THE ASCENT OF MANASLU
THE ASCENT OF MANASLU
YUKO MAKI AND T. IMANISHI
After the monsoon in 1952, the Japanese Alpine Club sponsored by the Mainichi Press, the leading press in Japan, sent a reconnaissance party to Manaslu, 26,658 ft. We knew nothing of Manaslu beyond one photograph taken by Mr. Tilman in 1950. The party consisted of five members, including two scientists and one doctor, under the leadership of Dr. K. Imanishi. Gyalzen Mikchen was the Sherpa Sirdar. They took a route from the Marsyandi valley to the west face of Manaslu with four Sherpas and seventy porters. However, they could not find a suitable route on the western side of Manaslu, because the western approach was surrounded by a tremendously steep wall of about 15,000 ft. On the way, they made a trial ascent of Annapurna IV, 24,600 ft., to acclimatize themselves, following Mr. Tilman’s route. They then went round to the north side via the Dudh Khola, and found the glacier which drops to the east side of Manaslu on the way to Larkya Bhanjyang. Arriving at the eastern end of the Manaslu glacier, they proceeded round the eastern foot of the mountain. This glacier route may probably be the one discovered by Major Roberts, which was later described by Mr. Tilman in his book.1 The glacier, which starts at the summit of Manaslu, makes its way along the plateau forming an upper icefall of about 3,000 ft., and a lower ice- fall situated between 12,000-16,000 ft., and ends in several glacier lakes in the moraines at a height of 12,200 ft. The reconnaissance party made their way along this glacier valley up to a height of 17,400 ft., and discovered that this would be the best route to the summit. They came back to Katmandu, taking the route along the Buri Gandaki River at the beginning of December.
Next year in 1953, before the monsoon, we sent 15 climbers and 2 scientists under the leadership of Y. Mita, who had previous Himalayan experience in Sikkim and Kulu. They made a caravan consisting of 16 Sherpas and 270 porters besides Sahibs, and left Katmandu for Manaslu on March 27th taking the route along the Buri Gandaki. They set up their Base Camp on April 12th, near the terminal point of the Manaslu glacier at 12,600 ft. They took the route over the moraine to the left side of the Manaslu glacier and reached the upper part of it via the lower ice- falls ; they pitched the Advanced Base Camp for the assault on the Naike Col c. 18,370 ft., between the North peak and Naike peak. From there they entered the upper icefall and pitched the intermediate Camps V, VI, VII; Camp VIII was pitched on the North Col at 23,300 ft. On May 31st, an assault party of three, Kato, Yamada, Ishizaka, supported by five Sherpas under the leadership of Yamazaki, established Camp IX on the plateau at 24,600 ft. The following day, on June 1st, the three climbers made their way to the summit although the temperature was - 35°C. As they had no oxygen apparatus, they were obliged to turn back at noon, at a point about 25,425 ft. up. About 1,230 ft. remained to the summit, but they had reached the final limit of their powers. There was nothing to do but to turn back.
1. H. W. Tilman, Nepal Himalaya, Camb. Univ. Press, 1952.
The Japanese Alpine Club made adequate preparations, based on the experience gained during the past two expeditions, and in 1954 before the monsoon, a second expedition (14 members) was sent under the leadership of Y. Hotta, who was leader of the Nan da Kot expedition in Garhwal in 1936. They travelled to Sama village arriving there on April 8th. But they were unexpectedly prevented from proceeding further by the villagers, who said that the Japanese party the year before had profaned the mountain. They negotiated in every way, but things went badly. So they were obliged to give up trying Manaslu and instead attempted Ganesh Himal, but were unsuccessful. The route on the Toro Gompa glacier side, the west side of Ganesh Himal, was not suitable for climbing. They made every effort to find a suitable route, but it was hopeless. On their way back to Katmandu, they reconnoitred the east side of Himal Chuli.
The Japanese Alpine Club and their sponsors, the Mainichi Press, made preparations to send a third expedition. However, it was important to settle the Sama affair with the Nepal Government first. In April 1955, we sent Dr. Nishibori and I. Naruse, members of the Himalayan Committee of our Club, as a negotiating party to Katmandu. They succeeded in obtaining permission to try Manaslu again in the post-monsoon period of 1955 and the pre- monsoon period of 1956.
