The ultimate goal of mountaineers everywhere is the "eight-thousander," a peak above 8,000 meters, or 26,247 feet. The Himalayas have no less than 14 of them. One of the 14 is Dhaulagiri, shown here in a photograph made from the Kali Gandaki Valley. At 26,975 feet, Dhaulagiri is the sixth highest peak on earth. Known to mountaineers as "the peak of storms," it had been labeled by Lionel Terray, a member of Maurice Herzog's Annapurna team, a fiend, absolutely unclimbable." But last May it was conquered. Part I of the story of that hard-won victory is presented in pictures and text beginning on page 35
ORDEAL ON THE APPROACHES
When Mount Everest, the peak of our planet at 29,028 feet, was climbed by Sir John Hunt's team in 1953, it might have occurred to the world that the romance had gone out of mountain climbing. But mountain men knew differently. Even while Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were standing on the summit of Everest, there lay all about them other peaks which were as yet unclimbed and which had rebuffed the challenge of man even more harshly than had Everest.
One of these was Dhaulagiri, which means "white mountain" in Sanskrit. Over the past decade this giant has swept seven expeditions off its slopes and killed two men: Francisco Ibanez, an Argentine, died of frostbite and pneumonia in 1954 after his toes were amputated; Heinrich Roiss, an Austrian, disappeared down a crevasse in 1959 and froze to death before he could be extricated.
The south face of Dhaulagiri presents such a terrifying mien that the north wall, despite its black ledges, icefalls and rock ribs seems encouraging by comparison. The lower rock portion of the mountain is encircled by a belt of glaciers; the north wall is over seven miles long and, altogether, it is a pyramid of rock, ice, snow and hostility seemingly so impassable that as stouthearted a man as Maurice Herzog, who reconnoitered it in 1950, was moved to abandon his attempt and tackle Annapurna instead.
Nevertheless, last spring a team was organized for an assault on Dhaulagiri by Max Eiselin of Lucerne, Switzerland, with the cooperation of the government of Nepal. The Swiss members included Ernst Forrer, Jean-Jacques Roussi, Albin Schelbert, Michel Vaucher, Hugo Weber. From Austria came Kurt Diemberger, from Germany Peter Diener, from Poland Dr. Georg Hajdukiewicz and Adam Skoczylas. I, who am a native of Switzerland now residing in San Diego, was to be the expedition's photographer as well as a member of the climbing team. Here, pieced together from the entries in my journal, is the story of Dhaulagiri.
It is a mistake to say a man climbs such a mountain. Rather, a team lays siege to it. There are no Lindberghs in the sport-science of mountain climbing. A lone climber would be swatted off the face of Dhaulagiri like a fly off the doorstep of God.
The members of the team who reach the summit are conquerors no more and no less than their companions who, on the deadly icefalls and snow slopes below, struggle from camp to camp with supplies. Most of the party must climb above 21,000 feet to prepare the final dash to the summit. At this altitude a man becomes less than a man. His senses are dulled, his breathing is unrelieved pain. Only vestigial intelligence and cunning keep him alive. In this limbo of life he is sustained only by his obsession, a striving no lower animal could understand, to get to the top.
Dhaulagiri, the highest unsealed peak in the world, presented a challenge of the first priority which called for the utmost of careful preparation. Our attack on Dhaulagiri was to be distinguished by two major innovations: first, an airplane would be used to fly men and equipment to the higher slopes; second, no oxygen equipment would be used, even in the final assault.
The plane we used, by unique permission of the Nepalese government, was a Pilatus PC-6 Porter, built in Switzerland, with an American Lycoming engine. Specially constructed for high-altitude landing, it had a low stalling speed and a landing gear equipped with wheels for ground and skis for snow. The wheels could be lifted hydraulically onto the skis. It was to be piloted by Ernst Saxer and copiloted by Emil Wick, an aeromechanic, and our group quickly christened it the Yeti, the local name for the Abominable Snowman.