(Reprinted by kind permission of the editor, Mountain)

If I think back to the British Ogre Himalayan Expedition 1977, one man stands out in my mind-the Balti porter. Taki, who after carrying a 60 lb box throughout a twelve mile approach march, some of it over moraine waste, produced from the folds of his shirts, smocks and assorted rags, thirty-one eggs, none of which were even cracked. How he did it I'll never know. Ostensibly he did it for thirty-one rupees and our favour, but how do you walk over a shifting chaos, of moraine rock without breaking such a cargo?-well, I suppose, much more carefully than I could. Eight weeks later, eight more Balti came up the Biafo glacier to Base Camp and, with as much care as Taki had for his eggs, carried me down some of the roughest terrain imaginable, with hardly a jolt to my broken legs.

Back in June, fit and full of optimism, six of us entered Baltistan, ready to climb the Ogre. The Ogre is the highest point in the Biafo glacier region of the Karakoram. It was noted by Europeans in 1861, when Godwin-Austen first surveyed the area, and again It in 1892 when Conway came down the Biafo from the Hispar glacier and named it. Then, during the 1930's, Eric Shipton and his friends carefully surveyed the whole region. The height of the Orge stands at 23,900 ft, and a local name was found for it - Baintha Brakk-but climbers seem to prefer the shorter and more intelligible 'Ogre'.

During the last six years, two British and two Japanese expeditions have attempted the mountain. All four attempts failed in the face of avalanching snow, steep rock and ferocious storms. The highest point reached was 21,500 ft, which was achieved last year when the Japanese explored the SW Flank. Above their heigh point there reared 1,000 ft of steep granite rock and, beyond that, steep ice-faces, long corniced ridges and a final 800-foot summit rock pinnacle. The technical problems would be quite something in the Alps, but here, at nearly 24,000 ft, the climbing would become a race against physical and mental deterioration in the rarefied air.

During, the spring of 1975, Clive Rowland and I reconnoitred the south side of the Ogre. Our high-point then had been 16,000 ft on Uzan Blakk glacier, where we stood bogged down in wet, sloppy snow, lost in amazement at the sight of the great lumps of rock, 8,000 ft high and liberally covered with snowy ramps and steep ice-faces, that characterize the Ogre from the south.

It is not a beautiful mountain from down there, being squat and having three small cones, like misplaced nipples, defining the summit, with the centre cone the highest. Yet there is one elegant feature, and that is the South Pillar, a prow of rock, 3,000 ft high. While I was excited about the prospect of climbing that, Clive was clearly attracted by the SW Flank, where there was a possible route up ridges and snow-fields that looked the most likely way to the summit area. As a result of this divergence of interest, we put together an expedition with these two routes in mind.

The expedition finally resolved itself into a party of six: Paul ('Tut’) Braithwaite and I were to try the South Pillar, while Chris Bonington, Nick Estcourt, Mo Anthoine and Clive attempted the SW Flank. We were, mercifully, without a leader, for the inclusion of such a personage would have been laughable, seeing that all members of the team had so much expedition experience that they could easily arrive at decisions communally, with no bother at all. For some, this was their first leaderless expedition, and they no doubt found it stimulating to work things out for themselves, while former leaders perhaps found it restful to be without the burden of total responsibility.

Despite the apparent lack of organization, we had worked hard preparing for our respective routes, but these well-made plans foundered in our case when a big rock smashed into Tut's leg at the start of our South Pillar route. After two weeks of waiting for a large blood clot to move, Tut could still not use his leg for rock climbing. Laboriously we recovered all our food, equipment and a special hanging tent from the base of the pillar (19,000 ft).

So ended a two-year obsession which had caused me to catch my breath a few times at the thought of taking off to climb with just two climbing ropes and none back down to the ground. But for me, at least, there were still alternatives, while Tut had no choice but sit the trip out in Base Camp. For someone as active as he is, that wait must have been one of the most frustrating periods of his life.

"Mountain one, climbers none," as Mo put it.

