We travelled to Delhi using two different airlines. Tony flew out from the U.K. on Wednesday 19th August by British Airways, the advantage of having a father who works for the world's favourite airline, arriving on Thursday 20th August. The rest of us flew out by Alitalia on Thursday 20th August arriving in Delhi at 1 am on Friday 21st August. Despite having previously freighted out a large amount of our equipment (see below) we still ended up carrying out approximately 45 kilos each on the flights. Fortunately, Alitalia did not seem to mind us carrying bags full of ice-screws onto the plane, although this resulted in inordinately heavy hand luggage and a brief sojourn at every X-ray machine in order to explain that our racks were part of our climbing equipment and were not some cunning way of smuggling Semtex onto the aeroplane.
Tony, Tig and Will arrived the day before the rest of us and were therefore charged with finding us suitable accommodation. As this was our first visit to India, we had no previous experience to rely on, and thus resorted to the Lonely Planet Guide to India. Following what seemed to be the main advice in the book, Tony took a bus to Connaught Place and walked until he found a hotel which had received a favourable mention in the guide. This happened to be the Janpath Guest House, and so this became our Delhi base-camp. The term base-camp is used intentionally. We had originally intended to spend a very brief period of time in Delhi, to get everything sorted out on the Thursday and Friday, and hopefully leave Delhi on the Saturday. The best laid plans, however, do not take account of Indian holidays or Indian efficiency. Tony, on the Thursday, had been to the IMF to discover that they did not have a Liaison Officer organised for us as the original one had dropped out. On the Friday Jim and Richard took an auto-rickshaw out to the Cargo terminal in order to try and sort out our airfreight. On arrival at the terminal the driver brightly informed them that Friday was a public holiday and that nothing therefore would be open that day.
The Janpath Guest House became our base in Delhi more by chance than by planning. The facilities were adequate but basic, no air conditioning nor hot water, both of which were sorely missed. In mid-August, Delhi does not possess one of the most pleasant climates in the world. The heat is completely overpowering, mainly due to the 90% humidity. The other thing that you will quickly notice is the filth that adheres to your body. Good showers are probably a necessity, rather than a luxury in these conditions and the hotel was somewhat lacking in these. Another drawback was that the hotel occupied the top two floors of a five storey building, and lifts are a rare commodity in India. This is probably only mildly irritating for the average tourist, but when you are travelling with over a quarter of a ton of kit, the mildly irritating can quickly become soul-destroying.
Having said all this, there were, however, some good points about the hotel. It was close to Connaught Place (the tourist centre of Delhi), and costing £4 a night for a double room, was reasonably priced for this area. On the way back we stayed at the Blue Mount Villa which we would strongly recommend, despite the fact that it was slightly more expensive at £5.70 a night for a double room. The advantages it had were air conditioning, hot water, excellent breakfasts, and the fact that it is close to both the IMF and the airport.
Our experience of the IMF was not one of great efficiency, although they made an effort to be friendly whilst we suffered. On Thursday 20th August, Tony had gone along to the IMF to let them know that we had arrived and to find out about our liaison officer and any other formalities we had to complete before we left Delhi. It transpired that they were at least expecting us, but had got little further than that. Apparently, the L.O. we had originally been assigned had dropped out for personal reasons, and the IMF had not been able to organise a replacement.
We returned to the IMF first thing on Saturday morning as it had been closed on Friday due to the public holiday. We were told that the person who was dealing with our expedition had not arrived yet, but that he would not be long. We waited for the rest of that day. Every time we asked about the guy who was dealing with us, he was expected in half an hour. Finally, at about 4 pm, this guy having not appeared, the Director talked to us briefly and gave us a form to sign. There was still no news about a L.O., and we were starting to grumble since we wanted to leave as soon as possible.
Tony and John returned on Monday morning, having been briefed to tell the IMF that we were intending to leave on Tuesday and that if they had not been able to find an L.O. by then, they would have to send one to catch up with us. The IMF had, however, managed to find an L.O., and we were told to return after lunch to meet him. We returned to the IMF after collecting Richard from the airport. He had been obtaining clearance for the freight with Jim, who returned direct to our hotel with the freight, as he was ill. At the IMF, we had to sign some more forms, as the ones we had signed on Friday were out-of-date. We met our L.O., Rajiv Tomar, and explained to him that we were planning to leave Delhi early the next day. He did not appear overly keen on this, but we agreed to meet at our hotel later that evening so that he could see his kit, and we could sort everything out.
Whilst Tony and John went to the IMF, Richard and Jim cleared our air-freight through customs. In order to do this, you have two choices: you can either hire an agent or do it yourself. The first option is expensive (one group we met had paid £50 for an agent); the second option, which we took, requires a great deal of patience and a serious sense of humour. Getting our kit through customs took almost a whole day, but sometimes, we were told, it can take two. A guide to surviving customs is included in the Appendix.
We only made one mistake whilst going through this process, and that was not tipping the very first porter. Nothing gets done in the customs shed without a porter, and we were left waiting for over an hour before our freight was checked. If it had not been for this, we would have had everything done by 2 p.m.
You can get a letter from the IMF giving you exemption from duties on condition that you re-export all your equipment. The customs officers may attach a list into the back of your passport so that they can check that you do do this. In our case, however, the officers were very helpful, and replaced our original baggage declaration form (which had a detailed list of everything, and made-up values) with a new baggage declaration form which just said ``expedition equipment, no commercial value''. We took in a large amount of food but simply put this down as worth less than Rs500. They then let us go without making any undertaking to re-export the equipment at the end of the trip.
We would certainly recommend that you do your customs clearance personally. Not only does it save money, it also helps to make every other hassle you suffer on the trip seem relatively minor.
Our idea, and the travel agent's idea, of a 13-seat minibus seemed to differ drastically. What turned up on Tuesday morning appeared to be based on a VW camper van, and was not exactly over-spacious by the time we had packed our equipment into it. We also discovered that the van-driver/owner was only getting Rs2500 for taking us which left a nice healthy profit for the travel agent. The moral would appear to be to look at the van before you hire it, and to try to deal directly with the van-driver, if you can find one.
Having left Delhi at 6 am, we arrived in Uttar Kashi at 9 that evening, having stopped at a town en route, a little out of Delhi, to buy our supplies for base-camp. This stop took about 3 hours, with an additional 2-hour lunch break at the Hotel Polaris (a bit pricey, and not overly recommended, but the only posh place there seemed to be to eat). We were also delayed for about 3/4 of an hour by a landslide which had blocked the road between Rishikesh and Uttar Kashi. The one thing the Indians do seem to be efficient at is clearing landslides.
