. This time my apparatus does not work at all. I am compelled to unfasten it to have fresh air. I feel much better at once. And to think that I had been breathing for hours in this mask which does not work anymore! How refreshing is the ambient air with so little of oxygen!
My friends arrive, we are at 8300 m. Jean-Paul Paris is tired for want of oxygen and lags behind. He tells me "Go without me, you would go more quickly, the afternoon is well advanced." He defrosts our apparatus and we put it at 4 litres per minute. We are immediately relieved and Mellet and I set out again. We do not have anymore the impression of crawling but of making great strides.
We climb the last 170 m. and we are soon on the top. A snowy cone which stands as a witness to the ascent of the whole team of Jean Franco in 1955. Joy, photographs. Weather is very clear and we see very distinctly the plateaux of Tibet. Enchanting peaks: Everest—Lhotse—Lhotse Shar—Kangchenjunga— Jannu. Mountains conquered or getting ready to be conquered; the South face of the Lhotse, the East face of Everest with its three pillars, the South-west face of Everest where Haston and Whillans this year have hardly gone beyond the point reached by the Japanese last year. Why now schemes? Are you not satisfied with your victory? oh fool who runs after an ideal and who will never be satisfied.
It is 5 p.m. Body and mind work slowly. We collect some rocks in the schistose portion, 2 or 3 metres below the summit. And now, we would start descending. On our way, we will find Jean-Paul Paris. Time must have been long for him. What a misfortune for him, he was so near the summit! He has installed a rappell on the left of the rocky portion. We have no longer any oxygen and we relieve ourselves of our cylinders. Then we resume our descent, we collect our belongings at the junction with the south eastern ridge. Night overtakes us just at the point where the fixed ropes end. At last, at 10 p.m. hours we reach our Camp VI which seems to us to be a haven of peace. A star shines in Camp II. The Sherpas have made a fire undoubtedly to celebrate our victory. We were away from Camp VI for twenty hours.
Tomorrow it would be Camp V where Jacob is waiting for us. Then Camp II were Paragot would welcome us; at last the Base Camp and all our comrades.
This is the end of our Adventure. Bernard Seguy, my friend, you who laugh at the mountains would come in a few days in your taxi. You are going to our distant land to convey the news of our success to our friends and relatives. You would tell them particularly that we are going to join them again safe and sound, rich with a new experience and that we would try to persuade them that they should perhaps one day go to these enchanting mountains where man is motivated only by his will2