SI Vault
Norman Dyhrenfurth
September 05, 1960
One of the greatest mountaineering feats since the conquest of Everest was the assault last spring on Dhaulagiri, at 26,975 feet the "unclimbable fiend" of the Himalayan range. Last week Norman Dyhrenfurth, the expedition's photographer and a climbing member, assisted by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Editor James Murray, described the difficulties the climbers had to overcome to establish their acclimatization and supply camps at the base of Dhaulagiri. The expedition, which was made up of Swiss, Austrian, German and Polish mountaineers, had counted on the use of an airplane to ferry men and supplies over ice towers and crevasses to the advance base camps. But the plane crashed, leaving the climbing parties and the bulk of their supplies stranded. The whole plan of attack had to be hastily revised. Dyhrenfurth, the two Polish climbers and a small party of Sherpas undertook the transport of supplies on foot. They evacuated the original acclimatization camp and made their way across Dhaulagiri's icefall to an advance base camp which became the staging area for the long climb to the top. The dramatic story of this final effort begins on page 47.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 05, 1960

High Drama Of A Daring Triumph

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Those of us below, meanwhile, could only guess at the moment of triumph; for us, May 13 was another working day. Georg, Adam, Ang Dawa and I carried supplies as far as possible toward Camp 3 and then bivouacked for the night.

The next day, as we made our way through a snowstorm toward the camp, we could make out directly above us snow-shrouded figures which painfully and slowly groped their way down from Camp 4. When we reached Camp 3 Ernst Forrer, Albin Schelbert and Peter Diener were there, grinning broadly. They had made it!

Even this moment of triumph, however, was shadowed with anxiety; we were not allowed to forget where we were, what still had to be done. Peter was in bad shape. He had reached the summit only with a superhuman effort. He was numb and half gone with exhaustion, and what he said did not make too much sense. Ang Dawa and I roped him between us and started slowly down to the relative safety and comfort of Camp 2. It was close to 6 o'clock when we reached the camp and helped him to his tent.

Well after dark we heard Kurt's voice outside. In he came with the two Sherpas, Nawang Dorje and Nima Dorje. They, too, were grinning all over. These two were not famous Sherpas, just young fellows. And now they had been to the summit of Dhaulagiri.

Six men had made the summit so far. For the rest of us the challenge remained, and one by one we took our turns.

Adam and Michel started up from Camp 2 on the 15th. But the altitude seemed to affect Adam more than the others; he climbed so slowly that we sent two Sherpas to fetch him back. He refused to come. He bivouacked out in the open on the side of the mountain, and the next day we watched as he resumed climbing ever more slowly. Michel, farther up, finally had to come back down to help him. Still higher we could see clearly Hugo, Jean-Jacques and their Sherpas move up the slope from Camp 3 to Camp 4.

On the morning of the 17th we saw one dot leave Camp 3 and recognized Michel. Evidently Adam was not well and could move neither up nor down. He was waiting for Georg and me to go up.

Through our binoculars we watched Michel toil up a 55� ice slope. His progress was painfully slow. We saw a man at Camp 5 looking down the northeast face of Dhaulagiri at Michel's slow advance. Obviously, Hugo and Jean-Jacques and their two Sherpas had not yet moved up to Camp 6, and we fervently hoped that Michel, with his tremendous will power, would catch up with them. His climb to join the men on Camp 5 was a marvelous piece of pluck.

So now we had another party within striking distance, but also possibly a sick man alone at Camp 3. Adam's condition had to be investigated. Georg and I had tried the day before to get up to him but had been turned back; burdened by heavy loads, wading through snow that was up to our knees, we had unwittingly made a depot within three inches of the edge of a crevasse—a close call! But the next day, May 19, we were able to try again. Inwardly we hoped that, with luck, Adam would be all right and we would be able to make our own summit bid.

Dhaulagiri on that day, however, was a mass of swirling snow and snow plumes that blew out for miles into the sky. Never had we seen the mountain so completely terrifying. The wind tore at us in maniacal rage as we fought our way upward. Our feet congealed until they felt like paralyzed lumps of ice, and I grew really worried that we might end up with frozen toes that would have to be amputated. Incongruously, all I could think of was that this would mean no more tennis for me. The idea of tennis was idiotic in these circumstances, but that is the kind of thing one thinks of at those heights.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7