We decided to spend a day in Uttar Kashi in order to sort out our porters and buy fresh vegetables and fruit for base-camp. The vegetables and fruit were easy to find, a quick trip round the market showing us that it was not as poorly stocked as our L.O. had led us to believe. A porter was hired to carry our food back to the hotel for the grand price of Rs30, which included a Rs5 tip. The smile on the porter's face was something to remember, a long cry from the average London cabby.
Organising the porters was not quite so straightforward. The trip from Uttar Kashi to base-camp should normally take 3 days, but the road between Uttar Kashi and Gangotri was blocked by a landslide which was proving immovable, even with the Indian skill and efficiency brought to bear upon it. The last year has been particularly bad for landslides as an earthquake the year before had made the whole valley highly unstable. The police chief in Uttar Kashi tried to persuade us to wait a week before travelling to Gangotri as only a few days previously a Japanese climber had been killed and another wounded when their jeep was hit by a boulder.
We reckoned that on the normal scale of things we should have to pay porters for 5 days. We had decided to use Mount Support, a travel agency, to organise our porters, as a previous British expedition had recommended them. Budhi Singh is the guy that owns the place, and we were to discover that he was a rather sharp operator. When we approached him, he insisted that because of a landslide, it would take 6 days to reach base-camp and 3 days back, and that therefore we would have to pay for 9 days. Jim had a slightly warm discussion with him about his figures, but he was insistent, and in the end we agreed to pay for 9 days. We also hired a base-camp tent and cooking utensils from Mount Support. The base-camp tent was an excellent investment and was well worth the money; the cooking utensils were not quite such good value. It may be worth buying these things in advance elsewhere and trying to sell them on your return. The full costs of the porters, tent, and utensils are set out in an Appendix. We also had asked Mount Support to arrange transport for us and the porters as far as the road block, consisting of 4 Jeeps which cost Rs800 each. We planned to leave at 7 o'clock the next morning. In the afternoon we packed up the porters' loads. We had expected that they would only carry 22kg or so, but our L.O. had other ideas. He told us to make the loads between 25kg and 27kg. We packed everything inside hessian or plastic sacks, and then sewed the tops closed.
We left Uttar Kashi at 8.30 am after packing our kit up and sorting everything out. The jeep ride was as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances. Ten of us was a bit of a squeeze, but at least the view was good - straight over a precipice - and there was good ventilation. The jeeps took us up to the road-block where the army was busy displaying its explosive skills, but for some reason seemed to be making little impression upon the boulders. The jeeps kindly dumped us, our porters, and the kit and disappeared back to Uttar Kashi. We sat for a couple of hours contemplating life, the universe, and everything, and doing all the other things tourists do - taking pictures of landslides as if we had never seen one before. It was becoming evident that the landslide was still going to be there the next day, so it was time to take a scenic detour. If you can't go through it, you have to go up and over it; fortunately for us, there was a ``path'' which had the same idea, so we followed it. It was an hour trip around the landslide. Descending back down was a little tricky as the ``path'' was merely a mud slide. People above kept knocking rocks down and several people had close escapes and bruises.
Half an hour down the road was a bus that had been trapped on the wrong side of the landslide, and was to be our transport to Gangotri. Fortunately, the massive landslide higher up the valley had been cleared. The trip was uncomfortable - crowded with a slight lack on the suspension side - but at least we got there, even if it was 9 o'clock at night by that time.
The walk-in to base-camp took us three days, the porters two. One thing we had forgotten to do when packing our kit was to separate enough food for this part of the trip. Unfortunately, all of the bread we had bought, turned out to be mouldy, so we ended up quite hungry. Taking three days over the walk-in meant that it was leisurely, leaving us time to take in the views and the air - what little there was of it.
Leaving Gangotri put us all in the best of moods. We felt that we had achieved so much just to get this far, walking along under our own steam with all our kit, and ourselves still in one piece.
The initial climb up out of Gangotri was steep and went past some impressive scenery, leading into a long valley up to Kedar Tal. The sight of Thalay Sagar appearing at the end of the valley was impressive - at last we really knew we were in the Himalayas.
On the first day our L.O. fell ill with bad diarrhoea and vomiting. He had eaten in Gangotri the night before whereas we had stuck to some pot noodles and mouldy bread, having been warned off Gangotri by other expeditions. The rest of us took four hours to the first camp, at Kedar Kharak. On the second day, the porters set off early, intending to go up to base-camp and return to Gangotri the same day. We decided that there was no hurry and that it would be better acclimatisation to take the more normal three days over the walk-in.
Our L.O. was too weak to carry anything the next day so we shared out his load with a porter who had remained with us. We took two hours to the second camp at Kedarganda Kharak. After arriving at the second camp John, Jim and the porter went back to help our L.O. who was really struggling. We put him on a course of antibiotics and he waited there for a few days to recover with one of the porters. We continued on the next day, and after two and a half hours arrived at base-camp.
We puzzled long and hard over how a large lake could disappear in a field of moraine. From our viewpoint on top of the largest ridge of moraine, we could see to the end of the valley but saw no hint of water. A few minutes walk later, beyond the next crest of moraine, we stumbled on our base-camp site beside Kedar Tal, nestled beneath the shoulder of Jogin II. The porters had left our equipment there the preceding day, piled up against a boulder and covered with the old fly-sheet of our base-camp tent.
With the afternoon ahead of us, we began to put up the tents and check that all our equipment was present. Before leaving the porters had demolished our entire supply of fruit. All they left were a few bruised apples which didn't take their fancy. We were not particularly impressed either with the use they had made of the climbing ropes in carrying the porter loads. Several more items either missing or broken were added to a very stern letter to Budhi Singh that we sent down with porters. We decided to camp on a dry, sandy inlet of the lake close to the expanse of the Kedar Bamak moraine. This gave glorious views of Thalay Sagar, Bhrigupanth and the Manda group, as well as having fresh water only a stones throw away.
All our equipment was laid out on the sandy bank to be counted and dried. Water-sensitive foods were repacked into our plastic drums, and the vegetables which had not been too badly squashed were put in the sacks. The walk-in did have its victims, including interesting mixtures of Golden Syrup and down duvet jacket, and vegetable oil and climbing ropes. Just as everything had been unpacked the weather changed from brilliant sun to the cloud and rain which was to stay with the expedition for the next few weeks.
