Challenge of the Andes
985.2 E29c . 57-012324
Challenge of the Andes
KANSAS CITY MO PUSLIC LIBRARY
CHALLENGE OF THE ANDES
OF THE ANDES
The Conquest of Mount Huantsdn
C. G. EGELER
in co-operation with
T. DE BOOY
translated from the Dutch by
W. E. JAMES
DAVID McKAY COMPANY, INC.
I had the pleasure of meeting De Booy and Egeler in Amster-
dam and heard from them something of their exciting story of
climbing in the Andes.
Although the Andes are perhaps not as -well known as the Hima-
layas, many of the problems met there are the same the difficulties
of establishing high camps; the sudden storms and the harsh cold;
the dreadful weakness in the thin oxygen-starved air; and the sheer
technical difficulties of ice and snow. It is an area that holds a strong
fascination for the mountaineer with its numerous lofty unclimbed
summits and its relative ease of access.
In their description of the first ascent of Huantsan, Egeler and
De Booy cheerfully tell a story of a remarkable effort. To overcome
such defences at such a height was an outstanding feat.
Perhaps my most vivid impression of meeting 'these men and
reading their account is how they seemed to retain, their sense of
humour under every type of condition sunshine or blizzard,
gasping heat or bitter cold. Despite it all they battled on to the
E. P. HILLARY
8th October 1954
T. De Booy, Lionel Terray, C. G. Egeler facing page 4
The Netherlands flag, on the summit of an unnamed mountain; 49
Eugenio embracing De Booy on his return
The Chico Pongos 64
The Nevada Pongos 65
During the ascent of the Pongos; the south face of the Pongos 80
The police take our names and addresses; on the way to the base 81
camp; in the market place on Chavin
Giant cactus in the Chavin valley; llamas; an Indian hut at the 96
13,500 feet level
Indian urchin 97
Half-Indian (Mestizo) 100
Our Huantsan base camp 101
Aerial view of the Nevado Huantsan 108
Terray leads two bearers up the glacier; the ice fall below which 109
our route ky
Camp i at 16,750 feet with the Nevado Cayesh in the background 116
The west flank of the Huantsan north ridge which we descended 117
in the dark
After the fall; De Booy still far from fit back at base camp 124.
Camp 2 at 18,040 feet; in the grip of the blizzard 125
Camp 3 at 19,350 feet taken at dawn 132
On the way to the north summit 133
View of the San Juan and other unclimbed ice-giants 140
Camp 4 at 19,850 feet faring page 141
Terray, De Booy and Egeler at various points during the ascent 148
The south summit of the Huantsan 149
The descent: Terray prepares to go down over a projecting wall 157
Egeler, Terray and De Booy back at base camp 164
The Huantsan seen from the south-east 165
Blasido, Guillermo, Eugenio and Pelegrino 172
The Cayesh, steepest mountain in the Cordillera Blanca i?3
The Nevado Pucaranra 180
Base camp used for geological work in the Quilcahuanca valley 181
Geology at great height; Guillermo with no Ib. on his back 188
Glacier, calving off 189
FIGURES IN THE TEXT
Map showing the Cordillera Blanca and the expeditionary page 18
Sketch plan showing the area in which the 1952 Andes expedition 32
Sketch map of the Pongos massif 41
Sketch of the route up the south-west ridge to the Pongos 56
Sketch of the Huantsan massif 1 16
Sketch of the route to the Huantsan summit 143
Sketch of the Nevado Churup as viewed from the north 188
Nevado Pongos as seen from the north 191
Geological sketch map of parts of the southern Cordillera Blanca 195
The events leading up to the Andes Expedition 1952 seem to
me to be inextricably bound up with my own development.
It had always been a youthful dream, of mine to take part,
if only once in my lifetime, in an expedition to some high moun-
tain range outside Europe. This ambition was sparked in my case
by a little incident, quite trivial in itself. I was a youngster of about
ten when there came to dine with my parents a Dr. P. C. Visser, the
leader of various Dutch expeditions, notably that to the Karakoram.
He was lecturing that evening in Amsterdam and at table was telling
of his climbing adventures in central Asia. I listened in fascination,
so obviously enthralled that, after dinner, he suddenly invited me
to help him sort out his lantern slides. While doing this, a new
world opened before my eyes. All at once the towering peaks of
the Himalayas became thrilling realities. The sight of snow-dad
glaciers and precipitous heights aroused the strangest feelings in me;
and then, in a flash, I knew this is what I am going to do when
I grow up, I told myself. I, too, will visit foreign mountain ranges.
Actually, even before this, I had acquired a love of mountaineer-
ing from my parents. When I was only four years of age they took
me to the Swiss Alps. At first our visits were confined to the valleys*
but soon I went with them on trips up the mountains. As I myself
steadily grew, and as the climbs steadily increased in height and
difficulty, so did I find myself becoming more and more a moun-
taineering devotee. The virus of Alpinism got into my blood.
Indeed, it became so strong that I deliberately gave up my engineer-
ing studies at Delft in favour of a profession that involved contact
with elemental Nature, with research at high altitude, i.e. Geology.
Most men feel the necessity of having something or other against
which they can pit themselves. I have often wondered why, in my
own case, this battling should be with mountains: why I should set
such store on struggling against the icy elements with all their in-
herent dangers. Was it perhaps that in honourable contest with
mountains and nature I found some compensation for the dis-
appointments of ordinary day-to-day life? I don't know. But I
confess that I get a sensation of glorious freedom and uplift when
I am on glacier or on a lofty arete. But for the life of me, I cannot
easily explain why.
Figuratively speaking, mountains large and small loom up in all
our paths of life. Often their acute points can be evaded by deft side-
stepping, by making so to speak a mental traverse along the face,
or even sometimes by beating a discretionary retreat. But in real
mountaineering things are different. There, the goal is definitely
the summit; there can be no shirking the issue. The risks of the
game are accepted. One weighs up beforehand what perils can
fairly be faced; then follows the big assault. Retreat is out of the
question unless of course the hazards make progress absolutely im-
possible. For me personally the most important thing was to know
that I was prepared to devote myself wholeheartedly to the task of
ascent. That alone contained real satisfaction. In time, even the
eventual result of the climb took second place to the thrills of the
Why go up mountains? Well why any urge? Why does the
artist paint? Why do men venture over the ocean in frail boats? Is
it not perhaps that in casting adrift, one sometimes finds one's true
During the Second World War my usual summers in the moun-
tains were interrupted; and after the war all sorts of circumstances
made it impossible for me to get to the Alps. My youthful dream
did not seem to have die remotest chance of realization. 'The best
years of my life' had already sped by. Participating in some expedi-
tion to some far-off range outside Europe was just a mirage and
would remain a mirage. Worse still, I seemed dispiritedly to have
become quite reconciled to the situation, even reaching the stage of
brusquely pushing aside reports of such expeditions, for their re-
minders of my youthful ambitions were too painful.
Then in the spring of 1949 something happened to jerk me out of
this lethargy. Plans were announced of a Dutch expedition to
the Himalayas under the leadership of a geologist. Dr. Klompe.
What is more, applications to take part were invited from moun-
taineers and geologists. Needless to say, I could not resist the call.
After much correspondence between Holland and Indonesia, where
Prof. Klompe lived, I was accepted as a member. So was T. de Booy,
another Amsterdam geologist with the same aspirations as myself.
Unfortunately, for various reasons chiefly financial this Hima-
layan project fell through. Nevertheless, although the expedition
did not materialize, Prof. Klompe's initiative had other far-reaching
repercussions, both for De Booy and myself. My eyes had been
opened. How wrong it was to assume that my youthful dream
could never come true!
Before this, however, De Booy and I had gone off to the French
Alps at Chamonix, bent on improving our climbing skill and eager
to acquire snow and ice techniques. Satisfactory results became
quickly evident. We found it a pleasure to work together. We
longed for further opportunities of teaming up. Whilst therefore
these first trials in the Mont Blanc area were a direct consequence
of Prof. Klompe's action the setting up later of our own Andes
expedition was an indirect consequence. Only when we learned, in
late 1950, that the Himalayan project was definitely off, did De
Booy and I start looking round for something to take its place.
Tlie idea of an expedition combining geological research and
mountaineering had particular appeal for us> provided always that
the geological side remained the primary aim. We did not wish to
separate the climbing from the surveying, but rather to blend the
two. Such a combination, too, would make for economy for
about this one item we had no delusions whatsoever. Unless costs
could be kept to an absolute minimum there was no chance of any
Dutch expedition ever getting under way. This financial factor
naturally ruled out mountains in Central Asia as a possible choice.
Where then? The answer was not too difficult. Running down
the west side of South America are splendid mountain ranges. All
the long way from the Caribbean Sea right down to Tierra del
Fuego stretch the Andes in an interlocking series of mountain chains
and mighty plateaux. Little or nothing is known about their geo-
logical structure. In many places magnificent unmastered peaks
simply challenge a climber. Unlike the central Asian mountains,
where expensive weeks of marching are needed to get even to the
foothills, the Andes generally afford a quick approach.
That being so, the next point to decide was, which part of the
Andes would best serve our purpose, bearing in mind two very im-
portant requirements: firstly, the ideal region should be one which,
while remaining pretty well untapped from a research angle, would
nevertheless offer good prospects of yielding interesting scientific
results; secondly, the ideal region should contain some fairly high
and, as yet, undimbed peaks.
Here again the answer was simple. We turned immediately to the
Cordillera Blanca, the highest range in the Peruvian Andes. It
appeared the ideal mountain region for our purpose, for it was little
known geologically, offered unique climbing possibilities, and was
only a few days* march from Lima. Moreover, there existed a par-
ticularly fine topographical map of it, scaled I : 100,000, a precious
gift to geologists.
Study of all the available relevant literature revealed that the
southern portion of the range was least known from a geological
aspect. There were other reasons, too which need not be detailed
here 1 why this part of the 'White Cordillera' offered us the maxi-
mum scope for certain specific studies. So, taking things by and
large, we decided to map out a definite area in the southern part of
the Cordillera Blanca, The precise limits of the zone could, of
course, be varied if necessary, once we were out there.
Geological factors were thus decisive in influencing our choice,
but we did not neglect the mountaineering possibilities. In the
northern portion of our designated area there were several peaks
rising to 20,000 feet and over. All had already been climbed, with
the exception of the Huantsan, which rose to nearly 21,000 feet and
was at that time the loftiest unconquered peak in the entire chain,
and, indeed, in whole Peru. In Kinzl and Schneider's excellent book
entitled the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, Kinzl wrote: 'Farther to the south
is the Nevado Huantsan (20,981 feet), not only the highest peak,
but at the same time the uncontested monarch, reigning supreme
over the entire southern half of the Cordillera Blanca. All other
peaks look unimportant beside it, especially if viewed from the
The ascent of this mighty Huantsan was the chief mountaineering
goal of our expedition. Little was actually said about it at first, be-
cause descriptions of the peak made it seem too formidable to at-
tempt. How could such a dread fortress of snow and ice succumb
to such a small and-partjy-comparatively inexperienced band of
climbers? We talked instead about two smaller, more southerly
mountains; the Caullaraju and the Pongos, thinking that it would
perhaps be better to attempt one of these before looking elsewhere.
Before leaving the Netherlands, however, we heard that the Caull-
araju had been climbed by an Italian group. So we were left with
the Pongos massif as our first objective.
As it happened, our expedition succeeded in climbing the Nevado
Queshque in this massif; and also the highest top in the entire group,
the Nevado Pongos itself. Emboldened by these two victories, we
1 Sec cbaptcr on Geology.
or "WHITE CHAIN" j\\
(Heights given ^
in 'met res)
Map showkg the CordiEera Blanca and the expeditionary area.
started the assault on the Huantsdn. Twice the mountain foiled our
attacks; then finally it yielded. These three ascents were the rich
harvest of our mountaineering efforts. The Cordillera Blanca cer-
tainly proved ideal for a small group of climbers and the geological
explorations in the chain yielded results as gratifying to us as our
A youthful dream had come true.
Once the area to be explored had been broadly fixed, the next
step was to decide how many members our expedition should have.
The surveying side was simple: De Booy and I thought we could
manage that part quite well between us. The saying 'Two's com-
pany, three's none* applies very aptly to field-work in difficult
terrain. A third man in such a case is often an unproductive unit.
But on the mountaineering side, a party of only two would be
quite insufficient. It was essential to get another mountaineer, if not
two, to join us. What is more, to have a reasonable chance of
securing our objectives, one of our companions would definitely
have to be a highly skilled Alpinist. This, as it happened, turned
out to be Lionel Terray, a professional guide from Chamonix. Force
of circumstances rendered it impossible for us to get a fourth man..
We first met Terray by pure chance. When De Booy and I went
to the French Alps in the summer of 1950 we needed the services
of a guide for a few weeks to accompany us on some of the classic
climbs in the Mont Blanc area. In front of the 'Bureau des Guides*
at Chamonix we encountered a pleasant-looking young fellow
wearing the guide's badge, to whom we explained exactly what we
had in mini Somehow or other he did not appear so enthusiastic
as we would have liked. With the excuse that he was not free for
some days, he whisked us over to another guide with the remark:
'Ah, Lionel, these seem just the clients for you!' We learned later
that the real reason for his not taking us on was not that he was
engaged, but that he preferred earning money a little less strenu-
So willy-nilly, and rather dubiously, we came in contact with this
other unknown guide, who looked in fact, much too youthful for
the tough exercising we had in mind. Imagine then our surprise to
learn that it was none other than Lionel Terray a guide whose
name was then on everybody's lips in Chamonix. That spring he
had taken part in a French Himalayan expedition which had been
the first ever to get up to 26,247 feet (8,000 m.) and to scale the
Annapurna. A better man could not have been found for tutoring
us in snow and ice.
Terray had won early laurels for his many accomplished climbs
in the Alps, notably the second ascent of the notorious north wall
of the Eiger in the Bernese Oberland. Before joining us in the Cor-
dillera Blanca, he took part in the French Patagonian expedition
which, in the winter of 1951-2, succeeded in mastering the terrible
Fitz Roy on the Argentine-Chilian border. Terray is undeniably
one of the greatest living masters of his craft. His mountaineering
record puts him in a class of his own.
Chance brought us all together that summer. Shortly after that
first meeting we made various difficult climbs on ice and rock, and
a close bond of friendship developed between us. It led all three of
us eventually to the snow-capped giants in the Cordillera Blanca.
Out in Peru, when we recalled that first meeting, Terray was always
tickled to hear how we had taken him at first sight for a callow
Actually, it had not been Terray we originally had in mind for
heading the mountaineering side of our Andes expedition. We had
already approached the famous Swiss Alpinist, Andre Roch, whom
I had previously met on one or two occasions. He was not only 2
guide of international repute, but a man of science. His long service
with the Swiss Snow and Avalanche Research Institute had given
him a rich experience, particularly on glacial terrain. This, and his
many expeditions to mountain ranges outside Europe, made him
the ideal leader of our undertaking. But Fate willed otherwise. In
the autumn of 1951 plans were afoot for a Swiss expedition to
Mount Everest, and Roch, who had already been on several occa-
sions to the Himalayas, was naturally chosen. To take part in an
expedition attacking the greatest mountain in the world is, of
course, the highest ambition of every mountaineer. Although Roch
chivalrously regarded himself as under obligation to us, we natur-
ally gave him complete freedom of choice in the circumstances.
Meanwhile, during our mountaineering trips with Terray, we
gathered that he regretted not having met us before we had con-
tacted Roch. So when Roch finally fell out, all our hopes were im-
mediately pinned on Terray. We were lucky. Just as we were about
to get in touch, a letter from him arrived. He, too, had heard of
Roch's new plans and offered to step into the breach, his only stipu-
lation being that we should decide quickly as he was leaving within
a week for South America with the French Patagonian expedition.
Needless to say, we gratefully grasped the offer. De Booy set off the
same night to Paris to setde matters and to discuss all sorts of issues
concerning provisions and equipment. The next day the whole
thing was tied up; and so it was that though a Swiss of international
repute had dropped out, within forty-eight hours a Frenchman of
international repute had come in with us.
Terray and De Booy had talked of the desirability of getting
a fourth to join the expedition. Terray agreed to sound a friend of
his, Raymond Griere, a commercial attache at the French legation
in Bogota. Griere was an accomplished climber and, as he already
resided in Colombia, his participation would involve us in less travel
Griere, himself, impressed us as most enthusiastic when he came
to Amsterdam some months later during a spell of leave in Europe.
Then came an unfortunate setback. Whilst training on the cliffs near
rountainebleau, Griere was the victim of an unlucky fall, resulting
n a dislocated arm. So, before the expedition had even started, our
: ourth man was out.
When our intentions became known in Holland we were inun-
lated with offers from young men wanting to come with us. There
;vere ex-service men, just returned from Indonesia, who seemingly
:ould not adjust themselves to everyday life. Others saw in this a
;heap way of sneaking as emigrants into America. Then there were
he venturing type, like a couple who recommended themselves as
not geologists, but a pair of lusty Dutch youngsters, full of grit
md 'Holland's Glory'. Most had not much to offer. One aspirant
quoted a past reeking with lurid adventure. He made such a song
>f his many-sided abilities that we ourselves almost became con-
vinced that there was no chance of success without him. In 1951
ie had gone big-game hunting in Tanganyika and had made a
tudy of wild life, his speciality being snakes. Among many remark-
ble characteristics were his heavily-muscled physique which had
tever known sickness, his dexterity in handling canoes in rapids,
tis intimate knowledge of many native races and his human interest
ti the coloured 'man in the street*. He was an artist with the camera,
Xpert in preparing reports, ski-ing, horse-riding, swimming, sail-
ag, long-distance running, and in addition to his exceptional powers
>f endurance he had a fair knowledge of basic Spanish, practical
xperience of climbing and endless other merits.
We were, alas, obliged to disappoint all these enthusiasts. What
ve needed were experienced mountaineers. But this did not mean
hat we did not esteem these offers.
It is extraordinarily difficult to give a just description of the vast
mount of preparatory work involved in launching our moun-
taineering expedition. There were so many sides to it. Our own
physical and technical training was, of course, of the highest impor-
tance. De Booy and I began in the summer of 1950 it was then
with a view to our participating in the proposed Dutch expedition
to the Himalayas. "We went to Chamonix for a month to exercise
on peaks in the Mount Blanc massif. Besides improving our tech-
nique, we wanted to get to know each other's powers; and, of
course, weaknesses, so as to obviate any later awkward surprises.
With Terray we made numbers of climbs on snow and ice, and
also on rock. He imparted secrets of icemanship, in which craft
there were few who could equal his virtuosity. His patience with
us was infinite, although generally he was not the long-suffering
type of teacher. For hours on end he chaperoned us up die Glacier
des Bossons, scaling the most unprepossessing ice-walls and teaching
us how to use crampons to tackle a slope of 60 degrees without cut-
ting a single step with the axe.
On our first big ice-trip he led us to the steep north face of the
Aiguille de Chardonnet. It was an audacious project that nearly
brought disaster. Owing to my lack of technique I had a nasty fall
whilst negotiating a tricky passage not far from the top. Terray had
difficulty in holding me on the rope, but all I heard afterwards was
his laconic: 'Ah, vous etes lourd, KeesP
After eleven years of rustication those first training trips were not
too easy for me. It was a case of starting anew, but with the added
disadvantages of increased weight and less muscular flexibility.
Sometimes it seemed difficult for Terray to realize that everyone
was not so expert as himself. This led on one occasion to hard
words. There was I, precariously stuck on a smooth precipitous rock
face, feeling absolutely at the end of my tether and vaioly trying to
seek higher holds, when I heard his buoyant: *Ah, Kees, c'est facile
ici II y a des prises partout!* It was too annoying and frustrating
But the important thing was that we certainly did learn a lot in
that strenuous summer of 1950. And our physical training continued
relentlessly during the winter months, too. De Booy and I went
on every possible occasion to the south of Dinant, where the steep
cliffs along the Meuse proved ideal for improving technique and
keeping tendons supple.
In the summer of 1951 we were again at Chamonix, working
through an extensive programme of climbs, although illness un-
fortunately prevented me from participating in the most important
part of this training. De Booy appreciably improved his snow and
ice techniques and reached the stage of being able to make some
truly wonderful guide-less climbs.
The following winter saw us so preoccupied with the many de-
tails connected with our impending departure to South America
that we had little or no opportunity for training in the Ardennes.
We kept ourselves fit by running and indoor training. De Booy had
been doing this for years. Regularly every morning he used to run
full tilt up a hill, known locally as the Aerdenhoutse Kopje.
It was somewhat more difficult for me in Amsterdam. I had to
content myself with sprinting through the flat Vondel park, where
the many ponds did at least enable me to vary my route from time
to time. Day in and day out, eventually with increasing ease, I could
be seen all through the winter of 1951-2 pounding round the ponds
often the object of derisive hoots from early morning visitors to
the park. In the beginning it was quite a job for me to ignore these
rude bawlers and resist the temptation to stop and shout back.
After a while they all got used to seeing me. It was only occasionally
that I heard a bantering shout: *Hi, no need to chase like that
they've already caught that thief!* This running was the part of my
training I liked least, but it was well worth while. It is no exaggera-
tion to say that it doubled my staying powers. I strongly recom-
mend anyone planning summer ascents to do the same.
Physical training was, of course, only one phase of our prepara-
tions. There was a frightful lot to do in other directions. It was im-
TO THE ANDES
perative, for instance, to put the undertaking on a sound financial
footing. Correspondence relating to possible grants from scientific
and cultural bodies increased from day to day, and the discussions
necessarily involved thereby took up a great deal of precious time.
It was necessary, too, to visit all the firms from -which we were
getting provisions and equipment in order to discuss with experts
on the spot the most suitable types, precise quantities, and the best
sorts of packing for all our stores. De Booy fortunately had more
time at his disposal than I, and for four whole months prior to our
departure he was hard at it from morning to night, coping with all
the details of food, material and gear. How excellently he func-
tioned in this respect was apparent later on during the expedition
itself; we Hterally wanted for nothing.
A problem of particular moment to us was the matter of insur-
ance against accident. It was perhaps not altogether surprising that
most of the big companies appeared singularly uninterested in our
particular type of risk. Luckily, just before our departure, one in-
surance firm did meet us and accepted our liability on reasonable
Everything eventually sorted itself out. The interest and co-
operation we received from a variety of sources exceeded all our
expectations and contributed in no small measure to the success of
TO THE ANDES
De Booy, Terray, and I travelled separately and by different
routes to South America. De Booy was the first to set off on the big
journey. He left on April 5th by the s.s. Baarn belonging to the
Royal Dutch Steamship Company. The ship was calling at many
ports and it was four weeks before she reached Callao, the Peru-
vian port near Lima.
I followed on April 24th but as I travelled by KX.M.-Dutch
Airlines, via Curasao and Venezuela, I arrived in Peru before De
Booy. Terray intended to leave early in June by K.L.M. Airlines,
taking the southern route.
On April 3Oth there I was, standing on the quayside at Callao
as the s.s. Baarn emerged through the early morning sea-mist and
steamed into the harbour. Although I had already been away a
week, it was only then that I felt the thrill of belonging to an ex-
pedition. On board with De Booy was all the expeditionary equip-
ment, seventy-six cases weighing nearly two tons. Once these were
unloaded we would be able to make a real start. As the ship was
somewhat overdue I had to wait several hours on the quayside.
Whilst sauntering about, I was repeatedly buttonholed by dark-
hued youngsters offering their services as porters. I had not been
long enough in South America to acquire anything but the scantiest
knowledge of Spanish, so my exchanges, particularly with one per-
sistent boy, were reduced to gestures. As the ship neared the quay
De Booy's first sight of me was in gesticulating debate with a half-
breed a spectacle which was soon to become commonplace.
I was glad to tell him, on greeting, that following approaches by
our ambassador, the Peruvian Government had agreed to waive
all duties on our stores and gear. In our simplicity we thought that
this meant we could cart off everything as soon as it was unloaded,
without having to undergo any of the usual Customs formalities.
How mistaken we werel We were asked to call at the Custom
House during the afternoonjust to regularize this and that. Actu-
ally we didn't mind this a bit, for it happened to be the birthday
of our gracious Queen Juliana, and in honour of the occasion there
was to be a reception at noon in the Dutch Embassy. So to De
Booy's joyous surprise, and within two hours of his arrival in Peru,
there he was quaffing champagne! A lively start indeed to what
turned out to be an indescribably hectic week, for we had to attend
to a multiplicity of matters in Lima and visit dozens and dozens
TO THE ANDES
The Customs' business did not prove at all so straightforward as
we had fondly imagined. True enough, when we entered the shed
that afternoon our seventy-six cases were all nicely piled up, but
taking them away appeared to be quite another matter. There was
a grim succession of forms to be filled in and signed. In Holland we
had religiously listed the contents of each crate, case, and bag, de-
claring every single item down to the last detail. The lists were all in
French. Now a polite Customs officer informed us that every indi-
vidual item must be translated into Spanish.
Realizing with sick dismay that this would take days, De Booy
and I mustered up our best Spanish. This unreasonable request
would throw our carefully timed programme entirely out of gear.
It was quite impossible for us to find the precise equivalent Spanish
terms for our geological instruments and extensive medical outfit.
We made a poignant appeal to them to spare us this great calamity.
After a lot of talk and hurried consultations, we gathered with
relief that we had gained this point. But that didn't mean we were
yet in the clear. Further delay was caused by the fact that May ist
was a national holiday in Peru and all public services were closed.
We ourselves were fully occupied the day after that with engage-
ments, but eight o'clock on Saturday morning found us again in
the Customs shed. This time some headway was made, and we
were given to understand that we could come on Monday morning
and fetch everything away. Tidings of good cheer indeed! Oh
Monday we would be away from Lima and able to start the ex-
On Sunday we took the opportunity to see a bullfight. It was an
unforgettable spectacle. We enjoyed the colour, the atmosphere,
the terrific enthusiasm of the onlookers.
Up to then we had given ourselves no time at all to get any close
impression of South- American life, but in the near future we hoped
to get better acquainted. We particularly wanted to speed up our
journey towards the Cordillera Blanca. Thanks to the good services
of Mr. Corver, the Royal Dutch Steamship Company's inspector,
we were able to hire a Ford lorry. Punctually at eight on Monday
morning we drove it into the Customs shed, but once again we
had been too optimistic. There was another hitch. We were asked
to sign a declaration that everything we were importing would in
due course be exported. It was a sheer impossibility. More than half
of our cases contained special tinned foods which we should eat at
high altitudes. Now we were at our wits' end. This time it looked
as though we had definitely reached a deadlock. Just as we were
giving up hope of getting away that day a saviour appeared in the
guise of one of the steamship agents. The genial Charlie swept in to
* our aid and soon found a formula which satisfied the demands of all
concerned. Guarantees were given, and everything was settled. The
Customs staff were the first to congratulate us on the final happy
To the accompaniment of much affability we loaded our cases. All
this had taken five hours. It was half-past one before we got away.
De Booy and I intended to ride on the lorry, bearing in mind the
age-old golden rule for travellers: 'Never part with your luggage.'
Our lorry driver looked a queer mixture of white, black, and
Indian blood, but he certainly could handle the truck. At first we
could not ride in the lorry as such vehicles are not allowed to carry
passengers within the confines of Lima, so we hired a splendid
Chevrolet station-wagon complete with radio and half-Indian
chauffeur. In that we rode jubilantly out of Lima to the tune of
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. i. On to the great adventure!
After passing a control post, about six miles out of the city, we
took our places in the lorry. A long journey of well over 200 miles
now lay before us. Hie lorry had to take us to the small village of
Ticapampa in the Santa valley. It nestled at the foot of the Cordil-
lera Blanca and was therefore close to our exploratory area. To get
there we first had to cross the Cordillera Negra, a range rising to
over 13,000 feet and bordering the Santa valley on the west.
TO THE ANDES
For several hours we sped across a desert stretching along the
coast. Near the village of Patavilca the road swung inland and al-
most immediately we started climbing towards the pass. In Lima
they had told us some horrifying stories about this shockingly steep
route up to the pass. Glancing at our chauffeur, we noticed him
solemnly making the sign of the cross. De Booy would have it that
this had something to do with the perils of the road ahead. Luckily
for our peace of mind it soon became dark so that we could not look
down into, and therefore remained blissfully unaware of, the dizzy
depths at the winding roadside.
It took five hours to climb 13,000 feet from sea level to the pass.
Mile after mile went by. The driver seemed tireless, but De Booy
and I soon became drowsy. Perhaps it was the monotonous whine
of the engine in low gear, or maybe the effects of the thin air to
which we were not yet attuned. According to the driver, the lorry,
too, suffered from altitude. Engine power was reduced by about
40 per cent owing to lack of oxygen.
It was past midnight when we reached the pass. We were fated,
however, not to carry on much further. Hardly had we begun to
run downhill than De Booy and I were jolted awake by a frightful
noise and a nasty shock. Before the lorry had rime to falter to a
standstill I had jumped out, dragging De Booy with me. Every-
thing was shrouded in thick smoke. Were we on fire? Was all the
precious gear going up in flames? Luckily it wasn't so bad as that.
The back axle had broken, and the rear double wheels on the right
had come dean off. They now lay on the roadside some distance
behind us. What I had taken for smoke turned out to be a smother
of thick dust caused by the broken axle digging a long groove in
the road. We stood there, sombrely looking at our damaged vehicle,
by no means fully appreciating the peril in which we had been.
Months later, on our return from the Cordillera Blanca to lima, we
passed that way in daylight and stared aghast at the sheer drop
fringing the roadside. Had the accident occurred five minutes ear-
Her, whilst still climbing up, we should inevitably have hurtled
down into the abyss. Our expedition would have calamitously
ended before it had even begun.
Anyway, there we were, standing numbly in the road at mid-
night, over 13,000 feet up, with no hope of further progress. Our
driver set us an example of decisive action in such circumstances.
Briefly summing-up the situation, he climbed without further ado
into the lorry and in a few minutes was asleep.
This was our signal to fetch our sleeping bags. There wasn't
enough room for the three of us in the lorry cabin; in any case, it
was not too fresh inside. So making the best of a bad job, we settled
down at the roadside. We were already feeling the effects of the
high altitude; it was as though we were a trifle tipsy. It was also icy
cold. When we woke at dawn the tops of our sleeping bags were
covered with hoarfrost, but the bags themselves had stood the test.
We, ourselves, had not suffered in the slightest from cold in the
During the early morning numbers of lorries came by, some
carrying whole gangs of Indians in the open parts at the back. This
seemed to be the local method of transport. At last we managed to
stop a lorry going in the direction we wanted and to secure a lift
on it for De Booy. He was to get to Ticapampa and try to hire
another lorry there, while I remained, keeping an eye on the bag-
All day went by before he returned with a truck. During that
time I succumbed to the 'Soroche', the notorious Andes type of
mountain sickness. The transition from sea level to 13,000 feet or
more had been too quick for my body to get acclimatized. I had a
splitting headache and felt miserably sick and fit for nothing. When
De Booy finally turned up I was too out of sorts to be of any help
in transferring the gear. The only thought that cheered was the
prospect now of getting down to a lower level, even if it were only
some 2,000 feet.
TO THE ANDES
Dismal though I felt, the breathtaking panorama which met our
eyes during the descent towards the Santa valley held me spell-
bound. During the long climb the previous evening we had just
caught a glimpse in the distance of the first few snowy caps of the
Cordillera Blanca, silhouetted against the clear evening sky. Now,
as we rode down, the whole mountain chain slowly but surely came
into view to its full extent. In the north rose the mighty Huascaran,
the highest mountain in the region. We recognized it immediately
from the many photos we had seen. But it was not the only im-
pressive sight. To the south stretched an almost continuous succes-
sion of ice giants, each vying with the others in steepness. But there
was one towering above the rest, so formidable in appearance that
it caught our particular attention. It was the Huantsan, our goal, our
own piece de resistance. This first sight of it was enough to make any-
one fall a prey to forebodings. Did we really intend to battle with
this mighty fortress? Were we not aiming a lot too high? This
initial view certainly did nothing to bolster up my own morale. I
suddenly felt exceedingly small and insignificant, and brooded over
our rashness in daring even to consider an attempt at this imposing
pyramid. Further south the chain developed into a number of separ-
ate massifs, amongst which was the Pongos. It was here that our
first attempts would be made.
Arriving at last in Ticapampa, we made our way forthwith to the
premises of the Anglo-French Ticapampa Silver Mining Company
to pay our respects. The management had previously promised us
all sorts of facilities, and we rather hoped that one or two sheds
might be put at our disposal to house our baggage. Perhaps we our-
selves might also be able to find accommodation here for our stay
in the valley.
Our welcome exceeded our wildest expectations. We were im-
mediately allocated a house for the whole duration of the expedition
in which to store all our gear, and this wasn't all. We were warmly
invited to consider ourselves the guests of Mr. Kroupnitzky, the
Sketch Plan shewing the area in which
the Andes Expedition, 1952 operated,
ief mountain nances Qut&rada. - valley
glacier Nw *~tfevado peak
routes taken Rio - river
Safe camp Figures denofe height in metres
THE HISTORY OF 'ANDINISME* IN CORDILLERA BLANCA
mine manager, and his wife. Needless to say we grasped this kind
offer, as the Dutch say, with both hands.
From then on Ticapampa, nestliiig in the shadow of the 'White
Chain', became the headquarters of our expedition and was the
point from which we sallied forth on aE the geological and moun-
taineering trips we were to make in the next few months.
THE HISTORY OF 'ANDINISME' IN THE
The first sight of the enormous glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca
renders it difficult for anyone to realize how close these mountains
are to the Equator. The 'White Chain' is actually the highest tropi-
cal range in the world. The Himalayas are higher, but they lie out-
side the torrid zone. No less than twenty-nine peaks in the Cordil-
lera Blanca rise to over 20,000 feet. In height, therefore, they greatly
exceed the Alps, and although among these twenty-nine there may
be a few which, technically speaking, are not so very difficult to
climb, most of the others because of their precipitousness, their
often well-nigh vertical faces, and their razor-edged ridges com-
mand the deep respect of every climber coming to Peru.
Over the years a range of such distinction as the Cordillera
Blanca naturally attracted the attention of mountaineers from all
over the world, for here were numbers of glittering peaks, still un-
conquered and conveniently situated in a region to which there was
At first it was the highest peak, the Huascaran, which mainly
lured the mountaineers. The south summit, reaching 22,205 feet,
caps all other peaks in the group; but, from a climber's point of
view, the Huascaran is technically less difficult than some of its
neighbours rising to 20,000 feet and over. Attempts were already
being made at the beginning of the century on the Huascaran. An
Englishman, C. R. Enoch, visited the area in 1903 and was so im-
pressed that he returned in 190^ to attack the giant from the west
side. The attempt carried him about 17,000 feet. Then, beset by
overwhelming difficulties, he was forced to withdraw.
Enoch was not the only one with designs on the Huascaran. In the
same year, and again in 1906 and 1908, half a dozen assaults were
made by a lady, Miss Annie Peck, an ambitious American journalist.
In the last two attempts she was supported by two excellent
Swiss guides, Taugwalder and Zumtaugwald. According to Miss
Peck, the north summit, then regarded as the highest point, was
actually reached during the last assault. But this attempt had tragic
consequences, for the group were caught by a blizzard during the
descent and marooned for several days at a high altitude. One of
the guides suffered severely from frost-bitten hands and feet. Later
amputations rendered him an invalid for the rest of his life.