In the post-monsoon period of 1955, three members, Ohara, Hashimoto and Murayama, were sent as an advance party of the third Manaslu expedition. They travelled to the Base Camp through Sama village and reconnoitred the route to the plateau again. The villagers promised to welcome the coming party in the pre-monsoon period of 1956.
Before proceeding to the events which took place between 1954 and 1956, we must not forget to mention the kindness which was shown to us by the Nepal Government.
The third Manaslu expedition left Katmandu on March 11th, 1956. The composition of the party was as follows:
Yuko Maki (Leader) 62 .. Former President of the Japanese
Alpine Club. First ascent of the East (Mittellegi) ridge of Eiger in 1921. First ascent of Alberta in the Canadian Rockies in 1924.
Katsuro Ohara 44 .. Leader of 1955 post-monsoon expedition.
Toshio Imanishi 41 ..Leader of the 1953 Annapurna expedition of the Academic Alpine Club, Kyoto.
Dr. Hirokichi Tatsunuma 40 .. Member of the past two Manaslu expeditions.
Sonosuke Chitani 39 .. Climbing experience in the Japanese Alps.
Kiichiro Kato 35 .. Member of the past two Manaslu expeditions.
Junjiro Muraki 32 .. Member of the past two Manaslu expeditions.
Hiroyoshi Otsuka 31 .. Member of the 1954 expedition.
Dr. Atsushi Tokunaga 28 .. Climbing experience in the Japanese Alps.
Yuichi Matsuda 25 .. Member of the 1954 expedition.
Minora Higeta 25 .. Member of the Aconcagua expedition to the Andes in 1953 and Manaslu expedition in 1954.
Takayoshi Yoda 38 .. Cameraman. Member of the past two Manaslu expeditions.
The following twenty Sherpas were engaged, with Gyalzen Xorbu (H.C. 145) as Sirdar:
Pasang Phutar I (H.C. 79), local porter Sirdar, Lhakpa Tenzing H 218), 1st cook, Lhakpa Tsering (H.C. 167), 2nd cook, Nym Phutar, Dawa Thondup (H.C. 49), Ang Babu (H.C. 43), Ang Dawa IV (H.C. 152), Aila Namgyal (H.C. 159), Pasang Dawa (H.C. 160), Gundin, Nima Tensing IV (H.C. 177), Pemba Snndar II (H.C. 182), Ang Namgyal (H.C. 190), Choung (H.C. 198), Tashi (Chota), Chotare, Wangdi, Sarke II, and Ang Temba V.
In arranging for the Sherpa team, we received the utmost assistance from the Himalayan Club. In particular, we must not forget the kindness which was shown to us by Mrs. Jill Henderson, the Club’s Honorary Local Secretary in Darjeeling.
The caravan made its way to Sama village along the Buri Gandaki, taking the same route as that taken by the first two expeditions, and arrived there on March 26th. We were prevented from climbing by the Sama villagers again, but this time the affair was settled smoothly with the help of Subba who was ordered to go with us by courtesy of the Nepal Government. The snow on Manaslu was no deeper than the year before and conditions on the glacier were good, so we were able to pitch our Base Camp at about 12,600 ft., and our hopes were high.
We had intended to follow the same route as in 1953, but it was our aim to diminish the number of intermediate camps and to simplify and speed up the transport. We paid more attention to acclimatization, and devoted time to testing out our oxygen equipment.
On April 13th, we established Camp II on the Naike Col at 18,350 ft.; and on April 25th, Advanced Base Camp for the assault on the summit was established above the icefall at 21,500 ft. Fine weather was continuous from the end of April to the beginning of May, a thing which is considered very rare above 26,000 ft. Transport to Camp IV was running smoothly; climbers and Sherpas were in good spirits, and snow conditions were good. I made up, therefore, the following climbing teams with the object of attempting to reach the summit twice without losing the chance of the fine weather.
First summit party : Imanishi and Sirdar Gyalzen; 2nd summit party: Kato and Higeta; 1st assault supporting party: Muraki and 5 Sherpas; 2nd assault supporting party: Otsuka and 3 Sherpas.
Luckily, we were blessed with fine weather, so we proceeded as arranged and were able to climb to the summit twice on May 9th and 11th. The following is an account written by Toshio Imanishi who, with Gyalzen, was the first to reach the summit.
