We first considered the idea of an expedition to the greater ranges when a group of our friends successfully completed an expedition to Mount McKinley. A year later we started to make our first, tentative, plans. We wanted an unclimbed peak to facilitate fund raising and to provide a greater challenge. Most of the remaining unclimbed peaks that are not too inaccessible or difficult are in the Himalaya, and, of the Himalayan countries, India is the cheapest. Our destination chosen, we turned to the map room of the University Library at the beginning of the Easter term.
We read a lot of expedition reports and climbing journals, and a term later, we picked on Manda III (peak 6529) as a target, after reading the British-Indian Police Himalayan Expedition (1986) Report in the Alpine Club Journal 1987. Manda III was unclimbed and within our ability. Moreover the Police Expedition had climbed a large part of the route and could provide information about it.
Our target chosen, we got to work over the summer planning the expedition. We wrote to the IMF, and John Peck (the leader of the police expedition) was tracked down. He proved extremely helpful, and even managed to fit a slide show into his busy schedule. Roger Payne, the BMC's national officer, and John Peck both recommended Mandip Singh of Ibex Expeditions as a reliable Indian agent, and we sent a fax to him.
In the Michaelmas term, a reply was received from Ibex. They offered to organise everything in India for £875 each. Although in the past most British expeditions have employed agencies in India, Roger Payne thought that it was quite possible to manage without one, at the cost of a little time. We decided that there was no way we could afford to pay the amount Ibex were asking, and that we would go it alone.
The next step was applying to the Cambridge Expeditions Committee (CEC) for official university status. This gave us charitable status, a great aid to fund raising. Our first patron was Professor Snodgrass, fellow of Clare college, Alpine Club member and senior treasurer to the Clare Rats. He approached Dr. Charles Clarke, Everest expedition doctor in 1975 and 1982, who also agreed to act as our patron. Dr Lew Hardy, a lecturer in psychology of sport and the climbing leader of the police expedition, was our third patron.
Over the Christmas holiday we produced a prospectus, and started applying for funds. After persistently writing to the IMF a reply was finally received with the booking forms at the end of November. The forms were rather intimidating. They requested all kinds of information that we did not know: exact dates for the expedition, lists of equipment with weights, etc. Fortunately, the IMF does not appear to take much notice of what one writes on the forms, and we filled them in with rough estimates.
Originally, we had all intended to climb together in the Alps that winter. Unfortunately, Richard could not spare the time from work, but Jim, John and Tony still went. We had hoped to try out the equipment that we intended to use on the expedition, but we still had not even decided what we were going to take, let alone bought any of it.
In the Lent term, we applied for more grants and the first money started coming in, and the first refusals. The main problem we encountered was that very few grants are available for purely ``adventurous'' expeditions. Fortunately, there are several wide-ranging funds available in Cambridge, as well as the Donald Robertson fund which is purely for mountaineering. The Mary Euphrasia Mosley award is for travel to Commonwealth countries. In the application to them we stressed how we hoped to have close relations with our liaison officer (L.O.) and not that we would be employing porters. We also wrote to a lot of food and equipment manufacturers. We stressed how we would send them photographs after the expedition and give them a report on their equipment. To convince them of our good intentions and photographic abilities, Tony assembled a portfolio of decent mountaineering photos. Most of the food companies offered us a dozen packets of dehydrated super-widgets, but few equipment manufacturers would actually give us anything free.
Originally we had only sent $900 to the IMF, as we had hoped that we would get away with paying the 6000-6499m peak fee. Unfortunately, the IMF were not having any of that and we had to pay for the extra thirty metres. The extra $450 worked out at $15 a metre.
In the Easter term we tried to finalise our plans. Food lists were drawn up, argued over, amended and thrown away. None of us had ever organised food for such a long period of time. Eventually, a plan was drawn up for twelve days of hill food for only four people, as from past expedition reports it seemed that the chance of the L.O. actually doing any climbing was minimal. This realization also enabled us to annihilate the budget for the L.O.'s kit. Only £18 was actually spent on the L.O., the rest of the kit being borrowed.
Two other friends from Clare College, Clare Ashton (Tig) and William Osborn, decided that they were interested in coming on the expedition. They were less experienced climbers and wanted to go as trekkers, separate from the main expedition.
We spent a week dashing about from shop to shop, buying food and equipment before packing it up and freighting it out. When we finally left, staggering under the weight of our luggage, we had not heard anything from the IMF for six months.
We had continued to write to the IMF every month since we sent them the last money order, courteously enquiring about our application, but we did not get a reply until after we returned to England, confirming the booking and giving permission for the expedition to go ahead. In the end we applied for tourist visas from the Indian High Commission at £16 each. No-one in India cared that we did not have mountaineering visas.