The altimeter had been left behind in the valley, but Miss Peck
estimated the height of the Huascaran as 24,000 feet. She thereupon
claimed to have broken the world high-altitude climbing record for
ladies, a coveted distinction previously held by a Mrs. Bullock-
Workman for a high ascent in the Himalayas. The latter's reaction
was as unexpected as extravagant. Dissatisfied with being relegated
to second place, she equipped an expedition said to have cost her
at least 13,000 dollars to ascertain the precise height of the Huas-
caran. In a certain sense, however, she had her money's worth, for
the Huascaran proved to be by no means as high as Miss Peck had
claimed (it was actually 22,205 feet instead of 24,000 feet), and fur-
thermore the north summit, which Miss Peck had climbed, was not
so high as the south summit. Indeed, her claim to have climbed the
north summit was itself disputed. Declarations made by her fellow-
climbers whom she had left behind, ill and without means, in
Peru threw grave doubts, to say the least of it, on her claim. One
thing was however certain. Miss Peck's group did reach the so-
THE HISTORY OF 'ANDINISME* IN CORDILLERA BLANCA
called 'Garganta*, a saddle between the north and south summits.
That much was substantiated.
A sound basis for the geographical and alpinistic explorations of
the Cordillera Blanca was laid by three expeditions sent by the
Austro-German Alpine Club during the years 1932, 1936 and 1939.
The members included a number of outstanding mountaineers. The
first expedition scaled the higher south summit of the Huascaran.
Thereafter the good work continued apace. Members of the expedi-
tions made numerous first ascents, among them no less than four-
teen mountains towering above the 20,ooo-ft. mark. Some of these
were very tough propositions indeed.
Never before in mountaineering history has a range of such ex-
tent been so thoroughly scoured in so short a space of time. When
one reads the reports of these climbs in Borcher's excellent book Die
Weisse Kordillere, studies the text and photos in Kinzland Schneider's
outstanding Cordillera Blanca (Peru), or peruses the annals of the
sponsoring club, one cannot help admiring the magnificent work
done by these intrepid men. The three expeditions did not merely
indulge in record-breaking climbs. On the contrary! A tremendous
amount of scientific research work was carried out. Among the
many things for which we were grateful to these untiring pioneers
was their preparation of a topographical map embracing the whole
chain, scaled i : 100,000. During our stay in the Cordillera Blanca
we had ample proof of the excellent quality of this charting work.
During the Second World War exploration remained a dead
letter in the area. The only climbing reported was by a group of
North- American students, whose aim was the ascent of the Huar-
ascan, still apparently the main attraction as the highest peak in
the range. The assault seems to have fizzled out before any great
height was reached.
Some years after the war there was a renewal of activity, starting
with a Swiss Alpine group which, amongst other things, climbed
two peaks of over 20,000 feet. Encouraged by this, they attempted
a third equally lofty peak, the Alpamayo, probably the loveliest
in the Andes. But this fantastic ice pyramid proved nearly fatal to
the Swiss climbers. A third of the way up, the whole group broke
through a cornice, deceptively overhanging the ridge, and plunged
some 1,000 feet into the depths. By miraculous good fortune, they
all landed in soft snow.
Three years later, in the summer of 1951, the Alpamayo bowed
its proud head to members of a Franco-Belgian expedition. After
a gruelling ascent they achieved success where the Swiss had failed.
Before this, however, a Franco-Belgian attack on the Huascaran
had failed, possibly because the expedition had not given its mem-
bers sufficient time to get acclimatized.
This, then, was the situation when De Booy and I began planning
our own expedition to the southern part of the Cordillera Blanca.
In the spring of 1952, prior to our departure, a group of Italian
mountaineers visited this part of the chain and climbed the most
southerly peak of any importance, the Caullaraju (18,654 feet).
We came into the field a few months later with our Franco-
Dutch expedition. The story of our ascents forms the major part of
this book. Following the climbing of several lesser peaks, the ex-
pedition was fortunate enough to succeed in making a first ascent
of the Huantsan, which towered to a height of 20,981 feet and was,
up to that time, the highest unconquered mountain in the whole
In the same period an American expedition, operating more to
the north, climbed one of the peaks rising to over 20,000 feet in the
With this, the history of Andinism in the Cordillera Blanca closes
for the time being. The last word, however, is certainly not yet
spoken. Although an imposing number of the highest peaks in the
Cordillera Blanca have now been subdued, there still remain hosts
of wonderful possibilities for the mountaineer. There still are num-
bers of summits towering to over 20,000 feet and as yet unchal-
THE HISTORY OF ANDINISME IN CORDILLERA BLANCA
lenged. Some, of course, are only secondary summits of mountains
already climbed, but there are many others well worth an attempt.
Among these last strongholds to repel the onslaught of mountain
climbers towers the terrifying Chacraraju, which rearing up tc
19,684 feet, is a fantastically steep ice giant and rightly regarded ai
the stiffest problem in the whole range. Some expedition or other
will assuredly, in the not distant future, mark this down as an
As to the other unconquered peaks they include several very
intriguing mountaineering 'subjects', even though these may not
tower up to the 2O,ooo-ft. level. As we ourselves found when
tackling the Pongos, which was only 18,737 feet, some mountains,
although smaller, may nevertheless present more than enough tech-
nical difficulties to command the sincere respect of attackers. We
found the Pongos almost as difficult as the Huantsan. itself.
Peaks like the Tulparaju (18,987 feet), the San Juan (19,170 feet),
the Chico Huantsan (i8,7ii-feet.) and the Chico Pongos (18,635
feet) to name but a few are worthy objects of the climber's at-
tention. Then there is the 18,770 ft. high Nevado Cayesh, a razor-
edged tower, compared with which none of the tops in the Cordil-
lera Blanca, soaring though they may up to 20,000 feet, can com-
pare in savage perpendicularity.
In this region, where so much ground lay fallow, it was natural
for climbers to head for their objectives by the easiest possible
routes. But once all the tops have succumbed, the time will come
here, too, when stout hearts will be searching for paths up other
seemingly impossible faces, in order to return home with some new
achievement. The fascinating possibilities for mountaineers are
THE PONGOS MASSIF
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
It had been our intention to start the mountain-climbing side of
our expedition about June ist. So once we had concluded our
geological survey of a portion of the chain, De Booy and I re-
turned on May 25th to Ticapampa to await Lionel Terray. Alas, a
letter from him was lying there, saying that he had been obliged to
postpone his journey by a whole week owing to the dislocation of
air services caused by strikes in the American oil industry.
This was unfortunate. But we had now come to realize that all
plans would have to be elastic, and we decided to put our time to
some use as far as possible. We had intended, once Terray was with
us, to set off immediately to the southern part of the chain and make
an attempt on the Pongos, the highest peak in the southern massif.
Terray or no Terray, we now decided to go there all the same and
make a geological survey. Arrangements were made whereby Ter-
ray could come along later and join us at our base camp.
Up to now, we had taken only one native helper on our high-
altitude surveying trips, his job being to release us as much as pos-
sible from time-devouring camp chores, and to act as bearer as and
when required. The Silver Mine management had been good
enough to allocate us one of their foremen, Blasido Banes, for this
purpose. As he had proved very useful in the past few weeks, we
proposed to take him with us now.
The combination of surveying work with mountain climbing
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
would obviously require the help of more than one porter. To
assist us in carrying loads from base to advanced camps we secured
another man, named Eugenio, who had gone with us on a previous
occasion as a mule-driver and had let us know that he enjoyed this
sort of work. So, early on June ist, with these two half-Indians, plus
an arriero, or groom, and six pack animals, we made our way out
of the Santa valley.
The distance from Ticapampa to the foot of the Pongos massif
was covered comfortably in one day, despite delays caused by a few
lazy donkeys in the string. We could thus appreciate to the full
what decided advantage the short approach to the Cordillera
Blanca afforded. Provided one's base point is selected with care,
the foothills can be reached in a very short time. The little
village of Ticapampa, in this respect, was ideally situated for our
The route led over the monotonous pampa, where the scenery
was nothing much to write home about, and then into the long
Queshque valley. Our thoughts were concentrated on our goal, the
Pongos with its 18,737 feet of climbing. Lying to the extreme south,
it was barely visible from Ticapampa, although it was the loftiest
top in the southern massif. At first, some of the neighbouring peaks
seemed distinctly higher, but as we came nearer, this proved an
Near a group of mountains on the north side of the Queshque
valley, we saw at last one distinct peak rearing up on the south side.
This was the Pongos, but somehow it did not seem so very impres-
sive from where we were. In fact, De Booy burst out, *I say, is that
all? Well, if we can't get up there, we might as well give up climb-
Penetrating more deeply into the valley, we rounded a bend at
about 14,000 feet and suddenly there towered the mountain in its
full glory, dominating the valley almost as completely as the Matter-
horn overshadows the Zermatt valley. From then on, all compla-
THE PONGOS MASSIF
cency vanished. There was no more airy talk. We became all too
conscious of the Pongos' sharp ridges and precipitous walls.
As dusk fell on June jst, we pitched our base camp in full view of
the peak. In the rays of the setting sun its snowy majestic dome
looked superb. Wreaths of mist playing over the sharp ascending
ridge made the mountain look ethereally beautiful.
At base camp we had a roomy tent 8 ft. X 13 ft. X 8 ft. with an
extension running out another 6-J- feet. Not only could we stand
upright in this tent, but we could also eat at a table, for we had
brought out with us a folding table and stoolsa luxury we were
more fully to appreciate when we came down from the higher
assault camps. To house the bearers we had a two-man tent and a
three-man tent, and in addition a small tent was provided for storing
gear, provisions, etc.
Our first few days in the Queshque valley were devoted to a
geological survey of the area. Although waiting for Terray, we did
not want to waste our time. If we could map the massif now there"
would be no need to return later to complete our geological re-
searches. Our explorations on the second day enabled us to make
a reconnaissance along the base of the Pongos with a view to asses-
sing the best side for an attack. We wandered up to the end of the
Queshque valley, where a fairly large glacier ended. Ascending this
glacier for several hours, we finally obtained a vantage point from
which we had an excellent view of the entire west flank of the
Pongos. It at once became clear that the mountain would have to be
attacked via one of its sharp ridges. The face in front of us was
Our previous knowledge of the mountain had been more or less
derived from a photograph in the book by Kinzl and Schneider.
Taken from the south, it gave a good view of the south-west ridge,
which looked fairly simple. We had accordingly regarded this as
the most suitable route. But at closer quarters we could see some
steep propositions high up which were not shewn at all in the
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
picture. Indeed, the variations between the photo and actuality
were so great that we wondered whether this was the selfsame
ridge! On looking again, however, we could pick out enough simi-
larities to remove our doubts.
Later on, when Terray arrived in the Pongos area and was told
about this, he ventured the opinion that a big landslide must have
Sketch map of the Pongos massif.
taken place, resulting in the collapse of a considerable portion of the
The south-west ridge had thus become appreciably more difficult
than anticipated; but it certainly offered possibilities, although two
formidable obstacles were obvious. For much of the way up, and
poised over the edge of the ridge, was a massive cornice. 1 Our field-
glasses also revealed a particularly steep and unpromising rock
formation about 650 feet below the summit. We turned dubiously
1 A cornice is a mass of snow and ice projecting over die lee side of a ridge. It is formed
by wind blowing constantly in one direction.
THE PONGOS MASSIF
to the north ridge, to see whether this might be less fraught with
difficulty and danger. Cornice formations on this did not look quite
so alarming; and, viewed from below, only the last 300 feet to the
top appeared exceedingly steep, where the ridge petered out into
the round snow-cap forming the summit. Maybe this difficulty
could be overcome by traversing leftwards on to the north-east
flank. From below, however, one could not say with any certainty
what might, or might not, be possible up there.
Anyway, our first reconnaissance had revealed these critical sec-
tions on both ridges, difficult though it was from our view-point
to assess one against the other. We finally agreed to leave the choice
of the eventual route to the more experienced Terray. Although
the Pongos question remained temporarily shelved, our reconnais-
sance had, rather unexpectedly, other repercussions. All the talk
about possible ways of scaling the Pongos had so roused our climb-
ing instincts that we, there and then, made up our minds to climb a
mountain before Terray came on the scene, if only to get in some
good training practice.
The question was simply which peak to select? In the group ot
mountains to the north of the valley were several splendid virgin
peaks. One of them, a nameless pyramid some 18,600 feet high,
which we ourselves called the Chico Pongos, or 'Little Pongos'
had challenging qualities quite equal to the Pongos massif. In fact,
Little Pongos appeared to bristle with even more complications
than big Pongos; so for the time being we directed our attention
Next to the Chico Pongos rose another massif with several inde-
pendent peaks, all as yet unclimbed. In that respect, therefore, we
had plenty of choice. According to the topographical chart, the
highest was nearly 18,000 feet. After a short discussion, we decided
to have a shot at this one. Viewed from below, it looked as though
only the last section of the ridge, near the summit, might prove a
really tough problem.
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
Our minds made up, there was now no holding us back. That
very same day we started sorting out the climbing gear which we
had been dragging along with us everywhere, seemingly to no pur-
pose; and selected crampons, pitons and ropes. Leaving base camp
on Wednesday, June 4th, we made our way towards the foot of the
same glacier as before, intending to establish our first assault camp
at an altitude of about 15,500 feet. During the trip we devoted con-
siderable time to geological work, which necessitated our repeatedly
crossing the streams running down from the glacier. De Booy was
exasperatingly proficient in jumping nimbly across, quickly hop-
ping from stone to stone, and invariably reaching the other side be-
fore I was even half-way across. I warned him repeatedly, if a little
enviously, that these acrobatic tricks of his would sooner or later
land him in trouble. And, true enough, as we started crossing for
the third time, to my amusement, he slipped and sank to his waist
in icy cold water. I simply couldn't resist pulling his leg about it
and enlarging on the subject of recklessness always leading to
trouble. But he took it all in such quiet, good part that my chaffing
fell somewhat flat.
We arrived late that afternoon at the place chosen for our camp
and pitched two little tents, each designed to hold two persons. One
was for De Booy and me; the other for Eugenio, whom we had
brought along. During our meal we debated whether or not to take
him up any further. De Booy feared that his utter inexperience
might render him more of a hindrance than a help, as he had never
set foot on snow and ice until two days before, when he came with
us on the glacier. My own view was that, on the contrary, it would
be useful to have him with us, as any experience gained now might
later prove valuable. Moreover, a group of three was better for
crossing the snow-covered glacier ahead of us. If one member of
the group fell into a crevasse it would be far less difficult for two to
drag him out. One rescuer only would have much more of a job.
This last argument won the day. In any case, we told ourselves, we
THE PONGOS MASSIF
could always leave him behind if his presence occasioned any undue
For days weather conditions had remained very settled. As we sat
in front of our tents that evening talking about to-morrow's pros-
pects, the sky became increasingly overcast. And all that night a
glacial wind swept down, shaking our tents, while storms of hail
rattled on the canvas. This certainly did not spell good weather for
the trip. Moreover, more than once we were alarmed by the thunder
of avalanches crashing down uncomfortably near at hand.
Yet, as we crawled out of our tents about six o'clock next morn-
ing, to our surprise the weather was fine. Only a few high clouds
scudding across the sky reminded us of the stormy weather of the
night. An hour sufficed for us to eat a frugal breakfast and get every-
thing ready for the attack. As always, before a big climb, I was too
tense to eat much. It was the first time for donning our nylon
outer-clothing; and this in itself took a great deal of time. To put on
boots proved a troublesome job, too, for they were frozen hard.
We left camp towards seven and the attempt began. The first part
led over a seemingly endless moraine, strewn here and there with
enormous blocks. Then the route went up sharply through a
couloir. The terrain was not difficult, and we gained height rapidly.
There was no talk of rest until about ten, by which time we had
reached the edge of a sizeable snow-covered glacier. Here it was
necessary to fix crampons and to rope up.
For our bearers we had brought out Grepon crampons (Sirnond),
which had the merit of being adjustable to the size of their boots.
On difficult terrain these crampons did not prove too good. Their
points were rather short and afforded insufficient bite when soft
snow covered a hard layer of ice.
Eugenio had a lot of trouble putting the climbing spikes under
his boots. Fifteen minutes went by in measuring and fitting him
properly. Then, the moment he was ready, without allowing our-
selves any more time, we were ofFagain, with De Booy in the lead.
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
This time we climbed slowly in an easterly direction over the
glacier, which at first only sloped up gently. Here and there, great
crevasses split the surface, but fortunately they were easily visible
and easily avoided. After another hour the slope gradually became
steeper and strong effort was required to maintain good speed. Our
crampons started failing to grip, for the snow was deep and terribly
dry. In particularly steep places we were constantly slipping back
and sinking often to our thighs in snow. This is a tiresome slogging
business at the best of times. Up at that rarefied altitude of 16,000
feet or more, it took all our lung capacity to keep going.
De Booy and I were naturally intrigued to discover how we re-
acted to lack of oxygen at high levels. To our great relief things
turned out much better than we had expected. Even after a particu-
larly trying passage it did not require more than a few moments to
regain our breath.
Eugenio had done very well at first, but now the ascent was get-
ting more difficult his morale fell lower and lower, and much preci-
ous time was lost in urging him on. It was nearly one before we
reached a point about 500 feet below the summit. In front of us rose
an almost perpendicular ice-wall, topped by a projecting cornice of
formidable proportions. The wind, blowing continually in the
same direction over the ridge, had so moulded this canopy of snow
and ice that it now jutted out considerably over the lee-side.
It certainly did not look enticing. Our passage to the summit
would take us beneath these masses of ice to a narrow ridge. From
a small saddle, this ridge at first sloping only slightly went up-
wards right to the top. The saddle reached, we were able for the
first time to scan the east flank and to confirm that it would be
possible to scale the ridge. The steepness of the slope demanded such
a degree of ice-technique manoeuvring that it was inadvisable to
take Eugenio any further. This was where knowledge and care were
When we told Eugenio that he could now untie the rope and re-
THE PONGOS MASSIF
main in a safe place until we returned, his relief was unmistakable.
He let us know that in any case he had not intended to go another
step. What he could see of the climb ahead, as he expressed it in
Spanish, 'was just too gruelling for the likes of him'.
Selecting a safe spot, we gave him strict instructions not to leave
it on any account, as there were crevasses all around which were
hardly visible owing to their deceptive coverings of snow. Any
mooning about would put him in deadly peril. Once we had seen
him comfortably placed, De Booy and I proceeded up the ridge,
only to discover after the first few steps that this was also deceptive.
There were numbers of snowed-in fissures which could only be
detected by constant gouging with the axe.
Several rope-lengths up, the ridge began to narrow more and
more. It also became quite a business to avoid the dangerous cor-
nice. We were forced on to the steep east flank where the soft snow
looked anything but trustworthy and aroused uneasy misgivings
about avalanches. A little higher up, a tiny shelf gave us a welcome
chance to stop for breath. Looking below we saw that Eugenio, in
spite of all our warnings, was meandering round. De Booy
bawled down that we wouldn't pay him his wages if he didn't
immediately go back to his place. The threat had the desired
From our shelf we saw that the ridge now tapered up to a slender
crest the crown of the cornice and extended for about 100 feet
right to the highest point, the summit of our mountain. As we had
seen down below, this was precisely the place where the widest part
of the overhanging canopy of snow jutted out over sheer space. It
was overhanging some 16 feet, as far as we could tell. So we could
only reach the summit by making another traverse along the face,
which here sloped at a gradient of 50 degrees. All this made us won-
der whether it would not be safer to turn back. Manoeuvring just a
little too deeply on that pitch could easily cause the mass of snow to
start slithering down over the hard ice that undoubtedly lay beneath.
AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
However, the mere thought of giving in at this stage touched our
ambition too nearly. We agreed to carry on.
We should have liked to have hammered in some pitons for
security, but they would have been useless in that deep powdery
snow. One could hardly get a bold with the axe. We had to satisfy
ourselves with a belay round an axe rammed in as deep as it would
go. Even this was more of a moral support than anything else. By
dint of the utmost care we negotiated the traverse without mishap.
At 145 we reached the top or, to be more precise, we approached
it as closely as we dared with the point of the axe. The highest point
was the bulge of the cornice, but as this jutted out several yards over
the abyss, it was out of reach. Our altimeter gave a reading of about
18,400 feet. Years before, when the mountain was measured by the
Germans, its height was shown on the map as 17,923 feet.
De Booy and I did not feel at all at ease, standing there precari-
ously near the edge of the cornice. We allowed ourselves time only
for fastening the Dutch flag on the shaft of an axe, for De Booy to
hold it over the summit and for me to snap it with the camera.
Then we started to return as fast as possible to the place where we
had left Eugenio.
Descending first, I was about half-way down when an anxious
moment occurred. My foot slipped and I had to put my full weight
on the axe. It went right through the cornice! There suddenly
gaped a hole through which the glacier hundreds of feet below
could be seen. Whew! Shocks such as these make one go all weak
at the knees. Fearful of hurtling with the cornice into the depths, I
groped my way as quickly as possible down the east face, which
now became steeper and steeper. It was only with the utmost con-
centration that we managed to negotiate the rest of it. Down at last,
we were able to relax from the strain.
From below, Eugenio had been watching practically the whole
operation. As we were clambering down the last few feet, he stood
there waving his arms and shouting 'Viva Holanda! Viva Holanda!*
THE PONGOS MASSIF
Such a spontaneous outburst from this somewhat taciturn fellow
took us completely by surprise, not to mention the effusive embrace
we received on reaching safety. Unlocking myself from his welcom-
ing arms, I had unholy pleasure in taking a leisurely photo of De
Booy undergoing a similar but more drawn-out hug.
Eugenio had no regrets whatever that he had not accompanied us
to the summit, but he was genuinely delighted at our success. We
ourselves, looking upward, felt not a little pride in our peak. We
both had now achieved the cherished ambition of every climber
to make a first ascent of a virgin peak without a guide. That this
had been an entirely Dutch effort gave us added satisfaction. The
attack itself had not proved so very difficult; even the last few
hundred feet had not been fraught with too many technical difficul-
ties. Nevertheless, the climb had distinctive features which we
should not quickly forget. For one thing, we had come to grips
with the most menacing problem confronting the climber in the
Andes the cornice.
After a brief respite we resumed the descent, Eugenio taking his
place again in the middle of the rope. We went down rapidly over
the glacier. The steep slopes, which had involved so much toil that
morning, were now taken at glorious speed. Towards four we
reached firm ground again, and thankful that the hard part was now
over, we granted ourselves a well-earned rest.
We quenched our thirst by melting snow on a small meta-stove.
Lumps of sugar, soaked with lemon-juice, went down fine. It was
grand, too, after 'something attempted, something done', to be able
to bask in the sun and talk it over. De Booy came up with all sorts
of speculations about the dangers of that last face, and the chances
of avalanches occurring in similar snow conditions. I, myself, had
practically wiped out recollection of the steep face, except for that
shuddering moment when the gaping hole had suddenly yawned
through the cornice to disclose the glacier far below.
We reminded ourselves that our mountain had as yet no name.
Top R.: T. DE BOOY from Aerdenhout; 27
years of age; geologist; educated at Am-
Middle L.: LIONEL TERRAyfrom Chamonix;
30 years of age; mountain guide and ski-
ing instructor; second to climb north wall.
of Eiger; member of the 1950 French Himalayan ex-
pedition which scaled the Annapurna, the first mountain
over the 26,296 ft. (8,000 metre) level ever to be
climbed; member of the French Patagonian expedition
1951-52, and first to climb the Fitz Roy.
Bottom: C. c. EGELER from Amsterdam; 35 years of age;
geologist on the staff of the Geological Institute of the
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AN UNNAMED MOUNTAIN
To climb a virgin peak reaching up to nearly 18,000 feet is all very
well, but one had to call it something! It had to be christened.
After endless discussion, we agreed to call it the Nevado Queshque
after the valley below, the Quebrada Queshque. This would be in
full accord with the custom in other parts of the Cordillera Blanca,
where many mountains take their names from the valleys below.
In this we were far less original than members of the Franco-Belgian
expedition. After making a similar first ascent in the summer of
1951 in the northern portion of the Cordillera Blanca, they chris-
tened their newly-conquered peak, the Nevada Pisco, this being the
name of a popular brand of Peruvian gin, of which they had con-
sumed great quantities the day before. We, alas, could not think up
anything so apt, our only liquids during the past few days having
been tea and Milo malt drinks.
Late in the afternoon we decided it was time at last to go. We
struggled to our feet and left the wonderful region of snow and ice,
De Booy and Eugenio still had such funds of energy that they raced
each other down. I followed more leisurely, my thoughts already
focused on our next goal, the Pongos, now towering in front of us,
its peak bathed in the setting sun.
Viewed from this side, the north-west face looked most uncom-
promising. I also gained a good impression of the difficulties that the
south-west ridge would present in the shape of an enormous cor-
nice, ice-plastered rock, steep ice. It wasn't going to be exactly
child's play, getting up to the top.
This was by no means the first occasion that, descending one
mountain, I had immediately fallen victim to the lure of the next.
Indeed, it is invariably the same with me. The vanquished mountain
has already been relegated to the background before I leave it. The
Queshque lay behind, the Pongos before ! Why look back?
The race between De Booy and Eugenio had one good result as
far as I was concerned. By the time I arrived at base camp tea was
akeady brewing; and not only tea. De Booy was busily preparing
Top: The Netherlands flag on the summit of an un-named mountain (17,923 feet). It
was later christened the Nevado Queshque. Bottom: Eugenio embracing de Booy on
THE PONGOS MASSIF
a victory feast fried potatoes, minced meat, and delicious tinned
fruit. This last, after a heavy day's climbing, was most welcome.
Not that we didn't enjoy the other food, too. Nerves relaxed,
appetite returned; and we made up for lost time by taking huge
helpings of everything. Before we had finished eating, however,
we were obliged to take shelter in our tents, for dusk brought a
biting cold with it. Tucked snugly in our sleeping-bags, we munched
happily away, then dropped off to sleep, only disturbed now and
then by the thunder of some distant avalanche.
THE NEVADO PONGOS
After our success in climbing the Queshque, we felt eager to
tackle a more difficult mountain. The following day, as we worked
our way up the valley, bent on our geological mapping, our eyes
kept straying at every break in operations to the virgin peaks in the
vicinity, the Pongos and the Chico Pongos. They seemed positively
to invite an attack. Suddenly the challenge proved too much for De
Booy. He enthusiastically proposed that we should attempt the
ascent of the Chico Pongos before Terray's arrival. Lucidly he was
open to reason when I pointed out that we really ought first to
finish the geological work.
Meanwhile, we moved our headquarters back to base camp, still
maintaining Camp i, however, as it would certainly come in useful
as an attack camp for the assault on the Pongos.
Blasido was sent down to Ticapampa to wait for Terray, whose
arrival from Lima was expected at any moment. "We thought he
would want to join us at once, so that we could make a combined
attempt on the Pongos without further loss of time.
The geological survey of the valley was finished on the evening
of June 6th and we returned to base camp to await our French
friend. Our anxiety about him grew with every minute. By supper
THE NEVADO PONGOS
time, no one had appeared. So we climbed up a prominent crag,
from where we could get a fine view down the valley. After some
time we made out the figures of two riders a great distance off,
slowly making their way through the swampy ground of the valley.
For a moment we thought everything was in order, but, when the
riders came nearer, we saw that it was Blasido and his brother-in-
law, Leucadio. The latter had come along to look after the horses on
the journey. Blasido told us, to our keen disappointment, that Ter-
ray had not arrived that morning, neither had anything been heard
from him. This was a blow. According to our calculations Terray
should have arrived a day or so ago. His continued absence now
threatened to upset our carefully-timed programme and waste
much valuable time.
After a short debate it was decided that De Booy and Blasido
should set off first thing next morning and stay in Ticapampa until
Terray arrived. If he did not appear in a few days' time, De Booy
would contact the French legation at Lima, where Terray would
certainly report on landing. I, meanwhile, would remain and
use my time in writing articles for the press. Perhaps I might also
have the opportunity to make a detailed investigation of one of the
granodiorite contacts in the neighbourhood.
All this proved unnecessary. When De Booy arrived in Tica-
pampa hot foot the next afternoon, he found Terray already there,
snugly ensconced with our inestimable host, Mr. Kroupnitzky. But
comfortable though he was, Terray longed to tackle those lofty
snow-capped peaks he had glimpsed the previous noon during his
journey over the Cordillera Negra. Despite travel weariness, Terray
wanted to set off there and then for the Queshque valley. The in-
domitable De Booy, who had already done six hours on horseback,
was also game. So they started off, and late that same evening
arrived at base camp.
I, myself, had crept nice and early that evening into my sleeping
bag, reconciled to the thought that several days were bound to go
THE PONGOS MASSIF
by before I saw my fellow-members. A few hours later I was
startled from a light sleep by something that sounded ominously
like an Indian war-cry. It was a howl set up by the boisterous Ter-
ray. According to De Booy he had ridden his beast for hours at a
fierce gallop over a track which, at the best, was not too safe.
We greeted each other warmly. It seemed ages since the previous
year when we had said good-bye in Chamonix, and it was great to
have this reunion in far-off Peru. This was the turning-point in the
expedition the mountaineering part would now be on with a ven-
geance. The dream was about to be realized.
As we sat together in the tent, Terray could hardly wait to
announce that he had a big surprise in store for us. He had actually
been able to bring along a marvellous 16 mm. cine-camera and a
lovely miniature camera equipped with telephoto lens. This expen-
sive apparatus had been kindly loaned to him by the French Hima-
layan Committee. Moreover, he had himself bought a great quan-
tity of coloured film. This was excellent news. Our own film camera
had fallen in the water whilst crossing a river on one of our surveys,
and we were afraid to rely on it any more. It was a heavy cum-
bersome thing, impossible to take on difficult climbs, whereas Ter-
ray 's apparatus was light in weight. Needless to say, he was keen to
take it on every climb the expedition made. Actually, we could not
have been more grateful. After the expedition when our own films
were developed, every single shot was found to be spoiled owing to
the fouling of the lens in the water. The photos taken with Terray 's
apparatus were perfect. Thanks to him, we were able to bring home
a most satisfactory film of the whole affair.
During the next few days Terray was constantly being chaffed by
us about the way in which he set about filming. He did it with a
most unexpected seriousness and precision. Details of the time,
place, and visibility of every shot were carefully entered in a book.
De Booy, knowing Terray, bluntly said: 'Oh, all this won't last
very long!' and he was right.
THE NEVADO PONGOS
While Terray told us about his journey, Eugenic and I were busy
getting supper ready for him and De Booy. For this special occasion
I selected a tin of tasty pea-soup with boiled bacon. Unfortunately,
it did not turn out such a good idea after all, for both of them were
terribly bilious during the night. This was certainly learning the
hard way that one had rigidly to avoid heavy food and fats when at
On waking the next day, Lionel had other symptoms, indicating
that his transition within the last few days from sea-level up to
nearly 14,000 feet had been somewhat rapid. He was suffering from
headache; but this did not prevent him from coming along with us
to Camp i. Accompanied by the two bearers, we went in leisurely
fashion up the valley to the little camp at the foot of the glacier. De
Booy and I, already familiar with the way and the mountain scenery
found the journey to Camp i just a pleasant walk. Terray, on the
other hand, had his eyes fixed on our goal, the Pongos, towering
like a mighty fortress over the valley.
We told Terray how our first reconnaissance had revealed that
from this side there seemed to be two possible assault routes to the
Pongos pyramid. We could take either the north ridge or the south-
west ridge. The northerly route might be the simpler, but we had
deferred decision and the location of an attack camp until he arrived
on the scene.
The nearer Terray approached the mountain, and the closer he
scanned the ridges, the more enthusiastic he became. Lower in the
valley his view of the peak had been too limited to get a proper per-
spective. But now it became clear to him that our chosen objective
was one it would be foolish to underestimate. He shared our view
that we should really need to gird our loins if we wished to bring
this venture to a successful conclusion.
After our midday meal, headache or no headache, nothing could
stop Terray from accompanying me up the glacier. He simply had
to climb up high and get a good look through the field-glasses at
THE PONGOS MASSIF
that northerly route. On reaching 16,000 feet, we devoted over an
hour to this reconnaissance. Terray confirmed our opinion that the
north ridge, taken as a whole, looked easier than the south-west;
but, just as I was taking it for granted that he had definitely decided
on the north route, he startled me with 'And yet we will take the
south-west route*. I asked his reasons.
'Take a good look through these glasses,' he replied. 'About half-
way up that north ridge you'll see an indentation a sort of cleft
breaking the line of the arSte. From here, of course, one cannot say
what it's really like up there. But it strikes me as likely to turn out a
tough proposition. It certainly looks as though we might be held
up indefinitely at that point by all sorts of difficulties. We might
perhaps have to drive in a heck of a lot of pitons, all taking an
enormous amount of time. Why should we risk having to abandon
things half-way, if another route s possible, even though it may
look a bit more difficult. We must regard the extra difficulties as
just healthy exercise, nest-ce pas?
In face of such logic, words failed me. I felt rather abashed, too,
that De Booy and I had completely overlooked that cleft in the
north ridge. I drew Terray's attention, however, to those exces-
sively steep rocks high up on the south-west ridge and asked
whether these might not also prove insuperable. On this score Ter-
ray was less pessimistic. He doubted whether it would be possible
to climb up these rocks to the ridge, but he thought we might be
able to avoid them by a detour along one of the faces of the moun-
tain, although a traverse in the west face was hardly possible, owing
to the grim giant cornice.
Ah, well one had to take mountains as they are! A first ascent
of a peak of this class meant that one simply had to leave a lot to
luck. As Terray put it: 'Je ne sais comment on passera, mais on
passera quand meme!'
De Booy, back in camp, had been eagerly awaiting our return.
The moment he heard Terray's decision he began getting every-
THE NEVADO PONGOS
thing ready for the next day. He sorted out equipment and provi-
sions for about four days and divided them among the rucksacks.
Terray wanted to get as high up the west face as possible and to
establish a second assault camp on the steep glacier below the ridge.
To reach this point it would be necessary for both porters to climb
a fairly steep ice-fall.
When I explained this, Eugenio made a long face. The climbing
of the Queshque had impressed him deeply. He now realized how
dangerous the great ice slopes could be, and how crevasses lurked
treacherously in the glaciers. When I pointed out the proposed
route up the Pongos, all he could mutter was: * Terrible, Sehor doctor.
. . . Terrible! 9 But Blasido did nothing but grin. He had not set foot
on ice in his whole life, but the spirit of adventure had now too
much sway for him to be afraid of anything.
We decided to leave one of the two-man tents standing in Camp
i. In Camp 2 use would be made of the two Himalayan tents
Lionel Terray had brought from France. One of these was of the
Nanda Devi type, designed to hold three persons. The other was a
two-man nylon tent that had kindly been put at our disposal by the
French Himalayan Committee. It had been used on the Annapurna
and we looked forward to using it ourselves for the first time with
At ten o'clock on June pth we left Camp i, and slowly made our
way, heavily laden, through endless scree towards the lower tongue
of the glacier. The loads were a foretaste of the weights we should
have to shoulder in the coming weeks. It was a case of carrying
tents, sleeping bags, provisions, cooking equipment, and all essential
clothing up to high altitudes. We also had to take a great number of
On reaching the foot of the glacier, we roped up in two groups.
Terray and I took Eugenio, who was carrying the heaviest load;
while De Booy took Blasido under his wing. On our climbs we
always used two 200-foot nylon ropes, one white and the other
THE PONGOS MASSIF
orange. The rope was only 8 mm. in thickness, so it could be used
for rappels and for roping up (Corde a" attache). The colour contrast
came in most useful when both ropes were in use together. Nylon
rope is indeed far superior to manilla or hemp rope. It is only half
the weight and always remains supple and pliable, even when frozen.
Sketch of the area around the Pongos.
Route up the south-west ridge of the Pongos.
We immediately met with several fairly steep passages, obliging
the porters to make full use of their crampons, which they did at
first somewhat awkwardly. Terray showed them, how to bend
THE NEVADO PONGOS
their ankles and how to dig all the spikes of their crampons evenly
in the ice at each step. We slowly toiled up and up, through a con-
fusion of crevasses, across the ice-fall. Here and there Terray kept
cutting steps in the ice to ease the way for the porters. Once, on a
steep incline, Eugenio started slipping and had to be held on the
rope. Surprisingly enough, this had a most salutary effect. When
the bearers saw how easily it was done, they realized that they were
running no very great risks, and they consequently acquired far
more self-reliance. Blasido, in particular, showed himself most
adaptable after a time.