The next couple of days were spent setting up the base-camp tent. Many hours were spent trying to salvage enough parts from the stoves we hired to actually get something we could cook on. Similar fun was had putting the fly-sheet on the base-camp tent in a gale. The entertainment was increased by a total absence of any guy lines. A stone altar was built on which the stoves were placed so we could cook off the ground, and John, Will and Tony constructed an artistic crazy-paving around the sides of the tent to keep the food away from the damp.
When the fortifications were complete, the base-camp tent seemed surprisingly comfortable and managed to keep most of the rain out. The open end faced our ring of sleeping tents, beyond which Manda III faced us. In the good weather of the first couple of days we had had plenty of time to assess our proposed route. The NW face looked extremely steep from straight on - much steeper than we had expected. Added to this a lack of snow indicated much of the route would be mixed. For the present this was not a worry. Instead, we concentrated on acclimatising well and shaking off the stomach problems we had picked up on the way in.
The base-camp menu was not the most organised element of the expedition. Staples, such as rice and flour, had been bought on the way to Uttar Kashi, instant mashed potato brought from England, and fresh vegetables and fruit were bought just before we set off for base-camp. After all our efforts to secure luxuries, such as coffee and tea, we had forgotten to include much that contained any protein for our main meals. The little we had was included in the eggs from Uttar Kashi, most of which were broken by the time we reached camp, and six tins of tuna freighted over from home.
It was amazing how far we managed to make those six tins go. One tin managed to satisfy all seven of us in the form of fish cakes served with a generous helping of cabbage, supplemented with tomato ketchup. We had this meal on two occasions as it was the most successful of our culinary experiments. Another tin disappeared into tuna-fried-rice as a treat when most of the party were away trying to conquer Jogin I for the second time.
The eggs, which we thought were probably already old, were disposed of near the beginning of our stay. We spent almost the whole day mixing, cooking and eating pancakes, served with lemon and sugar or golden syrup, of which we had also brought six tins. We were looking forward to a similar session with the remaining eggs, but the plastic bag containing them was stolen the following night.
One night, shortly after everyone had retired to bed, Will and Richard heard a rustling sound outside, reminiscent of a polythene bag being dragged across the ground. They opened up their tent door and shone out a head-torch to find two yellow eyes staring back at them. They decided the creature was of a considerable size, and left it to continue its raid. In the morning, the bag of remaining eggs was nowhere to be found. Near to the scene of the crime, however, some rather large pussy-cat paw prints were traced.
Other visitors included a group of foxes, which we heard clearly and often but never saw. They did not manage to steal any food, only depositing numerous droppings in a large number of crevices in the main tent. The first morning we also saw a small herd of ibex on top of a moraine ridge. By the time any of us had panted our way to the top, they were long gone.
It took a great deal of effort to do the lightest of chores at the altitude of base-camp. Washing-up was a particular favourite. Water took ages to heat up on the paraffin stoves, which invariably blocked up. The cooking utensils were covered with a black layer of grease which coated everything. Indian washing powder does not lift grease off like Fairy does, and it did not do the hands much good either. We had to use the washing liquid for clothes in the end.
Another chore which people competed to avoid, was making supper. It was a thankless task. One could spend two hours battling with faulty cooking utensils, temperamental stoves and a vicious steam cooker, to be rewarded by an after-dinner chat on how bad the food was. The majority of the party spent a great deal of time at base-camp dreaming of steak, scampi and chips.
We were very glad we had brought the water filters, which we filled several times a day. The only water supply nearby was the lake. We had arrived to find it covered with an algal scum and wriggling with mosquito larvae below. The filters worked very effectively, and they only needed cleaning once.
Bathing was a very unpleasant and cold affair. It took well over an hour to heat up a couple of kettles of water. Then one would wait for a break in the clouds. As soon as the sun was shining, it was in to the water as quickly as possible, desperately trying to get washed and dried before the sun disappeared again. Despite all this most of us washed at least once or twice. George even went swimming once in the lake, though no one else was tempted.
John, Tony and Tig, being the healthiest of the party at this point, set off for the Jogin peaks. We had carefully spread our communal equipment between our packs so each weighed 22kg. From base-camp we trudged along the ridge of lateral moraine running up the valley. Distances in the Himalayas, we found, can be extremely deceptive. It took much longer than expected to leave Manda III and Bhrigupanth behind, Tony and John surveying the impressive Manda face as we did so. The weather was very clear that day, and walking with heavy loads was hot and tiring work. John decided to counter the heat by stylishly rolling up the legs on his salopettes.
The Jogin peaks lie at the end of the valley forming an amphitheatre with Thalay Sagar. The site of our proposed advanced base-camp lay at the bottom of a rocky spur separating Jogin I and II. We reached this after five hours of hard slog to find a rather limited choice of campsites. We could either pitch the tent on the undulating mounds of moraine or on the glacier which, by this time, had streams of melt water cascading across it. We chose the moraine and managed to kick a small and fairly flat piece of ground out on top of a ridge. Many hours passed due to our indecision and slow work on laying the foundations for the camp, and it was starting to get dark. We fetched water from a stream below the icefall that we would have to traverse the next day, and made a gritty cup of tea before retiring, three in a two-man tent.
As had been the pattern of weather since we had arrived, the good weather of the day before was followed by a day of freezing cloud. We looked out of the tent at six o'clock and saw a distinct lack of anything other than snowflakes. John and Tony were tempted to set out during a freak spell of clear weather but another good dose of snow and sleet dampened their immediate enthusiasm. Tony and Tig decided they would sit the day out in the tent. John, being a maddeningly fit person, decided he would pop back down to base-camp for a book and something to eat. We watched him disappear into the sleet, wondering if he would find this particular heap of moraine again, and began tucking into our hill food.
After John had left, the cloud actually cleared for at least an hour. This was long enough and the sun hot enough for us to get slightly burnt, whilst sunbathing on karrimats on the beautiful moraine.
John returned, drenched, with Will and Jim close behind. Richard had set off with them but had to turn back due to having a bad headache and vomiting repeatedly.
We set off for Jogin III, at seven o'clock, the next morning in strong sunshine. Will had to return to base-camp, due to altitude sickness, leaving four of us. The route mentioned in the Polish guide book involved climbing up the junction of a rocky buttress and an icefall on the right. When we actually came up close to the rock band, the gully looked extremely loose and wet, and we decided to climb up the icefall in the hope of joining the gully further up.
We soloed up through the seracs, front-pointing up the steeper parts, but we could not find any sensible route back onto the rock. We therefore continued up the easy ice picking our way amongst the huge seracs. After a few hours we were close to the top, but the going became more difficult. The glacier, on flowing over the edge, had split into dozens of leaning flakes with huge chasms between them blocking our progress. We hoped that if we could climb the first, progress would then be easier as it flattened off rapidly.