SKETCH MAP OF MANASLU
The First Summit Party: By Toshio Imanishi
On our Emperor’s Birthday, April 29th, a council was held by Mr. Maki at Camp II to work out details of the final assault. At that time, Camp IV had already been set up at 21,500 ft. just below the North Col.
We were in two minds about the route. One alternative was to take the route followed in 1953, going from Camp IV over the North Col and arriving at the right-hand end of the plateau. The other was to avoid the North Col, and to scale the steep wall of snow and ice in the middle of the slope running down from the plateau, directly above Camp IV, and so arrive in the middle of the plateau.
This year the snow was not deep, and when we climbed the Naike Col to reconnoitre, Kato, Muraki and I decided that the bare black-stratum rock, at the place where they reached the plateau in 1953, looked quite impossible. So the day after Camp IV was set up, I headed for the North Col together with Kato, Muraki and Pasang Dawa. We climbed a slope covered with snow hardened by the wind which was blowing over the North Col from the north side of Annapurna. As it was the first time we had reached 23,000 ft., we were not quite acclimatized to the height and were in danger of losing our foothold in the strong wind. However, on arriving at the snow-covered pass we were able to reconnoitre the ground closely.
The wall leading up to the plateau was hopeless. If we took this route, we should have to scale the glacier which curved down like a sickle from the plateau to the left of the wall. We tried to decide which way we should go, but could not come to any conclusion. We went round the seracs but ran into steep blue ice and came to a dead-end. A small party of two or three climbers might have succeeded, but when loads of several hundred pounds have to be carried up, it is quite a different matter. Dogged by an ever- increasing wind we made our way down to Camp IV rather gloomily, as we were all keyed up for victory this year. This was on April 26th.
The operational planning meeting at Camp II lasted till May 1st. Could a good camp-site be found to the middle of the plateau by the other route ? This route involved greater danger of avalanches than the route over the North Col. Our leader was specially concerned about this. There were some gigantic seracs, over 300 ft. high, standing between Camps III and IV and as the season advanced the danger increased to such an extent that a strict order was issued never to pass that way in the afternoon.
On April 30th, the following order was issued to Camp IV by Mr. Maki in Camp II on the evening wireless : ′ I want three people, Otsuka, Higeta and Gyalzen-being head of the Sherpas he was treated as one of the climbing party-to climb the whale-back shelf tomorrow, and reconnoitre a camp-site.′ The three men plodded up the deep snow and made for the whale-back. They wound their way in from the left up a slope and found a good campsite. It was considered safe enough from avalanches. It is no exaggeration to say that our good fortune began from this day. But maybe it was not luck. While the watchers in Camp II were wondering whether the climbers would turn back half-way, they scrambled up the last steep slope and reached their goal by sheer hard work. It seemed to be possible to climb up the snowy slope, called the Snow Apron, from the whale-back to the plateau, and Ohara’s party had found out the year before that there was a way up from the entrance to the plateau. In this way, we decided on our route to the summit.
I immediately left Camp II with Kato and Muraki. After that the two of them set up Camp V and went in search of a route to the plateau, but as the wind was extremely strong this was no easy matter. Otsuka also took part. The fine weather which had continued for the past few days was not likely to last much longer, so we must take advantage of it to make our assault on the summit. We could not afford to miss this opportunity. Strong words were exchanged by radio between Camp IV and Camp V. One would never use such language normally, but a one-way call on the telephone has to be brief and, try as they may, the talk somehow became heated. There was no doubt about the violence of the wind at Camp V. But one can never hope for unbroken fine weather, and one must be prepared to face strong winds higher up. With this in mind, I urged them to attempt to open the route to Camp VI quickly. The answer from Camp V was, ‘We cannot go lit in this wind’. However, in Camp V, Kato and Muraki made their way up the rock face to about the middle of the plateau.
Finally, the message came to Camp V, ‘The first summit party “ill leave Camp IV on the 7th. If reconnaissance proves impossible, the assault party will make their own way’. Dr. Tatsunuma at the telephone heard the message breathlessly. At this important final stage, might it not be rash? However, one never could tell when this long spell of fine weather would break. One could not waste even a day. The people in Camp IV were getting somewhat impatient.