Round Two had already begun, with Chris, Nick, Clive and Mo busy climbing and fixing ropes up the ice rib leading to the west col. In less than a week they climbed from above Advance Base, at 17,000 ft, to 20,000 ft on the col. At the end of this period, Chris and Nick took off for the top, with about five days' food Finding themselves suddenly alone, the other two descended - Clive because he wanted to reconnoitre a different way via the West ridge,, and Mo because he felt they needed more supplies and more time to acclimatize. Nick and Chris pushed out from the col along a ramp and round on to the South Face; up to a point above the South Pillar, they had followed a line pioneered by the 1976 Japanese expedition. Four days later, they returned, having failed in a very bold attempt to reach the summit. Faced with depleted food stocks and lack of climbing equipment, and suffering from the effects of altitude, they had not felt up to « climbing the 800-foot summit cone. They did, however, traverse up on steep snow to the West Summit, before reversing their route of ascent. They set off back down to Base Camp, but on I heir way came across Mo, Clive, Tut and me at the West col. We were in the process of making an attempt on the West ridge which started with a 1,000-foot rock pillar. This rekindled Chris's ambition for the top, and he persuaded us to return to Base to rive him a rest and also to collect more food.

A few days later, on 6 July, Mo, Clive and I returned to the col and went up to a smaller shoulder, about 1,000 ft higher and just under the 1,000-foot Pillar, where we made a camp. Tut and Nick (unknown to us at the time) had decided not to rejoin the attempt as Tut's leg seemed to be getting worse and Nick and still not recovered from his attempt with Chris. Chris there- fore started out alone, knowing we would be waiting below the pillar.

So far the climb had not been memorable. In fact it had been a distinctly long grind. As I've said, I had come here with high hopes for the complete adventure-two men, no fixed ropes, etc., and so far I had done nothing much but hold on to jumars clamped to other people's fixed ropes, with only a dull plodding routine required to make upward progress. Snow flurries and cold did nothing to stimulate my interest in the climb. In fact, as we put the tents up at the top shoulder camp, I would have given anything to be at home. Then, only half an hour later, Inside my tent supping hot tea, I looked out of the entrance as the sun set and decided that there was nowhere else I'd rather be but up there at 22,000 ft, watching that sun dipping down, silver lining strands of cloud strung out over Snow Lake and the Hispar glacier beyond. Range-after range of bristling mountain peaks stood out silhouetted against each other, the nearer ranges sharply and darkly defined while those in the distance faded into the sun's diffused haze of yellow light. Above them all, some hundred and fifty miles away, Nanga Parbat caught the last of the sun, whilst everywhere else was plunged into gloom. We zipped up the tent against a strong wind and snuggled content into our feathers.

I thought of the morrow, when we three would at last get on to rock. I looked forward expectantly to covering what ground we could up the Pillar, going along hopefully lapping up that granite rock, on the way to who knows where exactly.

During the next two days we got to work on the 1,000-foot pillar. This provided some interesting climbing both on faces and in cracks, all carried out at a height of about 22,500 ft. We then descended to the tent to wait for Chris, having equipped the Pillar with 450 ft of fixed rope. The four of us eventually took off on 11 July, reclimbing the 1,000-foot Pillar and continuing to about 23,000 ft, where we dug a snow-cave just below the final rocks of the West Summit.

During the next day, Mo and Clive took over the lead and went across some very steep ice (65°) made all the more difficult by a thin coating of powder snow. They then continued up to the West Summit ridge, via a deep couloir. After a stop for a brew, we slowly climbed the ridge and traversed over the summit. We brought the day to a close by digging a big snow- cave just below the long ridge connecting the West Summit with the Main Summit. The snow was thick, here, but it was lying at about 50°-55° on ice, giving grounds for concern. Even when we had dug right into it, the thought crossed our minds that the whole SE Face could easily avalanche and take our snow-cave with it. We did dig a bit deeper, and a position at the back of the cave was more often sought after than one at the front, but our main hope lay in the face not avalanching, which it didn't until we were off the mountain.