The easiest way up seemed to be the reverse side of a thin, overhanging flake. Jim led up the 70 degree ice until he was ten metres up. He plunged his left axe into the snow and pulled. The pick remained in the ice while he was left holding the useless shaft. Fortunately, the other axe remained solid and he managed to place an ice-screw. Using the remaining axe and ice-screws, he managed to complete the pitch and get to the top safely. From here, progress looked impossible. For the next few hundred metres, the glacier was fragmented into enormous teeth with vast crevasses between them. The only way forward would have been to rap down each one and then climb up the other overhanging side. It was midday by now, and the melting snow and ice made it doubly dangerous. We decided that we could go no further, and we made a hasty descent off the fall.
Tony and Tig had had enough for a few days, so they continued on back to base-camp. John and Jim decided to stay another night on the moraine and reconnoitre another route the following day.
John and Jim set off at six o'clock, carrying only our ice axes and few chocolate bars in our pockets. We hoped that with the right conditions we might make it to the summit of Jogin III (6116m). We crossed the glacier and started up a ramp to the left of the rock buttress. It had looked a straight-forward route the day before, but was in fact heavily crevassed. We found a route without any difficulty, though we had some worrying moments unroped. It took us two and a half hours to get to the high point of the ramp. We turned right, then climbed a hundred metres of slightly steeper ground. At nine o'clock we were at the top and faced by more huge crevasses. The snow was melting in the sun and balling badly on our crampons. We were rather nervous about getting back over the crevasses without a rope later in the day with the snow even softer. We estimated our height to be 5800m, only 300m short of the summit but decided to retreat hoping to try again another day. Sadly, that day was the last time that conditions were good, and that we didn't have to wade through the snow. We descended without incident to our camp, packed up and returned to base.
On our return, we found an Indian expedition from Puna, here to attempt Bhrigupanth. Though initially we were disappointed not to have the valley to ourselves, they were very friendly and welcome company. Towards the end of the trip we cooked a lot of meals together and even had a party.
The following day, two Australian ``trekkers'' arrived, Mick Haffner and George Mallory (THE Mallory's grandson). We fed them lots of spare food and sat around in the Super Nova playing cards on rest days with them.
The ascent of Manda III was planned as a five-day round trip. The first day was fairly short, as advanced base-camp was only across the valley at the foot of the ice face. Only Jim, John and Tony were well enough to set out on the attempt. The others were left to the comfort of base-camp to try to shake their stomach bugs and recover their strength.
Our departure from base-camp was at a rather leisurely 9 o'clock. After scrambling up the first exhausting ridge of moraine we turned, gathered our breath and waved farewell, while those left below snapped what they hoped would not be our last photographs.
The moraine of Kedar Tal is immense. Its scale totally defeats the senses, so that boulders which may seem to be within only a stones throw away can, in reality, be half a kilometre. This made our progress feel frustratingly slow. The glacier was completely covered in small boulders balanced unstably on huge ridges of ice. Hopping from one rock to the other proved the best way of travelling on this sort of ground. With the first sunny weather for some days, the rocks began melting from their moorings and often slid down steep grey ice slopes into beautiful, glacial pools dotted with icebergs. Climbing the moraine ridges was particularly gruelling as it was a constant battle making uphill progress faster then the rocks slid down. With frequent rests, we crossed the moraine in an hour and three quarters, and started up the Manda III valley. The face looked much easier from here than from base-camp. We found it difficult to believe that it was 1000m high, as it only looked a few hundred.
A dry stream bed provided a convenient staircase towards the NW face. In this watercourse the rock had been more firmly bedded in than elsewhere, enabling us to gain height without a struggle. Far below, the ridges of glacial moraine seemed a homogeneous slate grey. Kedar Tal was visible only briefly as a thin streak of blue below Jogin II before the path of the stream snaked left behind the shoulder of Peak 6008, an unclimbed rock peak budding off from Manda II.
Plodding up the rubble was beginning to get really tiring. We had gained a lot of height, but with our heavy packs were really slowing. We had started off having ten minute rests every half hour, but as Tony got more tired he found it became impossible to move continuously between every rest. Instead, he adopted a strategy of forcing himself to do fifty steps before allowing a quick standing rest of ten breaths. This was just enough time to stop panting and compose himself so that he could complete the next set of paces. Being so focused each footstep didn't leave much time for admiring the ever-improving view of the peaks, not that this mattered much since thin clouds had blown in from the south over the col between Thalay Sagar and Jogin III. We tired rapidly as we progressed upwards and the rests grew ever more frequent. We were carrying 25kg loads, which at that altitude felt like 50kg.
After two and a half hours more, we arrived at the bottom of the face, where John Peck had told us, that there was a lovely camp-site. We could see nothing but mounds of moraine on dirty, black ice. Before the visibility decreased, we managed to clear a small area, and pitch the tent using the ice-screws as tent pegs. It was an impressive site, just below an ice wall guarding the bottom of the face. Over the course of the afternoon, the suitability of the site came into question as the tent was surrounded by muddy melt-water streams, and as a small spring popped up in the bell end. By this stage in the afternoon, we were too tired to care. Rather than re-pitch the tent, John and Tony dozed while Jim mothered us by serving up an endless supply of gritty hot drinks.
The route up the face has to be done in a single push, as there is nowhere to bivi on it. After that we planned to go to the summit and back along the north ridge, then descend the face on the third day. The alarm woke us at two o'clock. In an hour and a half, we had dressed, had a sip of water from the bottles we had kept in our sleeping bags and packed up the tent. We planned to climb the
We had roped up right from the start, largely because the morning was so misty that from the back of the rope it was impossible to see the light from the person in front, a distance of only 25m. This mist would clear as soon as a little sun got onto the face, but for now all that was visible was the rope at our feet, illuminated by our head torches.
By 5.30am we were well on to the face. All the dirty rubble had been left behind, and we were now moving on pristine snow. The condition of the snow was slightly worrying, as the base of the slope was covered by several feet of avalanche rubble. As we had got higher, this stopped and we were confronted with deep powdery snow with a thick crust, which dinner-plated as our feet went through it. We stopped to discuss the risk, but decided to continue. Higher up, it looked even worse. The risk of a new avalanche looked disturbingly high. Any avalanche on this face would almost certainly be very serious. We dug a hole in the snow to see what it looked like further down but were not encouraged. Before turning back, we wanted to see the snow in the light to confirm our assessment and to see what it was like higher up, but decided that waiting for two hours until dawn would waste too much time. After more discussion, we decided to make a strategic withdrawal to advanced base-camp.