It soon became evident that we had topped the 16,500-6;. mark,
for slowly but surely we began to get breathless. Any difficult
manoeuvring seemed to demand a disproportionate effort. As we
climbed, the mountain scenery became more and more beautiful,
particularly the Queshque. Down below, it had not looked at all
imposing, but here its real stature was revealed. The sight gave De
Booy and me a definite feeling of satisfaction. Lionel had hitherto
not paid much attention to our account of the ascent of this moun-
tain, but now he evinced keen interest in our climbing route. The
Chico Pongos, too, looked most impressive from here, making us
wonder whether we could possibly manage to tackle it before we
left for another part of the range.
Towards one o'clock we reached a place which was not quite so
steep and appeared suitable for the pitching of Camp 2. The alti-
meter registered 17,320 feet. We were now well up the glacier and
directly below the ridge. It was clear that, a few hundred feet higher
up, the technicalities would be too complicated for us to take our
bearers any further.
The day was beautifully warm. For that matter, the weather so
far had been very kind to us, although towards the east thick banks
of clouds were gathering over the Amazon plain.
As always, the setting up of the camp took considerable time.
Using duralumin spades, we dug out two level platforms on which
THE PONGOS MASSIF
to pitch our tents. In doing this we had to take care not to leave any-
thing lying on the ground, for the slope was such that any loose
objects had a way of sliding away and disappearing in a jiffy into
the depths. This happened to Eugenio, to his chagrin, when he let a
spade fall. Mouth open in astonishment, he saw it slide swiftly
down, and vanish a few moments later into a crevasse 100 feet
down. It led to a true Gallic scolding from Lionel. The worthy
Eugenio understood not a word of French, but obviously grasped
the general drift.
When fixing the tents one also had to guard against possible up-
rooting by wind. We therefore buried down the sides of the tents,
all along their lengths. Under Terray's eagle eye it was three before
everything was arranged just so. He, of course, had done this sort of
thing scores of times before. Two orange-coloured tents now stood
firmly and proudly on the face. When reading books about expedi-
tions to the Himalayas and the Andes we had often looked long-
ingly at photos of similar encampments. Now we ourselves had
such a camp, somewhere on some unknown mountain.
While the others were busy setting up the camp, I was seeing to
the cooking, first of all melting a lot of snow. At that height, low
air pressure caused boiling-point to be much lower than at sea-
level, so cooking proved a long and tedious business. What is more,
the moment I did succeed in melting a saucepan-full of water, up
would come some member of the party asking for a drink, and not
being satisfied until the pan was emptied. Finally, after an hour and
a half, a good quantity of tea was ready. The others had finished
their jobs, too, so we all sat down comfortably to our midday meal.
We sat basking in the sun for hours that afternoon, enjoying the
lovely scenery. We did some filming and chatted endlessly about
tomorrow's venture. As always, the Peruvian day proved too
short. About 5 o'clock the sun went behind a neighbouring moun-
tain and at once a chilling night cold descended. We were forced to
seek the shelter of our tents and creep into our sleeping bags. We
THE NEVADO PONGOS
actually cooked supper in the tent. The great advantage of the
Nanda Devi type is that it leaves ample space at both ends. In one
end rucksacks, boots, ropes, etc., can be dumped, whilst at the other
end there is room for cooking. During the preparation of the meal
there was a bit of an upset. The lighted candle was placed near a
flask which had no stopper in it. When Terray asked for something
to drink, I thought the flask contained water and handed it over; but
a few seconds later, I realized that it was anything but water. Only
after hectic minutes of spluttering and cursing, did we gather that I
had given him petrol to drink. He went right off the Gallic deep-
end, particularly about leaving the open petrol flask so near to the
'You fatheads! Have you gone mad?' he choked indignantly. 'Do
you think it funny to spend the night up here at 17,000 feet, beside
a burnt-out tent?'
He could not have been more right. It was plain that only nerve
would help us out of this situation. When De Booy coolly said:
'But surely petrol is for burning, so why all the fuss?* Terray was
so taken aback that further words failed him. But, from then on,
whenever we were cooking, Terray constantly glanced uneasily in
our direction, obviously making sure everything was in order.
The candle went out at half-past seven, but none of us could get
to sleep for a number of reasons. The cloudbanks which had been
piling up that afternoon on the east side of the Cordillera, had now
increased considerably. Even in the dark we could see how the
Pongos summit was enveloped in black cloud, and we knew from
experience that this boded ill. When, after a few hours it began to
snow lightly, we feared the weather prospects for the morning
would be none too good.
At 4.30 next morning we were awakened by Terray *s alarm
watch. Our first thoughts were of the weather. We flung open the
tent flap. One look was sufficient! During the night the tents had
become partly snowed-under, but the bad weather was over. The
THE PONGOS MASSIF
sky was perfectly clear, except for a few clouds on the far eastern
horizon. The surrounding mountains were silhoutted with razor
sharpness against the starry sky.
According to our estimate, six inches of snow had fallen in the
night, but correct measurement was difficult as the wind had
swept it into thick drifts. For a time I thought that this, in itself,
might prevent our going on with the climb, but Terray reckoned
we could safely proceed, even though the snow might well prove
an extra hindrance.
How terribly cold it had been during that night at the 17,000-6:.
altitude could be seen from our sleeping bags. They were frozen
here and there to the tent walls and had to be dislodged with force.
The thermometer stood at minus 10 C.
Early rising in piercing cold to begin a hard climb is always
something of a dubious pleasure. On the one hand, one wants to be
up good and early to get under way; on the other hand, one shivers
at the cold and at the thought of all the self-imposed privations
ahead. On that particular morning all three of us were deplorably
sluggish. We tried to push responsibility for getting breakfast on
Eugenio and Blasido, so that we could snooze a little longer in the
lovely warmth of our sleeping bags. Unfortunately, our deep
designs went awry. When we shouted at the other tent the only
reply was a groan. Terray and I agreed that De Booy ought to
go out and see what was wrong. He naturally quibbled about this,
but we argued that as he lay in the centre of the tent it was easiest
for him to creep out. This finally won the day. A few minutes later
he came back with the news that both bearers were down with
mountain-sickness. They had splitting headaches and declined to
come out of their sleeping bags. It was odd that we, who were
accustomed to living at sea-level, should already have become com-
pletely acclimatized after only one month, while these fellows who
had spent their whole lives 10,000 feet up, should have succumbed
after only one night at the iy,ooo-ft. altitude. A few APC tablets
THE NEVADO PONGOS
and some encouraging words were all we could give them. Now
that we had to get our own breakfast, there was little time to spare.
In any case it was imperative to have a quick hot drink to counter-
act the intense cold, so De Booy prepared the Milo malt, whilst I
got the porridge ready.
Towards dawn we were all set, crampons on, for the big climb.
With Terray in the lead, then me, and De Booy last, we slowly
made our way up the steep snow-covered glacier to the edge of the
The great adventure was on! Our target glittered aloft a
mountain untrodden by the foot of man. We were making our way
into the unknown, where none knew what technical snags awaited.
Compared with the climb now before us, the Queshque ascent had
been child's play. Would we again be successful?
I felt keyed up, as before an examination. Happily this sensation
soon disappeared, and I came again under the spell of the unknown,
the call of adventure. After all, the greater the effort demanded, the
greater the ultimate satisfaction.
The Pongos did not leave us guessing long. As soon as we
reached the ridge serious difficulties began. Just as on the
Queshque, this ridge had an enormous cornice poised over the
west flank, making it impossible for us to follow the crest. We were
obliged to traverse on to the south face, which we found to*be ex-
ceedingly steep here, sloping at an angle of fifty degrees. We had
to get used to it though, for the abyss over which we manoeuvred
was breath-taking: a sheer drop of 5,000 feet to the glacier below.
The snow was deep and powdery, as on the Queshque. De Booy
and I had then feared avalanche dangers and had climbed in con-
tinual dread lest the whole mass of snow started sliding away under
our feet. Terray reassured us on that point. This particular sort of
snow was, he assured us, quite safe. However, he admitted
being impressed by the gaping void below us. We had to exer-
cise the greatest possible care and to omit no security precaution.
THE PONGOS MASSIF
For two long hours the way led along this tilted snowy slope,
two hours of horizontal traversing, hardly winning a foot of height.
For most of the distance we traversed with our faces towards the
slope, anchoring ourselves at every step with the axe well driven
into the deep snow above our heads. Rapid progress was out of the
question and in the whole two hours we only covered a few hun-
Then a little break in the ridge gave us hope of being able to
reach the crest. It was a good place to take a short rest. DC Booy
took the opportunity to film the ridge higher up, and particularly
the wind-scattered wisps of mist over the mountain.
From this point we gained another view of the west face. Far
below were the small tents of Camp 2, where one of the porters
was pottering about. He was such a speck in the landscape that we
couldn't make out whether it was Blasido or Eugenio. Perhaps the
mountain-sickness was on the wane. I shouted and lo and behold,
the porter seemed to spot us, for he waved back.
During this short breather we had a bite of something to eat,
then on we went. Almost immediately new problems arose, forcing
us again on the steep flank of the ridge, where the gradient was even
sharper than before. This time, however, we clawed our way
straight upwards instead of sideways. The first few hundred feet
were telling. Again and again we leaned worn out against the wall,
gasping for breath.
After hours of uninterrupted work we saw that the arete 1 , now
not far above us, was blocked by a rock buttress extending over
both flanks of the mountain. This was the dreaded obstacle we had
discussed so much since our first reconnaissance in the valley. There
was no doubt about it: we had now reached a ticklish stage. Further
ascent of the south-west ridge depended on whether, by some
means or other, we could get by this rock barrier.
At first, from a distance, it seemed possible. After another fifteen
1 Arfte sharp ascending ridge of a mountain.
THE NEVADO PONGOS
minutes, however, we reached a saddle at the foot of the rocks, and
took a closer look. They looked most unpleasant. Most of them
were overhanging and covered with verglas, difficulties which in-
variably face the climber among the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca.
In the Alps it is often advisable to follow the rock and avoid the
steep ice-ridges: in the Peruvian mountains it is just the reverse.
Whenever possible one avoids the rocks which are mostly ice-
covered. As Terray had prophesied two days previously, a traverse
along the face was necessary. Climbing the precipitous rock barriers
would entail the driving in of innumerable pitons, to say nothing
of other complications.
We now had to find the best possible route for our detour. A
traverse to the left on to the west face was absolutely impossible,
for the way up the wall was blocked for hundreds of feet by massive
overhanging shelves of ice. Even if it had been technically possible
to force our way through, the risks were too overwhelming. Now
that the sun had become more powerful, large and small chunks of
the ice shelving were continually breaking off, and thundering into
the depths below. They were falling right over the route we would
have to traverse.
The remaining possibility was a traverse along the south flank.
We would have to start this low down, for here again overhanging
masses of ice prevented rapid passage upwards and it would be
necessary to pass under them before any height could be gained.
Negotiating this passage, Terray revealed his great gifts of leader-
ship. As soon as he had decided to try this way, he advanced un-
hesitatingly, but with the utmost care, across the ice-slope still
separating us from the rocks.
After a few minutes he reached the nearest rock-band. It was a
tense moment. We watched him trying to find a hold, but, as we
had surmised, the rock was completely coated with ice. The lower
reaches, against which he stood, bulged slightly. The first attempt
to pass failed, and Terray was obliged to let himself slide back on the
THE PONGOS MASSIF
ice-steep. At the second attempt he succeeded, after a struggle, in
passing the critical spot and pulled himself up a few yards. For a
brief moment he stood there, a dark silhouette against the clear sky.
Then he disappeared round the corner. De Booy and I, who had
been breathlessly following his every movement, felt tenser than
ever, now he had vanished from view. What would he find?
Would there be a way up the face?
In the silence that followed, Terray's progress could only be
judged by the slow paying-out of the rope, which I had belayed
round my axe. Then, to our relief, came the sound of the hammer,
telling us that he had at last found a foothold and was driving in a
piton. We knew we could follow! A moment later his red beret
came in sight round the rock. He shouted to me to avoid the over-
hanging rock by traversing the sloping face as low down as possible.
With a last enjoinder to De Booy to secure me well, I followed
Terray's track across the ice-slope. I had closely watched his method
of tackling the difficulties ahead, so the going was not too tough.
In order to get a better hold of the slippery rock, however, I took
off my gloves. Thank goodness the passage did not last long, for
the touch of the icy stone immediately numbed the fingers of both
hands. Once around the bend I could see Terray several yards above
me on the face. From here, one could plainly see what lay before:
it was, to say the least of it, discouraging the most abrupt steep I
had ever encountered. From where Terray stood, we had to climb
some 300 feet up ice pitched at an angle of about 65 degrees and
covered with deep powdery snow. We normally traversed terrain
such as this, but further detours on the face of the mountain were
out of the question. There was nothing for it, but to go straight
Cautiously climbing up to Terray, I reached the piton and
stopped a second to get breath. Then I shouted to De Booy to come
on, and slowly hauled in the rope. Meanwhile Terray left the little
shelf and began to work his way upwards. Slowly but surely he
The Chico Pongos (18,635 &et)
THE NEVADO PONGOS
went, driving in his axe as far above his head as he could, then
hauling himself up on it. He continually sank to his thighs in the
soft deep snow. Time and time again he tried to find footholds, but
each time he kept sliding back a bit. It was a Herculean task and
took every ounce of breath, but he progressed.
It took him quite fifteen minutes to climb the first hundred feet.
Then, as I couldn't let out any more rope, Terray hacked out a
little level place in the face and called to me to follow up as fast as
possible. The track thus made, it was somewhat easier for me, al-
though at each step up I found myself slithering back a bit. I was
just about all in when I managed to join Terray on the small plat-
form. There was little left of the original track when it came to
De Booy's turn to come up. He, too, had the greatest difficulty in
It took three more rope lengths, repeating the selfsame process,
before we completed this laborious, exhausting passage. It lasted a
good hour, but finally the three of us straddled the ridge, feeling
that we had done a good job of work and cherishing a faint hope
that perhaps the worst was now over. At any rate it was now pos-
sible to go up the crest of the arite. After a time, trouble started
again. This time we had to deflect on to the west flank, where the
slope was just as steep as the one just negotiated.
But there is an end to everything. At half-past twelve we finally
caught sight of the summit. There was just one more nasty piece in
front to overcome, involving getting on the east face, where a snow
field slanted up to the top. It was necessary to cross over the ridge,
but this was covered by an abominably wide cornice, out of "which
we would have to chop a part before we could go on.
Where we had now landed was indeed a tricky spot, giving the
impression it could collapse at any moment. It was a case of touch
and go all too easily could one be carried down with the falling
ice. Terray went to work with the greatest caution. Climbing
slowly to where blue ice showed through here and there, he hacked
The Nevado Pongos (18,737 feet). De Booy points out the proposed line of attack to
THE PONGOS MASSIF
away a passage through the overhanging cornice and then dis-
appeared over the crest. De Booy and I feverishly waited. Only the
slow pay-out of the rope showed that Terray was still moving. A
few minutes later we heard him shout, and it was my turn to go
over the top. Warily I followed in Terray's track. Arriving at the
crest I paused a moment for breath only to be immediately
challenged by our leader.
*Qu'est ce que tu fais la, Kees?' he yelled.
'Moi je souffle un peu!' I gasped.
* Ah, mon vieux, tu peux souffler a n'importe quel endroit, mais
ici . . . jamais! Ce passage est drolement dangereux!'
These words stirred me at once into activity and I hastily des-
cended the other side of the arete on to a snowy slope. From here
the way to the summit lay clear, but this fiercely steep snow-field
took full toll of energy and lung power. Panting for breath, we
toiled up the last few yards.
The summit was reached!
It was one o'clock when the French and Netherlands flags, fas-
tened to the shafts of our axes, fluttered fraternally side by side on
the 18,737-6. high summit of the Pongos, the loftiest peak of the
entire southern massif.
Victory was ours, and the first big climbing success of our Andes
expedition had been secured. In past years I often used to ask myself
what mountaineers actually did when, after an arduous and perilous
climb, they finally reached the top of a virgin peak. Now we our-
selves were sitting on a summit rising to 18,737 feet above level
What did we do? Well, we looked around, but were much too
spent at first to enjoy the view. We took snaps and tried, with
some aversion, to eat something. Actually, the feeling of triumph
came much later on, after we had tackled the descent with all its
The view was, of course, superb. We could see the Cordillera
THE NEVADO PONGOS
Blanca stretching for tens of miles on both sides of us. In the south
reared the Caullaraju massif, not particularly impressive. But
definitely awesome was the mighty silhouette of the Yerupaja,
towering imperiously still further south in the Huashhuash Cordil-
lera. Our Queshque mountain lay far below us. It now looked an
insignificant hill, belonging to the past.
And the future . . . ? In the far distance a fantastic ice-pyramid
towered head and shoulders above its neighbours. It was the mighty
Huantsan, which we were shortly to challenge. After to-day's suc-
cess such an attack seemed at least to be a shade more conceivable.
There was little charm about the Pongos summit, which we had
reached with so much toil and stress. It was big and level enough
for a football field. The mountain formed, as it were, a broad dome
with steep sides.
About 1,400 feet below us lay Camp 2. We saw a bearer moving
about outside the tent. Lower still, at the head of the Queshque
valley, we made out the solitary tent of Camp i. Far in the distance,
hardly discernible to the naked eye, stood the big tent of our base
camp. An arriero was due to arrive that day with horses and donkeys
for the journey down the valley. He certainly would stare to find
the camp completely deserted. We stared, too, through the glasses,
but could see no animals in sight.
I asked Terray how he felt. The verve with which he had been
able to lead us up the peak was absolutely staggering, when one re-
called that he had allowed himself such little time to get acclima-
tized. On June 3rd he was still in France; on June 5th in Lima at
sea-level, and to-day, June xoth, here he was up at the 18,737-6:.
level, on the lofty summit of the Pongos. The only tiling that
bothered him was a slight headache. Truly a unique achievement,
of which Terray himself was a little proud; and when we so roundly
expressed our admiration, he could not help showing his gratifica-
With night falling early in the Peruvian Andes, time was now
THE PONGOS MASSIF
growing short. After twenty minutes on the summit we began the
descent, and, as is often the case with steep ice, found it more beset
with difficulty than the ascent, requiring the utmost concentration.
We were, in fact, so engrossed that none of us noticed the weather
taking a turn for the worse. Whilst resting on the summit we had,
it is true, eyed with distrust the dark clouds heaped over the
Amazon plain, little dreaming they would so soon become a source
of danger. We took quick notice when the first hailstones clattered
on our heads. We were still on the ridge, just above the band of
rocks which had proved so troublesome that morning during the
ascent. All at once the entire mountain was shrouded in mist and
we could hardly see more than a few feet ahead.
The thunder roared in the distance and, according to Terray, he
felt the electricity in the air in his hair. Later on, when safe and sound
in camp, we pulled Terray 7 s leg unmercifully about this remark, for
he is nearly bald.
At that moment, however, the information did nothing to cheer
us up. Severe weather overtaking us on this arete could have ugly
consequences. We particularly had to guard against over-hastiness.
Every precaution had to be taken. No security measure overlooked.
In such difficult terrain it was madness to try to go any faster. Each
of us therefore carried on as calmly as possible, concentrating vigor-
ously on the work, and not wasting any time in needless breathers.
No more jokes were cracked. No unnecessary words exchanged;
only the curt phrases needed for rope manipulation.
Going down the exceedingly steep slope which had taken over an
hour to climb that morning, we found that the descent fortunately
took less time than the ascent, for we could allow ourselves to slide
down secured by a rammed-in axe, without bothering too much
about foot support. At last we came to the piton hammered in
earlier on by Terray. This could now be made to serve for the
rappel, or descent by rope, over the rock formations and ice-wall.
And now, as he began to speed things up, Terray kept on breathing
THE NEVADO PONGOS
hard, always a sign with him of great tension. Mist still enveloped
the mountain, but the hailstones had turned to snow.
As soon as the rope had been passed through the ring I went
down, secured by Lionel. First I had to clear the rocks. Then, on the
steep ice below, I had to bear to the left as much as possible in order
to reach the saddle and not land in the abyss. It nearly went wrong.
My left leg suddenly went deeply into a crevasse deceptively
covered with snow, and I lost my balance. With contracting heart I
swung sideways some twenty yards or more on the taut rope, and
finally came to rest hanging in space. Terray, following my motions
from above, began swearing a natural enough reaction.
I reproached myself bitterly. Up to then, everything had gone
splendidly, and now I had to make this stupid mistake. With some
difficulty I pulled myself together and a few minutes later secured
a firm foothold on the saddle near the foot of the rocks. I could
breathe again. The manoeuvre, in spite of that nerve-racking
moment, had turned out all right.
A little later the others landed safely, too, and we treated our-
selves to a short rest. As we took a last glance at the ridge, the sun
broke through the clouds. The greatest hazards were behind us
and so apparently was the dirty weather.
We were able to move down quickly from the saddle to the place
where we had earlier eaten. Gradually I had grown really tired. We
had been on the go for ten whole hours, hours of severe mental and
physical strain, and I couldn't say that I looked forward to that
tricky traverse across the south-west face, which that morning had
lasted all of two hours. But cheers! Terray had other plans. Whilst
we had been resting there, he had been peering below and now he
announced, to our relief, that he had discovered another route
which would cut out that tiresome traverse. He intended, he said,
going down the west face.
He accordingly forged ahead to see if there were any insuperable
obstacles. Soon there came a shout from below, a sign for us to fol-
THE PONGOS MASSIF
low. Down we climbed over sharply tilted snow-fields, reaching
via a steep ice-slope the snow-covered glacier. This route was un-
doubtedly simpler than the way we had climbed. Terray explained
that it had been impossible to detect it from below as a projecting
cornice obstructed the view. When in doubt he thought it better to
be sure than sorry.
The new route was not only easier, but time-saving. Reaching
the glacier, we saw the tents quite close at hand. With only three-
quarters of an hour to go before sunset, we arrived safely back in
Camp 2. Terray had careered on ahead, and we saw him now being
embraced and congratulated by one of the bearers. It was Eugenio,
welcoming us with hot tea and lemon. Before we could drink it,
De Booy and I had to submit to a hearty embrace as well.
Eugenio, who had fortunately recovered from his mountain-
sickness, told us that be had been able to follow most of our climb.
Blasido, on the other hand, was still wretchedly ill and, according
to Eugenio, had been vomiting blood. On further inquiry we learned
that Blasido had suffered from his lungs in the past, having con-
tracted silicosis during a period of mine work. He lay there, deep
in his sleeping bag, too ill to stand. It seemed imperative to get him
away before he lost more strength, but it was of course impossible
to do anything so late that day. Descent of the steep glacier with a
sick man was out of the question in the dark. We decided that De
Booy should take him below early next morning. Terray, Eugenio,
and I would break camp and follow on more slowly, carrying the
heavy gear. After searching in our medicine chest, we gave Blasido
some tablets against bronchitis. If they didn't do good, well, they
couldn't do any harm. We also gave him a strong sleeping draught
in the hope that it would ensure a good night's rest.
Blasido's illness naturally damped our spirits, but we could not
help feeling satisfied with ourselves that evening. The ascent of the
Pongos had gone extraordinarily well, notwithstanding the fact
that the climb had been far tougher than expected.
THE NEVADO PONGOS
De Booy and I sought Terray 's verdict on the climb. We learned
that he regarded the problems of the last 600 feet or so to the top as
quite comparable with any of the truly difficult ice-climbs in the
Alps, even if one only took into account the exposed nature and
general delicacy of the exceptionally narrow ice-ridge up which we
had to force our way to the summit.
Blasido's condition was still far from satisfactory next day, but
luckily he was able to move. Under De Booy's kindly care, he set off
down the glacier. Some hours later Terray and I followed with the
heavily laden Eugenio. It wasn't too easy at various places and more
than once the falling Eugenio had to be held on the rope by Terray.
On the -v^hole Eugenio seemed to be enjoying himself; and this
made me more hopeful for the future.
When we reached the foot of the glacier, Terray and I left him
behind, while we went down the slope at top speed. Terray got
ahead of me and no matter how I exerted myself, I simply could not
catch up. However, near a spot where we had to cross the glacier
stream, he waited for me. Jumping from stone to stone over the
stream, Terray for one who usually was so surefooted now
seemed unsure of himself. Half-way across, he slipped. So, for the
second time during our stay in the Pongos massif, I was fated to see
a companion immersed in the icy water. The lurid language Terray
used is, of course, unrepeatable.
De Booy welcomed us in Camp i with lashings of hot tea. Later
that day we made our leisurely way down to base camp. There we
met the arriero who was to bring up pack-horses by June 10th, and
who, miracle of miracles, had kept his part of the agreement. Thus
it was possible to break camp next day and start back to Ticapampa.
Wending our way down the winding valley, from the bank of a lake,
we caught a last dazzling view of our mountain, rising majestically
over the vale. Then we rounded a bend the Pongos adventure was
With this climb one of the chief mountaineering aims of our
THE PONGOS MASSIF
Andes expedition had been realized. Not only that. The two ascents
we had made were ideal training for what lay ahead.
But what did the future have in store?
That was the question De Booy and I kept asking ourselves. It
was one to which only Terray could give the answer. His would be
the decision whether we should be justified in attempting the
Huantsdn, our ultimate goal the mountain which they said in the
valley was unclimbable.
We did not have to put the question after all. That selfsame even-
ing, as we sat by a cheerful fire in the Kroupnitzkys' living-room in
Ticapampa, Terray suddenly said: 1 think three days will suffice to
get everything ready. We will start for the Huantsdn on June i5th.'
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
From the moment Terray made his decision, everything
centred on our new objective the Huantsan. But we knew
very little about this mountain, except that it was the highest
unclimbed peak in the whole Cordillera Blanca. Schneider, a mem-
ber of two Austro-German expeditions to the Andes, wrote inter
alia about the ascent possibilities:
*The highest peak of the southern group, the Nevado Huantsan,
is perhaps at the same time the finest unsealed mountain of the
range. It is beautiful to look at from all sides, besides being con-
spicuous for its defiant faces. It offers only two possible approaches:
the north ridge, long and difficult, has the advantage of direction.
It is much more easily and comfortably reached from the east than
from the west. The second possibility is the south ridge, which is
reached through the Quebrada Rajucolta. Perhaps this is an easy
route when snow conditions are good. There is only one question-
able part in it, the sheer drop from the summit structure towards the
col between it and its southern subsidiary peak/
Members of the Austro-German expeditions made only one at-
tack on the Huantsan. IP 1939, Rohrer and Schweitzer tried to get
at the mountain from the south-west via the Rurec valley, but
quickly discovered that it was not the best route, for the way up-
wards was barred by a spur, the climbing of which constituted an
ascent in itself. After studying the mountain from, a point at the
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
i8,ooo-ft. level, they came to the conclusion that the north ridge
offered the best possibilities after all, even though it looked by no
No other attempts were subsequently made on the Huantsan,
which was regarded by everyone familiar with the Andes as one of
the toughest propositions in the Cordillera Blanca.
When our plans to make an attempt on the Huantsan were pub-
lished in the world press, we received a report that an American
expedition from the Califbrnian University had also chosen this
mountain as its objective. The question was who would be first,
and, what was perhaps more to the point, who would be able to
find the best attack route.
Though the photographs did not give much to go on, we had,
long before, discussed at great length the assault possibilities from
all aspects. We did not agree with the conclusion reached by
Schneider that, given good snow conditions, the south ridge might
offer good possibilities. Careful study of the various photographs
convinced us that the precipitous part between the southern subsi-
diary peak and the main summit presented difficulties of a practic-
ally insuperable nature. We formed the opinion that no detour was
possible round the rocks, and were fairly certain, too, that these
would be completely sheathed in ice. Everything indicated that
enormous technical difficulties would have to be faced up there at
the high altitude of over 20,000 feet.
As against this, the northern approach was admittedly long. But,
as far as we could make out from the photographs, it was not exces-
sively steep in any part. Rather than run the risk of being obliged
to turn back by insurmountable difficulties at a great height, we
preferred to face the length of the latter route. Thus it was that our
eventual choice fell on the northern arite of the Huantsan. This de-
cided, our next problem was to find the best approach to it. Here
we did allow ourselves to be guided by Schneider's view that the
easiest access was from the east.
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
We made up our minds to move our porters and all our gear by
lorry to the little village of Chavin on the eastern side of the chain.
From there we should be able to get into the range with pack-ani-
mals and to reach the foot of the Huantsan massif through the
Caruascancha valley. It later turned out that we had picked a good,
but by no means the best, line of approach. The shortest route to a
good assault base on the mountain is actually from the west through
the Shallap valley. From Huaraz, access can be gained to this valley
in a few hours on horseback. At its higher reaches the valley meets
a steep but climbable glacier, over which it is possible to reach the
foot of the north-west ridge of the Huantsan in a single day.
Ticapampa, during the days preceding our departure, was the
scene of feverish activity, with every member of the party busily
engaged, preparing for the assault. We had no time to recuperate
from the Pongos ascent. In any case we weren't in a mental state to
think of resting or relaxing. We were now on top of our form
and every day lost might lessen our lead over the American expedi-
By way of taking time by the forelock, Blasido, now quite fit
again, was sent on ahead by mule to the Chavin valley, charged with
the hiring there of pack-animals. In this way we thought we could
travel later to the other side of the range and then avoid being
obliged to devote several days making such transport arrangements.
De Booy gave Blasido detailed instructions. It was agreed that he
should meet us on the evening of June isth in the Chavin market-
place, from where, early the following morning, we should set off
On returning to Ticapampa we hoped to find our friend Ray-
mond Griere there we had calculated on his arriving by that time.
But a great disappointment awaited us. Among the post which had
arrived in our absence lay a telegram from Griere greatly regretting
that he could not join the party. Whilst training in France he had
sustained an injury which had proved more serious than originally
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
thought. His doctor had forbidden him to take part in any kind of
sport for some time. This was a real setback. It meant a serious
weakening of our team. Griere was not only a first-class moun-
taineer, but also a climber with considerable knowledge of the
Andes. The strength of our group was thus radically reduced for
the great undertaking ahead. A group of four was small enough, to
be sure; but attempting ah assault on the Huantsan with a party of
three was almost bravado. On the other hand, it would be rather
humiliating to alter our plans and choose a lesser objective at this
late stage. We decided, come what may, to see the thing through.
Griere's dropping out involved us in other difficulties. In view of
his knowledge of the Spanish language we had rather relied on his
taking over the organizing of the transport, giving instructions to
porters, and so on. Of the three of us, only De Booy spoke Spanish to
any degree. It meant that the handling of the native porters would
fall largely on the shoulders of our youngest member. During the
past few weeks I had picked up a certain amount of Spanish and
could make myself understood so far as elementary camp activities
and so on were concerned. But when a discussion ensued, I im-
mediately got into deep waters and had to call in De Booy to inter-
In spite of Terray's recent stay in the Argentine he had the greatest
difficulty with the language. His knowledge of Spanish was con-
fined to 'Muy bien, muy bien,' which is best translated by 'O.K.' or
'All right!' We were to hear these words continually during the
remainder of the expedition.
In those days of hectic preparations I saw practically nothing of
my companions. They were busy all day long in the storehouse,
sorting out and dividing kit and high-altitude provisions for the
coming four weeks in the mountains. Dozens of cases and canvas
bags were to be taken along, and lists had to be made out of the con-
tents of each, so that we could find anything we wanted with the
least delay. I myself sat at my typewriter from early morning till
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
late at night, writing articles for Dutch papers, dealing with cor-
respondence relative to the expedition, and, in between whiles,
writing long letters home.
The engagement of porters raised some problems. In addition to
Eugenio and Blasido, who now had some experience of snow and
ice, we wanted to take along two other men. The first applicant for
the job was Blasido's brother-in-law, Leucadio, who had already
served us in the capacity ofarriero during our Pongos venture. We
asked Eugenio whether he, too, had a strong, energetic friend or
relative who would like our sort of work. A few days later Eugenio
arrived with a dark-hued fellow of twenty-one, short and stocky,
with broad shoulders, who said he would like to make one of the
party. Like most local Indians he had a phenomenally wide chest.
Neither Leucadio nor this Guillermo had ever set foot on a moun-
In ordinary life Guillermo was a carpenter and a tailor. He looked
serious and as strong as an ox, so we decided to take him. At this
early stage we little suspected that he was to turn out by far the best
of the porters and remain with us to the very end. When I returned
to Holland, De Booy took Guillermo with him to Bolivia to help in
further geological surveys.
Just when we thought the porter problem had been nicely settled
there came a hitch. The morning before our departure, Eugenio,
despite his agreement, said he could not come. Some cattle belong-
ing to his parents for whom he was responsible had disappeared
from their grazing grounds and had to be tracked down. We were
at our wits' ends. We simply had to have another porter without
delay. The ingenious De Booy hit on a solution. He offered a re-
ward of five soles to anyone producing a substitute for Eugenio
within half an hour. Five minutes later Eugenio himself came to
claim the money. He brought along a young fellow named Pele-
grino, strongly Mongolian in features, but of the same robust
physique as Guillermo. He was normally one of the employees in
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
the washing-beds at the silver mine. We vetted him thoroughly,
realizing that we were taking a considerable risk, engaging him at a
moment's notice like this, without knowing anything about him.
We made it clear what was expected and what his duties would be.
De Booy asked if he felt at all scared, but he confidently replied that
it was precisely the element of danger in our venture that attracted
him. In point of fact it turned out later that this Pelegrino was the
most faint-hearted of all the bearers. He had entered our service
purely because the money offered by us was a little more than his
ordinary pay in the silver mine.
The morning of June ifth was devoted to handing out clothing,
footwear and equipment to our new recruits. Each bearer received
i woollen undervest i pair of mountaineering boots
1 pair of long woollen pants i woollen scarf
2 thick khaki vests i woollen beret
i pair of thick army trousers i pair of gaiters
I thick khaki battledress i canvas storm helmet
i anorak or wind-cheater i pair of sun-glasses
1 thick woollen sweater i down sleeping-bag
2 khaki shirts i rucksack
2 pairs of woollen socks i pair of crampons
i pair of gloves i ice-axe
Each item, as received, was carefully entered in a book and the
complete list was signed by each bearer, together with an under-
taking to return everything once the expedition was back in Tica-
pampa. We had already been taught a sharp lesson in this respect,
for it was only after engaging our fourth porter that we had sud-
denly remembered Eugenie's kit and the need to get it back. Too
late! He had already departed for Huaraz, taking with him a thick
woollen sweater, a scarf, and a pair of mountaineering boots. But
De Booy, who had been responsible in Holland for obtaining
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
equipment for all the bearers, had done a fine job. Even though
Eugenio had gone off with this and that, there was still more than
enough gear for the rest.
It was amusing to see the metamorphosis in the porters when they
arrayed themselves in their new clothes. Pelegrino, in particular.
Previously a short stout peasant, he changed at the dress rehearsal
into a Chinese soldier. Even Leucadio, usually so shabby and scruffy,
now acquired a certain distinction. The change in their appearance
affected the men themselves. They swaggered amongst the villagers
who were swarming round the entrance to the store and having a
good look at everything these queer foreigners or gringos were
Up to the door, at three o'clock, came the lorry which was to
take us over the 15,000-6:. high Cahuish pass to the Chavin village
on the east side of the range. But prompt departure was out of the
question. About an hour before, Lionel had suddenly thought that
it might be a sound precautionary measure to sharpen the points on
the crampons. We waited impatiently till four o'clock before he
was finally finished. Then we left; but half an hour later we were
back again in Ticapampa. In the commotion Terray's rolls of films
had been left behind in the store. It was about half-past four when
we finally succeeded in leaving Ticapampa and the Santa valley,
and moved slowly up towards the pass.
