Dhaulagiri became more and more distinct. We saw the icefall of the east glacier, very steep, very heavily crevassed, very dangerous-looking. What seemed so white and pure and serene from a distance became menacing as we approached the mountain. That was the route, a dangerous, almost suicidal one, tried by the French in 1950.
On the seventh night we camped at 13,500 feet. At 11 a.m. the following day our coolies could go no farther: there was too much snow. Because our equipment was on Dapa Col we had no shoes or warm clothing to give them. Also, a man becomes snow-blind in 10 minutes without sunglasses, sometimes even at night.
We paid them off, deposited what equipment we could not carry, and the four of us—Ang Dawa, Sun Bahadur, Ernst Saxer and I—toiled up toward Dapa Col. Every five minutes Sun Bahadur dropped in the snow and started to fall asleep. He would not wake up unless I yanked him to his feet and prodded him. The altitude began to fatigue all of us.
At 6 o'clock on April 21 we finally reached Dapa Col. All our friends-Max, Michel, Peter, Jean-Jacques, Hugo, Georg, the Sherpas—were there. I fell into my tent and sat for half an hour just staring in front of me. We had made it in eight days from Pokhara.
Max and the others had not received the radio messages. They had guessed that the plane was out of action but expected that Emil Wick would be able to make repairs. Now they, too, realized that we would have to work our way up the mountain.
Six men—Michel, Peter, Jean-Jacques, Hugo and two Sherpas—set out with loads to prepare the new base camp at the foot of the icefall. On the 23rd of April Saxer volunteered to return to Pokhara just in case the plane had been repaired. We agreed it was a good idea, although we all had written off the plane. Ernst started down with Sun Bahadur, and two Sherpas were sent down to bring up the loads we had had to abandon earlier. Max Eiselin, who wanted to expedite the plane repair, also left, expressing the conviction that we had enough ability and experience to run the show without him.
On the morning of April 24, shortly before 7 a.m., Hugo, Jean-Jacques, Peter and Michel left to go down to the Mayangdi Glacier. They were to prepare the route from the new base camp up the icefall to the advance base camp at Northeast Col. An icefall is the steepest part of the glacier, a frozen waterfall of towers, fissures and traps. The icefall guarding Dhaulagiri is a bad one, as bad or worse than the Khumbu icefall which guards the approaches to Everest.
The next few days were occupied with the tiresome but necessary business of shuttling supplies from Dapa Col to the new base camp at 15,400 feet. The weather was unspeakable. Clouds, fog and the snow swirled around us even in the mornings, which is unusual for this time of the year. Although the failure of the plane had made the ascent more arduous for some of us, at least we had Kurt, Albin and Ernst Forrer on Northeast Col preparing a route toward the summit up the steep northeast ridge.
On the 25th Adam and a Gurkha porter met us down at base camp, and that night we slept 11 people in four small tents. The next morning Peter and Hugo began to pick their way up the icefall to Northeast Col. The expedition was once again properly deployed. We were no longer scattered from Northeast Col to Dapa Col to Pokhara to Calcutta. We had a line of supplies coming up from Dapa Col to the base camp, and the beginning of a line up to Northeast Col. It still remained for some of us to go down to the Mayangdi Valley, below the timberline at 12,100 feet, to bring up loads left there by the coolies from Pokhara—a backbreaking business.
The scenery, for the few moments we could pause to enjoy it, was fantastic. The plume of snow from Dhaulagiri extended miles into the dark blue sky. Standing on Dhaulagiri's glacier, the landscape around us seemed more threatening and dramatic than the Everest region. We looked for the grave of Roiss, the Austrian who stepped out of his tent near Northeast Col and fell down a hidden crevasse. At the timberline depot area at 12,100 feet we found, cut in the birch trees, the seal of the 1954 Argentinian expedition whose leader, Iba�ez, died in Katmandu.