Himalayan Journal vol.44
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.44

Publication year:
1988

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS OF THE HIMALAYA: THEN AND NOW
    (JACK GIBSON)
  3. MEMORIES
    (MAVIS HEATH)
  4. ZHANGZI - AUTUMN, 1987
    (JOSS LYNAM)
  5. BRITISH XIXABANGMA Expedition, 1987
    (LT COL M. W. H. DAY)
  6. MENLUNGTSE, 1987
    (CHRIS BONINGTON)
  7. KINGDOM OF THE THUNDER DRAGON
    (S. K. BERRY)
  8. RATHONG, 1987
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  9. PANDIM - DIARY OF A WAR-TIME ESCAPADE
    (LORD JOHN HUNT)
  10. MAKALU
    (GLENN PORZAK)
  11. CHO OYU, 1987
    (Dr MAURICIO A. PURTO)
  12. KUMAON SECRETS
    (GEOFF HORNBY)
  13. FIRST ASCENT OF CHIRBAS PARBAT, 1986
    (INDRANATH MUKHERJEE)
  14. KALANAG EAST FACE EXPEDITION, 1986
    (W. J. POWELL)
  15. CHURDHAR MORE OF THE LESSER
    (WILLIAM MCKAY AITKEN)
  16. A RETURN TO LINGTI, 1987
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  17. ASCENT OF KARCHA PARBAT, 1986
    (J. K. PAUL and S. N. DHAR)
  18. A TRYST WITH PHABRANG, 1987
    (ANIL KUMAR)
  19. BRITISH KISHTWAR EXPEDITION, 1986
    (BOB REID and EDWARD FARMER)
  20. CANADIAN KASHMIR HIMALAYAN
    (JOHN A. JACKSON)
  21. UNKNOWN SPITI: THE MIDDLE COUNTRY
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  22. PICNIC ON A GLACIER -A KARAKORAM JOURNEY
    (STEPHEN VENABLES)
  23. THE GOLDEN PILLAR
    (A. V. SAUNDERS)
  24. PROBLEMS OF ACCURACY IN REPORTING MOUNTAINEERING
    (ELIZABETH HAWLEY)
  25. HIMALAYA-OUR FRAGILE HERITAGE
    (N. D. JAYAL)
  26. THE CONTINUING STORY OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  27. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  28. IN MEMORIAM
  29. BOOK REVIEWS
  30. CORRESPONDENCE
  31. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1987

CHO OYU, 1987

Dr MAURICIO A. PURTO

Dr MAURICIO A. PURTO and ROBERT J. WAITERS

(1) Fourth Chilean Expedition to the Himalaya
THE 1987 C.A.I, Chile Cho Oyu expedition, was the fourth Chilean expedition to the Himalaya. The three previous ones, had been to Gasherbrum II (Karakoram) in 1979 and twice to Everest, 1983 and 1986. The idea of organizing this adventure started in April 1986 when J was climbing in the Alps and planning about going trekking in Nepal. As soon as I got the permit to climb Cho Oyu (8201 m), I returned to Chile, and in three months' time we had completely organized all the details concerning the expedition - the first Chilean expedition to Nepal.

We were four -- Alejandro Izquierdo, one of our best rock climbers and very skilful in big walls, Italo Valle, our winning card, one of the fastest climbers at high altitude, and my partner since I started climbing, Rodrigo Mujica, although he works in U.S.A. he came to join us as soon as he knew there was a place available for him. I was the fourth. Confident in our capacity to successfully organize a climb of an 800G m mountain in the Alpine-style. I was supposed to be the leader of the group, but only to serve bureaucratic purposes, because in the mountain, we always worked as a team.

We left Santiago on 7 March, with 300 kg of equipment. We didn't carry food with us, because we would have had to pay excess baggage, and we were already short of money. We arrived to Milan, where we spent a couole of days buying some climbing gear we were not able to get in Chile, and we left for Nepal. There, all the details were managed by 'Wilderness', a mountaineering company lead by a very reliable and honest man, Kunga Sherpa.