Terray was very elated. He had been far too long in the valley
for his liking and he was now full of the coming attempt on the
Huantsan. He let his imagination run riot and began toying ambiti-
ously with the idea after successfully climbing the Huantsan of
finding a new route to the summit of the highest mountain in whole
Peru: the Huascaran, situated to the north of the chain.
"Whilst Terray was so gaily talking of the Huantsan, larding his
flow now and then by roaring out some bawdy French soldiers*
song, I noticed that De Booy had suddenly become still and tense.
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
The big event that lay ahead meant so much to him. He had always
concentrated, far more than I had, on the mountaineering side of
the expedition, and the ascent of the Huantsan had become almost
an obsession. This was very obvious when he suddenly looked at
me, and said, 'Now it all really starts !'
I, myself, regarded what lay ahead with mixed feelings. The suc-
cessful climbing of the Pongos, the most difficult that I had ever
achieved in my mountaineering career, had considerably boosted
my self-confidence. All the same, I could not help wondering
whether we were not a little too presumptuous in proposing to
tackle the Huantsan. The drastic weakening of our strength by the
falling-out of Raymond Griere weighed heavily on me; and, look-
ing at our little party sitting side by side there, I sombrely thought
that a group of three men was exceedingly small for an enterprise
of such magnitude.
I glanced at the porters, sitting there somewhat awkwardly, and
tried to imagine how each would react in an emergency. How far
could we really count on them? One could tell nothing from their
individual expressions. Guillermo and Pelegrino were undoubtedly
as strong as bulls, but, against that, they were totally inexperienced.
They would be able to carry burdens on easy ground, but what
about the rest of it? Leucadio was willing, but spineless. We had
already noticed that he seemed to be entirely under Blasido's
thumb. The absent Blasido was tough and enterprising, but, as we
found out on the Pongos, no good at high altitudes. We could not
expect much from him. Clearly, we should have to rely entirely on
ourselves at great heights and be prepared to face up to terrific
physical strain. But why worry prematurely? All of us were in the
pink of condition. After all, the mighty Huantsan was well worth
a mighty effort.
The nearer we approached the high pass the more impressive be-
came the scenery. The view across the Querococha lake, with the
Pucaraju in the background, was exceptionally beautiful. We pro-
During the ascent of the Pongos;
Terray passing the ice-covered rocks
The south face of the Pongos,
climbed during the ascent
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
ceeded slowly up and over the pass, absorbing it all. Then followed
an endless winding track down to Chavin some 5,000 feet below.
The driver tried to make up for lost time by driving the loaded
lorry at break-neck speed down the narrow path and round hairpin
bends, hewn from the mountain side. I did not dare look too often
at the depths along which we were careering. It did not require
much imagination to guess what would happen if a tyre burst, or
anything else went wrong. Even Terray, who was inured to travel
in mountainous country, and who himself has been known to
scorch like one possessed, began to look thoughtful. On one occa-
sion when we missed going over the brink by inches, he broke off
singing to remark that present-day chauffeurs in South American
countries were all really efficient because the bad ones had long ago
been killed; a sort of 'survival of the fittest*.
It was quite dark when the lorry was stopped not far from
Chavin by Blasido, holding up a lantern in the middle of the road.
He told us that he had hired a dozen horses and mules. He had met
us at this spot because the best way to the Huantsan massif diverged
at this point, and, according to him, it would be a waste of time to
go through Chavin itself. In a flood of rhetoric he did his best to
convince us of all this. But we knew better. Unlike Blasido, we had
at our disposal an excellent topographical chart of the area, on
which it was clearly to be seen that the Carhuascancha valley our
obvious route lay to the north of Chavin. "We had carefully
weighed all the alternatives before deciding on this particular route.
And here was this self-opinionated Blasido, trying to mess up our
plans! De Booy told him, without further ado, to follow us to
Chavin with the pack-animals, so that next morning we could re-
sume our journey at the earliest possible hour. Blasido tried his very
utmost to get us to change our minds. Only when it was clear that
he simply was not going to get his way, did he let the cat out of the
bag. Some of the pack-animals he had hired from a friend were un-
licensed and he did not therefore want to take them into Chavin
Top left: The police take our names and addresses. With expeditions one 'can never tell
what they may get up to'. Top right: On the way to the base camp. Foals faithfully fol-
low the mare. Bottom: In the market-place at Chavin, just before our departure for
the Huantsan mountain
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
where there was a police station. Now we were getting to the bot-
tom of things! The animals had no registration papers because they
were not the lawful property of the arriero, but were, let us say,
acquired. One had to get used to dealing with all sorts of queer
Months later, when we visited Chavin again to do geological
work, Guillermo, with whom we were then on more intimate
footing, told us that in these parts horse-rustling was quite an every-
So there we were without mules. It was an intregal part of our
carefully planned programme to go through Chavin and we were
not to be put off our course to oblige some pothouse friend of our
bearer. We gave Blasido a dressing-down for being so headstrong
and for failing to carry out instructions to the letter. De Booy gave
him stern orders to replace the animals that very evening and to
meet us next morning before eight o'clock in the market-place at
Then our lorry started off again down the steep road to Chavin.
We finally reached the little place about 8.30 and unloaded our
equipment and stores by the light of our torches in the market-
place. We wanted to settle up with the driver, but had no small
change. A good half-hour was spent in going from house to house
before we managed to get change for a 5OO-soles note.
At the only hotel in Chavin there was no food to be had. An
Indian lad took us through the dark village street in search of a place
to eat. We found a decayed little cafe, where the proprietress said she
would get us a meal. It was beefsteak with fried eggs and potatoes
all prepared with terribly strong herbs, the so-called *Aggi'.
Starving, we fell to, but after a few mouthfuls our throats felt on
fire. It took glasses and glasses of beer to wash down this highly
spiced meal. As we sat there in the poor flickering light of the oil-
lamp, heads came peering round the door. News of our arrival had
gone like wild-fire round the village and a large proportion of the
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
inhabitants had gathered in front of the cafe, full of curiosity to see
what we looked like.
To Indian eyes, we must have appeared strange beings. It had
been so cold in the open lorry that we had put on our orange-
coloured eiderdown jackets. These were clearly regarded by the
villagers as the Dutch national costume. Around our table swarmed
not only our landlady's offspring, but also all their young friends
who contrived to slip in. One li ttle child, who could hardly toddle,
climbed up beside me and kept stroking the soft smooth nylon of
my jacket. But not only children surrounded us; there were four
dogs, two or three guinea-pigs, and at least one cat. Feeling a move-
ment near me on the bench, I stretched out my hand to pat as I
imagined, a dog, and touched an indignant fowl. Terray was still in
fine fettle, and his rollicking songs never had a more enthralled
audience of young and old. It was the gayest, oddest party, with
everyone in good spirits I shall never forget it.
Late that night, we returned to the market-place and crawled into
our sleeping-bags. "We intended spending die night beneath the
stars, for what we had seen of Chavin's only hotel was not particu-
larly inviting. By sleeping in the open we not only saved hotel ex-
penses, but, more important, we could keep a watchful eye on our
gear. Once we were disturbed by two drunken fellows who tried to
persuade us to come indoors to sleep. That incident over, we settled
down to an excellent night.
Awakening next morning, we stared around in astonishment.
Although only half-past five and still fairly dark, a ring of villagers
stood there, patiently waiting for us to get up and start our weird
activities. Never before had they seen a spectacle like this. They
overwhelmed our porters with questions, and eyed and discussed
our gear with avid interest.
Many of those villagers were an appalling sight. In all my life I had
never seen such a collection of abnormalities children with hydro-
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
cephalus, men and women with goitres, deaf and dumb, semi-blind,
hunchbacks, dwarfs, and idiots. It was a pitiful picture. Only in the
last few years had the remote village of Chavin become accessible to
motor transport. The incidence of inbreeding was apparently very
high. It was poverty at its direst. Most of the population were
clothed in rags. It was the exception to see anyone with a coat,
jacket, or trousers that had not been patched again and again.
As we had rather dourly expected, Blasido did not turn up at the
appointed time, and we were forced to spend the whole morning in
Chavin. Terray accepted this as a matter of course. On one occasion
in the Himalayas he had waited seven days for transport. But it was
otherwise with De Booy, who was irritated beyond measure to
think that his carefully prepared programme was now going to pot
all through Blasido 's waywardness. This would be the last time
we took that bright beauty with us, we decided. Whilst waiting,
we tried to kill time by talking to the bystanders, although, after
some hours, these dwindled to a group of small boys. De Booy,
who never missed a chance to practise his Spanish, asked one smil-
ing youngster: 'Why aren't you at school? It is ten o'clock! Are you
The little chap came closer.
'No, Senor,' he said a shade awkwardly, 'we aren't on holiday.
We've no teacher to-day.'
'Where's your teacher then? Is he ill?'
'No, Senor, he isn't ill. He's . . . drunk!'
De Booy managed not to change his expression.
'Oh, he's drunk, is he!'
'How often does that happen?*
'It doesn't happen often: only once or twice a month.'
1 suppose you think that fine, eh?'
'Oh, yes, indeed!' agreed the youngster, beaming all over his
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
This exchange naturally provoked general merriment, but it had
its repercussions. When, four weeks later, we returned from the
Huantsdn and were waiting one morning in the Chavin market-
place, De Booy spotted the same youngster amongst the crowd.
'Hello, don't you have to go to school to-day?' he exclaimed. 'Or
is your teacher drunk again?'
This time the lad did not laugh, but only shook his head sheep-
ishly. The grown-ups in the crowd laughed heartily, and pointed to
a man who had been standing near De Booy, but who was now
striding away, looking as black as thunder. It was the school-
teacher! Someone, we surmised, would soon receive a good spank-
But our talk was not entirely confined to youngsters. Now and
then we were approached by adults, agog with curiosity to find out
what we were up to. When we spoke of the Huantsdn we realized
with amazement that they simply did not know which mountain
we meant. Although Chavin was situated at the end of the valley
leading up to the Huantsdn, hardly anyone in the village had ever
seen the mountain at close quarters. One villager told us that Kinzl
had lodged with him during the Professor's visit to this part of the
range. We naturally tried to find out more. We should have liked
to have discovered why the German attempt on the Huantsan had
not originated from there: but nobody could throw any light on
The morning crept tediously by. We had almost given up hope
of getting away that day. Then, about 12.30, Blasido rode into the
square like a prince at the head of a column of pack-animals. By
way of welcome he got a blistering telling-off; I do not believe I
saw De Booy in such a towering rage during the whole of our stay
in Peru. Mustering all the Spanish at his command, he gave Blasido
a piece of his mind in front of the entire population.
Then at top speed we set to work, loading our gear. There were
nine pack-animals including various mules, one of which was par-
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
ticularly troublesome. Every time the arriero tried to load him he
began to buck. Finally, after much struggling, the load was secured.
But all at once the beast broke loose and set off at top speed down
the road. He was quite a good distance away when, luckily, a pass-
ing Indian managed to catch him. All was ready at last for our
Then a policeman suddenly came on the scene, asking us in a
friendly manner for our names and addresses. He had heard of our
plans. He would therefore like to be in a position to give the Dutch
and French legations in Lima full details of any casualties. We were
naturally helpful, but tried to make him understand that we did not
exactly propose jumping off the top of the Huantsan. All his
trouble might be in vain. The extremely courteous policeman did
not altogether appreciate our type of humour. He hastened to justify
himself. He was only acting from a high sense of duty. Eventually
we went away with his best wishes and his heartfelt hope that he
would not have to make use of our names and addresses.
The whole village turned out to stare as at half-past one we finally
turned our backs on Chavin. At last we were on our way to the
Huantsan. That day we moved northwards through the valley, a
long monotonous journey. We went partly on foot and partly on
horseback, finding the heat rather trying, although we were up
some 11,000 feet.
When hiring animals we had fallen into the error of assuming
that the owners would provide pack-saddles, 'but in the Cordillera
Blanca this was apparently not always the case. Our cases and bags
had mostly to be secured to our beasts by rope, and it became an all
too frequent occurrence for our caravan to be halted because the
load had slipped off a saddle-less mule. To the accompaniment of a
torrent of rich Spanish expletives the ropes had to be untied and the
load completely lashed up again. It was a delaying, temper-fraying
process. We came through it all with a much extended vocabulary
of ripe Spanish swear-words.
ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAIN
De Booy was still sore at Blasido who, as always, was having the
most to say and handling his fellow-porters as though he were the
cock of the walk. When, for some reason or other, another first-
class row threatened, I was forced to intervene for the first and only
time during the expedition and to use my position as senior member
of the party in order to bring tempers down to a cooler level. Noth-
ing is so menacing to the success of a mountaineering expedition as
sour feeling at base camp, whether it be the result of bad relations
between the members themselves, or between the climbers and
their native bearers. We should really need our helpers during the
coming critical weeks, and it was probable that they would be asked
to give us of their best. A high degree of co-operation was only
possible if our mutual relations were of the friendliest. Discontent
could be fatal.
Towards dusk we reached the juncture with the Carhuascancha
valley which would lead us next day to the mountain itself. We
made camp here, near the last human settlement we were to see for
some weeks. That evening we were too busy preparing for the
night to make contact with the inhabitants, but early next morning
De Booy, Terray and I went to have a look at the hamlet. We saw
half-breeds in a state of the direst poverty, living under the most
primitive conditions, and eking a miserable livelihood from a little
agriculture and animal breeding. At first they were shy and suspici-
ous, but when we gave the ragged children sweets their confidence
was quickly won. They looked on smilingly whilst we took
coloured films and photographs of the village.
Just as we were about to depart, a wizened old crone emerged
from one of the houses with an egg in her hand. She offered it to us
as a token of friendship. On seeing this, out came other women
carrying eggs. We accepted these with a politeness which was obvi-
ously appreciated. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to
spare. We wanted to reach the end of the Carhuascancha valley that
day and to set up our base camp at the foot of the Huantsan.
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
The track through the valley led steeply up, through hewn-out
walls, and we speedily began to notice the effects of the altitude. At
many places the rock strata were covered with red-coloured plants,
producing a particularly lovely effect. Time after time we stopped
to take shots with our cameras. We were all eager to catch a first
glimpse of our mountain, but unfortunately the clouds were hang-
ing too low over the valley.
In the afternoon De Booy and Terray rode ahead to look for a
suitable spot for base camp. I, myself, remained with the column to
keep an eye on things and, when necessary, spur the arrieros to
greater speed, for the pack-animals moved slow-paced over the
marshy ground of the valley.
Fairly late in the afternoon of June iyth the column neared the
end of the Carhuascancha valley. In front of us a vast glacier seemed
to stretch right to the foot of the Huantsan massif. I sincerely hoped
that this was not the only approach to the mountain, as the glacier,
with its tangle of treacherous crevasses, did not look at all inviting,
to say the least. Even from this distance below, it appeared a
hazardous proposition for our inexperienced porters to tackle.
The valley curved to the left and then came to a gradual end at a
fairly steep scree-covered slope. De Booy and Terray were far in
front and they must have gone up this slope. So I gave the signal to
follow on, at which immediate protests arose from the arrieros. The
terrain was too difficult for their beasts, they declared, but I stood
firm. It was essential to establish our base camp as high as possible.
The protests and the violent gesticulations continued. Blasido, to
my great annoyance, took the side of the arrieros. There was a brisk
exchange of hard words before I finally got my way.
As Guillermo and I went ahead to find the simplest way, we sud-
denly saw De Booy high above us on the slope, waving his axe.
Half an hour later we reached him and. heard that an ideal spot had
been found for the base camp on a level stretch at the side of a small
lake. Terray, it seemed, had gone still higher to reconnoitre the
approach route to the mountain.
An hour later the whole column came up. It began to drizzle, so
we hastened to pitch camp. The altimeter registered 14,450 feet.
There was little to be seen of our surroundings that afternoon: the
mountains were shrouded in cloud. The Huantsan, too, remained
Not until dusk had fallen did Lionel return from his reconnais-
sance. He had first climbed up the northern tongue of the glacier, but
found that this did not offer a likely approach to the mountain. The
enormous crevasses seaming the surface would have made a serious
handicap even for skilled Alpinists. With inexpert porters, such as
ours, we should certainly land in overwhelming difficulties.
The more southerly tongue of the glacier seemed to offer better
possibilities. At that moment it looked as though it were flowing
down from the clouds to terminate a few hundred yards above our
camp. A fair portion of this, too, appeared impassible. But along its
left flank ran a narrow gully, which did not look too complicated,
though it certainly had one distinct drawback. For a distance of
several hundred yards it passed below an icefall which had the usual
chaos of giant seracs? many of which were overhanging and looked
decided wobbly. Terray did not minimize the dangers. He told us
that the gully was strewn with blocks which had obviously crashed
down from above. Naturally he was not precisely enthusiastic
about taking this way, but, after carefully examining all other pos-
sible routes, was convinced there remained no alternative. To try to
reach the higher part of the glacier via the steep rocks bordering it,
was out of the question. They were far too slippery and heavily ice-
1 Seracs are large angular or tower-shaped masses into which a glacier breaks up
at an ice-fall.
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
coated, to afford sufficient holds. So if we did not wish to throw up
the sponge at this early stage, there was nothing for it but to brave
the perils of the gully with as cheerful a face as possible. To reduce
the risk we agreed that it would be best to cut down to the mini-
mum the number of journeys required to be made through this
dangerous part of the ravine.
Meanwhile the rain had turned to sleet. In less than no time the
newly-pitched tents had a half-inch coating of wet snow. It did not
augur well. If this was our greeting from the Huantsan, it was obvi-
ous that we were not welcome.
The next morning our worries appeared to have been needless.
It was beautiful weather. As usual Terray was up first, and he
shouted to De Booy and me to come outside the tent. There, high
above the glacier, rose our goal, the majestic Huantsan, an enor-
mous fortress of ice and rock, thrusting into the heavens, its shape
sharply etched against the clear blue sky. The three of us stood there,
awestruck. Its height and breadth dominated the entire landscape.
It was as though the mountain wanted to parade its colossal stature
and to impress us mere insignificant men, proclaiming: 'Here am I,
the mighty, unconquered Huantsan!'
To the left we saw the higher south summit, and to the right the
long ridge ending in the north summit. The full run of this ridge
was unfortunately not discernible, but it was clear that the moun-
tain would have to be attacked from the north. Using large field-
glasses we studied all the possibilities. The northerly ridge of the
south summit looked difficult, but not entirely insuperable. Terray
expressed concern about a possible cornice, which might then be
hidden from view, because we were, so to speak, on the windward
side of the massif.
To me, curiously enough, the mountain, was now far less terrify-
ing than I had anticipated. The photographs I had been looking at so
intently in. the past few months had tended to build up the impres-
sion that the Huantsan was an enormous unscalable pyramid with
fantastically steep walls and inaccessible ridges. Looking at the
mountain from various angles on several occasions during our stay
in the Cordillera Blanca had not lessened its formidable effect. But
now, seen from this present point, its whole structure fell into easier
perspective: my self-assurance soared.
Perhaps there was a psychological side to this. A difficult moun-
tain invariably loses some of its more frightening aspects the closer
one gets to it, the more one looks at it, and the more one thinks
Our subconscious minds had been continually grappling with the
route question. We had been mentally facing up to all sorts of con-
tingencies. Anxiety now gradually gave place to the feeling that we
were already half-way there. Hitherto I had never been under illu-
sions about our chances of reaching the top. With the mountain
right in front, all this now changed. There was a chance! This
mountain was not unclimbable.
Terray, too, was in high spirits. Now we were so near our goal,
he did not want to lose a single moment. We divided a large quan-
tity of provisions between die rucksacks of three porters, and to-
wards noon Terray and I set out with Pelegrino, Leucadio and
GuUlermo, to take up our first load via the tongue of the glacier, to
the foot of the Huantsan. Crampons were donned when a point just
below the icefall was reached, as it was essential to negotiate this
dangerous part as quickly as possible. But our bearers were using
crampons for the first time and did not find things easy, Terray had
Pelegrino and Leucadio on the rope, and I had Guillermo. Some
parts of the gully were fairly steep. Once, as I followed close behind
Leucadio, he fell back, almost into my lap. I only just managed to
avoid his spiked crampons.
It took a good fifteen minutes to get past the tottery seracs. At
this height rapid climbing made exacting demands on lung capacity.
Once we were through the danger zone we simply had to give our-
selves a breather. But Terray gave us little respite, and we were all
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
anxious to find out how the route looked a little further up. For
several hours we climbed the glacier, keeping up a good pace al-
though its cover of snow was so soft that we sank knee-deep in
Guillermo, who was following me, climbed as though he had
never done anything else. His rucksack contained three times more
weight than mine, yet I had a feeling that he was exerting himself
far less. It was amazing to watch the instinctive ease with which he
negotiated tricky parts and how he contrived to place his crampons
in just the right way. He listened attentively to advice.
The weather gradually became worse. From where we were con-
touring nothing much could be seen of our mountain. Climbing a
stiff snow-slope, we finally reached a spot some 17,000 feet up, at
the base of the north-east face. Terray regarded the site as suitable
for our first assault camp. We dug a deep hole in which we placed
our loads. It had started snowing again, so we descended the glacier
as quickly as possible and swiftly passed the icefall.
The next day De Booy took my place. In order to ferry as much
material as possible up to Camp i, they took Blasido with them as
well this time. I was thankful to stay at base camp and get a little
rest. And it was wonderfully restful, even if the silence was shat-
tered every few minutes by the roar of avalanches or the crash of
collapsing seracs. Something was always happening up there on the
Huantsdn. In the late afternoon a noise sounded so close at hand that
I scrambled out into the open, full of apprehension. The party
ought, by then, to have been near the icefall. I looked anxiously
about. That last crash had seemed so ominous. Then, as I moved
more into the open, I saw the porters already on the moraine. A
few moments later Terray and De Booy came careering down the
slope. They told me that while they had been resting for a moment
near the glacier they had seen a block of ice 'calve off' from the
tongue and fall with a resonant crash into the glacial lake.
De Booy was enthusiastic about Guillermo and Pelegrino. They
had acquitted themselves well on the ice, and had made the descent
in little over an hour. Only once had the pace slackened and that
was when Pelegrino had suddenly disappeared to his shoulders in a
On the next day, June 20th, the attack proper would begin. We
decided to take the two strongest bearers, Guillermo and Pele-
grino, to establish Camp i. Blasido and Leucadio would remain at
Came the dawn! The weather was fine. We all felt optimistic
about our chances of success. A good quantity of stores was already
high up the mountain. Conditions generally were favourable. Our
spirits soared as, setting out from base, we said cheerio to the rear-
There was no particular need to hurry, so we took things fairly
leisurely and on the way up did some filming. Camp i was pitched
that afternoon in its chosen place, close to the east face. From this
point we gained a good view of the lower reaches of the Huantsdn.
We scanned the mountain meticulously, probing all the possibili-
ties. Terray finally drew up a plan of attack. Our first objective
would be to reach a small plateau about 19,000 feet up, situated
directly below the north summit. There we would establish our
second assault camp.
It would then be essential to get up adequate provisions with the
minimum loss of time and energy. The jagged north ridge looked
very forbidding, so Terray decided to avoid its lower parts and cut
across the steep north-east face an audacious plan, for the face
looked difficult and the porters would not be able to accompany us.
Consequently it would not be possible to take all the necessary
stores up to Camp 2 in one trip. We should have to return, and then
a day or two later renew the attack, this time for the final assault.
On June 2ist De Booy and I woke early, only to find Terray al-
ready out and about, busily preparing breakfast. We wanted to get
up and help him, but he told us to He on, as cooking was definitely
TH NEVADO HUANTSAN
a*one-manjob'. Needless to say, we gladly accepted this advice. It
was bitterly cold at that height in the early hours. Moreover, those
few quiet moments gave De Booy and me time to prepare ourselves
mentally for whatever the day might bring. De Booy, as it hap-
pened, was not feeling absolutely fit. He was suffering from stomach
trouble and needed medicine to put him right. Another half-hour
and we left our sleeping-bags.
At 7.15 everything was ready. We roped up and departed, climb-
ing quickly over the glacier towards the selected point from which
we intended tackling the face. The weather held promise of a fine
day. After an hour's progress we reached and crossed the berg-
schrund 1 without incident. A stiff ice-slope led up to the rock wall.
Although faced with no very great difficulties, our speed was
slowed down by shortness of breath. We went some hundreds of
yards up the rocks. Then came a steep snow-covered ice-slope
across which we would have to go to reach the higher parts of the
It was now ten o'clock. De Booy and I pleaded for a few minutes'
rest before beginning to negotiate this ice-slope, but Terray was
adamant. He was concerned at the ice masses poised above us. In his
opinion they did not look at all safe, but rather as if they might
crash down at any moment. He granted us barely time to take a sip
from our flasks and to munch a few dried fruits. A little later we
were determinedly tackling the slope.
We estimated that the traverse would take about two hours,
then, allowing another two hours for negotiating the ridge itself,
we thought to reach our objective by two o'clock at the latest. We
would then have four hours' daylight for the return journey. But
things turned out differently. . . .
Dimensions in the Cordillera Blanca are very different from those
in the Alps and could mislead even a man of Terray 's ripe experi-
1 Bergschrundis the crack or crevasse separating die upper reaches of a glacier from the
ence. Studying the wall from below, he had perhaps misjudged the
perspective. The view had also given us the erroneous impression
that the wall was less formidable than was actually the case. The
fact remained that our plans went awry. There seemed to be
no end to the traverse. The gradient was always round the 5O-degree
mark. The ice-pitch was covered with mushy snow which had a
treacherous way of sliding from beneath our feet. Only with diffi-
culty could we find footholds with our crampons.
The utmost care was necessary. To avoid the chance of any mem-
ber of the party falling, we worked to a definite system. The axe
was rammed as deeply as possible in the snow and then, with a turn
of the rope, an anchorage was obtained. Terray, who was always
climbing a rope's length ahead, would drive in his axe with the
kletterhammer, and then secure mfc. When I reached him, I then
belayed De Booy, whilst Terray went on another 100 feet. This
manoeuvre was repeated time after time. It naturally took time, but
it had one decided advantage. Whilst waiting for one another we
did get an opportunity to recover our breath. This was a real relief
for me, as I seemed to be insufficiently acclimatized and the rarefied
air made me very breathless.
It was difficult to judge how many rope-lengths we should need
to traverse the wall. Quite apart from the technical difficulties and
the exhausting toil our position on the wall was far from pleasant
because of the constant menace of the poised masses of ice projecting
from the ridge and the north summit. Every now and again frag-
ments would break off and hurtle down with frightening velocity.
We certainly counted ourselves lucky not to be hit. By one o'clock
we had only negotiated half the wall. It was now clearer than
ever that our attack had failed. As soon as we attained the ridge we
should have to return, so as not to be caught by nightfall on the
Technical hazards did not permit of our taking a single risk, and
it was almost another three tedious hours before we finally reached
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
the arete. No less than six hours had been devoted to the traverse
hours of fatiguing ice-work gruelling hours which had taxed us
to the limit, carrying, as we were, heavy rucksacks in the burning
sun. When finally we stood on the crest at four o'clock, even the
iron Terray was somewhat spent. He was not only tired, but
Only two hours of daylight were left, far too short to make a
descent down the north ridge, an unpleasant undertaking at the best
of times. Snow conditions were unfavourable, but there was no
other course open to us. What we could see of the ridge was not
very encouraging. It was plain that Terray, too, saw no easier way
out of it. We were caught, more or less, like rats in a trap. De Booy
and I wondered whether we should not be obliged to bivouac some-
where on the ridge. It was best in any case to try and get as low as
We started down the arete, but new dilemmas again slowed down
our speed. Enormous bulging cornices made sections of the ridge
practically impassable, and the only protruding rocks were so
weathered that they crumbled as pitons were driven in.
4 Ah, c'est moche!' exclaimed Terray, obviously most uneasy
about the turn of events. This was the only occasion during the
whole Huantsan expedition when we saw him really nervous. In-
deed, it required little imagination to appreciate the critical nature
of our position. In one place it took Terray more than half an hour
to hack away part of the cornice. It was punishing work, making
heavy demands on his reserves. But not only the cornice, every-
thing else seemed to combine to make it an extraordinarily precari-
ous passage. At another point we had to worm our way on our
stomachs down an almost perpendicular part of the ice-ridge.
We quickly realized that this descent via the ridge was going to
take longer than the remaining daylight. When, about five o'clock,
we reached some slightly more favourable rock formations Terray
decided to try a last expedient anything to spare us from spending
Top left: A giant cactus in the
' > "I '.. ^, **',,'- .,,^.,'.'^^4*41" ' '- ' *r
Bottom: An Indian
hut made of loara
and puna grass
at the 13,500 feet
the night on this exposed ridge. He intended roping down the west
flank of the north ridge by a succession of rappels.
As usual, the moment he had made up his mind, he set to work.
No hesitation. All uncertainty left him. Well secured by me, he
descended a dozen yards or so to find a suitable place in the flank.
He made skilful use of a miserable little crack in the rock to drive in
a piton, on which to belay the rope. Fortunately we had two ropes,
each 200 feet long. By tying these together, it was possible to des-
cend a full rope length each time. Astride the ridge, De Booy and I,
very tense, looked on whilst Terray prepared the rappel. Far, far
below, our tent camp was just visible. Spotting our porters moving
about, we called in chorus and waved our arms until at last they
responded and waved back. The first piton was fixed, but still Terray
was not satisfied. He had lately acquired a wholesome respect for my
weight and was afraid that this piton might not hold me. Some
time elapsed before a second piton was placed in position, and then
at last we prepared to move. Terray was to go down first, secured
by me, to see to the second rappel. In the meanwhile we had un-
roped ourselves so that we could join the lengths and run them
through the piton. Precious time was lost doing this. Ropes have an
exasperating habit of getting all tangled up at critical moments, and
that happened now. Before we were able to unravel all the twisted
knots and loops, ten valuable minutes had flown.
At long last, all was ready. A few curt final instructions, and Ter-
ray slid down. About 200 feet below, at the end of the rope, he
cut out a broad step in the ice-wall. Then I followed first over a
bulge, then a short distance dangling through the air, and finally
down the steep ice-pitch of which tie lower portion of the flank
consisted. By the time I arrived, Terray had already hammered in
a long ice-piton for the next rappel. We waited side by side, with
our faces to the wall, until De Booy could join us. He had a most
ticklish job. Whilst Terray during his descent had been secured by
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
me at the end of the rope, and I, in turn, had been safeguarded by
De Booy, the latter now had to lower himself down by the double
rope unsecured. He naturally went to work with the utmost
caution, particularly when tackling the first stage over the bulge.
Terray and I looked at each other. Up above, when it looked as
though we were caught like rats in a trap, he had been definitely
apprehensive. Now he was back again to true form. He grinned at
me and said:
'What a game! Ever been up against anything like this, Kees?
Who would have guessed, this morning . . . ?
I smiled back. His magnificent self-assurance was infectious. I no
longer doubted that, under his skilful guidance, we should extricate
ourselves from this ugly situation. Nevertheless, we were not happy
^bout the next rappel. The steep ice-wall (about 60 degrees)' on
which we were poised, went down another 100 feet or so and then
abruptly ended in a void. Apparently the wall overhung at that
point, but how far it projected and what came underneath, were
imponderables. We could only assume that it would be exception-
ally steep. We were, we thought, about 300 feet above the glacier
at the moment. But the foot of the wall was not visible.
To our great relief De Booy joined us safe and sound on our
little artificial shelf. We could now restart roping down from the
lower piton. But would the rope be long enough to reach over the
bulging overhang and enable us to gain a foothold lower down?
Again Lionel went first so that he could make preparations as
quickly as possible for the succeeding stage. About 100 feet down,
he reached the edge of the bulge and could see what ky below.
'Ca touche nettementP he called up. This was great news, for
visibility was fading fast and we had not a moment to spare. A
second later he disappeared from view, whilst De Booy and I waited
in suspense. Then a vague reverberating shout came from below.
To us above, it was completely incomprehensible. The words were
lost under the overhang. Yet it was essential for me to know what
awaited me down below, so I bellowed out to Terray that I could
not catch what he was shouting. De Booy and I waited anxiously,
debating what to do next. Then we felt the tension on the rope
slacken, indicating that Terray had found a foothold somewhere
and had released the rope. Once again several precious minutes
were lost. Then, further hesitation being out of the question, I let
myself down the rope as quickly as possible until I reached the edge
of the overhang. Peering warily over, I saw Terray about So feet
directly below, clinging to the rock face.
The situation was unpleasant. The overhang projected so far out
that the whole of the next 80 feet down had to be descended
through space. Never before had I been faced with such a manoeuvre.
Thank goodness I was being secured from above by my companion.
There was not much time to dally. De Booy had asked me to give
him a shout as to the position so I called out that the rappel went
fairly deep and that everything seemed all right. Then cautiously
turning over on my stomach, I let my legs dangle into nothing, slid
over the edge, and in the failing light began to descend the thin
rope. This swaying through space made an unforgettable impres-
sion on my mind. The upper crust of the overhang was fringed
with enormous icicles, one of which broke off as I accidentally came
in contact with it and went tinkling past me down into the void.
It was eerie.
If it had not been for the pressing time factor this would have
been a thrilling adventure; but, suspended there, I was all too con-
scious that the occasion was not just another interesting descent. It
was grim reality. A desperate race against time.
Further down the wall receded sharply away. I lowered myself*
feeling very much like a spider on its thread, until my foot touched
the ice-wall below. What a relief! As always, after a long descent by
rope, it was wonderful to find one's feet again. Actually I had quite
a job to get a footing, for the flank on which I landed was pitched
at a gradient of at least 65 degrees and I was almost at the end of the
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
rope. There was little scope for manoeuvring. Luckily Terray came
to my assistance and cut out a few steps for me. He himself had had
the greatest difficulty in arriving safely. What was worse, he found
himself suddenly hampered by stubborn cramp in the arm.
I simply could not manage to get any more favourable stance
than one with holds for one foot and one hand. I waited quietly for
the next move, hoping that it would not take too long. It was De
Booy's turn to come down. As experience had shown that it was
useless to call out from below, I untied myself and gave three hard
tugs at the rope, that being the agreed signal for him to follow
down. He understood, for immediately there was a movement in
the rope. Two minutes later his dim shadow appeared above on the
edge of the overhang. In the meantime darkness had descended
apace. A last spark of light seemed to linger on the spot where De
Booy stood, but below the bulge, where we were, everything was
shrouded in dusk. We exchanged a few words. De Booy asked
what the position was like, and I shouted to him to try and land as
high up the slope as possible because the rope was too short to
allow of much playing about for position. I implored him to take
the utmost care. One end of the rope was longer than the other, I
bawled, but he ought to be able to manage.
Like some dim ghost De Booy slid down the thin nylon rope.
Everything was going so swimmingly that I jocularly compli-
mented him on his style. But, as he tried to get a foothold on the
ice just above me, the treacherous light misled him. The slope was
far steeper than he thought. His feet slid away. His hands found no
hold on the slippery rock, covered with verglas. The heavy weight
of his rucksack pulled him down and over backwards, and . . .
To my horror he fell past me. Several yards lower however, he
was brought up with a jerk, hanging head downward, his feet
tangled in the rope. I frantically concentrated on ways and means
of rescuing him. My own delicate position prevented me from get-
ting nearer. The wall, where I was precariously poised, was terribly
steep, and the rocks at my side were covered with ice. Somehow
or other I managed to grasp the looped end of the longer rope
which was hanging loosely down and gave it a turn round my
hand. Then, by grabbing the other rope, I formed, as it were, a
continuous ring of rope, from a part of which De Booy hung up-
side-down. This action, I thought, would at least reduce the possi-
bility of his slipping away. My brain worked feverishly, taking in
every detail, trying to straighten out things, wondering whether
De Booy's hands were also still clinging to the rope. If his feet did
not untangle, he might be able to hold out until Terray came to his
aid. I saw the latter some ten yards to our right on the slope, busily
unearthing his torch from his rucksack. It had all happened in a
matter of seconds, and as yet he had noticed nothing amiss. Only
when I lustily yelled for help did he realize what was up. Then,
without even giving himself time to grasp his axe, he sped across
the wall towards us. And once again my heart stood still! He, too,
missed his footing.