The last couple few hours of darkness were spent sleeping in our bivi bags at our previous camp-site. By the time we rewoke, the sun had raced down the side of Jogin II and the mist had cleared. All our ropes and climbing gear, the tent and the remaining food were left behind beneath a boulder which we surrounded with rocks to keep the crows from the food and topped with a cairn, ready for a second attempt in a week's time.
With refreshingly light packs, we ran into base-camp in good time for a mid-morning brew. Amusingly, our L.O., in typical form swore to Richard and Tig that he could see three figures two thirds of the way up the face through a telephoto lens. The others couldn't see this but were beginning to give him the benefit of the doubt, just as we strode over the final ridge of moraine above camp. If only!
In hindsight, our cautious approach may have been a lifesaver, regardless of whether or not there had been an avalanche. That evening, bad weather blew in which stayed for five days. Several feet of snow was deposited on the mountains. Had we reached the col, we would have been unable to continue or retreat down the face for many days.
We left a base-camp dusted with snow for our second attempt on Jogin I & III, while waiting for the snow on Manda III to consolidate. Five of us set out that morning at ten o'clock, leaving only Tig, whose stomach problems were making her increasingly weak, and our L.O., who was enjoying socialising with the recently-arrived Indian Bhrigupanth expedition.
Our pace to our previous camp was blistering. After only three hours we were cramponing-up to cross the glacier. Richard had been finding the going increasingly tough, having not ventured out of base-camp much before. After we rounded the large rib of Jogin II and started climbing, he had started to fall behind. On the glacier we had lightened his load and put him in front, but sudden attacks of dizziness indicated that he was showing signs of altitude sickness. Sensibly, Richard decided that it would be unwise to go on and that he had better go down now while he needed known else's help. After a quick re-sort of our equipment, we dumped the Phoenix tent and other duplicated equipment with Richard in return for some of his food, and carried on.
We intended to follow the route previously reconnoitred by Jim and John up the snow ramp, to the left of the rock buttress, which weaved a line between the bands of seracs. After crossing the scree below the nose of rock, we hit deep snow. Not only did this make moving much more tiring, but it covered many of the deep crevasses we had to cross. John went at the front to break the trail through the snow, and Jim carried some of his load as he was moving the strongest.
Navigating the crevasses proved very tricky. Very often, they creaked as we walked over them. The new snow deceptively narrowed the width of the crevasses. On take-off or landing several feet of snow platform could easily disappear, forcing tug assisted leaps in the order of long jumps for those at the end of the rope. Jim, with a 28kg rucksack and at the end of the rope, had particular difficulties with some of the leaps. On several occasions, platforms collapsed beneath him, and he had to climb out of the crevasses.
By mid-afternoon, the crevasses had been negotiated, and all that was left to reach our proposed campsite was a long walk up a shallow slope to the top of the ramp. This provided another example of the defeating scale of the Himalayas. With only uniform snow and thin cloud around us with which to assess distances, what looked like a hundred-metre stroll took over an hour and a half to complete. By the time we reached a suitable campsite the time was six o'clock, the contrast was so low that it was impossible to tell if we were at the top of the slope of not. In fading light, the four of us piled into our Mountain Supernova, had some supper and curled up in our sleeping bags exhausted.
To get moving by 6 o'clock we needed to start getting up at around 4 o'clock. There was only space in the tent for one person to get dressed at a time, so, to minimise needless waiting around, we had developed a protocol whereby the slowest to get ready dressed first. William was unlucky enough to be first in the queue for getting up. After spending over 30 minutes on dressing, he said he was feeling pretty unwell from the altitude. During the night, another foot of snow had fallen, and none of us relished the thought of even deeper snow through which to wade. The remainder of the route was up an icefall with plenty of avalanche-prone slopes. Even this early in the morning, we could see the clouds moving back in, so we decided to have a rest day. We had five days of food with us and plenty of fuel, and thought we could easily spare one day.
We knew that George and Mick were planning a rapid lightweight one-day assault on Jogin III from their advance base-camp that day. They would surely pass our high point that day, providing some easier tracks for us the following day while we sat it out with our large hoard of food.
At around 11 o'clock our cheerful Aussie friends showed up. Both looked really tired and not as full of cheer as usual, so we interrupted our hundredth hand of bridge that morning to resuscitate them with mugs of hot chocolate. They had found it hard tracing our path, losing it beneath the new snow, and were unable to follow over some of the wider crevasse jumps. After leaving some clothing, they set off up the ramp above our tent.
By the afternoon, we were tiring of bridge and searched for other entertainment. A carefully smuggled copy of Howard's End was in great demand. Reading it in a ``listen with mother'' style became too much effort, so we took hour-long turns with it while the others ran through a selection of card games made for three.
George and Mick arrived back an hour before darkness. They had been stopped 200m below the summit of Jogin III by a large bergschrund, which had looked feasible from below. After leaving this information they hurried down to their camp beyond the glacier before night fell. We had planned to use that line, and so would have to find a new route to try the next day. We regarded this as a triumph for laziness, and were extremely pleased to have spent the day resting.
Dawn on 13th September greeted us with a clear sky. More snow had fallen overnight, cementing the tent even more firmly in position. Digging it out proved extremely tiring, and left large chunks of the snow valances behind in the compacted snow. Shortly after first light, our packing was complete and we set off up a slightly steeper bit. Mick and George's footprints were still visible, but were as hard to follow as making fresh steps due to the powdery snow which had filled them. At the top of the ramp, a couple of monstrous, seemingly bottomless crevasses greeted us - Jim and John's previous high point. After negotiating them, we departed from the Australians' route and turned right below an ice wall before striking upwards on its left hand side. We zig-zagged up through additional bands of seracs and crevasses, taking a rising traverse line to a gap between two lines of sheer seracs.
After climbing a short 50-degree slope, we took our first major rest of the day on the edge of a large rounded saddle. All the peaks in the valley were clearly visible in the morning sun. Manda III looked fantastic, but formidably steep, and Meru could be seen in the neighbouring valley from between Bhrigupanth and Thalay Sagar. Peak 6008, the rocky subsidiary peak of Manda II, appeared to be level with us, placing us just over 6000m and less than 100m below the summit. At just past 10 o'clock, our plans to have a camp set up on the top of Jogin III (the only flat area around) by lunchtime, followed by a rucksackless afternoon trip to the top of Jogin I, seemed to be on course. However, the weather, yet again, had other ideas. As we sat munching our Mars bars, thin cloud raced over the col with Thalay Sagar, a sure sign of a dramatic change for the worse in the next hour or two. With an increased urgency, we pushed on for the top of Jogin III, but by the time we set off we were buried in cloud.