It was 15 May, when we finally arrived in Kathmandu. We bought the food, the cooking set, and completed the bureaucratic affairs, and we were ready to start our approach march to the base camp - from Jiri (one day by bus from Kathmandu) to Namche Bazar (first stage - 10 days), and from Namche to base camp, following the course of the Bhote Kosi (2nd stage - 5 days).

In Kathmandu we met our Nepali staff, Ang Rita, Sirdar (27 expeditions, 3 times on top of Everest without oxygen, eleven 8000 m mountains), Ang Furi, cook and climber. We hired 47 porters to carry our 1200 kg of gear to Namche, the main town in Solu Kftumbu area. Here we spent two days that I devoted to sleep.

In Jilachung, a small village at 4200 m on our way to base camp, we hired 25 yaks to carry our equipment. Ang Rita was born here and he is the hero of the town (specially because he is always employing his friends in expeditions).

In three days' time from Jilachung, we established base camp at 5200 m, it was 3 April. We could not see Cho Oyu from the place we had chosen for base camp. We had decided on its southwest face so as to minimize avalanche risk, and to avoid as much as possible technical problems at high altitude; however there was a big icefall, that rises from 6800 m, to 7200 m, divided by a big plateau. This had been the obstacle that made Hillary and Ship-ton retreat from their attempt in 1952.

From base camp we started carrying loads to CI (5600 m), close to Nangpa la. It was this same pass between Tibet and Nepal that served the first $herpas coming from northern lands to settle in Nepal, many years ago. It took us ten days to carry our gear from base camp to CI. From here we headed to C2 (5800 m), using the Nangpa la pass and Senta Gu pass, C2 was our advanced base camp at the beginning of the southwest face. It had taken us 20 days to reach this point from base camp.

The group was feeling strong, and besides my bronchitis and Rodrigo's urinary problems, we were all in good shape. Ang Furi was a real good cook, and we named his big stove 'Challenger',, because it looked as if it was ready to take off. At the beginning Ang Rita was very short of words, but once the initial shyness was overcome he always satisfied our inquiries and kept high spirits. None of us had the least idea of what climbing an 8000 m mountain was like. Entering the unknown requires control and detachment. Ang Rita was always encouraging us, his plans and answers were a wonderful relief. When we began climbing he was working every other day, but towards the summit, he was always busy, so strong, quick and safe in his climbing.

On 22 April, we left C2. It was the beginning of our alpine assault. Three hours climbing a steep slope of loose barren stones left us on a snowy and icy ridge that led us to C3 at 6600 m, just at the base of the icefall.

We divided the team into two groups, in a strategy to make separate attempts to the summit. Italo decided to stay; Alejandro, who was still feeling weak because of recent diarrhoea descended. The dilemma was between Rodrigo and myself. I wanted to stay, I felt good and strong and I wanted to climb with my everlasting friend, anyway whether we made the top or not, the second group would also have a chance. The next morning Italo and I, with the help of Ang Rita fixed some rope on the first part of the ice-wall. The weather was windy and the storm didn't seem to fade, on the contrary its intensity was increasing as time went by. We looked like yo-yos hanging from the ropes as we abseiled. The weather had been bad throughout the whole expedition, but now it was getting even worse. Our chances to climb the 'turquoise goddess* depended almost completely on the weather, and ourselves, as far as inner balance was concerned.

Two tents were our C4 at 7200 m. I felt very proud of our performance, none of us had been at this altitude before (Aconcagua is almost 7000 m) and we had overcome the icefall that in fact* was more benign than we suspected. We had to wait one day for good weather, and then we headed for our last camp. The powder snow didn't help too much, as we walked and crawled through it; at 4 p.m. we were at 7800 m trying to put up C5. The flattening of two small terraces swallowed our remaining energies. We needed only one day of calm to make it. After dinner Italo said, 'It's only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other . , . till the end', he turned around, and slept soundly. I was envious of his peaceful sleeping and his security. In the other tent Furi couldn't cook, and Ang Rita was praying . . ., as always, for good weather. As I said good night, he said 'Tomorrow summit day'. I did not think in the summit terms any more, tomorrow would be another day of this expedition; Italo's words were spinning in my mind.