That night, within sight of the summit rocks, we cooked up a big meal of freeze-dried Strogonoff, rounded off with apple flakes and endless cups of tea. The cave was sealed off against spindrift and, despite the 23,000 ft altitude, we slept well. Chris and I set off next morning to break trail to the foot of the rocks. Mo and Clive were to follow later, as Mo wanted to take some cine film for a BBC documentary he was making of the expedition's ups and downs. Chris was feeling the effects of his previous attempt. He was moving well enough, but suggested that I led the rocks ahead, as I should be faster, being fitter. I greedily accepted and soon lost' myself climbing two 150-foot pitches up a pinnacle and down its far side to a snow patch on the north side of the summit rocks. From the snow we followed a diagonal break right up to a seemingly blank wall. This turned out to be the crux of the climb, for a crack I eventually found and followed for eighty feet suddenly ended. From a wire chock wedged into the crack, I got Chris to lower me some forty feet so that I could make a pendulum swing across the granite wall. I swung first to one side then to the other, gradually increasing the arc by a sort of gallop against the rock, until I could reach over to another crack which looked climbable. I was just placing a chock when my feet slipped off and away I clattered across the rock. Chris continued to hold his end of the rope firm and, after another session of galloping about, I regained the crack, banged a piton into it, clipped my etrier to that and stood up from the peg, gasping for air after these exertions. Chris let out the tension in the rope and, by leap-frogging the aid up the crack, I was able to reach a point higher than before. Here, the wall relented and I was able to free climb to a point 15 ft above the pendulum swing, to where a crack went through an overhang to the top of the wall. I climbed this using direct aid from chocks and the piton and, just as the 150-foot length of rope joining us together had all been run out, I arrived at the top of the wall. Chris then jumared up the rope to join me, and from there we traversed down 70 ft and climbed an overhanging corner into the summit gully.

This final 100 ft took up the last hour of the day, for when Chris arrived on the top of the Ogre the sun had gone down over the Hunza. As he had my camera, I had been able to sit on the top and take in the new perspective of Snow Lake and on the hundreds of snowy peaks stretching off in all directions, without, for once, having to fiddle with camera stops and speeds.

Not having any bivouac equipment, Chris and I were very anxious to get down to the snow-cave. However, it had been a good climb, at least above the fixed rope. There had been so much variation-a veritable magical mystery tour of a route, taking in steep rock and ice, a climb over the West Summit and then a traverse across and up to the Main Summit.

We worked our way down a ridge of soft snow to a block of rock. We put a nylon sling round it, threaded our two climbing ropes behind that, and threw both down in the direction of the 150- foot wall. To regain the peg crack, I had to push myself well over to the left as I abseiled, but eventually I got to the crack, just as I was reaching the end of the double rope. I leaned across to fix myself on to a peg, pressing myself over with my feet. I stepped my right foot up against the wall, but, in the gathering darkness, unwittingly placed it on a veneer of water ice. Suddenly my foot shot off and I found myself swinging away into the gloom, clutching the end of the rope. I couldn't imagine why the swing was going on and on. I had not realized how far left on the abseil sling I was. And all the time I was swinging, a little exclamation of awe, surprise and fear was coming out from inside me, audible to Mo some 2,000 ft away at the snow-cave. And then the swing and the cry ended as I slammed into the opposite side of the gully, 100 ft away. Splat ! Glasses gone and every bone shaken. A quick examination revealed head and trunk OK, femurs and knees OK but - Oh! Oh!-my ankles cracked whenever I moved them. The right one felt very peculiar: Pott's fracture, I diagnosed, without much real idea- left one, too, but perhaps it's just the tendons. So that was how it was going to be: a whole new game with new restrictions on winning-it was curious to observe my own reactions. I had no fear then, there was too much to do: I banged a peg in, put a couple of wire nuts in, tied off direct from my harness and hung off them while Chris came down the abseil rope.

“What ho!" he said, cheerily.

“I've broken my right leg and smashed the left ankle," I said.

“We'll just work at getting you down," he replied airily. "Don't worry, you're a long way from death."

Too true!-the thought that I might have major problems of that Kind had not then entered my head. I felt extremely rational, remarkably clear about what to do.

We continued our descent as far as we could that night. Chris abseiled down to a large patch of snow on a rock slab. By the time I reached him, he'd hacked a step out in the snow and, for the first time, I put my body weight on my legs and ankles. They both collapsed, the right leg cracking horribly. So I got on my knees, with my lower legs stuck out behind, and kneed across the ledge with no trouble at all.