John, who had been breaking the trail, needed to rest, so the rope was reversed, with Jim taking over the lead. The large summit dome of Jogin III was but a stone's throw away, but due to a very steep icy patch above us, we traversed rightwards up round the dome. As we progressed, the cloud thickened and the horizon disappeared. On this, the leeward side, the snow was much deeper, rising up to our waists. With no indication of which way to go, Jim decided to head straight up. The snow got deeper and deeper. To gain one foot of height involved twenty steps and kicks into the snow. After only ten minutes and a few feet of progress upwards, misfortune struck. There was a loud, dull thump, and the whole slope dropped a few inches. We could hear a deep roar quickly loudening. A blueish wave of snow appeared out of the cloud, rolling down on Jim. Fortunately, because we had recently been traversing and Jim had made virtually no upwards progress, we were spread out on the rope horizontally. Jim tried to remove his rucksack, but didn't succeed before the edge of the avalanche struck him and carried him down, dragging the others along by the rope.
The aftermath was eerily silent, punctuated only by Jim's cries for help. The wet snow had frozen solid around him, trapping him fast, his head scarcely visible, the snow only inches from burying him completely. The others waited to see if any more avalanches would be triggered by the first before they advanced, then Tony dug him out with the snow shovel. Fortunately, Jim was unhurt, just rather shocked by the experience.
As this adventure was progressing, the weather drastically worsened. The cloud had thickened and engulfed us, and visibility was rapidly decreasing. It was briefly possible to see the clean fracture line in the snow above us from where the slab had rolled down, then that too was obliterated by white-out. Despite it being only 11 o'clock, we decided it we would have to camp immediately. Roaming around avalanche-prone slopes in a white-out was considered extremely unwise, but we did not want to abandon the attempt yet. The only flattish piece of snow we had seen was the shoulder we had just left, so we retraced our steps and camped on the most level piece of snow, only 20 metres from the avalanche rubble and, we estimated, no more than 3 rope- lengths from the summit.
By the time the tent was up, it was snowing, and we were pleased to get inside. The Super Nova made an extremely cosy shelter, shutting out the miserable weather. The unnerving creaks of the snow and the distant roars of other avalanches kept us from feeling too secure, though. Visibility continued to decreased so that even the ends of the guy lines disappeared into the whiteness. The pack of cards was once again bought out, and Howard's End circulated. As a birthday treat, Tony was twenty-one that day, he received an extra hour's reading. Our hopes of reaching Jogin I were vanishing fast, but we were still very prepared to snatch Jogin III if the weather cleared.
The next day, the white-out and snow continued. With nothing much else to do the remaining food was quickly polished off excepting a few rather unpleasant looking Cup-a-Soups. Bored of cards and the book, most of the time was spent trying to sleep, with interruptions to check the weather. So much snow had fallen that the tent was virtually buried and the sides were collapsing inwards. Games of 'I went to the .... shop and bought ...' offered limited entertainment once the obvious choices had been exhausted.
Sleep became increasingly difficult as the wet snow coating the tent prevented the renewal of oxygen, even with the tops of the doors open. Combined with the altitude, this led to bouts of John hyper-ventilating which were quite scary. The lack of ventilation was probably a contributory factor in the sudden development of headaches in the whole team, probably linked with an accumulation of stove fumes.
By Friday the 15th, with no food, we had resolved to try to descend given the slightest opportunity by the weather. Even Jogin III, just a 10-minute walk away, had become unattainable in this weather. We packed everything up and dug the snow from around the tent. Crouched in a bare tent with all our kit on, we waited for a break in the cloud. When it came, we rushed out to take the tent down and set off. The break lasted only a few minutes, but in that time we got a good look at our heading and lost height quickly. We continued the descent in swirling cloud, but with sufficient visibility to get down safely. The descent was rapid, with a lot of uncontrolled sliding. Because of the deep snow, we were cramponless, which was fine most of the time. In places, though, where the hard ice was close to the surface, it was very treacherous.
We returned to a base-camp covered in snow, and a jubilant welcome. News had reached the others from the Indian team on Bhrigupanth that our tent had been sighted on the top of Jogin III. Sadly, they were ever so slightly mistaken.
On return from our last attempt on Jogin III, morale back at base-camp was low. It was still snowing heavily on the mountains at night, and heavy cloud and fog were the norm even at base-camp. Even when the sun was visible, the temperature was not far above freezing, and the weather in general showed no signs of improving. Nobody except Jim wanted to try any more climbing. We decided that Tig, Tony and William would return to Delhi and would arrange for Budhi to send up twelve porters in a few day's time.
Mick, George and Jim decided to make a last attempt on Jogin III. They thought that they could do it in two days if conditions did not deteriorate further, and be back in time for the porters.
After a rest, day Tig, Tony and William left on Tuesday morning, giving us three days to pack up before the porters arrived. Richard and John collected the gear from Manda III, while Jim, Mick and George prepared for the next day. We gave our excess food to the Indian expedition, and on advice from our liaison officer, burnt and buried the remains of our rubbish. We had intended to take it back down to Gangotri but we were told that it would only be thrown in the Ganges, so there was not any point.
The nightly snow falls continued, and the weather did not improve. Jim, George and Mick decided to shift their objective to something nearer. The ridge descending from Jogin II to Gangotri looked possible and had several subsidiary peaks on it. According to Jan's book, Peak 6014 had been climbed once before. We could see another peak between this and Jogin II at the top of a 1000m snow face. It looked very avalanche-prone, but had several snow ribs, and we selected route that we hoped would be safe for most of the time. We thought that we would be able to do the route in a day, if there were no technical difficulties. Looking at the face straight on, we found it very difficult to gauge its steepness. There was a rock band about half way up, but we thought we could see a break in it and routes around the other tricky-looking bits.
At 6 o'clock on Wednesday morning, we set off over the moraine. After an hour, we were at the bottom of the face. We changed into our climbing boots and dumped some spare kit. Carrying the absolute minimum - a rope, crampons, a few chocolate bars and a water bottle in two rucksacks - we set off unroped. We skirted around the right-hand edge of the bergschrund and traversed up and left on the face protected from avalanche by the rock above us. It was only thirty degrees, and we made good progress. The weather was fantastic and the skies brilliantly clear. Climbing up through the virgin snow and looking out over the valley lightly dusted with snow was a wonderful experience. Back in base-camp, Richard and John saw us progressing quickly until we reached a large gully by the rock. By now, the cloud had moved in, and a gentle snow began to fall.