It was 29 April, the morning was cold and Ang Rita was rushing us. I poked my head out of the tent. Not even one cloud! Not a breeze! A perfect day had it not been for the - 35°C. At 8 a.m. we were at the base of the yellow band, a granite belt 80 m high that spreads throughout this Himalayan range. We saw two couloirs, we chose the right one. As we climbed we found two-metres of rope that served to make a short traverse to the left. At ten we had left behind this last barrier, and the climbing was 'easy* but exhausting. Suddenly I could not see Italo any longer, and I supposed he had arrived at the summit icefield, I felt euphoric and elated as I was sure for the first time we would do it. I walked without pause, until Ang Rita bent his knees as he raised his ice axe . . . we were on the summit of Cho Oyu. It had taken us 6 hours to arrive to the summit, from C5. It was 1 p.m. The Tibetan land and a sea of clouds spread under our feet. Italo left a small ice axe, Ang Rita some food for the goddess, and I left a small silver box containing a parchment with a verse from the Bible. Two Swiss climbers from an international expedition, arrived a couple of minutes behind us, following our tracks. We were all smiling, any talking was not necessary. We could have been anywhere, the mountain was not Cho Oyu, it was just a mountain, a rocky and icy stairway.

Alejandro and Rodrigo met us at 7200 m. We were all happy. Cho Oyu was the highest mountain conquered Up to date by Latin Americans. We had brought into reality a big dream. The second party got to C5 (7600 m) and spent three days waiting for good weather. They returned to base camp on 5 April, and we all left the day after,

The Nepalis believe that their gods are the inhabitants of the forests and the summits, and that reaching their domain is a gift they grant to some human beings, independent of the abilities of these humans. A gift from the divinities to the humans. I agree.

(2) International Boundary Problems: The Nevada
Cho Oyu Expedition
ROBERT J. WATTERS

THE 1987 NEVADA CHO OYU Expedition had the unfortunate distinction of becoming embroiled in boundary problems on the Nepal /China (Tibet) boundary. Mountaineering unlike other sports is normally carried out on national frontiers. In the course of an expedition, and in some cases numerous times per day, the frontier will be crossed and recrossed. One step in one country the next in the other country. The climbing ridge forming the international boundary.

Generally this incursion will only be tens of metres or perhaps hundreds of metres, in some cases it could be a kilometre or two. Some mountains, Everest's west ridge for example, though the route starts from Nepal, climbers can make departures into Chinese territory, even though technically they are climbing from the Nepalese side of the mountain. As we all know boundaries are not marked at these altitudes and exactly where the frontier is situated is unknown. Technical, weather or safety considerations are additional reasons why crossing of frontiers occurs. All crossings are of a temporary nature with no malicious intent, and go unrecorded. Unauthorized entry is never considered or anticipated.

However, the normaf academic aspects of frontier crossing during a climbing expedition turned out not to be so academic for members of our expedition.

Our expedition consisted of six climbers, three base camp personnel, and one high altitude porter. The climbing team consisted of Bob Watters, leader, Matt Baker, Ney Grant, Ron Reno, Kirk Swanson and expedition doctor Rich Gerhauser. Even though the summit was not reached, for reasons explained later, the trip was both interesting and informative as the route was shared with a Chilean team, and border difficulties developed due to a misunderstanding.

After spending three days in Kathmandu, we established from the Ministry of Tourism that all our documents were in order. However, the route we would be attempting, the southwest ridge of Cho Oyu, would be shared with a Chilean team, who had already departed for the mountain. The team left for Lukla on 1 April, and by 12 April, our base camp was established at Kangchung, 5200 m.