Some forty feet or so further down he managed, in his own in-
imitable way, to save himself. Thank God! For a moment he was
completely dazed: he had wrenched his arm. I cried out to him to
do his utmost, for De Booy's life was in peril. He could not possibly
hang on the rope much longer.
De Booy was aware of this, too, for he said in a remarkably quiet
'This is it, Kees ! It's all over with us.'
But I still had hope. I called out that it wasn't all over! He must
do everything to hang on! Then I focused my attention again on
Terray who, on my other side, was laboriously climbing up the steep
slope. It was slow, agonizingly slow. I spurred him on: 'Quicker,
Lionel, much quicker!'
Then I heard a rending noise. I turned instantly to the other side,
only to see De Booy plunging down towards the glacier. For a
Our Huants&i base camp, up at 14*450 feet
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
dramatic second or two I followed his fall as his crampons scraped
the rock and sent up showers of sparks. Then he vanished in the
void. A terrible silence followed.
Terray and I clung, petrified, to the face. Black despair for our
comrade choked us. I saw no reason to call out. De Booy could
hardly have escaped being killed.
Staring into the darkness below, I thought I could distinguish a
vague dark blob against the white snow. From his greater distance
Lionel had secured a rather better view. He had the feeling that, if
De Booy had not bashed his head against projecting rocks and had
avoided falling into the bergschrund, he might possibly be alive.
He called at the top of his voice: 'Tom! Tom!' The dead silence
seemed to confirm our worst fears; but Terray kept on calling and
suddenly there came an answer an unmistakable answer!
"What a wonderful moment that was ! To hear a voice, as it were,
from the dead! For a time we were almost too astounded to react.
Then we realized that the incredible had happened. An excited
babble of Dutch and French went up. Anxiously we yelled to ask
what he had broken. From the depths came the laconic reply:
A few moments later we saw a tiny light appear some hundreds
of feet below. We had brought out with us special 'forehead' lamps
in case we ever had to climb in the dark. The light was fastened on
an elastic band which went round the forehead, thus enabling one
to have the hands free. De Booy had obviously put his on to show
us where he was. Seeing his light was our signal to get into action.
Terray climbed up towards me and pulled at the end of the rope,
but it wouldn't budge. This was the worst that could possibly hap-
pen at such a critical time. The nightmare thought of a jammed rope
after a rappel over an overhang is always enough to give any
climber grey hairs. Terray pulled with increasing force. He raged
and swore and, curiously enough, it seemed as though this
helped, for suddenly the rope freed itself and was easily pulled
through. Terray worked with might and main to prepare a new
rappel. Once it had been rigged up, I was able to leave my awkward
position and slide downwards, feeling my way in the dark. The
rope reached to about 65 feet above the bergschrund. I cut a big
step with my axe and then waited for Terray to join me.
Meanwhile I could talk more easily with De Booy. My disquiet
lessened considerably when he called out: "Why the devil are you
two taking so long? I showed you the quick way down, didn't I?'
This was an encouraging sign. That he could still wise-crack
cheered me up no end. I saw his light going to and fro and assumed
that he was moving about to keep warm. He even climbed a little
way up the slope to give me some light when, a Httle later, I came,
via the bergschrund, on to the glacier. Terray followed closely
behind. The three of us stood united again at the foot of the
In the dark it was naturally impossible to trace the line of De
Booy's fall. Not until next day were we able to assess its length and
direction. But even in the dark one could tell that he had fallen at
least 300 feet. He had been hanging upside down when he started
falling and must have turned a somersault. His feet had struck the
rock face some yards lower down and had taken the first brunt of
This probably saved his life. The steep ice-wall down which he
had slithered with ever-increasing velocity was actually fraught
with much less danger. We reckoned that he cleared the gaping
mouth of the bergschrund which, at this point, was several yards
wide, by sailing right over it. Landing on the sloping glacier, he had
gradually lost speed because it was thickly covered with snow.
At that time all this did not interest us so much as finding out if
he really were uninjured. It was almost unbelievable. He was ex-
amined in the light of our torches and prodded all over. A first glance
only revealed a skinned nose. He complained of pains in the back.
How could it be otherwise after a fall of some 300 feet? He was also
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
chilled to the marrow, a poor condition to be in with the prospect of
an ice-cold bivouac at a height of 18,000 feet without tent or sleep-
ing-bag. It was clear now that we should have to spend the night on
the glacier, for De Booy was in no fit state to cope with a descent
lasting several hours.
As soon as we found a more or less suitable spot we levelled it off
as far as possible and laid down the ropes to insulate us a little from
the rising glacial cold and to keep us as dry as possible. We then put
on everything that we could find in the shape of clothing. We took
off our boots and put on dry socks. Then we got into our nylon
bivouac-sets, consisting of a long anorak and a narrow bag in which
to place the legs, the so-called pied S "elephant. Both parts fastened
together with press studs.
We also drew our rucksacks over our feet to help keep them
warm, and thus installed ourselves for the night. For extra security
we belayed ourselves with ropes attached by a turn or two to axes
rammed in the ice a necessary precaution, as several yards away
down the slope an enormous crevasse gaped open and we had no
desire to slide into this in our sleep.
Actually we hardly snatched any sleep. The air was crystal clear
and the pitiless cold cut us to the bone. Terray and I had De Booy
between us, and were continually rubbing and massaging him, but
we found it difficult to keep him at all warm. We, ourselves, had to
keep on piano-playing with our fingers and toes. Blood circulation
had to be maintained at all costs to prevent frost bite. If we dozed off,
it was only to wake a moment later, disturbed by some movement
of the others or tormented by the terrible thirst from which we now
I unearthed a lemon from my rucksack and squeezed some of its
juice on lumps of sugar, which I tried to get to De Booy. But it was
no good. The acid lemon-juice caused him acute agony, owing to
split lips. Then I tried to obtain some water to drink by filling my
field-flask with snow and putting it under my clothes against the
bare flesh. Apparently I, too, must have been near freezing-point,
because the snow did not melt.
There is no comparison between a bivouac in the Cordillera
Blanca and one in the Alps. In Europe a bivouac lasts only about
seven hours and one can get going again towards four in the morn-
ing. In the Andes it gets dark about six and the night lasts a full
twelve hours. Even when dawn breaks, no start is possible because
it is still too freezingly cold and the risk of frost-bite is too great.
It seemed that the wretched night would never end. We tried
to divert our thoughts. Amongst other titbits, Terray told us of the
many bivouacs he had endured in his career. He spoke of that ter-
rible night on the Annapurna when, at an altitude of 23,000 feet, he
had huddled in a crevasse with his companions, two of whom,
Lachenal and Herzog, were suffering horribly from frost-bitten ex-
tremities. His last bivouac had occurred the previous winter on the
vertical face of the Fitz Roy in Patagonia.
None of us had much heart for talk. Our thoughts were too taken
up by our recent nerve-racking experiences and by the miraculous
tunidof events. What would have happened if De Booy had broken
an arm or a leg? He could not possibly have survived this bleak icy
bivouac. Yet there he was between us, apparently unscathed. We
wondered if and when we should ever be able to renew the attack.
Thinking of the past eventful hours, I realized that it was not
only*De Booy who had enjoyed fantastic luck. Terray, too, might
have hurtled precipitously down that face. And, if both of them had
been seriously injured, what chance should I have had, without a
light, to grope my way down that wall in the dark? Yes, we were
all lucky to be still alive and kicking.
De Booy told me much later of his own sensations during that
fateful 11 and how he had reacted psychologically. This is his story
in his own words:
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
DE BODY'S OWN ACCOUNT
When I eventually reached the edge of the bulge it was getting
dark. Looking down, I could see little more than the shadowy
shapes of Egeler and Terray on the slope far below. At first sight,
the pitch on which I had to alight did not appear excessively steep.
Egeler called out to me to try and land as high as possible as the rope
was too short to enable me to reach a more suitable place lower
down the slope. Feeling very much the spider on the thread, I let
myself down the thin nylon rope into the depths until at length my
feet touched the slippery ice-face. Then, to my horror, I suddenly
realized that it was far steeper than I had imagined. In the failing
light I had sadly underestimated the pitch. As I slithered, I felt the
heavy weight of my rucksack pulling me backwards. I frantically
tried to get a grip on the rocks directly to my right, but they were
covered with ice and offered no hold whatsoever. I fell-
By some miracle I was pulled up with a jerk several yards Ipwer
down, my feet having somehow caught in the lower end of one of
the double ropes. I dangled head down over the abyss, not daring
to make a single movement. Only my companions could now save
me from hurtling into the depths. I myself was helpless.
Egeler was himself perched in far too awkward a position to as-
sist. Nevertheless, he tried to catch hold of my rope, and shouted
loudly to Terray for help. My last hopes rested on Lionel. But in his
haste to speed across to help me, he forgot to bring his axe; and he,
too, slipped. Luckily, in some adept way, he just managed to check
his fall some fifteen yards or so lower down. This, of course, I could
not see. All I heard was an agonized French oath, then a panting
voice urging me to have patience for another five minutes. It was
then, at that precise moment, that I fully realized that as soon as my
feet and the rope parted company, I would irrevocably plunge into
DE BODY S OWN ACCOUNT
the void. It was a strange sensation, to become conscious that I was
going to die. Oddly enough, I felt calm and untroubled by pangs of
fear. Death seemed so inevitable that I simply accepted my lot. Thus
it was that, suspended head downwards, I was able to remark to
Egeler: "This is it, Kees! It's all over with us!'
. If there had been the slightest chance of surviving, I should no
doubt have been terribly scared. But I felt no apprehension; only a
feeling of relief, coupled with curiosity as to what death would be
Eke. These thoughts were still flitting through my mind when I
suddenly felt the rope leave my feet, and I dropped into space.
What now? Death ! A shower of sparks flashed in the darkness, con-
vincing me that the end had come. It never occurred to me that they
could have been caused by my crampons scraping the rock-face. I
was hazily conscious only of sparks and a severe jolt in the back. I
waited for the finish, but, to my utter amazement, I became aware
that I was sliding through the crisp snow on the glacier. I had
'landed safely'. As soon as I could, I scrambled to my feet. Slowly it
dawned on me that I not only lived, but that, by some providential
means, I had not even broken a limb. It was almost too much to
take in; so I was slow to reply to Lionel's shouts from high up the
wall. At last I found my voice and yelled back: 'Ca va! Je n'ai rien
I still felt as if I were in a dream. It seemed so incredible to be still
alivej when I had already given up all hope of survival. I remember,
as I opened my eyes, seeing the Southern Cross, that constellation of
stars 'which is always such an attractive feature of the night sky in
the southern hemisphere. It was one of the richest moments of my
life. Standing there on the glacier, after falling some 300 feet, I was
overwhelmed by the drama of this moment.
But my stupor did not last long, for the piercing night cold
brought me shiveringly back to earth. It became imperative to do
something to keep myself warm. I was intrigued to notice that my
rucksack had remained in place during the fall, and that my sun-
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
glasses, which I had pushed up on to my forehead, were still intact.
The only things missing were my axe and the woollen scarf which
I had wound several rimes round my neck just before the fall. With-
out a moment's further delay I put on all the clothing I could find in
the rucksack. Then I waited patiently for Egeler and Terray.
RETURN TO BASE
We heard all this, of course, much later. That night, on the
glacier, we were far too cold, too exhausted, and too tormented
with thirst to pay much attention to any story. When at long, long
last, about six o'clock, the first rays of dawn tinged the high peaks,
we sighed with relief to know that there was indeed an end to
everything even to this dreadful night.
It now became possible to take a good look around. We had
viewed the same scene the day before from the ridge, but then our
situation had been so grim that there had been no time to take things
in. We found ourselves that morning on a vast snow-covered
glacier. All around us towered numbers of gigantic peaks. In front
was the fantastically steep face of the Ranrapalca; the pyramidical
Chinchey; and the razor-edged ridge of the Cayesh. In the distance
we could even distinguish the Huascaran massif. Dawn slowly
breaking over this splendid mountain world was a revelation, al-
though at that time we were too frozen to appreciate all its ex-
Curiously enough, now that the sun was not so far away it
seemed, if anything, to have grown colder. The rays of the sun took
exasperatingly long to reach our bivouac not in fact until nine
o'clock, and even then we boggled at the thought of making a
start. It was necessary for us to spend several hours warming our
benumbed limbs in the beneficial rays of the sun. It was going to be
difficult to get over the miseries of the past night.
The Nevado Huant$n (20,981 feet). Photo taken from the air by Dr. H. J. Spann
RETURN TO BASE
We could tell how terribly cold it had been by the state of our
nylon outer garments. Even the inner linings had a thin layer of ice.
Our climbing boots were frozen solid. We tried as best we could to
thaw them out before pulling them over our chilled feet.
Now the worst was over, reaction set in. I felt terribly lethargic.
Diffidently, I asked Terray how things were with him, and 'what he
said then made a deep impression on me, coming as it did from a
mountaineer regarded as one of France's strongest athletes.
'I can hardly keep upright.'
This might have been an overstatement, but it made me feel a lot
better. If Terray felt so spent, then there was no reason for me to be
so crestfallen about my own lassitude. Both physical and mental
strain had taken their toll, the latter perhaps in the greater measure.
And they had also left their mark on the outwardly insouciant Ter-
ray. It was, for us, another proof of Ms very deep sense of personal
responsibility as leader of the team.
Needless to say, De Booy Was in the worst plight. Lolling in the
sunshine, we did not notice much amiss in his appearance. I eyed
him as he sat there, quietly chatting to us. It was amazing how any-
one could manage to survive a fall of some 300 feet and a subsequent
bivouac without showing greater signs of reaction. But, on the re-
turn journey, it soon became clear that this appearance had been
somewhat deceptive. The first part of the descent went fairly well,
but as we later made our way*through deep snow, we saw that De
Booy found it terribly hard going. Every five minutes or so he
would ask us to stop and rest, and each time we could only get him
moving again with the greatest difficulty. Then he would struggle
doggedly on. In this way, after an hour or so, we managed to reach
the lower section of the north ridge.
In expert style and without a single miscalculation Lionel found
a path across the deeply-crevassed glacier. We were now close to a
narrow pass or col down which the route to the more easterly
situated glacier looked fairly simple. Before starting, we went up
Top: Terray leads two heavily laden bearers up the glacier. Bottom: The ice-fall below
which, our route lay, constantly threatened by overhanging seracs
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
the steep slope to the crest of the ridge. We wanted to try and at-
tract the attention of the porters in the camp below, to let them
know that everything was all right. They would be terribly con-
cerned, we thought, at our failure to return the night before, as
From the crest we saw the tents on the glacier-slope far below,
but no sign of life. We raised a mighty shout in unison, hoping they
would hear. Then we set off, intent on making the rest of the des-
cent as quickly as possible. Going through the col, we saw that, by
going down a steep slope, we could reach the other glacier without
much difficulty. We were thankful for this small mercy. After the
previous day's events any difficult descent en rappel would have been
the last straw for De Booy.
I was indeed becoming seriously concerned about De Booy. He
was plodding manfully on and on through the deep snow with
really admirable tenacity, and doing his utmost to keep up with
Terray and me. Although we naturally moderated our pace a great
deal in those circumstances, it was obvious that he was nearly at the
end of his tether. If only we could get to Camp i ! It would not,
of course, be possible in his present condition to make the further
descent to base camp, where we could have made him much more
For over an hour we went at snail's pace down the snow-covered
slope until De Booy gasped that he ccMd go no further. As we were
so close to the camp, we implored him to make one last effort.
Once again he mustered up all his strength and managed by sheer
grit the last slope. Then, absolutely all in, he fell headlong between
The ordeal was over. We were back once more amongst living
beings. Camp i, primitive though it was, could provide the creature
comforts we craved: hot drinks, warm food, the shelter of tents and
sleeping-bags; and above all the services of men who were not, like
ourselves, utterly exhausted and tired out. Another fifteen minutes
RETURN TO BASE
saw De Booy attentively tucked in his sleeping-bag, dosed with
aspirins and imbibing hot tea and lemon.
One of the first things we asked Guillermo was what Pelegrino
and he had thought had happened when we did not return to camp
the previous night. We were curious to know if they had been
anxious. Then it came to light how little these fellows compre-
hended the real nature of our enterprise; and how woefully limited
their knowledge of their own district. Guillermo replied: *Oh no,
we weren't worried at all! We saw you up there on the ridge
waving to us just before nightfall. Pelegrino reckoned you had
found a house somewhere on the other side of the mountain/
Such abysmal ignorance left us flabbergasted. Not for a single
moment had they pictured us spending the night in the open, with-
out tent or sleeping-bag. Even when we told them what had hap-
pened, their reactions were no greater than if it had been a stroll
down the village street. They simply could not appreciate what we
had endured. Pelegrino, in fact, started making a song and dance
about his own sufferings, complaining of headaches and biliousness.
Three or four times that afternoon he asked when we were going
back to base camp. He hardly vouchsafed poor De Booy a glance.
Guillermo, too, had apparently not been feeling too happy at that
great height. Close to the camp he had carved in the snow Dios es
Amor (God is Love) in enormous letters. The action spoke volumes
Descent to a lower level was out of the question for the time
being. De Booy was very groggy, and it was necessary to keep a
close watch on his condition. He lay there, all that afternoon, staring
out with lack-lustre eyes. We had hoped he would sink into healing
sleep but no.
I was worried to death, not knowing what to do for the best, I
finally decided to take his temperature once more and was relieved
to find that it was only 100 F. Terray and I held a brief consulta-
tion. As laymen our diagnosis was 'shock*. We did not think there
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
were any serious internal injuries, otherwise the reactions would
have been different. To tell the truth, our medical knowledge was
extremely limited, and we could only hope that we had not over-
looked any important symptom.
As night fell I went in the tent to sleep beside De Booy. Although
tired right out myself, I lay awake for a long time listening to his
uneven breathing. A thousand thoughts went through my mind.
What should we do if something were seriously wrong with him?
How about the rest of the expedition? Futile to think of climbing
the Huantsan: it was no mountain for only two to tackle. What
worried me more than anything else, more than even the Huantsan,
was the geological exploration still to be done. Could I possibly
manage on my own? It was rather dubious. I could in any case only
try and clear up the work as far as possible. What should we do if
De Booy's condition deteriorated next day? How could we get him
down the ice-fall? How many days would it take to reach the near-
est doctor? All these questions tormented me before I finally got to
sleep. Blessed oblivion!
Next morning I was brought back to wakefulness by Guillermo.
'Seiior Doctor, aqui avena con the." (Senor Doctor, here's your tea
and porridge!) De Booy was awake, too. At first sight there ap-
peared little improvement, a fact confirmed by his temperature. He
complained again of severe pains in the back, but I hesitated to do
more than massage him gently.
Lionel was also concerned about De Booy, but his thoughts kept
turning to the mountain. When I went into his tent later that morn-
ing to discuss the situation, he gave me his plans for that afternoon.
He intended taking Guillermo and Pelegrino, with a quantity of
provisions, up to a point near where we had bivouacked. He wanted
to take photographs at the same time of the north-east face, the
north ridge, and of the place where De Booy had fallen. Terray was
obviously feeling in fine fettle again.
It struck me as an excellent idea, if only because it gave Pele-
RETURN TO BASE
grino something to do. He had harped on about wanting to go
down, so it was with some amusement that I saw him carrying a
heavy rucksack and setting off for the higher regions that after-
noon, instead of going down to the base camp.
Terray and the porters managed to get back within four hours.
When I congratulated Lionel on this fine bit of work, he surprised
me by saying that he himself had had difficulty in keeping up with
the more heavily-laden Guillermo.
De Booy's state that night once more left much to be desired. His
breathing was stertorous and I had the greatest difficulty in getting
off to sleep. I was awakened several times during the night. Then at
last, to my great relief, I noticed his breathing gradually becoming
more regular. Towards morning he fell into a deep, restful sleep,
and I had the impression that the crisis was over.
He awoke late in the morning, feeling very much better, and
said he himself had no objection to making the trip down to base
that day, provided we fixed him up first with a stimulant. Base
camp had many advantages, one highly important merit naturally
being that it was 2,300 feet lower. We decided to go down during
the course of the day, making it a leisurely trip.
De Booy now showed encouraging signs, too, of renewed appe-
tite. Thirty minutes before departure we gave him a coffadyn pill,
which worked wonders. Within a few minutes of taking it, he was
his old active self again, wanting to help with the packing so full
of beans, in fact, that we warned him to take things more quietly,
otherwise the effects of the pill would wear off too quickly.
At last we started the trek back to base. Although in the pink of
condition myself, I had a job keeping up with De Booy. That was
the best sign yet that he was well on the mend. A few days of com-
plete rest, away from the tiring glare of the snow, good food, deep
sleep, and then . . . Yes, we could then give serious consideration to
a second attack on the mountain!
Making our way down the glacier, we reached the ice-fall only
THE NEVADO HUANTSiN
to find that it had undergone a complete change in appearance. The
largest of the freakishly-shaped seracs, one which had earlier given
us many anxious moments when skirting by, had disappeared en-
tirely. All that remained of it was a number of huge ice-blocks
strewn in the gully, right across the route we had taken so many
times. We passed through this dangerous stretch at top pace. Half
an hour later we were back at base camp.
The first attack on the Huantsan lay behind. It had resulted in
failure, but we were thankful that things had not been worse and
considered that, taken by and large, the mountain had really dealt
mildly with our first assault. But was the rebuff meant to be defi-
nite? Had we to take it as a warning to keep off, or else. ... As a
sign to pack up and keep going, while the going was good? To
admit that we were licked?
None of us could stomach this. As Terray frequently said: 'Nous
vaincrons, parce quenous sommes les plus forts!' This became our
expeditionary slogan in the battle with the Huantsan.
It would have been difficult to have found a better place in which
to convalesce than our base camp in the Carhuascancha valley. It
was idyllically situated on the edge of a little lake which mirrored
the surrounding mountains beautifully in its quiet water. The first
few days after our return were spent in complete rest. We sternly
forbade De Booy to do anything unless he really felt equal to it, and
for once our warning was heeded. Terray and I busied ourselves
photographing the surroundings. On one occasion Terray went up
alone to the heights to do some filming.
Once he talked big about going for a swim in our enchanting
little lake, and when we kept chaffing him, he felt obliged to keep
his word. Full of expectation we watched him dive into the icy-
cold water, but Irrrr! Never in my life have I seen anyone nip out
so fast as Lionel did on that occasion.
One morning we were awakened very early by shouts from the
porters. They said a large deer had approached to within twenty
yards of the camp. It was as big as a mule, they declared excitedly.
Blasido had gone after it with his muzzle-loader.
Those were lovely, unforgettable days, and yet we could not tear
our thoughts away from the mountain. Our first attempt had been
a complete failure, but our determination to succeed seemed, if any-
thing, to have grown. Little remained, however, of our earlier easy
optimism. For me the Huantsan had become very much steeper and
infinitely more lofty. At last I saw the mountain in its true propor-
tions: a vast fortress of snow and ice, bearing no comparison what-
soever with the 13,000 footers in the Alps.
We realized, too, that this was going to be no quick, flashy con-
quest. Only by drawing up a carefully thought-out plan of attack,
plotting our movements from day to day, was there any chance of
reaching the top. Our experiences during that first attempt had con-
vinced us that the north-east face offered no practicable route to the
summit of the Huantsan. Not only was the face longer than antici-
pated, but its inherent dangers could not be ignored. The huge over-
hanging ice-masses fringing both the north ridge and the flank of
the north summit constituted too great a risk. We had managed to
worm safely past them once, but it would be tempting providence
to try it again.
Neither did the north ridge ofier much prospect. Our experi-
ences on its lower portion certainly did not make us eager to set foot
on it again. Along practically its whole length ran a dangerous cor-
nice and, as we had noticed at the time, its higher sections were just
We simply had to find another way. Luckily there was one
bright spot. The morning after the bivouac had given us ample
time to study the mountain at close quarters from the north. It
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
struck us then that a ridge which ran in a north-westerly direction
to a point not far below the north summit appeared less menacing
than the north ridge. Its flanks admittedly were extremely steep, but
the gradient of the arete itself, particularly in its lower reaches, was
not too bad. And whole stretches seemed quite free of cornice. This
looked the best possibility and none of us had the slightest hesitation
in deciding on it.
SKETCH PLAN OF THE
A/OATH A SUMMIT \
\ 20,056 ft.
* 19.850 ft.
Sketch plan of the Huantsan massif, showing base-camp, ice-fall, assault
camps 1-4, and north and south summits.
Lionel proposed the following assault plan. As soon as De Booy
was fit and keen, we would leave the base camp for Camp i. The
following day we would establish Camp 2 a few hundred yards
past the place where we had bivouacked. On the third day we
Camp I at l6.7^O feet with, the Nevado Cavesh visible in the hackoronnd tr> the ri<rhr
would try to force our way up the north-west ridge and establish
Camp 3 as close as possible to the north summit. We would be
obliged to carry very heavy rucksacks over long distances. Every-
thing depended on -whether, so weighed down, we could cope with
From below, the way from the upper end of the north-west ridge
to the north summit looked fairly simple. Immediately after, how-
ever, came a section which posed a big query. Would it be possible
to find a way down from the north summit to the saddle at the foot
of the south summit? And, if so, would we be able to climb it
again on our return journey? If not, then the descent would not be
justified and another Huantsan attempt would have failed. We
could only hope that we should be able to reach the saddle and
establish Camp 4 there, so that, the following day, we could make
our final all-out attack on the higher south summit.
Once the scheme had been drawn up, our self-assurance gradually
returned. There seemed a good chance of success, and an important
factor was that the distances set up to be covered each day were
short. We felt in tip-top condition; we were acclimatized to the
rarefied air; and we had the feeling that only bad weather could
now rob us of success.
After six days De Booy had completely shaken off the effects of
the fall. Not only had the stiffiiess gone from his loins, but this was
far more important he felt right on top of the world and simply
longed to have another go at the mountain.
The weather on the morn ing of June 2yth left nothing to be
desired. Accompanied by Guillermo and Pelegrino, we took our
time going up the glacier towards Camp I. De Booy wanted to
spare himself as much as possible, so we took things very easily. It
was past midday before we reached the camp and started putting
things in order. Filming took up the rest of the day. After the even-
ing meal, we crept into our sleeping-bags early in order to store up
as much energy as possible for the strenuous days ahead.
The west flank of the Huantsan north ridge, down which we descended in the dark.
The circles indicate the length of De Booy*s fall
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
Next day, to our disappointment, the weather appeared to have
changed. The cloud ceiling hung low over the mountains. The
Huantsan was completely blotted out and mists repeatedly en-
veloped the camp. The wind, too, had increased in force. Neverthe-
less, we did not regard this as sufficient reason to postpone our at-
tempt. We set off ahout ten, and made our way through the narrow
col at the foot of the north ridge towards the northerly glacier. It
was in this col that we met for the first time the full force of the
wind. It did not augur well for the following day. And yet the
fierce wind had one merit: it tore the mist to shreds so that large
portions of the Huantsan kept coming into view.
After several hours we reached the site selected for Camp 2, to
which Terray and the two bearers had previously brought up a
considerable quantity of provisions. Whilst De Booy and I busied
ourselves pitching the three two-man tents, Lionel went off to re-
connoitre. He wanted to have a closer look at that north-west ridge.
We saw him make his methodic way up the precipitous flank of the
ridge with the easy, rhythmic movement of the first-class moun-
taineer, until he disappeared from view behind the snowy crest. The
camp was almost completely organized when he returned an hour
later. He told us that the proposed route was difficult, but, so far as
he had been able to see, not insuperable. This was excellent news
and put us in an optimistic frame of mind. The weather, too, ap-
peared to be taking a turn for the better. The mists continued to
hang low over the valleys, but were dispersing in many places on
the higher ridges and we could see the clear blue sky above.
But once again things turned out contrary to expectation. About
eight o'clock, before we could get to sleep, the first fierce gusts of
wind came battering at the camp. At first we were not too worried,
but as the frequency and force of the wind impacts increased, it
became obvious that we were faced with a complete change in the
This was most exceptional during the favourable season in the
Cordillera Blanca. The 'Wettersturz' so common in the Alps,
where it is always a factor to be considered, is seldom encountered
in the Andes. But on this Huantsan it seemed, as though we were
dogged by bad luck.
Towards midnight the wind had reached gale strength and was
accompanied by storms of hail and snow. Some of the blasts were
so strong that we began to wonder how long our small tents would
resist the pressure. We had an uneasy feeling that there was a dis-
tinct possibility of our being swept, with tents and all their contents,
into the depths below. At each shrieking blast we held on to the
tent poles with both hands, buttressing them as much as we possibly
could against the repeated sickening blows.
The drumming of the canvas, added to the howling of the gale,
was deafening. Our camp stood close to the north face of the Huant-
san and was thus exposed to the full fury of any tempest coming,
like this, from a northerly direction. Then, on top of the constant
thrashing of canvas, came the slapping rush of snow as it was swept
against the windward side of the tent. Sleep was quite out of the
question in this hellish maelstrom. We could only wait for the
break of day.
But dawn brought no relief. The camp was shrouded in thick
mist, the blizzard had buried us under deep drifts of snow, and
there was no indication whatever of the storm diminishing in sever-
ity. On the contrary, it seemed worse. With reckless courage, De
Booy crept outside to take a look at things, but came back a minute
later with the news that conditions outside were impossible. The
force of the wind was so terrific that one could scarcely stand or
breathe. De Booy could not slip back quickly enough into his sleep-
ing-bag. During the few moments he had been outside his whole
being had become numbed. His hands and feet were dead with cold.
We thought back to the bivouac of the previous week. Had we then
been overtaken by such a storm as this we should have inevitably
perished on the glacier.
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
Towards midday Terray fought his way across to our tent. As
sole occupant of a two-man tent he had automatically assumed
responsibility for the cooking, and he now brought us and the por-
ters some porridge and Milo malt drinks. Lionel jeered at our con-
cern about the storm, and said it was nothing in comparison with
the fearful hurricanes he had experienced in Patagonia during the
Fitz Roy expedition. He estimated the gale force at only 55 m.p.h.
Then he came out with the unwelcome announcement that we
should have to turn out to put things in order. Many articles, such
as crampons and cooking utensils, had been carelessly left outside
the previous evening and were now buried deep in the snow. They
would be lost for ever unless we jumped to it. It was a wretched
job, demanding much time and energy. When at length we were
able to get back to the shelter of the tent, it appeared that all sorts of
items were still missing. My crampons were nowhere to be found,
and, even more important at the moment, a leather field-flask, filled
with alcohol for cooking purposes, had also vanished. Not being
able to obtain any spirit supplies in the Santa valley, we had to have
recourse to ordinary alcohol (40 per cent) for cooking. It was the
sort the Indians used to drink. We found that it also 'lit up' our
stoves quite well.
In the tents conditions were gradually becoming more and
more unpleasant. Powdery snow was being driven by the wind
through the tiniest openings. Everything was either getting damp
or covered with a thin coating of ice. Even our breath froze as it
came into contact with the canvas and then, owing to the incessant
vibration of the tent, showered down on us again in the form of fine
At times the angry squalls were followed by moments of com-
plete stillness. These short periods of quiet between the longer
stretches of fiendish din were exquisite. It was then that the mono-
tonous voice of Guillermo became audible, reading out the New
Testament to his companion. The bearers had otherwise not given
much evidence of themselves. Their morale appeared to have
sagged badly in face of this visitation. They lay more or less apathe-
tically in their little tent.
Terray took advantage of lulls to yell encouragement across. We
heard unbelievingly that this could hardly be called a storm and
that the wind was really nothing more than a strong breeze. Mean-
while he continued to busy himself as chef, melting snow and cook-
ing macaroni. The day was endless and we all dreaded a second
night of bedlam and sleeplessness. To combat this we had recourse
to veronal, which at least helped us to doze off now and again. But
our sleep was disturbed, and every extra-heavy gust brought us
back to instant wakefulness.
When at length another new day broke we felt utterly exhausted.
There was still no improvement in the weather: if anything, it was
blowing harder than ever. Even Terray now had to admit this
really was a blizzard. The infernal racket was getting me down, and
I came to the conclusion that we simply had to seek some form of
diversion, but not just to kill time, rather to make use of it. I there-
fore suggested to De Booy that this might be a favourable, if not
exactly a quiet, opportunity for us to draw up while we had this
time on our hands an outline of the book in which we intended to
record our adventures in the Cordillera Blanca. De Booy did not
think much of the idea and tried to persuade me that we could not
possibly plan a book when we did not know whether we should
ever succeed in scaling the Huantsan. But I refused to entertain the
possibility of defeat. I argued with him lengthily and illogically. It
was, I pleaded speciously, precisely at the moment when everything
seemed so hopeless, that we had all the more reason to do something
10 bolster up our confidence. We could at least make draft plans
on the offchance that success might be ours.
At last De Booy gave in. A pencil stub was unearthed from some
bag and an empty gingerbread carton served as notepaper*
We spent hours that day drawing up a detailed scheme for a book
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
incorporating the successful climbing of the Huantsan as the main
achievement of the expedition. The work really did take our minds
off the blizzard. When, about midday, the pieces of cardboard were
carefully tucked away in one of the rucksacks, we both felt satisfied
that the morning had not been wasted. Our scrawl would probably
be illegible as the result of writing lying down, with thick mittens
on. But a book outline had been prepared. All that remained was to
climb the Huantsan, and then we could fill in the gaps.
Terray, alone in his tent, found distraction much more difficult
and was terribly bored. At first he amused himself by singing every
song in his extensive repertoire at least three times. Fortunately
most of his vocal effort was lost in the hullabaloo of the blizzard,
but now and then snatches reached our ears. One ditty that he kept
repeating ran: 'II est dans la Hollande, les Hollandais Font pris.' He
only remembered this one line, but it seemed appropriate for the
occasion and to have a peculiar fascination for him. In fact, it so
took his fancy that he must have repeated it well over a thousand
times that day.
In the end, singing got on his nerves, too; so he crawled through
the snow to share our company. De Booy had the bright idea of
setting up the three-man tent which we held in reserve. All three of
us could then be together and we could share the burden of cook-
ing. Terray went over to the porters to see if they could lend a hand,
but it appeared that nothing could be expected from them. They
were utterly demoralized, complained of sundry pains, and wanted
only to get away from this freezing pandemonium. We knew all
along that Pelegrino was a weakling, so his attitude caused us no
surprise. Guillermo told us later that all through the blizzard Pele-
grino had refused to eat anything, but had continually doped him-
self with Coca, the dried leaf of a Peruvian plant, chewed locally as a
narcotic stimulant. Even the stalwart Guillermo was too down-
hearted and dejected to want to tackle any camp work.
One could appreciate how terribly scared these half-Indians
who had never before set foot on snow or ice must have been by
the roaring elements at this great height. "We could not very well
reproach them. They naturally viewed everything in another light,
and one could not expect them to share our obsession about reach-
ing the summit.
In the meantime De Booy and I put on every scrap of clothing
we could find. As briskly as possible, we proceeded to put up the
three-man Nanda Devi tent. It was freezing, as the Dutch say, 'till
it cracked', and the wind was enough to cut one in two. The other
tents were now almost completely lost in the snow. We g?.ve the
securing ropes a quick extra turn for safety, then tumbled hastily
into the tent, our hands and feet absolutely dead with cold. It took
a long time to thaw ourselves out. Our outer garments and also the
bottom ends of the sleeping-bags were covered with a layer of ice.
Worse still, the sleeping-bags had become damp inside.