"So that's how it's done," I thought. And that's how it was done over the next seven days, with a little help from my friends -Chris, Clive and Mo.

Chris and I hacked away at the snow patch, producing a passable ledge on which we could lounge back in a half-lying, half-sitting position. Most of the time we sat facing each other with our bare feet stuck into each other's crutch. Every half hour or so we would reach down and rub a bit of life into each other's feet, a lesson learnt while bivouacking on Everest two years before. Mainly I cursed the night away, moaning and groaning at the cold, afraid that internal bleeding might cut off the blood going to my toes. That thought kept me grabbing at Chris's toes which I would rub furiously, hoping that he would take the hint and rub mine, which he did with gentle pressure. The night passed in these little flurries of action. At 5.30 next morning we abseiled four more rope lengths down to the snow basin of the SE Face. Chris kicked steps up towards the snow-cave to wake Mo and Clive. I followed as best I could, but it was slow going, as Chris had left only toe-holds in places. Mo came down and took our gear and kicked out bigger steps, and I was able to go at more or less normal speed for those altitudes.

We spent that night in the snow-cave and ate the last freeze- dried meal, leaving ourselves with only soup and tea. It was with some concern, therefore, that we found a howling blizzard raging outside the snow-cave the next morning. We had to get down to Advance Base to get food, and even lower to escape the debilitating effect of the lack of oxygen. But first we had to climb up 300 ft to gain the West Summit. Mo and Clive went out to try it, but after an hour or so returned to the warmth of the cave. There had been so much snow in the air it had become impossible to see, and the wind made it difficult to stand up, let alone climb steep snow.

The next day, 15 July, there was less wind and we ail set off out into the heavy snowfall. Clive took the lead, slowly kicking his way up desperately deep powder snow, angled in places at 60°. Mo went next up Clive's rope, then me, then Chris. It took all day for us to move across the West Summit, abseil down the other side and traverse over steep ice to the snow-cave we had used on the night of the 11th. The weather was terrible -cold and violent. We had to dig out snow that had drifted into the cave, but as it was dark when we arrived no one felt like waiting around whilst the digging took place. So we ended up with cramped quarters and an inadequate entrance. Mo and Clive already had damp sleeping bags, and these became quite wet during the night with snow drifting in on to them. It was worst night of all: no food, wet, still above 23,000 ft. and me slowing them all down with the 1,000-foot Pillar still to come. There was only one way for me to tackle a big complex problem like that, and that was one day at a time, keeping the broad idea hovering around in my mind that I'd got to get to Base Camp, but each day thinking no further than that day's objective, confident that if each day's climbing was competently executed then the whole problem would eventually be solved.

Next morning, Mo stuck his head out of the cave and announced that the storm was now, if anything worse. He went off, followed by Clive, then me, then Chris-all of us bent on reaching the tents, for there we had left a pound of sugar, which was something we had not had for two days. That seemed to be a number one priority. But also there was no real resting place between the snow-cave and the tents-so we had to make it. It was a nightmare descent. Whenever there was a ridge of level ground, I found crawling painful, seeming always to be catching my legs on protruding rocks. Only on steep, snowed-up rocks did I feel comfortable, for then Mo would have fixed up the abseil ropes and I could slide down with my body making contact with the snow and rock, whilst my feet stuck out, out of the way of obstacles. In this fashion I started to descend the 1,000-foot Pillar.

Unfortunately, on the way down, Chris abseiled off the end one of the double ropes. Luckily, Clive had tied the other off to a rock, so Chris fell only about 20i ft or so, but still broke two ribs and painfully damaged his right hand. Cold and getting colder, he had no alternative but to continue the descent. Mercifully, he did not at once start to experience the pain in his thorax that was to dog him later. It was a sorry little band that made the tents. Mo was the first and he had to re-erect them, as they were both flattened under three feet of snow.