George passed his rucksack to Jim and took the lead. From here to the top, the route was steeper, averaging about forty-five degrees with steeper bits up to sixty. Although only about Scottish Grade II or Assez Difficile, the route felt scarier due to conditions and exposure. The snow became much deeper, and our progress slowed. Once again, the scale of the face amazed us. What looked like fifty metres took an hour. We climbed up a small snow-shoot on the left of the gully to by-pass the rock band. After this, George managed to make better progress, staying on top of the snow. Jim found progress increasingly difficult. The extra weight of the rucksack caused him to break through. With every step, he sank deeper and deeper into the drifted snow. Fracture-lines appeared in the crust, and Mick, who was bringing up the rear, climbed out of the gully on the left onto the snow rib. Jim retraced his steps through the snow trench, treading delicately.
The going did not become much easier on the rib. As the afternoon drew on, we realised that we would have to bivouac at the top if we planned to continue. Mick had bivouacked before at a similar height in the Andes, and thought that we would be alright. Rather worried about the night ahead of us, we continued. The snow was between knee and waist-deep all the way to the top. From time to time, we could hear the rumble of avalanches on either side of us.
Just below the ridge, we broke out of the cloud. Fifty metres higher up, we saw the last few rays of the sun from the ridge. Behind us, we could see across the cloud-filled valley to the Manda peaks. Ahead of us was a precipitous rocky face with the Rudugaira valley below. Jogin II, along the ridge from us, looked incredible. Climbing Jogin II from here would be highly technical, but very exciting. We walked a short distance the other way up the ridge to the summit. We stood there at half past five and posed for the last two remaining photos on George's film. The summit was not marked on any maps, and probably is not even considered an independent peak, but it made us ecstatic. We celebrated with a lot of mutual back-slapping, hand-shaking and the like. Peak 6014 looked a long away off, but slightly lower. Reaching it would have involved a small abseil, so we decided to stop there and to find a bivi site.
We were not happy about the safety of the face, so we decided to dig a snow-hole just below the summit. Unfortunately, only a few feet below the surface lay hard ice and rock. After four hours of hard work with our ice axes, we had managed to clear enough space for the three of us to squeeze in lying down. Movement was impossible in the confined space. Conditions were extremely claustrophobic with our faces pressed into the snow or other bodies. We told each other stories to stay awake and wiggled our fingers and toes. Every couple of hours, we would jump up and down outside to try to stay warm. We had no clothing except what we had worn to climb in, and only two rucksacks between the three of us to keep warm. That night the temperature was minus twelve degrees Celsius at base-camp. It was considerably colder 1200m higher up and on top of an exposed ridge. We did not want to risk blocking up the exits with snow, so the wind blew through the snow hole depriving us of heat even more quickly.
Down in the valley, Richard and John began worrying as night fell. After a meal provided by the Indian expedition, they climbed up the moraine to attempt to find us. The cloud had dropped further, covering the lower parts of the mountain, and they heard no reply to their whistles, so after setting up a head torch as a beacon, they returned to camp.
Early the next morning, John and Rajiv set out on a rescue mission, carrying the first aid kit, food and warm clothing. They feared the worst, at least for fingers and toes. Fortunately, the weather was clear, and at nine in the morning, they spotted us moving at the top of the ridge. Rajiv waited for us at the bottom with the equipment, heating water on the stove.
After our night on the ridge, it took several hours to get warmed up enough to move. Jim had mild frost nip on his fingers, and could not use them at all. We roped up due to our concern about avalanches and thought it might help to locate someone. We started descending, and soon sped up as we warmed. Mick was worried about triggering an avalanche, so we descended facing-in until we crossed the gully. After five hours, we made it down and celebrated by stuffing ourselves with food and drink. None of us had eaten or drunk for over 24 hours. With renewed energy, we walked across the moraine to base-camp and a delicious meal cooked for us by the Indians.
During the day, the porters had begun to arrive. We had not finished packing, and due to Jim's absence we were unlikely to leave before the next day. Fortunately, the Indian party was able to help. The porters were initially unwilling to stay the night, but after being offered food, stoves and the mess tent in which to sleep, eventually agreed.
Early Friday morning, we left, the porters leaving about two hours before us. It took approximately four hours to reach Gangotri, allowing us to catch the three o'clock bus to Uttar Kashi. The weather on the walk down was fantastic; it looked as if, on our departure, the monsoon had finally finished, over a month late.
The journey back to Uttar Kashi was uneventful, the road finally having been cleared from landslides and reassembled. Even so, it is a road I would not like to negotiate in a Land Rover, let alone a 60-seater bus. We arrived at ten o'clock with all of our luggage at the government hotel and booked in for the night. Most of the porters disappeared very quickly when the bus stopped, and it took a lot of effort to carry all the luggage to our rooms on the second floor.
The next day started well, with restoration to our clean-shaven selves by the local barber. None of us had ever been shaved by anybody else before, let alone by someone with a cut-throat razor. After checking his business was not next to a pie shop, we took the plunge and ignored worries of AIDS. Richard was so impressed with his shave that for days afterwards, he would stroke his chin with an amazed expression on his face.
We then went to see Budhi Singh of Mountain Support to discuss the bill for the equipment and porters. We were unhappy with Budhi for a number of reasons. He had told us that the porters were Rs70 a day, when in fact he only payed them Rs60, and the Sirdar had received no more than other porters. He had insisted that it would take ten days for the porters to get to Kedar Tal and back, and only after a lot of argument had he agreed to charge us for nine. In fact, the journey took the porters only four days on the way out and three on the way back. Budhi only paid the porters for five days. We were very aggrieved and felt that Budhi was defrauding us in terms of what he was paying the porters, the time he was paying them and the ten percent commission he charged. He even tried to make us pay for resupply, which he had agreed to do for free. We did not begrudge the porters any money and did not mind paying a commission, but resented being lied to. Jim went into Budhi's office to bargain, with John and Richard sitting outside as moral support. Rajiv declared it was not his problem, and took a neutral role, translating when necessary.
After two hours of discussion, Jim had not really gotten anywhere. Budhi was threatening to call the district Police Chief and Chief of Justice, and even telephoned the IMF to complain about us. It was completely impossible trying to compromise with him, as he refused to give ground on a single point.