Now that the three of us were together in one tent, our 'intern-
ment' was somewhat more bearable. Our own morale had gradu-
ally deteriorated too, although for very different reasons from the
bearers*. It was now obvious that our second attempt on the Huant-
san had failed, before we had begun the actual climb. Even if the
next day were fine which did not seem at all likely at the moment
we should nevertheless be forced to return to base camp, as a
great quantity of provisions and cooking spirit had been consumed
in the last few days. Moreover, it was impossible to spend confined
days and nights at this high altitude without experiencing ill effects
from lack of oxygen. We felt far more worn out than two days
earlier, when we had come up, and regarded ourselves as in no fit
state to start anything big. A thorough rest was indicated. We con-
soled each other with the thought that there was still time for a
third attempt on the summit.
I had taken over the cooking that evening. For two hours I
busied myself preparing a meal of meat and mashed potatoes, fol-
lowed by stewed fruit. Outside the storm raged with unabated fury,
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
but queerly enough, we had become so used to the fearful noise
that we now scarcely noticed it. After the meal, reconciled to the
fact that our second attempt had failed, I snuggled down in my
sleeping-bag and listened to Lionel's yarns. The trip had given me a
new experience, one which I would not quickly forget. It also had
the effect of knitting still more closely the bonds between our little
Terray showed himself appreciative of our company and ex-
pressed this by coming out with all sorts of intimate anecdotes. He
was a first class raconteur with a typical French sense of humour.
His straight from the shoulder style cheered us up no end. The candle
had long been snuffed out, but one incredible yarn followed the
other, until at last the double ration of sleeping pills began to take
effect in Terray's case too. That night we all slept like logs. Tension
was over, we had resigned ourselves to the inevitable.
We awoke next morning, July ist, to find that the blizzard had
ended, although the wind still swept at gale force. The sun soon
broke through mists which were being wind-whipped into shreds.
We were just beginning to melt some snow for the Milo malt
drinks when, to our surprise, Pelegrino's head appeared in the tent-
opening. He announced that he was definitely through with all this,
and that Guillermo and he had decided to go down forthwith to
base camp and to return from there to Ticapampa. He came to ask
us to pay him his wages, as he assumed this was the last he would see
For a moment all three of us were speechless. What could have
been more incongruous than this request to settle up at six o'clock
in the morning, 18,000 feet up, with a gale still blowing? And yet
the demand had its serious side. If this fellow was really set on
having his way and did attempt to go down, despite our warnings,
it would be nothing less than suicidal. By now the wind and snow
would, of course, have completely obliterated our previous track
over the glacier, unsafe at the best of times. In such circumstances
After the fall. The
bivouac on the west
flank of the north
De Booy, still far
from fit, back at
Camp 2 at 18,040 feet
In the grip of the blizzard
the inexperienced fellows would not have a dog's chance of making
a safe descent. There remained nothing for it, therefore, but to take
advantage of the present favourable turn in the weather and go
down with them.
Because of the danger of frost-bite it was necessary for us to post-
pone our departure until the sun rose higher and gave out more
warmth. In that biting wind it was impossible to keep hands and
feet warm. Terray went out for a few minutes to film the mist
shreds which were being whisked with unbelievable rapidity up the
face of the Huantsan. Almost immediately two of his fingers be-
came numb. We had to massage them for him for quite a while
before feeling returned.
By ten o'clock the weather had become somewhat better, so we
decided to leave the tents in Camp 2, in the hope that they would
stand up to any further battering by the wind which might take
place. Only one of the two-man tents had collapsed its poles had
snapped during the night. This tent was therefore emptied. Even
Pelegrino, who suddenly became active now that he knew we were
going down, gave a hand. Actually it would have been better had
he still remained aloof. He was taking one of the foam-plastic mat-
tresses out of the tent, but could not have been holding it firmly
enough, for the wind suddenly wrenched it from his grasp. A few
moments later we saw the mattress sailing away high above us,
caught up in a whirlwind. A minute later we could only just see
it, hundreds of feet aloft, being dashed against the face of the
These mattresses were somewhat special. They were foam-plastic
sheets, nearly 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. Although only one-fifth
of an inch in thickness they gave complete protection from the*
rising cold. They were only 9^ oz. in weight, so we were glad to
take them with us to the higher camps and leave the heavier air-
mattresses, which weighed nearly 2^ lb., in the base camp. These
plastic sheets could be regarded as a big advance towards the ideal
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
camp equipment, and Terray was most enthusiastic about them. It
was therefore a shame to see one being whisked off to destruction.
Terray was furious. He spoke his mind to Pelegrino and no bones
about it. If there was one thing that infuriated Terray it was lack of
courage, and we now knew that this particular porter failed badly
in this respect. Once we were back in the base camp and could re-
view all the recent happenings in better perspective, we were more
sympathetic and understanding of what it must have meant for the
native porters to undergo such a fearful trial.
In the meantime De Booy had prepared a mug of hot Milo malt
for each of us. It was important to get as warm as possible before
attempting to brave the storm. One last look round, then off we
went, making our way at good pace down the glacier. Everything
went well. During the past night I had suffered a lot with cold feet
and Terray and De Booy had taken turns to massage them for me.
Now, by degrees, the continuous movement brought back a better
It was not until we had passed through the col that for the first
time in three days we found ourselves more or less protected from
the ferocious wind. We stood for a while, surprised to observe the
sprightly way in which our porters, despite their sundry aches and
pains, were getting along. The only thing they really suffered from
was lack of morale. We had given them due warning in the begin-
ning of the hardships which an undertaking such as ours inevitably
entailed, but it was clear that this encounter with the Huantsan had
proved altogether too much for them.
After a short rest in Camp i we put our best foot forward and
-towards noon approached the ice-fall, where it was necessary to put
on crampons. Terray had given his to Pelegrino to carry and now
asked for them back. At first Pelegrino acted as though he did not
understand. Then he reluctantly confessed that he had left them be-
hind in Camp 2. It was the last straw. We had never seen Terray in
such a towering rage. For the second time that day he poured forth
on Pelegrino his full repertoire of abuse. Then he stormed ahead
without crampons down the ice gully. Later Guillermo told us
that Pelegrino actually had Terray's crampons with him all the time.
He had left his own up there in Camp 2, but preferred to brave Ter-
ray's wrath rather than venture down the steep gully without cram-
Back at length in base camp, we were received with enthusiasm
by Blasido and Leucadio. It was fairly warm below, and our past
privations were soon forgotten. But one glance up at the Huantsan
left us in no doubt that the gale was still raging away up there. We
had not expected to hear that Blasido and Leucadio had also been
disturbed by the storm and were astonished when they said that for
the first few days they, too, had not been able to venture outside the
During our absence Blasido had gone down to San Marcos to buy
potatoes and other provisions, leaving Leucadio on his own in the
camp, an easy prey to loneliness and daunted by hardship. On re-
turning, Blasido had to use all his powers of persuasion to prevail on
him not to throw up the sponge altogether. It seemed too bad that
one could place so little reliance on the Indian porters here in the
Andes. We still had some differences to settle with Guillermo and
Pelegrino, so I asked De Booy to take these two gentlemen properly
Guillermo was ashamed of his behaviour and only wanted a
chance to rehabilitate himself. He declared himself ready to accom-
pany us again to Camp 2, provided we would allow him to return
below forthwith. If the weather remained good there was, of
course, nothing against this. In any case, we were practically
forced to agree, because the porter problem was now threatening to
jeopardize our whole undertaking.
With Pelegrino matters were somewhat different. He was fed up
to the teeth and totally unconcerned about the fact that he was
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
under contract to us. He pretended to be suffering agonies from
toothache and simply had to return to Ticapampa to get treatment.
Irritated though we all were by the wretched business, I neverthe-
less could not help laughing when I saw De Booy, a pair of pliers
in his hand, making him open his mouth and examining his teeth
one by one by torch-light. But Pelegrino stood his ground; so there
was nothing for it but to let him go. He was under obligation to
return the clothing issued to him in Ticapampa; but, of course, we
could not turn him away stark-naked; so we made out a list of every-
thing he had received from us and made him sign it. Next morning,
when we awoke, we discovered that he had already disappeared,
taking with him a whole box of bars of chocolate.
This was not the first occasion that Pelegrino had bolted. Once,
without bothering about his pay, he had gone off, only to be hauled
back half an hour later by Guillermo and threatened with prosecu-
tion if he violated his contract. His disappearance was, however, as
we later appreciated, all to the good, for his everlasting grousing had
a bad influence on the other porters, particularly on the poor-
spirited Leucadio. We were pretty sure that Guillermo's poor
morale during the blizzard was mainly due to sharing a tent with
Pelegrino for over sixty hours.
For all that, we were very much concerned about our porter
strength being so reduced. Leucadio was a poor specimen as a
bearer, but was useful as a hunter. We used to send him out every
day to replenish our pot with fresh meat, as his prowess with the
gun enabled us to reserve our small stock of tinned foods for the
third Huantsan attempt. As a hunter Leucadio proved first class,
though it was a mystery to us how he managed with his ancient
muzzle-loader. During our stay at the base camp we lived so well on
Vizcacha (a sort of rabbit) and wild duck that we almost got tired
Individually we now tried to build up our stamina in anticipation
of the great test ahead. We busied ourselves each to his liking
with all sorts of occupations. De Booy concentrated on the stores
and made comprehensive lists of the remaining provisions. Terray
spent his time reading. Anticipating the need for light literature
when resting in base camp, De Booy and I had included a small
stock of books in our expeditionary inventory; but we forgot to
bring any French books for Terray. This unfortunate omission
meant that our ami had to fall back on English books. He had bor-
rowed a book from me, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, but his
restricted knowledge of English resulted in his invoking my aid
every few minutes. This was rather a liability. I was busy writing
articles and already had difficulty enough concentrating on the job,
for my mind kept straying to the Huantsan, that great mountain
which looked so near and yet was so far. Whilst my gaze rested on
its lofty summit, my thoughts went back to the fall, the bivouac,
the blizzard. In spite of all our efforts, we had as yet attained nothing.
De Booy and I worked out that his fall during the night of June
2ist had in all probability saved our lives. If everything had gone
according to plan on that occasion we should have returned to
Camp i the next day. Allowing for several days* rest there, including
the establishment of Camp 2, we should probably have commenced
the all-out assault on the ridge on June 25th, establishing Camp 3
that same evening somewhere up at the 2O,ooo-ft. level. June 26th
and 27th would have found us negotiating the saddle between the
north and south summits and attempting the higher summit.
Thus we should inevitably have been caught high up on the
mountain when the blizzard descended in all its fury during the
night of June 28th-2pth. It was easy to imagine what could have
happened. Even if the hurricane had not swept us, tents and all,
from the ridge, we should in all probability have been trapped by
the blizzard. And had we still managed by the skin of our teeth to
survive, there was little doubt that the descent of the north-west
ridge with all its terrible complications would have proved alto-
gether too much for us in our weakened state, quite apart from the
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
constant danger of frost-bite. What is more, our stock of provisions
and spirit for the stove would also have run out long before then.
In the light of events it was no overstatement to say that De Booy's
fall proved actually a blessing in disguise. In fact, we were all grate-
ful for the bizarre way in which fate had dealt with us.
THE NORTH SUMMIT
It was some time before the weather returned to normal. The sky
remained overcast and for several days after our return to base
camp the wind seemed to blow from all quarters, except of course
the right one. Little by little we completely recovered; in fact,
things began to bore us down there below. Then, on the morning
of July 3rd, the clouds scurried across the sky in a favourable direc-
tion, and there was no holding us back. Out we set again for a third
attack on the mountain. But we were too presumptuous. By the
time we reached the ice-fall the sky had darkened and it began to
rain gently. A brief council was held. Should we go on or turn
back? Terray pointed to the clouds being driven in a westerly direc-
tion from the Amazon plain always a bad omen. To continue now
would not be reasonable. It would be foolish to risk being confined
in one of the camps at high altitude, frittering away our present
high standard of physical fitness, so glumly we returned to base
As it happened the weather improved a lot during the course of
that day. The evening was so fine and clear that we regretted having
been so cautious. 'C'est le grand beau temps,' said Lionel. 'I don't
care what happens, we are definitely going to start that attack to-
Next day it looked as if a change for the better had definitely set
in. The cloud ceiling was still fairly heavy, but the wind had veered
round to just the right direction. More important still, the moun-
THE NORTH SUMMIT
tains themselves looked as though they were far away a very good
indication of settled conditions.
We left base camp at eight accompanied by the three heavily-
laden porters, and soon we were passing, for the umpteenth time,
the dangerous ice-fall with its rickety seracs. Lionel pressed on
ahead with the bearers, for it was intended that they should go up
and return to base camp that same day.
Up to that time I had been in exceptionally good condition, but
now I felt somewhat out of sorts. Toiling laboriously upwards, I
perspired freely a thing which had never troubled me before in
the dry atmosphere of the Cordillera Blanca. Every step of the
route to Camp i was by now imprinted on my memory, but it all
somehow went against the grain. There was something depressing
about it. The glacier, the snow, the rarefied air they all seemed
De Booy, noticing my depression, tried to buck me up. No one
had rejoiced more in my previous excellent condition than he.
With a few choice encouraging words he managed to raise my
spirits. He, himself, was in the best of form. He told me that he
had felt in his bones long before the blizzard overtook us that
our second attempt, like the first, would fail. And his foreboding
had come true. Now, however, he was confident that everything
was going to be fine and that we were going to reach that summit.
As a rule, I set very little faith in such premonitions, one way or the
other; but De Booy's cheery optimism was infectious.
Presently we passed the place where Camp i had been located
and picked up what provisions still remained there. That day we
took everything fairly easy. Terray and the porters were far in front
and already nearing Camp 2 about the time De Booy and I reached
the col leading to the westerly glacier. When we met the porters
on their return journey to base camp we still had an hour's climb
ahead. They were as pleased as Punch and obviously looking for-
ward to an easy time down below. A few warning words from me
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
urging them to take great care and, above all, to keep up a good
pace in order to pass that ice-fall in daylight, and they pressed on
with their descent. At the approach to the col, they waved back
once more before finally going out of sight. From now on we were
alone on the mountain. From now on we had to do everything our-
selves. Our last contact with the outside world was cut.
Arriving in Camp 2, we found Terray busy as a bee, trying to
bring a little order into the chaos. The tents left behind in the bliz-
zard had been partly blown over and covered with thick snow-
drifts. All sorts of things haphazardly left lying about owing to the
porters' stampede after the blizzard, had now to be unearthed,
search being specially made for a Corsican leather flask, filled with
alcohol, which we needed badly for cooking purposes. According
to Guillermo, it had been left outside the tent by Pelegrino. Our
supply of alcohol was meagre, so for over an hour De Booy and
Terray slogged away clearing snow from the entire camp. But all
their efforts were in vain. Pelegrino had undoubtedly pinched the
flask, and not only just for its contents. The snow-shifting was not
altogether unfruitful, however, for my crampons, as well as those
issued to Pelegrino, came to light.
But we were forced to reserve our limited supplies of alcohol for
use in the higher camps. So now we had recourse to our petrol
stove a proceeding which once again nearly caused a catastrophe.
This type of stove always does the unexpected. Suddenly, out from
it shot a long streak of flame, and it was only thanks to the split-
second reaction of De Booy that a serious tent-fire was avoided.
With one lightning movement of his arm he sent the whole con-
traption flying into the open.
Lionel, who always strongly disapproved of our casual way of
handling petrol, particularly after what happened on the Pongos,
now raised Cain again, ranting on about the horrors of losing tents
at high altitudes. The atmosphere was excellent, to be sure. Long
after the candle had been blown out we had to listen to his tales of
Camp 3 at 19,350 feet In the background the south pyramid of the Huantsn taken
THE NORTH SUMMIT
woe and tribulation. That night it was not so much high altitude
as nervous tension which kept us long awake.
The new day brought perfect weather. After a breakfast of por-
ridge and gingerbread, we got down to the job of sharing out the
loads. Here we missed the powerful Guiilermo, whose rucksack,
packed always to capacity, did much to lighten our own. Now we
had to carry everything ourselves, and not merely over a simple
glacier, but up steep ice.
Three hours were spent in sorting everything out, and even
when we had reduced our baggage to the absolute mirdmum, there
still remained a considerable weight for each of us to shoulder. One
could not economize on such things as clothes and pitons. As for
provisions we had to allow for the possibility of bad weather, so
we took enough food for seven days, a quantity which actually
proved anything but too much. The three-man Nanda Devi tent
had to be taken, together with sleeping-bags, plastic mattresses, and
a deal of photographic and filming material. Then there were such
indispensable items as kletterhammers, two 2OO-t. nylon ropes, and
bivouac sets. In the end, each of us had to lug along rucksacks
weighing about 55 Ib.
In the old days before the advent of nylon and plastic materials
and other boons to the present-day mountaineer in the shape of light,
durable equipment the same items and gear would have been at
least double the weight. It is no exaggeration to say that twenty
years ago the very thought of a party of only three climbers at-
tempting such a long arduous climb as the Huantsan, carrying
everything themselves, would have been regarded as sheer idiocy.
In view of my privileged position in the middle of the rope the
big tent fell to my lot, and, oh, how often in the days that followed
did I bless that big, awkward thing. It was always doing its darned-
est to pull me off my balance.
By ten o'clock we were through and able to set off. One final
glance at the two small tents remaining in Camp 2 and the great
On the way to the north summit-^the only flat part of the Huantsan
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
climb began! Problems cropped up almost immediately. This
north-west ridge might well have a somewhat less dangerous cor-
nice than the north ridge, but its flanks were horribly steep. Below
us the abyss, particularly on the north flank, was terrifying.
To reach the crest we had to overcome our first obstacle, an ice-
wall sloping up at an angle of about 55 degrees. Lionel, as leader,
took it in great style, without cutting a single step with his axe. As
always, it was a sight for sore eyes to watch him negotiate the wall
on his crampons. Elegant as a ballet dancer, without a single un-
necessary movement, he gave one the impression that there was
really nothing to it. But how illusory that impression was, I soon
found out in the next few minutes when it came to my turn. And
that was but a foretaste of the complications which were to beset us
all day long difficult ice-work, where everything depended on
balance (and we were burdened with those excessively heavy ruck-
sacks). Halt way up the wall, I had to cut a couple of steps and then,
cheered on by De Booy, I struggled on up to the crest.
Then, whilst Terray went on ahead, I sat astride the arete and
gave the signal for De Booy to come up. I rammed my axe into the
snow to the handle and with a turn of the rope used it as a belay.
This was a critical moment for De Booy. It was his first big techni-
cal effort since the fall, and I wondered anxiously whether he still
retained all his old self-confidence. From my perch I could not see
him, so could only judge his progress by the rate at which I took in
the rope. It seemed an age. Now and then I could hear him cutting
steps and assumed that he was rinding the going difficult. I accord-
ingly yelled out to him encouragingly. Then things went quicker,
and after some minutes his head came in view. I had been worrying
for nothing. The delay half-way up had been caused by his nearly
losing the filming apparatus from the big breast pocket in front of
his anorak. It was there so as to be easily to hand for taking action
shots higher up the arite. At the trickiest part of the wall the camera
somehow or other got loose. Luckily it was attached to a thin cord
THE NORTH SUMMIT
which went round De Booy's neck and that saved it from smashing
down on the glacier.
There was no chance to hold an inquest, for Terray kept shouting
to me to follow on. We could now see the arete, ahead, but it looked
anything but pleasant. I recalled Terray's remark that he did not
think there would be any insurmountable problems at this point. A
few rope lengths along, a break occurred in the cornice and it was
possible to follow the crest itself. But this luxury did not last long,
and we were soon forced on to the sharply pitched west flank. Here
the snow appeared to be in ideal condition and the points of our
crampons found firm footholds, which was a great relief, for the
slope fell away at an angle of over 60 degrees, dropping sheerly
down towards the clearly delineated Rajucolta and Shallap valleys,
more than 5,000 feet below.
We now had to contend with shortness of breath. But the great-
est handicap was the heavy rucksack, the leather straps of which bit
deep into the shoulders, particularly when climbing steep sections,
for then one was obliged to raise both arms at every other step in
order to drive the axe with full force into the snow. The snow was
so hard that sometimes one had to strike several times before the
axe went deep enough to provide adequate support. But on and on!
Up and up !
I forced myself to stop thinking too much about things and tried
to carry out all the requisite climbing manoeuvres with the least
possible output of energy. In the course of years of mountaineering
I had acquired this knack of applying a sort of 'mental blackout* to
myself in moments of extreme difficulty. This practice stood me
now in good stead. I consoled myself, too, with the thought that as
the days went by and the rations were consumed, so would the
weight of the rucksacks diminish.
All sense of time was lost in that exhausting climb. On and on!
At four in the afternoon we reached a small ledge. Even here it was
a job to find sufficient room to sit down. Before we could find a
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
place on which to put the rucksacks with safety we had to hack
away a good deal of snow with the axe. The heavy weight of the
rucksacks made them almost unmanageable, and we fully appreci-
ated how easily they could slide away and vanish into the depths.
The loss of any one of the rucksacks would, of course, put a finish
to the attempt, so we belayed them as securely as possible to well-
Later on, De Booy told us how the buckle of a shoulder-strap
had worked loose during the climb. Luckily, it had happened dur-
ing a simple passage, otherwise the incident might have deprived
him of the rucksack and all three of us of victory over the Huantsan.
Not only each rucksack, but also each axe was a vital necessity, to
be held on to like grim death. During the rest periods we always
rammed them in with the greatest care.
We looked up at the stretch still to be negotiated that day. Up to
now the arete had been extremely narrow, but higher up it gradually
broadened. This was an advantage, as we could proceed the rest of
the way without being hindered by cornice dangers. As against
that, the crest became steeper and steeper until, at the shoulder of
the mountain, it culminated in a very steep and smooth wall. From
our resting place we now had a splendid view of the north ridge. It
was plain that, however complicated our route that day had been,
its difficulties were nothing compared to the north ridge, which was
heavily jagged in its lower portions, while higher up it was entirely
fringed with overhanging cornices. We were now all the more
convinced that the north-west ridge was the key to the climbing
of the Huantsan. In fact, it looked the only possible route up which
a small group of climbers could bring, fairly rapidly, sufficient
equipment and stores to a suitable site for an assault camp.
We had counted on reaching such a site that day. Only two hours
of daylight were left, but we felt that the nastiest problems of the
day were now behind us. From a climbing point of view our rate
of progress that day had been agonizingly slow. In six gruelling
THE NORTH SUMMIT
hours we had only gained about 1,000 feet in height. We had not
given ourselves a single pause for rest and one or the other of us had
been on the move all the time, so the technical difficulties can well
Even now Lionel did not grant us much time to recover our
breath. He had misgivings about possible complications higher up,
and urged us to make speed. Very likely he was also concerned lest
the reactions of this exhausting day should set in too strongly before
we reached our camp site.
The first few slopes went fairly well, though they were so steep
that our leader was repeatedly forced Co cut steps. Then everything
became more and more wearisome. The day's severe physical
strain now began to take its toll. I had all the work in the world to
make myself concentrate on the technical tasks in hand. As usual,
we had underestimated the actual distance to be covered, and for a
time we were scared tibat we should be caught en route by nightfall.
Then, just as dusk began to dose in on the mountain, things panned
out all right. Lionel reached the shoulder and called out to me that
we had 'arrived'. One last strenuous effort and I was there, too. De
Booy could now follow.
It was bitterly cold up there. The day's slogging efforts had kept
us so warm that we still had thin garments on; but the moment one
stayed still the chill wind cut through and through. For some
reason or other, it seemed to me that De Booy was taking a heck of
a time to catch up. Benumbed with cold, I called out to him to put
a move on for Pete's sake, and what the deuce was he playing at, it
wasn't a bit difficult, I had done that last section in far less time ! I
must have lost all sense of proportion. When he eventually reached
us, he roundly accused me in turn of having taken much more time
negotiating that last bit. It was a toss-up which of us was right.
We finally just had to laugh it off. The important thing was that
we had managed to reach our day's objective. Success in this
materially increased our confidence in ultimate victory. More im-
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
portant still, the day Lad. shown that all three of us were in ex-
The first sight that met our eyes on this slightly-tilted plateau was
a fairly distant pyramid thrusting itself fantastically into the night
sky. I rubbed my eyes in amazement. What on earth was this?
What mountain was there of that particular architecture and dimen-
sion in the vicinity? Then it slowly dawned upon me: this was the
south summit of the Huantsan. It had previously been obscured by
the shoulder of the mountain. I was still in a state of doubtful hesita-
tion when Lionel definitely confirmed the situation.
Then other thoughts took shape. This peak looked so far away
that to reach and climb it would be impossible in one day Or
was the distance magnified in the semi-dark? So this was the south
summit and there to the left was the ridge up which we would have
to climb! It looked far worse than the arete up which we had so
laboriously toiled that day. Or was I now so desperately tired,
bodily and mentally, that I could not see things in their true per-
In the vague light the steep pinnacle, partially shrouded in mists,
appeared the very embodiment of inaccessibility. It looked almost
unreal, not part of this world at all, a castle in the air, a bridge to
heaven. I felt, subconsciously perhaps, that this was a picture I
should keep for ever; and although my companions stood there
silent and awe-struck, too, absorbed in this wondrous spectacle, I
had the feeling that somehow it belonged Solely to me to me
But there was little time to let one's thoughts go dallying in such
fantasies. Plodding on to the place where we intended pitching
Camp 3, we sank to our knees in snow. The tent had to be set up
without delay, and that was quite a job in itself. The snow was so
soft and powdery that the aluminium tent pegs could not be driven
in securely. We were obliged to dig a trench, going deeper and
deeper before we came to a hard layer of snow. Even then we had
THE NORTH SUMMIT
to use axes and ice-pitons instead of the normal tent-pegs. While
we were busy, night descended and the cold hecame so unbearable
that we hastily sought the shelter of the tent and crept into our
sleeping-bags. The meal that night was confined to a bare minimum.
After the nerve-racking day none of us was very hungry, and long
before eight o'clock we had fallen asleep.
Towards midnight I was awakened by the flapping of the tent
canvas. A strong wind had arisen, and I could not easily get off to
sleep again. The frequent gusts brought back vivid memories of the
blizzard which had marooned us in Camp 2, and at each fresh im-
pact I tried to judge whether it was more powerful than its pre-
decessor. I lay awake perhaps ten minutes, maybe several hours
it seemed a long time. In the end, fatigue blurred my anxious
gauging of the force of the wind. I must have dozed off, for the
next thing I knew was that Terray's alarm watch was shrilling and
it was five o'clock in the morning. At first, I hardly realized where I
was. Then my attention focused itself on the weather. Cheers ! Stars
were visible through the tent opening and the sky was cloudless.
The cold was unbelievable, its keen bite accentuated by a strong
wind. Metal things, such as axes, crampons, spoons, etc., tended to
stick to one's hands. The temperature was minus 15 C.
Dawn was a revelation. As the sun's first rays caressed the crown
of the south summit, long shadows were cast on the mountain face.
We stood outside the tent, enraptured by the exquisite beauty of it
all. It was a good opportunity to study our surroundings. The south
pyramid now seemed much nearer than on the previous night, and
the ridge also looked far less savage by daylight. At its lower sec-
tions it was practically free from cornice, but higher up, this grim
menace of the Andes appeared again in full force. There, above the
steep north-west face, were poised the threatening gigantic ice-
curtains. It was clear that when the decisive attack was on to-
morrow, cornices of such magnitude would inevitably force us on
to the very uninviting east face.
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
Veering round to the north summit, which was hardly 650 feet
above our camp, we saw that the ridge looked simple, so the day in
front of us should be fairly easy. The night before, we had taken
our mountaineering boots to bed with us, pushing them down to
the bottom of our sleeping-bags in order to thaw them out. Pulling
them out now, it seemed as if even this precautionary measure had
been inadequate, for they were still partly frozen and we had a lot
of trouble pulling the stiff leather over our feet.
After a frugal breakfast of rice and.Milo malt beverages we had
unfortunately forgotten to bring up oatmeal for porridge-making
we put on all our available clothing and broke camp. Towards
eight o'clock we began the journey which would take .us over the
north summit and down to the saddle at the foot of the south sum-
mit. Up the slope we climbed through the soft snow. Before we
came to the ridge leading directly to the north summit, we had to
go over the shoulder, and at first this was quite a pleasant passage.
But the higher we went the mushier became the snow. Terray, in
the lead as usual, sank to his knees at every step. The route was, of
course, simple technically, but this everlasting sinking in the snow
made it extremely tiresome.
Arriving at the arete, we followed this into the north-east flank,
where the snow was somewhat crisper. At many places the hard
upper crust held Terray's weight. But I, weighing three or four
stone more, always went through the upper crust and often sank
to my knees in the snow, although I carefully trod in each of Ter-
ray's footsteps. Apparently Terray did not realize that I, like him in
effect, was now stamping out a track, for when I called out to him
after a time pleading for a slightly slower pace, to my great annoy-
ance he accused me of lagging. The lighter De Booy, last on the
rope, had it much easier. He could step into my track without the
slightest fear of sinking in further. This was about the only time, he
told me later, that he'd had things break his way so comfortably.
De Booy could not quite understand why we were not making
View of the San Juan, (centre) and other unclimbecl ice-giants
THE NORTH SUMMIT
better progress. At one stage he said to me: 'This must be one of
Terray 's "off days"! He usually puts up a much better show than
A little later I had to laugh inwardly when Lionel, wishing to
reserve his energies somewhat for the expected trials ahead, asked
De Booy to take the lead for a while. De Booy began with such a
rush that I had the utmost difficulty trying to keep up with him.
With all due respect to his stamina, I nevertheless had the feeling
that this pace wouldn't last long. So I said nothing. And, just as I
anticipated, after a little while the pace slowed down considerably.
Another fifteen minutes and he had to stop and sit down, utterly
Glad as I was of that respite, I couldn't help teasing Terray with
what De Booy had recently said about his tempo. At first Terray was
inclined to be indignant; then he realized that De Booy's speedy ex-
haustion was really a big feather in his cap. Mollified, he took the
lead again, conscious that neither of us in future would ever dare
challenge his pace. To query his performance touched his honour
too nearly. Terray was terribly prestige-conscious and a lot had to
happen before he would admit that anyone could even possess
As far as I was concerned, the pace that day could not be too
slow. Quite apart from that tiresome sagging in the soft snow, the
trip was proving exceedingly trying for me. I suffered continually
from lack of oxygen. The previous punishing day and my bad
night in Camp 3 also, undoubtedly, contributed their repercussive
ill effects. It was no ordinary tiredness, for when I stood still I felt
quite all right. It was more a disinclination to exert myself, as if my
limbs were shackled with lead weights, which I just could not shake
In any case, the climb seemed unending and I was near the end
of my tether when the north summit -was at last reached. Actually
it was little more than the culmination of the long, gently-tilted
Camp 4 at 19,850 feet, with die north, summit (20,056 feet) of the Huantsrfn in the
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
north ridge. At one o'clock Terray was the first to wave his axe
above the lofty crown, which registered 20,056 feet. De Booy and I
congratulated ourselves on having climbed our first 20,ooo-footer.
Just before joining Terray at the summit, I played the leading
role in a short tragi-comedy. De Booy had called out that he was
going to film my arrival on the north summit and that he would
take a shot of me there, shaking hands with Terray. Summoning
all my strength I rushed up the last bit, head well up, hand out-
stretched. But lurking treacherously in the last 30-6. lap to the sum-
mit was a snow-covered crevasse, into which I nearly disappeared.
I just managed to save myself waist-deep by driving my axe into
the snow as far as it would go. But photographically it was all up
with me, "Whilst I awkwardly struggled to restore my equilibrium,
De Booy, with real sadism, immortalized my plight in coloured
film. Later, much to my relief and to my companions* chagrin, this
particular section of film turned out a failure.
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
After a short rest, the time came for the descent from the north
summit to the saddle. According to Terray, this should provide the
key to the climbing of the Huantsan. We had already seen from
below that this was going to be a particularly steep part. It was true
that, by one means or another, we could have descended by a series
of rappels. But the real problem was not so much the present' des-
cent as the later ascent. If the latter was impracticable, it meant the
end of the present assault. In fact, in that case, any chance of reach-
ing the main summit of the Huantsan that year would be ruined.
As soon as we left the north summit our troubles began. First we
had to work our way for some 40 feet or so down a particularly
narrow arete, which suddenly fell sharply away on all sides. It all
looked fearfully precarious. De Booy and I were greatly relieved to
THE NEVADO HUANTSX.N
see Lionel getting ready straight away to make an attempt to find a
spot lower down, from where a traverse in the direction of the
saddle might be possible. The slope was thickly covered with snow
and perilously steep. I looked inquiringly at De Booy. As last man
on the rope, he would have the far from enviable prospect of
coming down unsecured, and he was not precisely looking forward
to it. I gave him an encouraging nod.
Terray crawled slowly and warily down into the depths, his face
turned to the wall. Repeatedly he drove his axe as far as it would
go into the snow. The slope fell away here at an angle of 60 degrees
down some 3,000 sheer feet to the glacier on which Camp i had
been situated. Then he disappeared from view behind a projecting
ice shelf. A little later came his muffled instructions to me to follow.
Securely belayed by De Booy, I went down about 50 feet and was
just beginning to overcome that fluttering 'fly on the wall' feeling,
when Terray suddenly reappeared below me. He signalled me
to return to the ridge. His 'impossible' sounded somewhat op-
pressive. Another fifteen minutes saw all three of us back on the
Did this mean the end of the climb? Would we have to abandon
everything now that we were so near to our goal? Was it too compli-
cated? Not for Terray! After each of our previous failures he had
maintained: *Mais tout de meme nous vaincrons, parce que nous
sommes les plus forts!* Once again his confidence was contagious.
A moment later, belayed with extra special care, he was off on a
new recce. The west face appeared still less promising than the east,
if only by reason of the enormous cornice poised over the former.
Terray decided therefore to try and force his way down the ice- wall
where the arete broke off so abruptly. Shortly afterwards he disap-
peared behind a narrow ice-crest. De Booy and I remained above
in almost unbearable suspense, hearing only the irregular blows of
his axe and his curt orders to pay out the rope.
To us, the anxious waiting seemed endless. At last the whole rope
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
length of 200 feet was paid out, and I was getting ready to follow
on down, when there came a sudden request to haul in the rope. A
few minutes later Terray's red beret came in view. We were sur-
prised to get the good news that there was a distinct possibility of
winning a way down the ice-wall. Terray asked De Booy whether
he was willing to go down last, but De Booy was honest enough
to admit that he would prefer being securely belayed on such a
hazardous manoeuvre. I fully appreciated his point of view, for the
dizzy depths below were breath-taking.
Once again we altered the order. De Booy went down first,
negotiating the 200 feet by means of the steps that Terray had ex-
pertly cut in the ice-wall. Snow lay here and there, but hard blue
ice showed through everywhere. It was absolutely impossible to
drive in an axe for security, so notwithstanding the steps the descent
demanded the utmost concentration. But our most acute problem
had been solved. Not only were we able to descend to the saddle,
but our ascent on the return journey was now assured. The opera-
tion had taken about two hours. We had still 300 to 400 feet to con-
tour before we could reach the saddle itself. A steep ice-ridge was
easily negotiated. Sloping snowfields, criss-crossed with treacherous
snowed-over crevasses, now lay in front. We went over one very-
weak snow-bridge by pushing ourselves forward on our tummies in
order to spread the weight as much as possible. At last we came to
Terray wanted to utilize the hours that still separated us from
dusk by climbing the first slopes leading to the south summit. I
agreed, but as quid pro quo secured the luxury of a short rest. Now
that the nerve-racking strain was over, we could more fully enjoy
the superb view. Behind us lay the north summit, sharply silhouet-
ted against the clear sky. We looked with satisfaction at the steep
ice-wall we had just descended.
In front of us tiered up a mighty bastion, the south summit, its
sharp ascending ridge soaring high above us, cutting the sky. Ter-
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
ray, who had by now dismissed the north summit from his mind,
was concentrating on the route to be taken next day. Several
steeply-pitched snow slopes reached up to the ridge and as we had
seen from Camp 3, the ridge was scalable for about 1,000 feet up,
then came the massive cornices which would force us inexorably on
the steep east face. It looked imposing, but not entirely impossible.
