American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India-Garhwal, Nanda Devi, Attempt from the North

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1979

Nanda Devi, attempt from the north. The aim of our expedition was to make the first ascent of Nanda Devi’s north face as a two-man team, climbing alpine-style, and to descend down the south face to a pre-placed camp. To be fully acclimatized for the rapid gain of altitude, we spent four weeks training in Ladakh before-hand. We suffered a long delay in Delhi, following the recent exposé about the CIA’s placing a nuclear- powered bugging device on the mountain. The normally slow bureaucratic channels closed altogether and final permission was not forthcoming until the personal action of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary had been sought. We were obliged to take two liaison officers instead of the normal one, something of a burden upon the scant resources of two impecunious Englishmen. After two days of walking in what was one of the worst monsoon’s in history, they turned back. The attempt on the face began on September 15 and involved seven days of upward progress. It snowed everyday. The climbing was often hard and always slow, due to deep powder snow. The bivouacs ranged from good to dismal. We reached 22,500 feet on the ridge* which commands the centre of the face, but found huge mushrooms of unstable snow, underlain with crumbling ice. Our progress was cut to a pace that made continuing unjustifiable. We simply did not have the resources to cope with the conditions we encountered. Upon our return to Base Camp, we found both our liaison officers there in company with a detachment of soldiers from the Indo- Tibetan Border Police, a colonel, a wireless station and operators. We learned that we were suspected of some kind of espionage and they had come to escort us from the sanctuary. At Joshimath all our films were taken from us. The situation was never resolved, no allegations were actually made against us but we were asked to pay £800 towards the expense of their “rescuing” us. I still believe that the route could be done by a small team such as ours, given better conditions.

Terry A. King Alpine Climbing Group

* The leftmost of the three ridges as seen from Changabang or Kalanka.— Editor.

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