It snowed from the evening of the 6th to the morning of the 7th. The tents in Camp IV were flapping in the wind. But by the morning, the sky cleared and the wind dropped. Tatsunuma, in charge of the oxygen apparatus, Yoda in charge of the photography, and Gyalzen with seven Sherpas set off for Camp V. The Sherpas, with their heavy loads, plodded steadily on. Breathing oxygen, Otsuka and Pemba Sundar, who were opening the route to the plateau, made remarkable speed up the steep snow-packed slope leading to the now windless plateau. We called this snow slope, wedged between the snow-free rock faces on either side, the Snow Apron. Before noon, they were already out of sight over the plateau, making their way to the summit. They reached a point about 26,000 ft. high and returned to Camp V. The oxygen apparatus worked wonderfully, and our prospects looked bright. As long as it kept fine, the summit was ours.
After reaching Camp V, Dr. Tatsunuma had his hands full. Five tents had been put up on the steep side of the mountain by digging away the snow; packing cases and empty duralumin oxygen cylinders scattered everywhere made a desolate picture. Camp V being at 23,500 ft., every movement was slow and even going to another tent was a laborious business. Dr. Tatsunuma had set up eight oxygen carrying-frames, attached three oxygen cylinders to each, and tested whether there was enough oxygen in them. The job was not an easy one, and had it not been for his determination it would never have been completed. I gathered together the climbing gear I would take with me to Camp VI the next day-tent, food, pitons, and the like-then stretched myself wearily in the tent and lay there without a thought in my head. In the evening, Dr. Tatsunuma came round with oxygen masks made of polyethylene, for each of us to breathe oxygen that night. Words could not express our thanks. To distribute these he had to go outside, and to do this was impossible without strong will-power. At a height of over 23,000 ft., it was not a question of physical strength but of one’s strength of will.
The oxygen was coming through a rubber tube from a generator in the next tent. But suddenly I woke up. Moisture was flowing from the mask, running down over my chin. Unconsciously taking out a handkerchief I forced myself to wipe it off, and repeated this several times. These oxygen generators are different from oxygen containers and do not contain oxygen, but generate it chemically by electrical combustion. One oxygen candle only lasted for an hour and a half at the most, so when the oxygen ran out Dr. Tatsunuma changed oxygen candles. We were extremely grateful, but he hardly had any sleep.
The next day, the 8th, was fine again. A supporting party consisting of Muraki and five Sherpas left Camp V at 8-30, taking with them tents, sleeping-bags, food and oxygen, sufficient to spend one night pitching Camp VI above the plateau. Chotare, whom they had planned to take with them that day, said he was sick and could not go on. Aila Namgyal had a headache and kept to his tent. Two substitutes were found. Yoda was standing near his tent, waiting to photograph our departure. First Gundin, Choung and Tashi, roped together in one party, set off in the direction of the Snow Apron; they were followed by Muraki, Ang Dawa and Nima Tensing in another party. Gyalzen and I followed later, saving our strength for the next day’s climb. Below the rock face which Kato and Muraki had climbed on the 6th, the blue ice glittered. As the snow hereabouts had been hardened by the wind blowing over the North Col, walking should have been easy, but actually it was painful and tore at one’s vitals. I was breathing two litres of oxygen per minute, but perhaps that was because I was not used to the mask. When we reached the Snow Apron, we found dangerous conditions created by about 6" of powder-snow overlying hard snow. In the middle of the Apron, there appeared a cluster of rocks which we called Middle Island. After this, the slope of the Apron became steeper and at times the powder-snow gave way under our steps. Some of the Sherpas were breathing oxygen, others preferred to climb without it. As we approached the plateau, the angle was so steep that our chests brushed the slope. Nima Tensing in Muraki’s party was changing his cylinder ; we were held up every time someone’s oxygen ran out. The amount of time wasted was in proportion to the number of people in the party. We changed cylinders this side of the plateau, and moving up diagonally to the right we scrambled over the ridge and finally came out on to the plateau. It was 12 o’clock.
Muraki’s party opened a tin of peaches and waited for us. We could hardly swallow any solid food, but we gladly ate fruit. With the driven snow, bare rock and jagged boulders this place can be compared to the South Col of Everest. Above the cliff to our left, a covered glacier could be seen in section, glistening in the sun. The snow above this point had turned to blue ice on the surface and was impossible stuff to deal with. While we were feverishly climbing the Apron we had no time to enjoy the scenery, but having reached the plateau we were able to relax and gaze around us. Ganesh Himal and Kutang Himal on the Tibetan border lay far below, and we felt as if we were in a world apart. Avoiding the blue ice and stumbling over the rocks, we arrived at the centre of the plateau. A rock ridge came into view at the right-hand end of a great bulge of snow which perhaps continued as far as the peak on the left, and we climbed it via a steep couloir covered with snow drifts. We crawled out to the right gasping for breath, as we were only breathing two litres of oxygen in order to economize. The way suddenly opened up before us, and at 1-30 p.m. we found quite a good camp-site on a rock shelf where snow had accumulated.