The rest of us were happy to crawl straight in out of the tearing wind and into our sleeping bags. For me, it was a long and painful process removing gaiters, boots, inner boots and socks. But it had to be done so that I could rub my frozen toes back to life, for circulation was somewhat restricted by having my legs permanently bent at the knee. More serious, though, were my frozen finger ends. Crawling about so much I had no opportunity to keep my gloves dry, and not much time to stop and warm my hands when they started to lose1 sensation. I hoped that things would improve now that we were losing height, and we all kept thinking that the storm could not go on for many more days.

Mo came into the same tent as Clive and me, to warm up, as his sleeping bag was now reduced to a useless clump of wet, soggy feathers. We played cards, hoping the storm would finally blow itself out during the morning, so that we could move the tents down to the West col later in the day. Chris was now in a bad way coughing his throat hoarse, his voice down to a whisper, and every cough increasing the pain under his ribs. He burst into our tent during the morning, announcing that he really must go down as he thought that he had pulmonary oedema. We discussed this with him, but he did not seem to have any of the gurgling noises one hears about. It was probable that he had mild pneumonia which wouldn't have been helped by spending the day out in the swirling spindrift. Neither did the three of us fancy the sub-zero temperature and harsh wind, for Mo announced that he had not felt his toes for nearly a week and Clive's digits were also numb. Despite it being our fourth day without food, we decided to give it one more day. At least now we had enough sugar for the next dozen brews of tea. We had been taking tea without milk or sugar for breakfast, and half a curried meat stock cube for dinner, and we were lacking in energy but now noticed a slight change for the better with the sugar.

It was still blowing hard the next morning as we roped down to the SW col. By now I had become quite expert at knee- climbing. I found that being on my hands and knees was actually an advantage in particularly deep snow, and I did a bit of trail- breaking. Mo unearthed some old Japanese ropes, and we slid down the first 500 ft to the West Col. We went across to our former camp site and dug around until we uncovered a waste bag, in the bottom of which was some boiled rice mixed with cigarette ash, which we ate. We rummaged around some more and found one ounce of milk powder and, in another bag, three packets of cough sweets. We shared them out when Clive and Chris arrived.

We moved off to the top of the fixed ropes that would take us to Advance Base the following day. I carried Clive's sack as he had to go and recover a tent that had fallen off his sack higher up. There was now about a mile to go across soft snow, but at last the clouds were rolling back to reveal the mountains all around covered in fresh, sparkling snow down to the glaciers. My arms kept sinking deep into the snow with the weight of Clive's sack pressing down over my neck. Despite following Mo’s footsteps, I took many rests, flopping down flat out in the snow. Expeditions are usually good times to sort out a few things in the head-times to drop down a level or two-but it occurred to me then that since my accident I had brought such an iron will to bear on every moment of the day that I had not given such matters a thought. But there had been some compensations, for whenever I shut my eyes I went off into a hallucinatory world of lilac and purple colouring, incredible shapes and forms, caricature people and stylised views of distant times and places. It did not make a lot of sense, but it was one way to while away a few minutes and recover enough to take a further twenty or so crawling paces through the snow.

Mo and I dug out tent platforms, put up one of the tents and then the other when Clive arrived with it. Chris came in very slowly, coughing up a rich yellow fluid from his lungs.

Chris and Mo set off at first light for Advance Base. Clive and I followed four hours later, for by then the sun would be m up to warm our frost-bitten hands and feet. Also, Chris and Mo would have had time to cut out big steps at various key places.

Abseiling down fixed ropes was no real problem for me, so I was able to descend 2,500 ft in four hours. Crawling over soft snow down to 17,000 ft was also relatively easy, but after that the snow became thin, and I had to crawl over hard, sharp glacier ice.

We arrived at last to find that Advance Base was no more- either blown away or taken away by Nick and Tut-so there was nothing for it but to follow Mo and Clive down to Base Camp. The next section was the most painful of the whole retreat. The distance was about four and a half miles from the end of the fixed ropes. About one mile was on soft snow, two and a half on ice and one on moraine. At 10.30 that night (20 July), I crawled over the last of the moraine rocks. My legs were very swollen from knocking them countless times. I stopped to examine them and was horrified to find that I had worn right through four layers of clothing and that my knees were numb, bloody and swollen.