Eventually, Jim gave him enough for 9 days in, 8 days out and left, Budhi yelling at him and issuing threats. We ended up on good terms though, as that afternoon, Budhi came round to the hotel, apologised and invited us out to dinner. There are several agencies in Uttar Kashi which organise porters and equipment. We would probably have got a much better deal, if we had asked around, and ascertained the current rates.
We then discovered that the town was sealed by a general strike in support of a separate state. We were therefore unable to buy food or hire transport out of Uttar Kashi. The next day, the area was also due to be paralysed, in this case by a student demonstration for religious and law studies at the local college. No one was prepared to drive us anywhere as everyone was afraid of being beaten up or having their vehicles damaged. After a lot of wandering around, we managed to find a jeep owner who was willing to leave at 2:30 the next morning. Apparently, he knew a back road that would avoid the road blocks.
At 2 o'clock, we started carrying our quarter-tonne of equipment down the stairs. At 3 o'clock with still no sign of the driver, we tumbled back in to bed furious. After a long lie-in, we got up and carried the kit back up the stairs. Just as we had nearly finished, two Indians lent a hand with the last few loads. Needless to say, they wanted a tip afterwards, - very cunning, if not much help.
At midday on Sunday, we finally found someone willing to take us, although unfortunately the van was a little small for us and our luggage, leading to a cramped journey. The police did not allow us to leave until two o'clock, and we were delayed for a further two hours at the students, roadblock until it was cleared it. We arrived in Rishikesh late that evening and booked into the hotel from which our L.O. assured us the luxury bus for Delhi would leave in the morning. We spent all of the next morning trying to find alternative transport to Delhi due to the non-appearance of the luxury bus. In the end, we had to settle for two taxis as no one else would take us with our amount of luggage. By the time we had loaded up yet another taxi with luggage, we were beginning to get really fed up with moving it all around. We would strongly recommend that expeditions do not split and leave a small group to deal with the luggage. It is extremely hard work to shift luggage through India. By the time we arrived back at Delhi, we had completely run out of rupees and even had to borrow some money from our L.O..
We arrived at the Blue Mountain Hotel that evening. This was a very pleasant change from the Janpath Guest House, and should be recommended to anyone intending to stay in Delhi. Unfortunately, Tony, Tig and Will were not there as had been agreed, but had left a note instructing us to phone them at the Janpath Guest House. We sorted out the kit that evening before they flew home.
Wednesday was spent rearranging flights and booking out the air-freight. It did not help that we had to pay in officially-exchanged rupees, as the current rate was then only Rs49 with the pound having just plunged. The actual process of sending the freight back is relatively straightforward and much easier than importing, and took us about three hours.
We had arranged to meet our Liaison Officer, Rajiv Tomar, at our hotel, at 10 o'clock Thursday morning before continuing to the IMF for debriefing. He arrived promptly and asked to see Jim alone. We then learnt that Rajiv had a few extra demands. His line was that we should pay him one thousand US dollars in cash, or else he would inform the IMF that (a) we had climbed, or attempted to climb seven mountains in the area, (b) we had treated himself and the porters very badly, and (c) we had supplied him with sub-standard equipment. The mountains alone would result in a bill, he claimed, of about 4500 US dollars. Time was a problem, since we were scheduled to leave at 2 o'clock the next morning.
Understandably, we were more than a little shocked by this, particularly since Rajiv had been very good up to this point, and had told us that for the two unbooked mountains we had attempted there would be no problem transferring our booking. A long discussion with Rajiv got us nowhere. We decided that paying Rajiv was not an option that we wanted to consider. We would try our luck with the IMF.
We transferred all our luggage to the airport, ready for a quick dash out of the country if necessary. At the IMF, as before, the director was out and Rajiv refused to drop his demands. Nerves were getting strained. The British Consul seemed the best option.
We explained the situation to the Consul, who agreed to contact the IMF on our behalf. It was not until three o'clock that afternoon that the IMF was able to handle our case. Colonel Mall, the director, was sympathetic, and we returned to the IMF to answer Rajiv's claims on a line by line basis. His list of complaints was very comprehensive, impossibly so. Among his many grievances were that we had only offered him beef to eat (if only we had had some!) and that we had regularly mocked his religion.
Jim went through his the list item by item with Col. Mall, answering the charges. When the list was completed Col. Mall apologised and hoped that we would return again. The only unresolved issue was the equipment which Rajiv still had not returned. As we were flying out that night, it was too late to do anything about it. With hindsight, we should have asked Col. Mall to write a report then and there for us to take back with us. At present, we are pursuing the matter with the insurance company and with the IMF.
We were disappointed that this unpleasantness occurred, since Rajiv had been a helpful, if somewhat childish, L.O. up to that point. Our only loss was about £400 for the equipment, which had been lent to Rajiv. And which we were unable to recover. We managed to claim for some of this from the insurance company.
That evening, George and Mick took us out for a meal and we celebrated the conclusion of our adventure.
For all of us, this trip was our first expedition to the greater ranges. Though from a mountaineering stand-point our achievements were small, we all feel that we achieved a great deal on a personal level. Simply getting ourselves and our equipment to base-camp was a huge logistical effort. Every situation in the Himalaya was vastly different to those in the Alps or Scotland. We continually had to ask ourselves: Should we go on, or should we turn back? Trying to weigh up the risks in situations of which we had no first-hand experience was often frightening.
When we were planning the expedition all our discussions were very informal, and no clear break-down of responsibilities was made. We would have organised the expedition a lot more efficiently, if we had decided exactly who was responsible for what, and had written minutes at our meetings about what we had achieved so far and what we hoped to have achieved by the next meeting.
There were several financial advantages to Tig and William travelling with us to base camp, and staying there; we split the costs of air-freight, we saved money on transport and we shared the portering. Having more people at base camp was also more sociable, and meant that there were always plenty of people available to do base-camp chores, even when some of us were ill. Before we went out, however, we had only come to a loose, verbal arrangement, about how we were to split the costs. We would have been more sensible to have made a written agreement before we departed.
Another problem was that all forms were in the leader's name. This meant that a lot of the time other members of the expedition had nothing to do as at customs and at the IMF, since officials always wanted to speak to the leader. It would have made a lot of sense to send out the freight in somebody else's name, and to call them a deputy leader, in order to satisfy the bureaucrats.
There are many things we would do differently if we went to the Himalaya again, and we are sure that experiences from this expedition will be useful in the future. Despite the difficulties and problems we faced, we all want to return, perhaps this is an indication of what a fantastic place the Himalaya can be, and how much we all enjoyed the expedition.