Muraki and party, who had arrived earlier, were levelling the snow before pitching the tents; it was our sixth and last camp. As we had forgotten to bring an altimeter, we asked Kato during the second assault to measure the height and he made it 25,600 ft. When we took off our oxygen masks and collected the cylinders for the next day, we were very shaky on our feet. Our movements were slow, as if we were in a stupor. If a fully conscious person breathing sufficient oxygen had seen us, he would surely have lost all patience. However, we managed to put up our tents, blow up the air-mattresses and spread out our sleeping-bags. The equipment for Camp VI had all been made in red to distinguish it from the equipment for the lower camps. The red tents stood out against the blue sky, the snow and the magnificent sea of cloud stretching to distant India. I got Muraki and the others, who had done such vital work, to line up against the tents for a photograph. Muraki and the Sherpa support party left all their remaining oxygen for the two of us. We were extremely grateful; we shook Muraki by the hand and thanked him; then he and the Sherpas made their way back to Camp V. It was not easy to climb down the Snow Apron, and they got back to Camp V after performing their duties in support of the assault, and slumped down dead tired.
Camp VI had become a world of two, one Japanese and one Sherpa. I examined every oxygen cylinder ; our requirements had been calculated as three cylinders each for the assault, and one each for sleeping, making a total of 8 cylinders; but about 14 or 15 cylinders had been transported here.
The inside of the tent was all red except for the yellow rucksack, and all the equipment used here was new; I found that the colour tone calmed my spirits. I half-dozed as I lay in the sleeping-bag. Gyalzen prepared coffee and gave me some. At this camp, we used Meta fuel, but it took a long time to cook our supper. We ate rice and soup, and munched some dried fruit. After that, it was a difficult job for us to get to sleep. Setting an oxygen cylinder beside our pillow, we ran off two rubber tubes from it and attached the masks for sleeping, set at a flow-rate of one litre per minute. Each could breathe only 0-5 litre. I wanted to write my diary, but could not bring myself to do it. I only entered in my notebook the times and the amount of oxygen used. The tent we used was designed by necessity to be as small as possible and was cramped. If one sat up on the air-mattress, one’s head touched the roof. When we were at Base Camp, we had often complained that one could not get inside such a small tent. Fortunately, as there was no wind or snowfall, the tent was comparatively comfortable. Apparently I soon fell asleep. Suddenly I woke up in the middle of the night; turning on the electric torch, I found that the oxygen meter pointed to nought. I was quite astonished to find how effective the oxygen was. I looked at Gyalzen and found that he had taken off his mask. I threw the used cylinder out of the tent, replaced it with a new one, and told Gyalzen to put on his mask. I must have fallen asleep again in a few minutes. When I woke again, the inside of the tent was full of light. It was half-past five. This time also, the oxygen meter had fallen to nought. Quite by chance, it served the purpose of an alarm clock.
I opened the tent and took the temperature; it was -22°C. The weather was absolutely clear. Gyalzen went out of the tent and prepared to cook. Soon the sun began to rise. We had brought a wireless in order to radio to the other camps whether the summit party was leaving Camp VI or had been able to reach the summit. I signalled ′ pip’ ‘pip’ three times 6-10, 6-15, 6-30 to show that we were leaving. Gyalzen asked me how I liked my tea. When I told him to make anything he liked, he made Ovaltine. I drank my fill of this, ate half a bowl of porridge and munched two or three biscuits. I could not get anything else inside me, so I forced down four or five pieces of Hittobe, a scientific food which was specially manufactured.
