American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Indian Everest Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Indian Everest Expedition. The expedition consisting of fifteen climbers, two doctors, two wireless operators, and a liaison officer left Jainagar on February 26. The advance party reached Base Camp on March 22 and succeeded in getting to the top of the icefall on March 27. After a week of stocking camps above the icefall, work was started on the Lhotse face. Camp IV was established at 25,000 feet and by April 12 the route was through to the South Col. However, due to deterioration of the weather, the first ferry party could not move immediately, and was able to reach the col only on April 16, the same date on which the 1963 American Expedition had reached it. Two more ferries followed during the next four days, and by April 20 more than fifty loads had reached the South Col. We were now ready for the summit attempt. The first summit party consisting of two pairs moved from Base Camp on April 20, but perforce stopped at Advance Base Camp for about four days because of an unfavorable weather forecast and finally moved up on April 25. They were Nawang Gombu, Captain A. S. Cheema, Sonam Gyatso, and Sonam Wang- yal, supported by Gurdial Singh and myself. The winds became strong as we reached the South Col and continued unabated for the next two days. We thought it prudent to withdraw to Base Camp. We waited below for several days during which the winds continued their fury, but finally on May 15 there was a break in the weather. Without wasting more time we moved up on the following day. The first summit party, Gombu and Cheema, reached the South Col on May 18. Next day they succeeded in reaching a spot around 28,000 feet, where they put the last camp with the help of six Sherpas led by their Assistant Sirdar, Phu Dorji. The summit party left the last camp at five A.M., on the morning of the 20th and in fairly good weather reached the summit at 9:30 A.M. They found the American pole of the 1963 American Expedition to which they tied the Indian and the Nepalese flags. They waited for half an hour on the summit before moving down. Just below the South Summit, they met strong winds and with great difficulty managed to reach their last camp, at about one p.m. After some rest and lots of fluids they moved down to the South Col. Two days later the second pair, Sonam Gyatso and Sonam Wangyal, made the top. Another pair consisting of C. P. Vohra and Ang Kami performed the hat trick on the 24th. The weather now deteriorated and the last summit group had to wait at Advance Base Camp. This party of five finally moved up on May 26. Unfortunately Major B. P. Singh had to abandon the attempt before reaching the South Col, owing to stomach trouble, while Captain Bahugana dropped out after the party had already left the last camp on the way to the summit; he had developed hives on the previous night. The other three, Captain H. P. S. Ahluwalia, H. C. S. Rawat, and Assistant Sherpa Sirdar Phu Dorji reached the top and were the first ever to have coffee on the top of the world. The expedition was lucky to put nine people on top. Among various causes of success two are rather important. Firstly, the expedition had a remarkable team spirit, and, secondly, we were lucky enough to place our last camp at about 28,000 feet, which proved the crux of the whole climb. The expedition had no intention of breaking any records; as always, we climbed on the shoulders of our predecessors and attempted to put the maximum members of the team on top with reasonable margin of safety. The adventure is all over but the memories will endure.

M. S. Kohli, Lieutenant Commander, Indian Navy, Himalayan Club

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