The Chilean base camp had already been established at Dzasampa, but by the time we arrived they were in the last stages of moving it to their advanced base camp. The route we were authorized to follow from base camp was not strictly adhered to as it entailed serious objective dangers, so consequently we followed the traditional first ascent route from the Nepalese side.

The next ten days were spent ferrying loads to our advance base camp situated some 200 m above the Chilean's camp. Our advance camp was fully occupied by myself, Grant, Swanson and Baker by 22 April. The other two members of our team, Reno and our doctor were still at base camp due to illness. At this point we encountered a commercial expedition from Europe, with in excess of 20 members, in various states of fitness. They had approached from the Chinese side. After some friendly discussions it now clearly became apparent that we were in Chinese controlled territory.

However, as no Chinese officials could be contacted we proceeded to establish CI at 6400 m by 24 April, assuming that when we found some Chinese officials, the situation could be explained. On 25 April we commenced to carry our final loads to CI, and have a go for the top. From a position about 300 m above CI, I heard shouting down below, and as leader proceeded down to investigate. I then found two excited Chinese army or police officials, agitated about our and the Chilean presence on the mountain. After discussions, they took our climbing permit and my passport, and the Chilean's permits. Two Chileans were in camp, the other two were at their C3. They requested that I accompany them down part of the route but left the Chileans in their camp. They requested that I remove our equipment from the mountain, but refused me permission to climb back up to my colleagues. My three climbing colleagues had seen from above via their telephoto cameras what had passed, but assumed that I would easily explain the situation and would join them shortly - such faith. Consequently, they proceeded up to CI and continued the climb.

As I knew that my two other members would be climbing up to our advance base camp, J decided to intercept them so that we would avoid further problems, as they would be ignorant of the border situation and would walk into the same situation. I only intercepted Ron Reno, Rich Gerhauser our doctor had decided ta leave base camp and return to Kathmandu, due to continued illness. We descended to our base camp, removing equipment but left our advanced base camp intact, as the three descending climbers would need the supplies it contained.

Meanwhile on the mountain, C2 was established on 27 April at 6800 m, C3 on 29 April at 7200 m and C4 at 7600 m on 30 April. C4 was established by Swanson and Grant who were joined by two of the Chilean climbers. Another two Chilean climbers had reached the summit earlier. Bad weather stopped a summit attempt on 1 May and continued high winds forced them to descend to C2 on 2 May.

Previous to their summit attempt, Baker had descended due to altitude sickness, and some burns received in a tent fire, to our advanced base camp. He found that the advanced camp was no more, having been removed by person(s) unknown. He proceeded down to base camp, in a highly exhausted state. Ron Reno and myself on hearing about the disappearance of our camp, then proceeded back up the mountain with supplies, and camped close by the border. On 4 May they crossed over the border, stayed the night at our camp, and we all returned to base camp.

The complete story of the border changes, only came to light when we returned to Kathmandu and I talked to members of the press corp and the American consulate. Hopefully I now know the complete story, but one can never tell. Apparently in the early 1980's a border re-alignment had been agreed to between China and Nepal. The border had been moved south to Nangpa la, so that the political border now followed the natural drainage divide between the two countries. This change now puts the original ascent route and Messner's variation in China. Future climbing parties attempting the mountain from Nepal via the Thame valley and Nangpa glacier may experience similar difficulties to our expedition, if another expedition is on the mountain from the Chinese side, and accompanied by army or police personnel, low down on the mountain. It is possible that a Chinese customs post is being constructed at or near Dzapama and the border may now be patrolled as the Nangpa glacier is a historic trading pass, still in use by Sherpas and Tibetans. Possibly an agreement could be reached with Chinese officials in Beijing permitting an expedition to approach the mountain from Nepal, cross over into Tibet, and continue on with the climb.