There was only a light wind, and we congratulated ourselves on our good luck. We wore cotton vest and pants, cashmere woollen vest and pants, flannel cutter-shirt, sweater, serge trousers and eiderdown trousers; and above this a windproof jacket and trousers. We used wool stockings of two kinds, thin ones and thicker ones. Above our high-altitude boots we wore eiderdown over-shoes, and fixed crampons to them. Woollen gloves and mittens of thin leather were used to cover the hands. We carried three oxygen cylinders each, fixed vertically into their frames. In our rucksacks we put our eiderdown jackets, some food, pitons, a Filmo Automat 16 mm. camera (with 150 feet of film), a Cannon camera with 25 mm. wide-angle lens for taking monochrome pictures, and a Nikon camera with 35 mm. wide-angle lens for colour. The total weight exceeded 45 lbs.
Cooking took so much time that it was 8 o’clock when we left our camp. The oxygen apparatus was regulated so as to supply two litres a minute. The face of snow extending from the pinnacle turned out to be ice. However, we found a break in the face and moved towards it. To our relief, the ice soon ended and a snow face followed. If this ice had continued to the summit, the ascent would have been quite impossible. If we slipped, we would plunge into a valley a thousand feet deep on the west side. After we passed this, a wide snowfield appeared. Such a snowfield close to a summit is unusual. The plateau widened above Camp VI and narrowed below the summit. We had placed marker-flags at intervals of 150 ft. all the way to Camp V, but above that we had no energy to do so, and quite a number of them were unused though we carried them with us. We slowly climbed the snow face, which was marked here and there by crevasses. On the right we saw two white tops. ′ There they are ! It is not far from here.′
Our spirits rose. Suddenly Gyalzen called out, raising his finger to the left. A triangular rock-pinnacle covered with snow rose sharply from the wide snowfield. Otsuka was right when he advised us to take a few rock and ice pitons. It seemed to us that we took a roundabout way. We pitched two flags here. Gyalzen took the lead, and I photographed him with the movie-camera. I began to breathe with difficulty, but after a while I took the lead myself. There were a number of hidden crevasses but there seemed to be little danger. We reached a point where a big slope commenced extending to the summit from the end of the snowfield. From this point, the slope formed a sharp snow ridge. We moved to the left of the slope and climbed a slope directly under the rock ridge, which we thought was the summit. We were at a point higher than the South Col of Everest, which is said to have the ‘smell of death’, but we felt so good that it made us think how much fine weather can alter the appearance of things. If the wind blew in such a place, we would be in great danger. What good luck we had! The summit was now at a finger’s stretch. Slowly we approached the rock-pinnacle. I called to Gyalzen ‘Very lucky’, he looked at me smiling. Somehow the peak disappeared and another one which must be the summit appeared behind. One moment we were on a shelf of snow, the next it turned into a steep slope. Here we changed our oxygen cylinders and planted a flag.
It was just 11 o’clock. The slope was narrow, and on the left side towards the Manaslu glacier was a cornice. We proceeded on the left side cutting steps. When I asked if the steps were all right, Gyalzen asked me to make them bigger. After that I began cutting them as big as buckets. Whilst I belayed Gyalzen, I watched him making them even bigger as he came along. He was prudence itself. I remembered myself on Annapurna in ihe autumn of 1953, battling with the cold and cutting steps in a 70-ft. ice-wall. I had to have a rest after every two or three strokes. What a difference now! I was using the same ice-axe 6,500 ft. higher up. The altitude here was over 26,000 ft. and yet the ice-axe did not feel so heavy. From the cylinder on my back the oxygen, which � was more precious than any food, poured into my lungs with a hiss, I could have wept with gratitude for the benefits of science.
The snow ridge continued. We took the utmost care to avoid the cornice and belayed each other carefully. Gyalzen came up and drove a piton into the rock. Leaning my weight on this, and clutching an overhanging boulder covered with loose rock, I passed over the dangerous rocky ground. I thought we had reached the top, but then up bobbed a sharp triangular pinnacle. This really was the summit. At this point a shiver went down my spine. A deep gap appeared between us and the summit. I instinctively looked around. On the side leading down to the Marsyandi, I saw a snow slope that looked as if it might lead to the summit. At last my mind was put at rest, and when I looked at the summit once more a way of approach opened up. I found that we could climb down a deep gully.
Manaslu, which had long inspired Japanese climbers, is revered by the villagers of Sama as Kambung. Their existence is controlled by the god of Kambung and they pray to the holy mountain for the prosperity of their crops. They had hindered the expedition on the pretext that their gompa had been destroyed by an avalanche, because a former Japanese expedition had violated its sanctity. The summit of this Kambung now stood some 35 ft. above us. Belayed by Gyalzen, I descended into the gap, and then slowly climbed up driving a piton into the rock.