As usual, it was Terray who interrupted our meditations and re-
called us to reality. At that moment I could have cussed him only
to admit, five minutes later, how right he was. It was best to get
under way, however tired one felt, for sitting afforded one no real
rest. We slowly climbed the first slope. The snow was deep, but
hard enough to enable one to make a track through it without sink-
ing too deeply. Coming to a plateau, I thought that now at last our
toil for that day was over and was just about to relieve my poor
shoulders of the cutting straps of that wretched rucksack, but no !
Terray was still not satisfied. He wanted to go further, to the last
level snowfield at the foot of the ridge. To-day, he said, we have
the time; but no one can foretell how things would turn out to-
It was all right once we were again plodding on. Yet I had the
feeling, tired though I was, that I had become very much more
acclimatized that day. Although the slope we were now ascending
was pretty stiff, shortness of breath was certainly not proving the
handicap it had been first thing that morning.
When we finally reached a suitable site it was half-past four. De
Booy and I shared the task of setting up Camp 4 at an altitude of
about 19,850 feet, while Terray, amazing fellow, still with heaps of
energy, took advantage of the remaining hour and a half of day-
light to go several hundred yards up the ridge and prepare a route
He returned just before dusk to find the camp ready for the night
and a meal cooked. Needless to say, all three of us by then felt
pretty well spent. In this state we could easily, at that high altitude,
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
have given way to a sort of jumpy testiness; but, as always, the
atmosphere remained excellent.
I, myself, was perturbed over my poor form during the day. Al-
though it had improved as the hours went by, I wondered uneasily
whether there would be any repetition of that off-colour feeling
in the morning. I had succeeded in getting up to Camp 4 and, as far
as I was aware, had not up to now acted as a serious brake on my
companions. It would, of course, be heartbreaking not to go on, to
be compelled to give up, after so much intense effort, now that vic-
tory was in sight. All the same, it would only be the right thing to
do if my presence was likely to jeopardize the success of our under-
taking. I put it to Terray and asked what he thought. His answer
was: 'This isn't a mountain to be taken lightly, Kees! If you're not
up to the mark in the morning, then you cannot possibly come
however wretched it will be for all of us. But if you're feeling O.K.,
then come along! Technically, you can do it!*
This was enough for me. There was no cause to worry about the
mountain. All I had to do was build up strength during the coming
night. I forced myself to eat a good meal, although appetite invari-
ably vanished at great height. In fact, the meat and rice simply re-
volted us. The tins of fruit which we had determinedly carried up
with us, in spite of their heavy weight, were all we could enjoyably
The night sky was crystal clear. It was dreadfully cold. Our
breath condensed on the walls of the tent, froze immediately, and
then fell on us in the form of fine snow whenever the canvas shook
in the wind.
Our experience with boots the night before had taught us a
lesson. They had remained frozen, even though we had tried to
thaw them in the ends of our sleeping-bags. This time we commen-
ced operations with a pocket-knife, hacking off the clumps of ice
frozen to our boots. Then we put the boots between our knees in
the sleeping-bags in order to thaw them with our own bodily
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
warmth. Uncomfortable though this was, it was preferable to run-
ning the risk next day of suffering frost-bite during the final assault.
It was best, at any rate, not to commence with cold feet.
After taking two veronal tablets I went off soundly to sleep. In
the middle of the night, however, I was roused by the bitter cold.
My hands were so icy that I was obliged to put on gloves. My face
smarted and I suspected that my nose was beginning to get frost-
bitten, so I wrapped a spare down-jacket belonging to Terray round
my head. He and De Booy were able to snug down head and ah 1
in their sleeping-bags, but I unfortunately was too tall for that.
The veronal tablets were still effective apparently, for I started to
doze off again. My last vague thoughts were about having my
own special sleeping-bag made for the next expedition, a longer
and wider one.
With those wretched boots between our knees we could not
twist or turn. But any restlessness was, in any case, impossible be-
cause of our positions in the tent. Terray and I lay on the outside
and De Booy in the middle. Both Terray and I had a habit of rolling
as far away from the icy-cold tent walls as possible, so that poor De
Booy got precious little room in the middle. On one occasion, just
out of curiosity, we measured the actual space he occupied and
found it was barely eight inches, hardly sufficient to allow him to
lie on his side. De Booy tended naturally to moan about this, but
Terray and I used to pull his leg, saying we would gladly change
places as he was certainly in the warmest position. We called him a
chronic egoist, and made out that such grousing was outrageous.
Next morning, July yth, Terray 's alarm watch went off at 6.30.
It was exceptionally cold, so we decided to He on until the sun came
through. Half an hour later, De Booy got up to prepare breakfast.
We had never made an 'official' division of duties, but it had be-
come the accepted thing that I should do the cooking at night-
times while De Booy took turn in the mornings. Terray, who un-
dertook the heaviest work during the day, was freed of all camp
The ascent. Top: Terray
Middle: De Booy Bottom: Egeler
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
fatigues. I still don't know what is worse: to squirm, on one's stom-
ach in a sleeping-bag for several hours trying to cook under difficul-
ties when one is dead-tired after a heavy day's climbing; or to face
the bleak cold at crack of dawn and shiveringly prepare breakfast
while your companions are still lying there, luxuriously warm in
The night's rest had done me the world of good. I felt enor-
mously refreshed and almost forgot that we were nearly up to the
20,ooo-ft. level. But we were sharply reminded of the altitude when
it came to dressing. Getting boots on involved quite a struggle and
made us exhaustingly short of breath. That morning we put on
every scrap of clothing we had brought. The wind had freshened
up the previous night and was still blowing now with undiminished
Towards eight o'clock everything was at last ready. One great
blessing, there was no need this time to lug along burdensome ruck-
sacks! Tent, sleeping-bags and provisions all were being left be-
hind in camp. The final decisive attack was on I Before us rose the
proud Huantsan in all its lofty splendour. Would we scale that glit-
tering peak? All three of us were in good heart.
At first, rapid progress was made up the route prepared by Terray
the night before, but as the slope became steeper our tempo slowed.
Compared with the previous day I was a new man. Maybe I was
more sensitive than the others to relatively small changes in altitude.
A good night's rest, however, always seemed to work wonders; and
happily that had happened again at this considerable height.
After climbing up the right flank of the ridge for a hundred
yards or so, we planned to cross over the crest, as the east flank of
the arete, although very steep, seemed the most suitable. For safety's
sake we would have to move only one at a time. Terray, who had
sized up the situation the previous night, straddled the crest and
soon disappeared from view. Alert for his signal, I was getting
ready to follow when we saw him making his way as fast as cir-
The south summit (20,981 feet) of the Huantsn. Most of the ascent was made up the
ridge in the middle
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
cumstances would allow back to us. De Booy and I could not at
first make out what had happened. Then he called out: Tve got a
On joining us, he immediately took his boot off and we saw that
his toes had turned white. To make sure of things, the other boot
also came off. While Terray himself saw to one foot, De Booy mas-
saged the other. I myself could not help, for while standing about
wailing, my own feet had also become affected. For thirty whole
minutes I frantically twiddled my toes about piano playing to
induce normal circulation to return.
It is amazing how unnoticed, and with what rapidity, one's ex-
tremities can freeze. One minute everything is normal, the next
minute the toes suddenly go dead. Stationed as now, on the shel-
tered side of the ridge, it was difficult to realize how intensely cold
it was. The protection from wind made it all the more treacherous.
But the brief time spent by Terray on the other side of the ridge,
exposed to the full force of the wind, had been quite sufficient.
Neither De Booy nor I had reckoned with such rapidity. In Holland
everyone knows what it is to get dead feet when skating, but after a
time the discomfort disappears. Out in the Andes it is a different
kettle offish altogether. Here the discomfort does not disappear on
its own. Thank goodness, we could benefit from Terray 's ripe ex-
perience on this score! He did not take the threat of frost-bite at all
lightly. His reactions were instantaneous and energetic. During the
next few days I was to learn a lot about frost-bite by painful
After forty-five minutes or so Terray was at last satisfied; and the
climb was on again. The loss of time had one good result: the sun
had meanwhile risen much higher. Terray strongly recommended
our wiggling our toes to maintain blood circulation.
But this was easier said than done. The ideal mountaineering
boots have yet to be discovered. The difficulty is, of course, that the
ideal boots have to satisfy two diametrically opposed requirements.
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
Firstly, climbers would like boots that are roomy enough to allow
of their wearing several pairs of feet- warming socks at a time and
roomy enough, too, to permit a degree of movement of the toes
that wiggling so strongly recommended by Terray. Secondly,
climbers want their boots to be close-fitting, so that they do not
give at all or slop, particularly during difficult climbs when cram-
pons are required. As this second demand is all-important it must at
present be accorded top priority, and one has necessarily to forgo
the warmth and comfort of roominess.
Crossing over the ridge, we came directly in the teeth of the icy
wind. For another hundred yards we followed the route prepared
by Terray, climbing straight upwards and steadily steeper. Then the
prepared* route ended and we had to tackle terra incognita. Snow
conditions were excellent, so for a time we were able to make good
progress. Then the snow layer became thinner and blue ice, pro-
truding here and there, indicated the need for extreme care. At one
point a passage of only thirty feet or so cost much precious time.
Luckily, higher up, we were able to pick up speed, even though the
arete remained appallingly steep. But we were coining closer and
closer to the top.
Nevertheless, it was unthinkable that the Huantsan was going to
surrender all that lightly. We thought uneasily of the cornice
ahead, which was going to force us off the ridge on to the steep
An overhanging shelf of ice made us traverse on to the west flank
and we abruptly came face to face with a vertical ice-wall which
looked anything but simple. Here again, Terray exhibited, his
verve and master-craft. In the space of a few minutes he climbed tip
no less than 60 feet of ice-wall while De Booy took a colour film of
the feat. We always filmed everything of this nature that we pos-
sibly could. Terray encouraged us in this. From past lecturing
tours in France he knew what an attraction a good climbing film
makes. On films taken by most expeditions one is apt to get fax too
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
many shots of camp scenes, rarely pictures of actual hard climbing
at great height.
De Booy, poor fellow, always got the worst end of the stick in
this connection. As last man on the rope, he was charged with the
responsibility for camera work no sinecure, believe you me, in
that rarefied atmosphere. When taking photographs one is sup-
posed to hold one's breath as much as possible. Time and time again
I used to hear De Booy cursing under his breath as a 'start filming*
yell came down to him from Terray. Although De Booy swore at
the time, it was thanks to Terray that we finished up with a truly
fine colour film of the ascent.
My climb up the ice-wall was filmed, too. Although, of course,
I didn't do it with such dash and style as Terray, at least, I did not
cut the comic figure of the day before, when, at the north summit,
I showed how things *should not be done'.
Above the ice-wall the ridge was still steep. Sitting astride the
crest, secured by a rammed-in axe, I had a brief opportunity to look
around. On both sides there were sheer intimidating drops. From
this extremely airy perch the most striking thing was how all the
other mountains round about suddenly seemed to have dwindled
to small and insignificant proportions. Even the Cayesh lost much
of its terrifying appearance and looked more like a sharp pinnacle
rising on some far-off ridge. The wind had died down. It was ideal
weather: a clear blue sky with just a few cloud banks far away on
the distant horizon.
We followed the ridge up for a few more rope lengths, then the
eternal cornice started spoiling the game. Huge masses of ice hung
over the west face. From now on we had to avoid the crest and seek
a way along the east flank of the mountain, where deep powdery-
snow made the going difficult. The summit was no longer visible,
but it couldn't be far away. As our bodies tired, so our nerves be-
came tauter. Time after time we found our upward path barred by
these poised masses of ice. Each time Terray managed to wangle a
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
way out of the impasse, by traversing further along the face. On one
occasion this involved climbing a small but almost perpendicular
ice-wall, into which handholds and footholds had to be cut.
Suddenly the summit came into sight again. The worst was over !
We knew now that, despite all the difficulties, victory could not
escape us. I called down to De Booy that another half-hour would
see us there; but he usually the irrepressible optimist called back
somewhat curtly: 'Keep quiet! I'll believe it only when I'm there/
It certainly did sound almost too good to be true. We went on
and on. Hitherto, our goal had seemed interminably far away, but
now, after all these weeks of effort, there it was for the taking ! Ter-
ray forged ahead. Three or four rope lengths more up the steep
wall! Onelast section of the ridge! And *J*Y sins!' Terray was there!
Five minutes later, at one o'clock in the afternoon of July yth, we
all shook hands. The proud, inviolate summit of the Huantsan, the
20,98 i-ft. fastness, had fallen.
Victory was ours !
We still felt all on e^ge however. Perhaps the American expedi-
tion, which also had ambitions on the Huantsan, had forestalled us?
But they had left no traces either on the summit or on the lower por-
tions of the mountain. The top was still virgin ! We stood on un-
trodden ground! After a siege of more than three weeks, the mighty
fortress of snow and ice had at length capitulated. Beneath our feet
lay the highest unconquered peak in the whole of the Cordillera
Blanca, the mountain which tradition had said was unclimbable.
We could just make out the tiny tents of our base camp on the edge
of the lake more than 6,500 feet below. So incredibly far away that
it looked remotely unreal. We waved our arms on the off-chance
that the bearers down there might be looking up through the field-
Terray wanted to leave some concrete proof that we had been
on the summit, something that could be seen from far-off Huaraz,
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
a little town just visible to the west, down the valley. Accordingly,
out of the cornice he hacked an enormous piece which fell with an
unholy noise into the abyss. We talked about the Americans and
speculated as to what we should have done had they, in fact, been
there before us. Back in Holland it had, of course, been easy enough
to write in lofty vein, saying that it was the climbing of the moun-
tain that mattered and that it was really quite unimportant which
party first reached the top. But now that we actually were the first,
we would hardly have been human if our success had not given us a
feeling of great exhilaration.
We had a feeling of being high above the world, of floating in
space, of not belonging to this earth. Each of us experienced some-
thing of this sort in his own individual way. I, myself, cannot re-
member ever succumbing to a sensation like that before. It was a
feeling that permeated slowly and was perhaps, because of that,
all the more intense.
For me, this moment saw the fulfilment of a dream, a dream
which went back years, long before I had ever heard of the Huant-
san. The campaign of the past few weeks with the mountain had
become of vital importance. I was naturally thankful that the at-
tempt had been crowned with success, and that I had been able to
participate personally in the final victory. Yet I realized, even at that
moment, that unconditional readiness to devote one's whole self to
the struggle was, after all, the main thing. Sitting up there in that
glittering white world, with the two friends Tfrho had shared these
past exciting, eventful weeks, I knew that this was definitely, in
every sense, a high spot in my life, something of permanent
The way in which De Booy's mind was working was not difficult
to guess. One had only to look at his sparkling eyes. They revealed
his innermost thoughts. He was much younger than I, and had
many other climbing ambitions. He would undoubtedly go on to
more successes in the future, successes which would perhaps take
SUCCESS THE SOUTH SUMMIT
him even higher than the Huantsan. But it was doubtful if he would
ever get a greater thrill than now, from this decisive combat with
his first big mountain.
As far as Terray was concerned, the victory was just one more in
the long series of resounding successes which had marked his career.
The elation now filling De Booy and me for the first time, was
nothing new to him. All the same, one could tell that he, too, was
highly pleased with the result. And who had more right to be
jubilant? But for his inspiring leadership we should never have
reached this height.
It was Terray, typically, who put an end to all our musings by
remarking: *Now if a voice behind me suddenly said: 'Hi, Terray,
what on earth are you doing up here?' I should jump right out of
my skin!* We all burst out laughing. The mere thought of an
acquaintance turning up here, on this giant peak, with such a non-
chalant greeting, really tickled us.
My thoughts turned to the things to come, the difficulties to be
faced during the descent, the days we should still have to spend on
the mountain. Actually it was a little presumptuous to boast of vic-
tory in view of the long, long way down to earth, the ridge
stretching nearly two miles and bristling with obstacles. Talk of
success ought to be deferred until we had left the mountain well and
Anyhow, we allowed ourselves time to have something to eat and
drink. I unearthed from my rucksack a tin of meat which we had
kept back specially for this occasion. But none of us now fancied it.
The only things which did not revolt us at that high altitude were
Verkade's gingerbread and a drink of lemon water. We took the
usual photographs of our two national flags, fastened to axes.
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
After half an hour on the summit Terray gave the sign for depar-
ture. De Booy took the lead in going down the steep slope. I, my-
self, have never relished descending steep ice, and I had to force my-
self to keep pace with the others. Terray kept egging me on. He was
anxious not to be caught by night on the ridge and he simply
would not tolerate any going slow on the simpler passages. But, as
it happened, the various complications which had so bothered us
that morning were now taken in our stride, even the vertical ice-
wall. Nerves were decidedly better. Compared with that morning,
everything seemed very much easier. The big worry of every 'first*
ascent is, of course, not knowing precisely what lies ahead.
Once back on the arete the descent accelerated. At the iced-up
section we drove in a piton and slid swiftly down the rope. Care-
fully negotiating the steep slope below, we crossed the crest on to
the west face and at 4.30 arrived back in Camp 4. The first part of
the descent was over !
It was still lovely weather. Our first job in camp was a thorough
foot inspection. Terray's feet, so bad that morning, were now found
happily to be quite in order. De Booy had small blue spots at the
ends of his toes. As circulation gradually returned during the com-
ing night he was to become acutely aware of those spots. My feet
were worst off. Not only were there inky spots in my foot pads at
one or two places, but the outsides of my big toes were more or
less dead. De Booy and Terray took my feet masterfully in hand.
They rubbed and rubbed away until at last feeling gradually
It was a beautiful evening. Mists were rolling up the east face
from the valley below, and the last glowing rays of the sun tinged
the fantastic north summit, half-hidden in cloud, with fairy-like
tints. To us the evening was all the more wonderful because of the
great day that now lay behind and the promise the benign heavens
gave of an easy trip next day.
While Terray filmed the marvellous sunset, I devoted my time to
stewing prunes and apricots. The tinned fruits were now all gone.
Somehow we did not hanker after any other form of food. Actu-
ally, we had been living for days on our bodily reserves, and counted
ourselves lucky that our past years of rigorous training had built
them up so abundantly. We were now so well acclimatized that we
were able to get a good night's sleep. A pill or two helped maybe.
Next morning we stayed extra long in our sleeping-bags. There
was no need to rush, for it was impossible to get down as far as
Camp 2 in one day and, in view of the prepared track, it ought to
be just a pleasant saunter to the site of Camp 3, which was located
above the north-west ridge.
Leaving, the only difficulty we did encounter was the ice- wall on
the way up the north summit; but once over that summit the route
led down over simple terrain. In fact, I could hardly bring myself to
believe that this selfsame section had involved such a terrific strug-
gle two days before. Probably it was a matter of acclimatization.
Then, 'when we came to the small plateau above the ridge, Terray
allowed us, as a great exception to his usual rule, a full hour's rest.
Relaxing to the full, we feasted our eyes for the last time on the
Huantsan summit ridge. Now that the nervous strain was over we
glibly started making all sorts of speculations about various inci-
dents that had occurred, wondering what would have happened
Towards three in the afternoon we reached the site of Camp 3,
and for the first time during the whole climb we did not have to
rush to set up a tent. We did it lazily. And once done, we leisurely
stretched our limbs on the mattresses and basked blissfully in the
An hour before dusk, De Booy and Terray went along to have a
The descent: Terray prepares to go down en rappel over a projecting wall of ice
THE NEVADO HUANTSiN
look at the upper part of the north-west ridge. Terray had decided
to go down the first steep section by means of a long rappel, and
he wanted to make certain preparations with a view to saving time
As usual, I took the cooking in hand. There was no need for me
to scratch my head puzzledly over a choice of viands, because there
was very little left. All I had to prepare was mashed potatoes. That
would be followed by stewed plums. The small quantity of rice
that still remained would have to be kept for next day.
Whilst I was engrossed with the spirit stoves the sun suddenly
went behind the clouds and, startled, I noticed that the mountain
had become completely shrouded in mist. A little later it began to
snow softly. Did this portend a change in the weather? That would
be a rotten stroke of luck with the long and dangerous trip down
the north-west ridge in prospect. On climbing it, the difficulties in-
herent in this arete had impressed me sharply, and in the past few
days uneasy thoughts about its trying complications had kept com-
ing up in my mind. I knew that my companions regarded it dubi-
ously, too, although no mention was ever made of it. We all
avoided giving expression to our qualms. All three of us fully
realized though how bad weather conditions could jeopardize our
operations. In fact, it was no good beating about the bush if the
weather changed seriously for the worse, there we were, caught like
rats in a trap in Camp 3 with hardly any food or cooking spirit.
But anyone attempting a climb in a high range such as the Cor-
dillera Blanca simply has to face up to the fact that chances have to
be taken; otherwise one might as well stop at home. The greatest
risk in climbing the Huantsdn was undoubtedly the length of time
required for the ascent. And during this extended time one needed
a period of settled good weather. The north-west ridge was the
first full-scale technical problem set by the mountain. It was, in-
deed, the most dangerous part of the whole climb. If the weather
changed during an attempt and the assault had to be abandoned,
there was no possible way of avoiding a return down this most un-
But w|iy meet trouble half-way? Up to now we had always
managed to scrape through. When Terray and De Booy returned
to Camp 3 night had already fallen. Not a word was uttered about
the weather. None of us wished to voice our general uneasiness,
nevertheless a certain degree of apprehension hung in the air, and it
was with mixed feelings that we turned in for the night. We in-
dulged in a form of escapism. Instead of sleeping, we talked far into
the night about this, that, and the other thing of the mountains
we hoped to climb in the future. It was the same old story: one
climb not even over before our minds were occupied with thoughts
of other more ambitious projects..
When morning came, fate for the w'th time was kind. One
glance outside sufficed to dispel all our nervous fears. The morning
was perfect. The sky was cloudless, and for the first time that
week the wind had dropped. Our final trial of strength with the
Huantsan was going to take place, thank goodness, under favour-
able weather conditions! We felt considerably relieved. Whilst
packing up, we optimistically planned to reach Camp 2 early and
then, like conquering lords of creation, go jauntily on, enjoying the
midday sun, down to base camp.
About eight o'clock we broke camp, cast one last look at the im-
pressive north-west face of the south summit, and then set off. Later
on, in the course of our geological work, we might get another look
at it, but not of course at such close quarters and never so ideally as
now. Crossing the sloping plateau, we went down to the place
where Terray had prepared the first rappel.
Here we had to make the first 20o-ft. rope descent down the
steep face. Terray had been elated the night before about the result
of his work, and he now proudly exhibited his champignon de glace.
Where the ridge was steepest he had cut, in the crest itself, a wide
shelf on which all three of us could comfortably stand. In the middle
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
of this tiny plateau he had hewn out an artificial mushroom a
mound of ice about a foot in diameter. And he had looped a rope-
sling in a groove running round it, using some old paper as packing
to prevent the sling-cord cutting too deeply into the far side of the
mushroom. By pulling our long ropes through the sling, a descent of
a cool 200 feet became possible. Terray was as happy as a sandboy
when De Booy and I came out with exclamations of wonder. This
put him in an exceptionally good temper. Except for his dark
stubbly beard no one would have guessed that he had been working
at such top pressure for five whole days.
Though most of the preparatory work had been done the day be-
fore, it was quite a time before De Booy, as first, went down the
steep wall. Whilst I tensely watched his every move from my ex-
posed position, my feet which had been cold ever since we left
camp suddenly felt dead, probably due to lack of movement. The
bright calm weather tended to make one overlook how terribly
cold it was. I debated with Terray what to do. He had an awesome
fear of frost-bite and would gladly have taken my boots off there
and then, but on that steep incline it was quite impossible. Hoping
that movement might help to restore circulation, I went down the
rope and was quickly followed by Terray. There was no place to
sit. The ridge was too steep and had, moreover, a dangerous cor-
nice. There was nothing for it but to go on doggedly down until
a level spot was reached. But, alas, before we found one, more than
an hour had gone by, and even then it was just a ledge and I was
the only one able to sit down. My two friends were perched around
me in the most awkward of positions. Off came my rucksack ! It had
to be secured to a well-driven-in axe. Then off came my boots. They
also had to be well secured. The mere thought of their so easily
vanishing into the abyss below made one quake.
With socks removed, one could see that the front halves of my
feet had gone white. The toes were devoid of feeling. De Booy and
Terray each took charge of a foot. They began massaging and beat-
ing my feet with the rope until, slowly but surely, feeling returned.
But thirty minutes of their hard-handed treatment brought me to
the stage of writhing with pain. Terray had massaged my feet be-
fore at night times and I therefore knew the extraordinary strength
that lay in his fingers. It seemed now as though he were going all
out to rub the skin right off. My remonstrances had some effect on
De Booy, but all the curses I hurled at Terray's head only evoked:
'It's hellish painful, I know but it's got to be done!'
And then he went at it harder than ever. The most stubborn dead
spot was on the side of my big toe. Although the rest of my foot
had now become warm, mainly because Terray had put it under his
vest against his own naked chest, this particular spot remained ob-
stinately frozen. As a kill or cure pleasure Terray finally took the
big toe in his mouth and chewed it as hard as he could. He gnawed
and bit, until I was curling up in agony. Then, and only then, did he
desist. The pain indicated to his satisfaction that the blood had be-
gun to flow again. Socks, boots, and crampons were put on, ruck-
sack donned, and the descent was renewed as quickly as possible.
But the delay meant that our wishful early picnic return to Camp
2 could not possibly come off. We could see the two small tents be-
low, looking deceptively close. But our downward progress to-
wards them was extremely slow, for the lower we got, the more
menacing became the cornice peril, and time after time we were
forced to traverse on to the steep flank of the arete. The sun was
stronger, too, making snow conditions less favourable, so the great-
est care had to be exercised. Yet Terray kept urging us to keep up
speed. Once he said:
'Don't be afraid to put a move on, Kees! If you fall, I shall be
there to hold you on the rope!'
But for me this went right against the grain. Two years before,
towards the end of a long tiring climb in the mountains near
Chamonix, the pace had been forced somewhat beyond my power
to maintain. In order to gain time I had gone, at Terray's insistence,
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
over my limit while descending the Whymper couloir of the
Aiguille Verte. As a result I slipped several times and, on one occa-
sion, only the rope saved me from a headlong plunge into the
depths. The strain had been so severe that I had vowed never to let
it happen again if I could possibly help it. At Chamonix it was a
case of full speed ahead in order to avoid the necessity of a bivouac.
But there was no threat of that at this juncture on the Huantsan.
I had another reason, too, for holding back. The Huantsan was
our mountain, the lofty peak which the three of us had climbed as a
team and yet which, in a manner of speaking, was the treasured
property of each of us individually. In that sense it was 'my' moun-
tain: probably the greatest and most ambitious that I would ever
master. And it was for that reason that I wanted to tackle everything
myself I wanted to do it all, if possible, under my own power.
There was no immediate threat of a bivouac, so I felt perfectly justi-
fied in carrying on to the best of my ability. If it meant arriving at
Camp 2 a little later well, we should have to arrive a little later,
and that was all there was to it.
Discretion warned me, of course, not to mention this to Terray.
Neither did I deem it necessary to voice any sneaking doubts I
might have about his really being able to hold me if I fell, situated
as he was in a most delicate position on the steep ice-wall. There
were the unsatisfactory snow conditions to take into account, too.
No, I wasn't going to risk anything !
At three, when we reached a point about 500 feet directly above
the camp, Terray suddenly had an inspiration. He distinctly remem-
bered the dangers of the parts of the ridge still below us and how, at
the time of ascent, we had somewhat grimly pointed out to one an-
other that this lower section was not going to be a birthday treat on
the return journey, for it was not possible to circumvent the treach-
erous cornice all the time. Terray had obviously been debating in
his mind for some time whether it would be possible to get down
the east flank by a series of rappels. When, yet once again, we came
up against massive overhanging snow and ice, round which we saw
no means of detouring but would have to risk negotiating, Terray
turned and asked me to secure him extra well. Then he started to
go down the snow-covered slope. About a hundred feet down he
sought a suitable place from which to engineer a rappel. But driving
in a piton gave no security in that deep powdery snow. He dug
deeply with his axe, trying to reach ice, but without success. This
meant that it would be impossible to make an ice-mushroom as he
had done higher up the ridge. De Booy and I, indeed, saw no
alternative but to ram in one of the axes and to use that as a sort of
big piton. The objection was, of course, that the axe would after-
wards have to be written off as lost for good.
De Booy and I looked dubiously at each other. The uncertainty
made us somewhat uneasy. But the indomitable Terray had more
than one string to his bow. He dug an enormous circular channel in
the snow, rather like the one he had hacked out the night before:
but this time nearly five feet in diameter, instead of one. His new
creation was no less than a gigantic mushroom of snow, which
could be used however in precisely the same way as the ice-mush-
room. A sling was put round and Lionel tugged at it with all his
might to see whether it would hold. It seemed safe enough, save
that the thin cord of the sling cut deeply into the upper side of the
mushroom. To stop this, my spare gloves were sacrificed to serve
as packing between rope and snow. Then, at last, Terray was satis-
Making the snow mushroom had taken over half an hour, during
which time De Booy and I had necessarily to remain practically
motionless on the unpleasantly steep face. We gradually felt the
tedium, that we had had more than enough of it all. Now that we
were, so to speak, so close to 'home' after these six days of inten-
sive effort it was going to be difficult at this last stage to muster up
the concentration needed for this tricky manoeuvre.
For the first time during the whole attack a feeling of disquiet
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
crept over me. Supposing that blessed mushroom gave way? Up to
now I had been ready to take any justifiable risk to reach our goal.
But now, when the great adventure was practically over, my
readiness somehow waned. Thinking it over later on, I came to the
conclusion that it was precisely at this moment that the everyday
world, with all its ties, big and small, crowded back on me. The
bond with the mountain had broken. The Huantsan dream had
ended. We had reached the summit, had overcome innumerable
difficulties. Now I longed only to get back safe and sound, to be
able to tell them at home about our mountain and about the hap-
penings up there. And, more than anything, I longed for fresh
mountains to tackle.
I was not the only one thinking along those lines apparently. For
the first time during the assault my partners also showed signs of
jumpiness. At one time Terray and De Booy even had a brisk ex-
change of words about some manoeuvre or other that De Booy was
alleged to have messed up. I grinned at De Booy and remarked in
Dutch: Isn't all this sickening!'
And he answered, in all honesty: I'm fed up to the teeth!'
So he felt that way, too! What a comforting discovery! I had felt
rather ashamed of my own pusillanimity, but now that my friend
appeared to be going through a similar phase, I bucked up straight-
away. And so did he. We both suddenly burst out laughing, and
with renewed spirit girded up our loins for the last decisive effort.
The mushroom finished, De Booy slid down first. At the end of
the rope, 200 feet below, he hacked out a roomy step in the wall. I
followed while Terray kept an anxious eye on the mushroom. But
it stood up to my weight all right. Ten minutes later Terray himself
was down and immediately set about making a second mushroom.
When it was ready there came another sort of hitch. We discovered
that we had insufficient rope to make the sling to go round the
mushroom. We had been using a special nylon cord or line of 5 mm
thickness for making these slings and we had used up over 80
Back in base camp:
Top: Egeler sees to the inner man
Left: Terray sees to the cooking
Rig] it: De Booy sees to his toilet
feet of it on the Huantsan. The inventive De Booy suddenly hit on
the idea of using the cord from his hammer for the purpose. Saved
Then came the last critical moment. The ice-wall ended down
below in a bulge which overhung the bergschrund, the crevasse
separating the glacier from the mountain. Would the rappel be long
enough to reach the 'underlip' of the bergschrund? Only when De
Booy had actually descended to the brink and was able to peer over
the edge, could he set our minds at rest as to the position down
there. Yes, the length of double-rope was more than sufficient! He
vanished over the bulge, remained out of sight a while, and then
we saw him, safe and sound, down on the gently-inclined glacier.
I followed as smartly as possible. A longing for the moment of
deliverance from the mountain possessed me, the moment when we
could say the descent was well and truly behind us. Reaching the
overhang, I let my legs dangle in space and took a quick glance
down. Only 16 feet separated me from the glacier. For the last time
I hung weightily on the rope, lowering myself laboriously down
from the overhang. Phew! Plumping into the snow, I sighed with
relief. The Huantsan was definitely now a thing of the past.
In the course of this last passage I had hurt my hand. De Booy
hastily applied a first-aid dressing; then we filmed Terray negotia-
ting the overhang and dangling through the air over the berg-
Five minutes later we came to Camp 2. Everything was still in-
tact. We looked forward to a good meal, to mopping up lovely big
chunks of cake, tinned fruits and other tasty delicacies. All that after-
noon we had been thinking of nothing else, for the lower we came,
the more sharply our appetites revived.
I dived into the tents and brought out everything. What a dis-
appointment! How mistaken we were about the stores left behind
five days ago ! To satisfy our keen gastronomic desires, to appease
that gnawing inner man, there were no more than a couple of
The Huants&i seen from the south-east
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
miserable tins of semi-frozen vegetables. We had awful thirsts, too;
but could not melt any snow as there was no more spirit for the
Now that the acute problems of the day lay behind us, now that
the strain and stress were over, we felt an urgent need of comfort.
Camp 2 offered precious little in this respect.
Someone I forget who suggested getting down to base camp
that same day. It was hard to say what attracted and lured us most
the prospect of a good meal: the comparative comfort of air-mat-
tresses, tables, and chairs; the luxury of being waited upon; or news
from home? Blasido by now would have fetched the post from
Ticapampa, and letters would be awaiting our arrival down below.
The temptations were too great, we did not delay another second.
Half-past five saw us in motion again, rapidly descending the
glacier, and then later on climbing a little again to reach the gully.
We even had the energy and inclination to do a little geological in-
vestigation of some interesting rock near the gully, for we knew
that we should not be returning that way again.
With the Huantsan campaign ended, the other side of our mission
imperceptibly slipped into its proper place. For days on end all that
had mattered was getting up to that summit and then coming safely
down again. All thought of our scientific work had been driven to
the background, but now it got into focus once more as the main
objective of our expedition. We used the last minutes of daylight in
geological work. Even Terray, who was no geologist, was fired by
our enthusiasm and nobly helped by climbing up and procuring a
sample or two from a difficult high position. It came to light later,
in the course of the laboratory examinations, that the fieldwork put
in on that particular evening was of considerable value.
In the gathering dusk the Huantsan once more revealed itself to
us in all its majestic grandeur. It was as if the mighty mountain had
concluded a pact of eternal friendship with us, and now wished us
to take away an unforgettable picture of it at its best. Violet shadows
glided slowly across the snow-covered slopes. Even when the valley
below and the lower reaches of the mountain itself were shrouded
in gloom, the last lingering rays of the tropical sun caressingly
haloed the south summit, until this, too, softly faded into the night.
Silently, in increasing dark, we followed the track we had made
six days before, each of us wrapped in thought. So much had hap-
pened in the last few days. It was difficult to realize that the great
adventure was over. Every step took us further from the mountain
to which we had devoted six whole days of supreme effort, this
mountain which had so fiercely beaten off our first attempts, but
which had latterly done everything in its power to smooth our path
to its crown, as though it had resigned itself eventually to the in-
evitable and cherished no ill will at its conquest.
It was remarkable how quickly we adjusted ourselves to the
changed circumstances. My thoughts strayed to the days ahead. My
toes were hurting abominably. I hoped the frost-bite would not
prove a handicap on our further geological fieldwork. I felt that
my big toes, though they had thawed out to a great extent that
morning, were beginning to go dead again.
Before negotiating the steeper part of the glacier we rested for a
few minutes, took our torches from the rucksacks, and then pro-
ceeded down quickly until we reached the ice-fall. There, for the
last time, we laced on our crampons. As we went warily through
the narrow gully below the seracs, we heard a great avalanche come
thundering down the east face of the Huantsan. It was the mountain
bidding us farewell
After that, everything seemed wonderfully still. The silence was
deep. Beneath a sky filled with glittering stars we made our way
lower and lower. It all seemed ethereally unreal. Reaching the
moraine, we picked our way in the darkness as well as we could,
zigzagging through the great boulders. Then followed a fifteen
minutes' climb which we took in our stride. Excitement set in. We
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
were now full of the thrill of return: news from home; a drink of
water to slake our terrible thirsts; creature comforts generally. Our
recall to earth was complete.
