American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Himalayas, Barun Valley

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1955

Barun Valley. In 1952 Shipton, Evans, Hillary, and I reached the Barun Glacier and descended it. Makalu was then unexplored and the lower Barun was of great beauty. We planned to return. The New Zealand Alpine Club was fired by our descriptions and gained permission and funds to send a party to the Barun Glacier in 1954. Led by Sir Edmund Hillary, it included Charles Evans and me, who had had Himalayan experience, six climbers from New Zealand, Bill Beaver, Norman Hardie, Jim McFarlane, Colin Todd, Geoff Harrow, and Brian Wilkins and a doctor, Michael Ball, from England. Three of the party were competent surveyors and completed a detailed survey of the area with three photo-theodolites.

The party approached the Makalu area by following the Arun River, then split into three groups and penetrated, mapped, and climbed in or around the Chayang, Iswa, and Barun valleys. Twenty-three peaks were ascended, nineteen of them over 20,000 feet, including Baruntse (23,570 ft.), Unnamed (22,560 ft.), Petangthtse (22,080 ft.), Nau Lekh (21,445 ft.), and three others of 22,000 feet at the head of the Barun Glacier. Makalu was reconnoitered on the north side to a height of 23,000 feet, when the illness of Hillary forced a retreat.

Early in the expedition a crevasse accident occurred in which McFarlane and Wilkins were involved. McFarlane was hurt badly in the fall and spent the night in the crevasse, 16 hours in all. He was severely frostbitten and has lost part of his feet and fingers. Wilkins cut his way out and returned to the rescue with Hillary. The New Zealand party received great help from the California party, who were attempting Makalu at the time. We wish to express our thanks for this. They were a grand bunch of chaps and we had the happiest of times in their company.

Baruntse was an ice climb of the greatest severity and was climbed by Todd and Harrow on May 30th and by Beaver and Lowe on June 1, 1954. Six of the party crossed the mountains to the Everest valleys and so to Katmandu. Four other members descended the Arun River.

George Lowe

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