At 12-30 p.m., we stood on the summit. It is a knife-edge. The south side falls away in a steep cliff. Gyalzen photographed me standing on the summit and then joined me. On the narrow ridge, we held hands in exultation. Our steps seemed likely to crumble, so we straddled the ridge.
All around was a sea of cloud, with Himal Chuli and Ganesh Himal, which our second expedition attempted, looming up above, To the west, the Annapurna range and the strange outline of Dhaulagiri appeared through the mist. To the south of Annapurna, Machhapuchhare could be seen. To the north, a wave of black mountains, stretching from Larkya Himal, Thringi Himal and Kutang Himal on the Tibetan border into the far distance, made a magnificent sight. Directly north, the gigantic ridges of the massif stood oift in relief. One hour passed, I went down and took a picture of Gyalzen with the movie-camera. I meant to keep quite steady, but as I had switched off my oxygen after reaching the top, my movements were rather clumsy.
When Gyalzen changed to his third oxygen cylinder, he found that it was empty. I had tested all the cylinders the day before and they had been full, so the cap must have been faulty. Luckily, the going was all downhill from now on, so we would manage without oxygen. Letting Gyalzen go ahead, I followed him cautiously. He bounded down in high spirits. At the point where we had cut steps, we took it in turns to lead. On the snow shelf, I changed to my third oxygen cylinder. We made our way carefully along the steep snow slope which runs down from the shelf. We were so elated -that we felt like singing. Keeping to the left of the red flag which we had planted on the way up, we took a direct line towards Camp VI. We felt that we were floating on air, and scarcely realized that we had been to the summit.
At 3-5 p.m. we returned to Camp VI with its red tent standing alone and desolate. My oxygen cylinder was two-thirds empty. I opened a bottle of orange-juice and a tin of peaches, and we had a quick lunch. I checked the oxygen for Kato and Higeta who were coming up the next day. There were six full cylinders left. I cleared the tent and radioed the news of our success. I then changed my oxygen cylinders. About this time, cirrus clouds were hanging high over the summit of Dhaulagiri, and I was anxious lest the weather should break. I wished the Argentine team good luck, and prayed for the safe arrival of our second summit party next day. Grateful for today’s clear windless weather, within forty minutes we took our leave of Camp VI.
We left the plateau and at 4 p.m. reached the Snow Apron. A fixed rope had now been left by Muraki and the others when they went down. As we approached Camp V, Camp II where our leader was waiting was hidden by cloud. As he traversed from the right-hand end of the Apron towards the camp, Gyalzen’s steps seemed to grow slightly unsteady. I took a firm hold on the rope in case he should slip. The two in Camp V came up to meet us. I raised both arms and signalled to them, Several times it seemed as if we would lose our balance, as a covering of powder- snow overlay the hard snow. Just after we passed the steep slope, Muraki and Pemba Sundar came to meet us, cutting steps large enough for two to sit alongside. They were both overjoyed, and shook us by the hand. We plumped down into the snow and quenched our thirst with hot tea. After establishing Camp V, Muraki had supported us for six days at an altitude of 23,600 ft. He had transported our equipment to Camp VI and now here he was today coming out to give us a warm welcome. I could only bow my head in thanks. He had carried out a vital task.
THE SWISS EXPEDITION TO EVEREST AND LHOTSE, 1956
GYALZEN NORBU ON THE SUMMIT OF MANASLU (Photo: Imanishi)
In Camp V, we were met with a hail of handshakes by Tat- sunuma, Yoda, Kato, Otsuka, Higeta and the Sherpas. The very first thing I did was to thank Dr. Tatsunuma for his years of work, and tell him what a blessing the oxygen was. After explaining to Kato and Higeta what we had left in Camp VI and what the summit climb was like, we radioed a summary of the day’s events to our leader. He was highly delighted. After 30 minutes’ rest we went # down to Camp IV.
The day before, Camp IV had been threatened by great avalanches falling from the ice-wall of the plateau; our old route had been completely buried by seracs, which made it easier to go down. At Camp IV, Ohara met us with a smiling face and ten Sherpas lined up in single file to shake hands one by one. The Sirdar Gyalzen was beaming from ear to ear, and seemed to have an endless fund of climbing stories.
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