American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Nanda Devi

Asia, India, Garhwal Himalaya

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: 1977
  • Publication Year: 1978

On May 11 Eric Roberts, leader, Dr. Arnold Pines, and Stuart Jones, Jr. and Gil Harder, the two American members of the British Nanda Devi Expedition, arrived at Joshimath and joined Len Smith, Frank Eastwood and Roger Reid, who had been there for nine days. A day later came John Miller, who had accompanied the bulk of our equipment and food, which was transported overland by British Army lorry. On May 15 we left Lata for the Nanda Devi Base Camp with 35 porters to carry 55 loads. We were a climbing team of eight, accompanied by four members of the British Army as support, our liaison officer Babar Khan and Lav Kumar Khacher, an Indian conservation expert with the World Wildlife Foundation in India. We were delayed on our approach march by deep snows on Dharansi Pass and the lack of porterage, necessitating the shuttling of loads. Base Camp, lower than in 1936, was reached on May 29 by an advance team, but it took another five days to shuttle all loads from Moraine Camp, where all but six porters insisted on dumping their loads. They could not be coaxed farther. This dump was about two hours below the 16,500-foot Base Camp. We began making carries to Camp I (18,600 feet) simultaneously with completing the carries to Base Camp and occupied it on June 4. Camp II (20,400 feet) was established on June 7. These were at the 1936 sites. At Camp II, in a recess, the Japanese had abandoned 1500 feet of mint 9-mm rope neatly coiled in 150-foot lengths. Elsewhere above Camp II, fixed ropes remained in place or under the snow in most necessary and some unnecessary places too. (Below Camp II there was no trace of anyone having been up before.) Our Camp III, established on June 13, was two-thirds of the way up the snow slope above the snow and ice ridge and Camp IV on the presumed 1936 site. Above, the route does not go left into the couloir, but uses the shale flank from which Tilman and Odell retreated. The couloir looks singularly unappealing. We fixed a fair bit of rope on the flank, as any old rope had been cut to shreds by the stonefall and weather. After an unsuccessful attempt on June 19, Gil Harder and Eric Roberts reached the summit on June 21. Len Smith and Stuart Jones made the top on June 22. In descent a minor injury to one member of the party caused some valuable gear to be abandoned at Camp III. Due to a misunderstanding, our two permanently retained porters from Manali, Kulu, cleared Camps I and II but did not go up to Camp III as instructed. We were all back in Base Camp on June 27.We left Base Camp on June 30 and were in Lata on July 4. On the walk out, the wild flowers were splendid and the transformation of the section between Dharansi and Lata Kharak incredible.

Gilbert V. Harder, A.A.C. and Eric Roberts, Alpine Club

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