One last bank and I was on the triangle of moraine that surrounded the thick green grass of Base Camp-a little oasis amongst the chaos of shifting rock and ice. I crawled to the old kitchen site to find that Mo had gone off in hot pursuit of Nick, who had that some morning given us up for dead, "If you get as far as I reading this, then it presumably means that at least one of you is alive," he wrote in his note, adding that he was going down to fetch Tut from Askole and form a search party.

They obviously did think us dead from the meagre supplies that were left. However, it was good to eat Purdy Cake with a cup of milky tea and then to fall asleep on that little meadow.

Next morning then sun shone on to our wet sleeping bags-you could feel the warmth come right through into the murky interior. Pulling open the draw-cord from inside, poking my head out to see the grass, the flowers and the stream running across; then getting out, brewing a mug of tea, eating a powdered egg omelette and feeling the sun burning my skin : beautiful memories these.

Four days Clive looked after Chris and me, and still there was no sign of the porters that Mo should have sent. On the fifth day, however, when we were down to soup and 'Tom and Jerry nougat bars, Nick arrived with twelve porters to carry me down, together with the remnants of our gear. Mo, in the mean time, had gone off with Tut and our Liaison Officer, Captain Aleem, to Skardu, in order to dispatch a helicopter for arrival outside Akole on 28 July.

When Mo arrived in Askole, Tut had already been there a week and had made good friends with the headman and many of the villagers. As each day passed it had seemed to Tut and to the Baltis that our chances of being alive were growing increasingly slim, especially when Nick arrived alone. Thus, when Mo walked y in, they were all overjoyed to discover that we were safe, if not exactly one hundred per cent. The headman sent off to other villagers to ensure that we had twelve strong and able porters. And that was exactly what we got.

In three days they carried me down to the Biafo glacier and then along to its snout and then to a flat field neor Askole, where a helicopter could land. It was a remarkable journey on a homo- made stretcher constructed of juniper wood poles, a climbing rope and sleeping mats. Never once did they look like dropping me, and I seldom felt a jolt. It was good to lie out, listening and waiting as they made decisions as to route-finding, choice of camping place, who should fetch wood and water, who should take the heavier part of the stretcher, and so on. They inevitably made the decision after a gentle murmur had gone round the motley band-no one ever shouted or became excited. Their voices blended into a sing-song melody which seemed completely in tune with the rhythm of their village lives. They knew just what to do. And I for one have nothing but admiration for these hardy people, who are all very individualistic and full of character, yet are easily capable of working to a common aim in complete accord. That is how good expeditions can work.

It was sad to be suddenly plucked away from them by the noisy helicopter. Unlike Taki with his eggs and the eight stretcher-bearers with me, the helicopter was not so gentle; coming into Skardu the engine cut out, and we suddenly plummeted twenty feet to the ground some hundred yards short of the helipad. As a result Chris had to wait for a week in Askole while the helicopter was repaired, but eventually he too was flown out to Skardu.

Three days later, after fine hospitality at the British Embassy and a first-class flight home, courtesy of Pakistan International Airlines, I was being plastered and pinned in Nottingham General Hospital.

Karakoram: Baintha Brakk (Ogre), 23,900 ft.

An account of the first ascent by a British expedition comprising Mo Anthoine, Chris Bonington, Paul Braithwaite, Nick Estcourt, Clive Rowland and Doug Scott. The summit was reached on 13 July, 1977 by Scott and Bonington by a route up the West Ridge.

The Ogre. A View along the connecting ridge between the West and Main summits. The Nobande Sobande glacier system is on the left in the middle distance.

The Ogre. A View along the connecting ridge between the West and Main summits. The Nobande Sobande glacier system is on the left in the middle distance.

The routes and camps on the Ogre. Solid line = Bonington / Estcourt attempt. Broken line = the second, successful attempts. O. = snow holes. X = point of accident to Braithwaite on the South Pillar. The upper slopes are greatly foreshortened.   (Photo: Ronald  Naar.)

The routes and camps on the Ogre. Solid line = Bonington / Estcourt attempt. Broken line = the second, successful attempts. O. = snow holes. X = point of accident to Braithwaite on the South Pillar. The upper slopes are greatly foreshortened. (Photo: Ronald Naar.)