At 8.30 we reached base camp to be greated with uproarious joy
by the porters. It did us good to see how unfeignedly glad they
were about our success, especially Guillermo. He was perhaps the
only one of them who really understood all that this climb had
meant to us. While Blasido and Leucadio got on with the prepara-
tions for a festive meal, we literally fell on our masses of mail.
There was a pile of letters for each of us. I myself had a round
dozen, including no less than seven from my wife. In addition, there
was a ten-day-old cable from her, notifying me that there was actu-
ally the chance of a house becoming available in Amsterdam and
asking me to let her know promptly if it would be all right for her
to proceed with the purchase. My word, we were back to civiliza-
There was so much to wade through that I hardly knew where to
begin. By the flickering light of a candle I read for over an hour and
a half without stopping. It was the same with the others. Within
thirty minutes of our arrival the porters served up a meal, a splendid
repast: beef and fried potatoes, followed by our favourite mixed
fruits. But we were all so engrossed in our reading matter that we
gave ourselves no time to enjoy it as it deserved, but merely guzzled
it in a most inattentive manner.
Again and again we excitedly exchanged titbits from our letters.
There were press cuttings from France and Holland, commenting
on our Pongos victory. It was a wonderful evening. We all felt just
a little intoxicated with the magic of it. So deep was I in my reading
that Terray later had to force my down-jacket on me. It was one
o'clock in the morning before everything had been, read, ah 1 the
news exchanged, and everything discussed. Then, at long last, we
crept into our sleeping-bags and snuffed out the candles. But sleep
did not come easily. There had been too much to digest that even-
ing, and I lay awake for hours, turning this and that over in my
When about three I finally dropped off, my last thought was
one of great thankfulness. 'What a life!* I said to myself. I've
not only been on top of the Huantsan, but I've also the chance
to buy a house which, considering the housing problem in
Holland, is a very remarkable thing. First thing to-morrow I
must see about sending offa cable telling my wife to buy that house
Then I sank into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The sun was already high in the sky before we awoke on the
morning after our return to base camp. Now that we were no
longer above the i6,ooo-ft. level we had been able to sleep much
better. Having had no trouble with my feet during the night, I got
up cheerfully and tried to stand as usual, but immediately found
that my big toes were inflamed and swollen. Walking was very
painful. Thank goodness there was no longer any need to struggle
with those tight-fitting mountaineering boots. As the day was to be
devoted to rest I wore a pair of comfortable-fitting camp boots
lined with lamb's wool.
De Booy took stock of the food position. The number of tins had
dwindled alarmingly, so it was high time to return to the civilized
world. In any case, why remain here? There was no more to do.
Our summit had been reached and base camp no longer served any
After a discussion we agreed to depart early the next day. As we
were not doing anything particular that day, we had time to spare
to have a quiet talk with the porters about the past few days. We
were curious to hear how they had fared at base whilst we were
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
up on the mountain. "We also wanted to know to what degree they
had interested themselves in our climb.
Blasido had been away most of the time down the valley. He had
gone as far as Ticapampa to collect the post. Guillermo and Leu-
cadio had remained the whole time in the vicinity of the camp. It
transpired that they had scaled a near-by height on various occa-
sions and followed our progress through field-glasses. On the
morning of July yth they had managed to spot us about 150 feet
below the summit of the Huantsan. On the preceding days they
had, of course, been unable to see anything of us, as Camp 4, sited
on the saddle between the north and south summits, was hidden
from their view.
Guillermo had undoubtedly been with us in spirit. As he told of
the moment when we came within focus up there, close to the
summit, his eyes shone. 'Ah, Senor!' he exclaimed, 'That was great!
That was something I shall never forget!* He, too, apparently was
now infected by the virus of alpinism. We promised that we should
certainly send for him, if ever we came back to the Andes.
Guillermo recounted an intriguing story. It was a common local
belief that during the intoxication induced by the chewing of the
coca leaf one was sometimes vouchsafed the gift of looking into
the future. He said that Leucadio had been chewing these coca
leaves on various occasions during the past week in order to find out
what our chances were of reaching the top. His powers of clairvoy-
ance must have been pathetically low. According to Leucadio, we
did not stand a dog's chance of success with the mountain. On the
contrary, he foresaw the whole affair turning out very badly for us
indeed. But what tickled us most of all was the fact that it was
Guillermo who, prompted by his anxiety to know how we were
getting on, kept urging Leucadio to chew the coca leaf. He himself
could not indulge in the habit, as it was against his religious beliefs.
Continuing the conversations, we were once again struck for-
cibly by the fact that these natives had simply no idea whatsoever of
the great distances to be covered up there, not a clue as to the
enormous technical difficulties to be overcome at those great
heights. Leucadio, for instance, on looking through the glasses and
seeing us so close to the summit that midday, calmly remarked:
'They'll be back here to-night or, at the latest, to-morrow night!'
It was only when time went on and on, without sight of us, that
the bearers began to get worried. In fact, they had decided -just be-
fore we suddenly turned up late that night in base camp that next
day they would all go up to Camp 2.
It was necessary to draw up some plan of action for the next few
days. The condition of my feet rendered it impossible for me to
make the long journey to Chavin on foot. Luckily Blasido had his
mule at the camp. It was decided that I should ride this down the
valley next day, whilst De Booy and Terray followed on foot.
If they put best foot forward we might all reach Chavin the
same day. Then, while the three of us carried on to Ticapampa,
Blasido could return to base camp with the same arriero who had
accompanied us on the way up in order to break camp and bring
everything down the valley. During our absence Leucadio would
remain in camp to keep an eye on things,
Early next morning it was with a feeling akin to melancholy that
I turned my back for the last rime on base camp. I had become
quite attached to this sunny little spot beside the lake. It had become
a part of my life, a place never to be forgotten.
Guillermo came with Blasido and me, as his services were no
longer required in base camp. When I saw Blasido carrying a sack-
full of empty tins on his back I asked what on earth he was going to
do with them. Both he and Guillermo burst out laughing. Blasido
himself would not say anything, but Guillermo could not suppress
the news for long. Still cackling with merriment, he said: *Ah,
Senor Doctor, eso es para una mujerP (They're for a woman!)
All this went over my head at first. I idly wondered whether
THE NEVADO HUANTS^N
Blasido was taking the tins home to his wife. A few hours later we
neared the first settlement of huts and when Guillermo began
broadly grinning again, a light began to dawn on me. My dark
suspicions were shortly confirmed on seeing Blasido sidle up to a
hut and being warmly greeted by a peasant woman. On his way to
and from Ticapampa a little while back he had, of course, passed
this little settlement and the 'tender' friendship then struck up was
now being cemented by this gift of empty tins.
The uses made of those tins ! Wherever we went during our trips
all sorts of services were willingly offered us in return for empty
tins. The people in the mountain districts obviously found them
useful in all sorts of ways, as pans, drinking vessels, etc.
The way down, enlivened though it was by this incident, was
long. Yet I did not find it at all monotonous. The scenery was magni-
ficent and I had more than enough to occupy my thoughts. Half-
way through the afternoon I called a halt at the end of the Car-
huascancha valley. From there I sent Guillermo off to San Marcos
with that long-overdue cable to my wife. She had already been kept
in suspense far too long. Wanting to send her all the news in one go,
I concocted what must have been one of the most peculiarly as-
sorted telegrams of all time. It not only announced our conquest of
the Huantsan, but was also a wedding anniversary greeting, and
ended by telling her to buy that long-desired house in Amsterdam.
It was dark when Blasido and I at last entered Chavin, and at first
the place seemed entirely deserted. But in a couple of minutes
people were thronging round us in the market-place. They wanted
to know what had happened. Had we actually reached the summit?
Why were my friends not with me? Had they met with mishap?
As well as my halting Spanish would allow I told them about our
adventures, my tale being continually punctuated by the 'OhY and
*AhY of the crowd. They simply could not understand why we had
been away so long. The police officer who had taken our names and
addresses on the previous occasion, also turned up, excessively
Top: Blasido and Guillermo. Bottom: Eugenio and Pelegrino
polite as usual. He expressed his gratification that our climb had
been crowned with success.
When at last everything had been told, the crowd gradually dis-
persed and I went along to the little cafe -where we had had such a
beano on our previous visit. We had promised if we ever reached
that summit to t^old a fiesta there by way of celebration. So it was a
big disappointment when they saw I was alone. All the same I was
given a hearty welcome; and the food was fine.
Time went by, and I could not understand why Terray and De
Booy had not put in an appearance. At ten o'clock I stretched my
weary limbs in my sleeping-bag in the middle of the market-place,
feeling positively too tired and sleepy to worry about anything.
About four o'clock in the morning the noise of a lorry pulling up
close by awoke me. It was De Booy. Terray and he had reached San
Marcos the previous evening, but had been too dog-tired to plod on
to Chavin. They had bivouacked in the San Marcos market-place
until they had been able to get a lift in a lorry. As it was bound for
the Santa valley Terray now went on down in it.
Next morning De Booy and I laid on arrangements -whereby
Guillermo and Leucadio could get our stores transported from
Chavin during the next few days. We ourselves, about noon, were
lucky enough to get a lift in a lorry going to Ticapampa. And so it
was that five o'clock saw us entering the garden of our genial host,
Mr. Kroupnitzky. He was standing just outside the house, talking to
a friend, and at first he looked at us blankly. It was not surprising.
Our bearded faces, tanned skins, and grubby appearance generally,
must have rendered us unrecognizable to anyone who had not wit-
nessed the metamorphosis from day to day. But curiouser and curi-
ouser! On going into the house we ourselves were surprised to see
a very smart-looking stranger sitting there in an armchair, reading
by the fireside. Now it was our turn to be slow to recognize. But
then, a trim, clean-shaven Terray was someone we hardly remem-
The steepest mountain in the whole Cordillera Blanca, the Cayesh (18,770 feet)
THE NEVADO HUANTSAN
Our safe return to Ticapampa concluded the climbing part of our
Andes expedition. Hopes we had fondly cherished of being able,
perhaps, to make a quick attempt on some other peak were dashed,
alas, by Lionel Terray' s inability to stay much longer in Peru. We
did plan to go together for a few days to the northerly part of the
Santa valley and have a look at the mountains there. But nothing
came of that either, because two days after our return to Ticapampa
who should fall a victim to a bad attack of influenza, but Terray
I was not in any good shape either. Both my big toes were pain-
fully swollen and, on medical advice, I had to rest up as much as
possible. Perhaps this was all for the best, for there was an ever-
increasing correspondence relating to our Andes expedition to be
answered. News of our success had reached Holland and France,
and masses of mail now came flooding in. The Executive Commit-
tee of the Royal Netherlands Alpine Club sent a congratulatory cable.
There were letters galore from our families, friends, and interested
During a visit to the township of Huaraz, De Booy and I were
the guests of a Peruvian mountaineering club the 'Grupo Andi-
nista Cordillera Blanca', and to celebrate our success, a lunch was
held at the residence of the Morales family. It was during the course
of this festive occasion that we were formally installed as honorary
members of the Grupo. The renown of Lionel Terray was, of
course, fully appreciated in Huaraz, and it was a bitter disappoint-
ment to everyone that illness prevented this great Alpinist and
now also Andinist from being present.
Several days after our trip to Huaraz two members of the group
paid a visit to Ticapampa. Though Terray was on the mend, he still
had to stay in bed. Our worthy Peruvian friends pleaded so hard to
have just a glimpse of the great man that, to Lionel's consternation,
we obligingly ushered them into the sick room. To his utter horror,
they photographed the heroic Terray in bed. Never, during the
whole expedition, did we see him look so confused and embar-
rassed as then.
On July i6th came the day of his departure. It was an emaciated
Lionel to whom we said good-bye. We were sorry indeed to see
him go. During the past few weeks he had come to mean so much
more to us than a first-class mountain-climber. A strong feeling of
affection now bound us together.
Just before he stepped into the car taking him to Lima, Terray
said to us: 'Don't forget, whatever happens, I'm coming with you
on the next expedition. We've scored some good technical suc-
cesses out here; but, for me, it is still more important to find a good
friend for life. During this expedition I reckon to have found two.
If only because of that, this venture will always stay in. my memory/
And so, with Terray's departure, came the definite close to the
climbing part of our expedition. Behind us lay unforgettable experi-
ences. We had fought a battle of life and death to gain the summit of
an unconquered world-mountain. We had tackled it, each in his
own individual way; but all three of us had striven to the fullest
limits of our physical and spiritual capacities to reach our fixed
objective. Luck had been with us an enormous amount of luck.
And . . . we had experienced the satisfaction of winning through to
On weighing up the results of the mountaineering side of our
Andes expedition we cannot help feeling highly satisfied.
The ascent of the Pongos and especially the climb to the
Huantsan summit were exploits we had hardly dared hope to
achieve. We owed much of our success on these climbs first and fore-
most to big slices of luck. Fate was indeed kind to us. And naturally
good team-work also played an important role. Another vital factor
was the judicious period of acclimatization without -which the two
Dutch participants at least could not possibly have managed the
Due prominence has been given in previous pages to our lucky'
breaks on various occasions, as well as to our excellent mutual rela-
tionships. Here it is desired to say something about acclimatization
and all that it entails.
The attuning of the human body to the vastly different condi-
tions prevailing at high altitudes is an important feature of any stay
in a high mountainous region such as the Cordillera Blanca. Much
has been written in the last few decades on this subject, chiefly by
doctors connected with expeditions to the Himalayas or Andes,
who made all sorts of tests and kept careful note of the reactions of
themselves and their colleagues during sojourns at great heights.
It is an acknowledged fact that the air contains less oxygen at high
altitudes than at sea-level. True, the proportions of oxygen and
nitrogen remain constant; but the barometric pressure of the atmo-
spheric gases steadily decreases the higher one goes. This means that
the actual amount of oxygen taken in at each breath and absorbed,
via the lungs, into the blood-stream is far less than normal. As a
consequence a diminished supply of oxygen is conveyed to the
tissues. It is this which evokes attacks of mountain-sickness, and it is
to meet this deficiency of oxygen that the body has to adapt itself,
by the process commonly termed 'Acclimatization'.
There are a variety of symptoms of mountain-sickness, the most
common being breathlessness, dizziness, headaches, and nausea the
last sometimes provoking actual vomiting. The dire effects of
mountain-sickness are felt most acutely when ascent to high alti-
tudes takes place too rapidly to give the body time to adapt itself,
even if only partially. Acclimatization is a slow, gradual process; in
fact it may take weeks to become really effective. It is, of course,
nothing but a marshalling of the body's powers of resistance to
combat the effect of the insufficiency of oxygen. Increase of pul-
monary ventilation plays an important part in this connection,
whilst another reaction is for the body to increase the number of red
corpuscles, whose function it is to convey oxygen to the system,
Although the human body can adapt itself to a limited extent and
for limited periods to conditions at very high altitudes, it is not
capable of standing up to the strain for any considerable length of
time. Argyll-Campbell and Sir Leonard Hill made experiments
with animals to see how long they could exist under low atmo-
spheric pressure. The results made it clear that no useful purpose
could possibly be served by remaining any length of time at
heights around the 2i,ooo-ft. mark in the hope of eventually getting
acclimatized. Under atmospheric conditions similar to those pre-
vailing at that altitude it was found that animal life could not con-
tinue for long. Although results may differ as between animals and
human beings, there is no doubt that a marked decline in vitality
sets in at such heights.
Hingston compares the dual mutually-conflicting physical pro-
cesses acclimatization on the one hand and deterioration on the
other with what occurs in the case of the habitual drunkard. Ex-
cessive drinking leads to gradual bodily degeneration. At the same
time the drunkard's body is constantly trying to adapt itself to re-
sist the effects of quantities of alcohol, quantities often large enough
to prove fatal if taken by a teetotaller.
It is impossible, even after the most thorough medical examina-
tion, to predict with any certainty how this or that individual is
going to react to conditions at great heights. Mountaineers, with
splendid achievements to their credit in the Alps, have frequently
been known to fail in the Himalayas purely because they lacked the
capacity to get acclimatized. What is more, it appears that the
body's capacity to attune itself to changed conditions does not re-
main constant in one and the same person.
Our Andes expedition was too modest to allow for the inclusion
of a doctor, and throughout our stay in the Cordillera Blanca we
had neither the time nor the inclination to keep any such systematic
records as might well lie within the province of a layman. We think
some of our personal reactions may be of general interest, however.
Mountain-sickness in the Andes or 'Soroche', as it is called is
particularly notorious. Its prevalence has a direct connection with
the easy accessibility of the Andes and with the rapid climb that it is
possible to make from the plains on the coast to the high passes,
which generally lie at altitudes above 13,000 feet. With modern
transport this transition to great heights can, of course, be effected in
a matter of hours. Shortly after our arrival in Peru we ourselves
went up to the pass which crosses the Cordillera Negra. This pass
was at the 13,000-6;. level, and I succumbed almost immediately to
an acute attack of soroche, which began with a feeling of unsteadi-
ness, almost akin to that of inebriation. This later developed into a
splitting headache, which was accompanied by a complete incapacity
to make the slightest exertion.
That mountain-sickness dare not be taken lightly was underlined
by what we heard during our stay. Along that selfsame pass
through the Cordillera Negra, where I myself fell victim to the
dread scourge, no less than three people died as a direct result of
mountain-sickness within the space of four months.
Members of the Austro-German expedition were reported to
have had no trouble with the soroche. It must be remembered,
however, that at the time these mountaineers were making then-
way towards the Cordillera Blanca, no roads for motor transport
existed; so the slow journey thither by mule ensured in itself their
acquiring en route a high degree of acclimatization. The American
expedition, operating in the Cordillera Blanca about the same time
as ours, lost one of its members in tragic circumstances. They had
gone fairly rapidly to a height of over 16,500 feet. During the first
night at this high altitude one of the Americans lost consciousness as
a result of soroche, and, though a doctor was available, he died two
days later while being transported down.
But, to come back to our own experiences.
Once down from the high pass and arrived at Ticapampa, which
was about 11,500 feet above sea-level, the acute symptoms of
mountain-sickness suffered by De Booy and myself disappeared
almost at once. The only trouble that persisted was a pronounced
breathlessness which obliged us to take things as quietly as possible.
This, however, was something we had expected. Before our depar-
ture to Peru all sorts of authorities had expressedly warned us that
it was most inadvisable to attempt to force matters. We had al-
ready made up our minds therefore to 'go slow*.
After several days at the 11,500-6. level our general condition so
improved that we thought ourselves fit enough to get up into the
mountains. We were under the impression that a climb of some
2,000 feet would not involve too drastic a transition. We established
a geological base camp at 13,450 feet and during the next few days
started research work between 13,000 and 14,500 feet. Even this
relatively small change in altitude over Ticapampa proved too
much for our constitutions. For days we were in a sorry plight and
in no fit condition to do any really effective fieldwork. The slightest
exertion brought on breathlessness and our headaches were chronic.
We felt so out of sorts that, when it became necessary to climb some
forty feet or so to get at some interesting rock, we used to toss up
to decide who should do it. At that time I had definitely given up
hope of ever becoming sufficiently acclimatized to be able to at-
tempt the summit of the Huantsan, rising as it did to nearly 21,000
feet. The only small consolation was that both of us were experienc-
ing the same sort of symptoms.
After a few days at 13,450 feet an appreciable improvement be-
came noticeable and we bucked up considerably as our bodies be-
gan to get attuned. In fact, our condition bettered so rapidly that on
the fifth day in the mountains we succeeded in climbing a peak
reaching up to 16,000 feet: a record for both of us. And the more
acclimatized we became, so also did the severity of the head-
aches diminish. When we returned to Ticapampa about three
weeks later, it was as though we were back at sea-level. We bounded
upstairs and carried on just as if we were at home. Eventually, a
day's fieldwork on the mountains did not bother us at all, even at
the i6,50O-ft. level.
As our accounts of the climbs in the Pongos massif reveal, De
Booy and I after a month's acclimatization were able to climb a
summit rising to nearly 18,000 feet without experiencing any undue
hardship or breathing difficulties. And, after that, attuning went on
crescendo. In another two weeks' time there we were, up at 18,000
feet, actually blowing up air-mattresses with our mouths, although
we had brought special bellows for doing that. We were then in tip-
top form, which was just as well, for our attack on our most ambiti-
ous objective, the Huantsan, lay immediately ahead.
The still higher altitudes then reached had, of course, their usual
adverse effect on our climbing performance. Below the 16,500-6:.
level in the so-called 'intermediate terrain' De Booy and I were
The Nevado Pucaranra (20,1
able to maintain the regular Alpinist's climbing rate of about 1,300
feet per hour. But once over that mark, previous training and
acclimatization notwithstanding, our pace became slower and we
often stopped after a difficult passage, panting for breath. Breath-
lessness is, of course, materially influenced by one's physical condi-
tion at any given moment as was my personal experience during
the Huantsan ascent. The long, but comparatively simple trip on
the third day from Camp 3 at 19,350 feet, over the 20,056-6:. north
summit, to Camp 4 at 19,850 feet following the previous day's
exhausting efforts was for me a veritable martyrdom. The fourth
day, on the other hand, saw me making the far more complicated
climb up to the south summit at 20,981 feet without any undue
There is no doubt that personal idiosyncrasies play an important
part in the attuning process. For instance, though the acclimatiza-
tion of De Booy and myself took a completely parallel course at
first, it became evident, once we were above 16,500 feet, that his
'top-altitude' or ceiling was higher than mine, proving that, quite
apart from differences in age and weight, other individual factors
entered into it.
Another thing that came to light during our stay in the Cordil-
lera Blanca was my own extreme sensitivity to comparatively small
changes in altitude. Whenever we went from Ticapampa up to our
base camp, a journey involving a change of altitude of about 2,000
feet, I would always get, that same evening, a slight headache
which, however, happily disappeared next day. This susceptibility
of mine was not confined solely to ascents; a descent of 3,000 feet
or so would also nearly always bring on a slight headache. This was
never the case with De Booy.
Terray seemed far more immune to the throes of acclimatization
than we Lowlanders. Within five days of his arrival at Lima at
sea-level he was ready to undertake the climbing of the Pongos,
Base camp used for geological work in the Quilcahuanca valley
which was by no means an easy ascent, but one which he neverthe-
less headed in dashing style. It was typical that, at the 18,737-6:.
summit of this mountain, his only trouble was a little headache. It
is difficult to say how much this imperviousness to height resulted
from his climbing to over 23,000 feet three months earlier during
the Aconcagua ascent.
Sleeplessness is also one of the ill effects of the lack of oxygen. All
three of us suffered from thisthe c cast-iron' Terray perhaps most
of all and in the camps over 16,500 feet this wretched insomnia
was often very troublesome. Again and again we had to have re-
course to narcotics; and the higher we went the larger the dose
needed. A strange peculiarity of our type of sleeplessness was that
we did not get the low, jaded feeling normally experienced after a
night of insomnia. Time after time, after a most miserable sleep-
less night I got up feeling surprisingly fresh, able to face the
heavy tasks ahead without undue qualms. Our sleeplessness was
never attributable to the severe cold. The special down sleeping-
bags gave us ample protection, even against the bitter temperatures
experienced at the 2O,ooo-ft. level.
Another effect of great height is loss of appetite. Above 16,500
feet it proved impossible to consume sufficient food to keep up
weight, and we found anything containing the least trace of fat
positively revolting. During the climbs we lived to a great extent on
our bodily reserves, which fortunately stood up to the severe strain.
We did not experience in the Cordillera Blanca any of the mental
disturbances which are commonly reputed to occur at high alti-
tudes. We were, of course, not so very high compared with the
Himalayas, but even at our heights mental disorders have been
know to occur, as Terray could confirm having first-hand know-
ledge of this sort of thing. Several months earlier, he had pressed
forward with his climb of the Aconcagua without allowing suffi-
cient time for proper acclimatization, and during the last section of
the ascent he could not for the life of him remember who his com-
panion was,' though it happened to be an Argentinian officer with
whom for weeks on end he had been rubbing shoulders.
That little mental aberration of Terray was not so odd as that
suffered by another climber on the Aconcagua. He is said to have
suddenly remarked to his companion: 'Oh, I'm so sleepy ! But it does
not matter for I've just come across a library. I'm going in to have
a doze in a book.' Whereupon he calmly stretched out his limbs on
a flat slab.
It is undoubtedly difficult to retain one's powers of concentration
at great heights. One member of a Himalayan expedition had so
much trouble in this respect at 16,500 feet that eight acclimatizing
days went by before he could concentrate sufficiently to write his
first article for the press.
Such phenomena did not occur in our case thanks, of course, to
our more gradual and effective period of acclimatization. As des-
scribed in the account of the blizzard, a draft scheme for this book
was actually drawn up whilst we were marooned at 18,000 feet.
In the Himalayas lack of oxygen above 26,000 feet becomes so
acute that recourse has to be made to oxygen cylinders. The scaling
of the 29,000-6:. summit of Mount Everest would never have been
possible without this expedient. The comparatively low summits in
the Andes can, however, be climbed by any normal, fit person with-
out the aid of oxygen apparatus.
The inhabitants of the high plateaux of Peru, who spend the
whole of their lives at heights of 10,000 feet or over, naturally have
an, advantage over us Europeans. One glance at these mountain-
Indians, with their abnormally broad and deep chests, is enough to
show that we cannot possibly hope to measure ourselves against
them, though according to Terray they compare unfavourably
with the famous Sherpas in the Himalayas as regards physical en-
durance and capacity to face danger and privation. But time and
time again we were staggered at the ease with which Guillermo and
Pelegrino shouldered burdens of up to no Ib. and at altitudes
around 16,500 feet, too. It was strange though that both our porters
had a touch of mountain-sickness when we reached 17,000 feet
during the Pongos climb. They also required, apparently, a period of
acclimatization on going up to a higher altitude.
That an acquired degree of acclimatization can be speedily lost was
brought home to us when later we flew from Lima to Cuzco and
return. We made the outward passage one week after our stay in
the Cordillera Blanca, flying in an aeroplane which had no pres-
surized cabin. At an altitude of 19,500 feet passengers were given
oxygen tubes to put in their mouths. At that time De Booy and I
were so well attuned to that height that we had no need of oxygen,
much to the surprise of our fellow-passengers. But when, after a
five weeks' sojourn below the 6,500-ft. level, I returned to Lima, I
was only too glad to avail myself of this artificial source of oxygen.
The difference between 'Andinism' and Alpinism, as practised in
Europe is, of course, not purely one of acclimatization. In the
mighty mountain world of the Andes one is completely isolated
and has necessarily to be self-supporting. At eventide no comfort-
able mountain-hut conveniently awaits the climber after an ex-
hausting day's work in the Cordillera Blanca. He has invariably to
make his own camp in that wilderness of snow and ice, by pitching
his tent somewhere on a glacier or on some level place up a ridge.
As soon as the technical difficulties get beyond* the capabilities of
porters, the climber is forced to do everything himself. At the end
of a trying day he is confronted with the necessity of cooking a
warm meal, a major operation in itself, for the low barometric pres-
sure makes the melting of snow at 16,000 feet a long-drawn-out
business. A hot meal is of vital importance, however, in building
up one's resistance to the effects of the privations experienced at
Finally, there are the heavy loads that the climber himself has to
carry. In the Alps it is rare for one to have to shoulder a load of (say)
44 Ib. other than up a simple mountain route on the way to a hut.
During the climbing of the Huantsan there was no way of dodging
having to lug along loads much above 44 Ib. Moreover it was over
terrain which was anything but simple. Negotiating an ice-slope
with a gradient of 50 degrees is no child's play at the best of times,
let alone with a heavy- cumbersome rucksack tugging at one's back.
In order to see the Huantsan attack through, we had to take with us
sleeping-bags, a three-man tent, spare clothing, provisions for a full
week on the mountain, cooking apparatus and fuel, photographic
material, together with other indispensables such as a good supply
of pitons, a spare zoo-ft. rope, and other necessities of that kind.
Another great difference is that the day is much shorter there than
in the Alps. During the climbing season in the Cordillera Blanca
the sun does not rise until six o'clock. In the evening it disappears
again at six, and as there is hardly any twilight in the tropics it is
pitch dark by half-past six. The climber has thus only twelve hours
of daylight, and he often cannot use these fully, for it can be so
freezingly cold in the early morning at great heights that to venture
out of the tent before the sun starts really giving out some warmth
is simply to ask for frost-bite.
The technical climbing problems facing the mountaineer in the
Cordillera Blanca are also quite different in certain respects from
those encountered in European ranges. The enormous cornices
which in most cases fringe the ridges, make these natural routes up
the mountain both difficult and dangerous. Woe to the climber who
underestimates the hazardous perils of those overhanging masses of
snow and ice! Sometimes we found it possible to avoid them by
making wide detours. Sometimes such deviations were definitely
not possible and then came the most unnerving moments of our
Mountaineering in the 'White Chain' consists for the most part
in climbing on snow and ice. Where, as on the Pongos, the ridges
are broken by protruding rock buttresses, these are mostly so
sheathed with ice that it is best to avoid them.
But it is not the massive cornice nor the ice-plastered rock, but
rather the other factors previously mentioned which confront the
climber in the Cordillera Blanca with such totally different prob-
lems from those met in the Alps. For us, the Pongos was technically
perhaps the most difficult to tackle, the complications being, how-
ever, essentially of a climbing nature.
With the Huantsan it was different. This mountain had unique
qualities, a challenge, unlike anything met in the Alps. In ad-
dition to the trials which any climb at very high altitude entails,
we were hard put to it by reason of the excessive length of the
climb. The ridge up which we had to toil was nearly two miles in
length. Taken individually the difficulties on the arete were seldom
exceptionally severe. But there were so many of them cropping up
continually all along most part of it.
The Huantsan was as mountains go something completely
new for De Booy and me. Terray felt this, too. He later acknow-
ledged that he regarded its ascent as one of the supreme achieve-
ments of his whole career, particularly when he recalled that it was
not accomplished by a full-sized, well-supported expedition, but by
a small team of three three who, for a period of six days, were
thrown entirely on their own resources without the remotest
chance of securing any outside help or succour.
But still, is it not precisely this last, with alt its inherent risks,
which gives an enterprise like ours such a singular charm?
n this chapter it is proposed to deal very briefly, of course
with some geological aspects of the Cordillera Blanca in
At the outset it would perhaps be as well to explain why our
choice fell on the Cordillera Blanca, what scientific reasons led to its
selection as the objective of our expedition, and why our activities
were concentrated in the southern part of the range.
Except in those places where drill-holes or mine-galleries afford
some insight into rock structure below the earth's surface, geologi-
cal interpretation is greatly hampered by the paucity of data on the
course of geological structure in a vertical sense. In fact, in most
places this course has largely to be inferred, to the best of the
geologist's ability, from data available at the earth's surface data
which often leave ample room for uncertainty. From a research
point of view it is fortunate that such places are to be found as the
walls of fjords, or, better still, the deeply-eroded parts of high
mountain ranges, wkere it is possible for the geologist, if a moun-
taineer, to collect data on geological structures in a vertical sense
over well-exposed areas covering thousands of square yards.
Following the decision to make the South- American Andes our
objective, study of relevant literature including, of course, Stein-
mann's classic work Geologic von Peru 1 quickly focused our at-
1 Geologie von Peru by G. Steinmanti, Heidelberg, 1929.
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
tention on the Cordillera Blanca, a range consisting largely of
granodiorite (a rock-type closely related to granite), exposed by
In geological circles the origin of granite and related rocks is a
topic of special current interest. The views of the 'Magmatists' who
consider that these rock-types were formed in the earth's crust by
the crystallisation of a more or less fluid magma (comparable to the
solidification on the earth's surface of lava from a volcano) are con-
trary to those held by the so-called 'Transformists' who consider
that they were formed in situ by the transformation of pre-existing
rock a view which has lately gained considerable support. Others,
taking less extreme points of view, deem both modes of origin to be
possible. The well-known English petrologist, Read, has probably
summed up the situation correctly with his remark that 'there are
granites and granites'.
Sketch of Nevada Chump f as viewed from the N.
i. "White" granodiorite. 2. "Grey"-granodiorite. 3. Contact meta-
morphic sediments (lower neocomian slate-sandstone formation) .
Having previously been occupied with problems of this particu-
lar nature elsewhere, the author came to the conclusion that the
Cordillera Blanca was a most attractive region for investigation.
There was also this advantage: the range was cut in many places by
Geology at great height
During the research work. Guillermo
carries it off well, no Ibs, on his back
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
deep valleys (called Quebradas out there) running transverse to its
general trend a feature which would greatly facilitate the work of
The decision to operate in the southern portion of the range was
chiefly influenced by the fact that there the granodiorite bodies are
relatively small and do not, as is the case in the northern part of the
range, monopolize almost its whole breadth. The southern part
would therefore permit of a more effective study of the relation-
ships between the granodiorites and their adjacent rocks.
The aims we had in view were thus purely scientific and not, as
many people erroneously assumed, dictated by economic considera-
tions, such as prospecting for valuable ores. Peru is, of course, noted
for its mineral potentialities. Had these been our objective we cer-
tainly should not have picked the Cordillera Blanca, but would
have gone to one of the other ranges in the Peruvian Andes where
mineral deposits are known to be present.
We were often asked what value such a purely scientific explora-
tion could have and why it was necessary, in any case, to conduct it
in the far-off Cordilleras of Peru. In reply we could only point out
that it is often quite impossible to foretell to what extent a scientific
research may ultimately prove, if only indirectly, of economic
worth. Whether in fact any material benefit will eventually result
from our mission is somewhat beside the point. But there is this
much to be said. Painstaking exploration of any particular area,
wherever it may be, is bound to lead to a better insight into the
composition and structure of the earth's crust and thus forms in it-
self a contribution to general knowledge.
Although from a distance the Cordillera Blanca gives the impres-
sion of being wild and inaccessible, actually the central parts of the
range can be reached fairly easily through the cross-cutting que-
bradas, which provide natural and quick means of approach by
horse or mule. Furthermore, these quebradas frequently branch out
Glacier calving off
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
at their higher reaches into smaller subsidiary valleys an advan-
tageous physical feature, leading to a considerable saving of time
and energy, and sparing the geologist much arduous climbing of
steep slopes at altitudes over 15,000 feet, where such manoeuvring
is always a slow and exhausting business. For this reason we worked
valley after valley systematically and only crossed from one to
another when absolutely necessary for our investigations.
In point of fact, our geological explorations resulted in our
making ten distinct trips from our Ticapampa headquarters. One,
or at the most two, of the main quebradas were visited each trip and
the surrounding mountains investigated and mapped. On each
occasion we started off with pack animals, equipment, and sufficient
provisions for a stay of one or two weeks high up the range. We
usually established base camp as far up the main quebrada as pos-
sible, preferably close to its junction with one or two smaller
valleys or near some interesting geological formations. Once camp
was pitched mostly at heights between 13,000 and 15,000 feet
field-work began forthwith and trips were made daily. Whenever
possible we returned to spend nights in base camp; but when re-
search work took us high up the mountain-side or too far away, we
used to pitch a small two-man tent and sleep somewhere at high
Reference has been made in a previous chapter to the enormous
length of the Cordilleras de los Andes, that succession of mountain
chains and plateaux extending all along the west side of the South
American continent and stretching over more than 65 degrees of
latitude. The Andes, like the Alps and the Himalayas, is a folded
mountain chain but with this important difference: the folding of
the Andes was much less intense than that responsible for the forma-
tion of the Alps and Himalayas, where it gave rise to large-scale
overthrusting, causing parts of the earth's crust to be displaced tens
of miles in distance and highly complicated structures to be formed.
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
The structure of the Andes is, generally speaking, uncomplicated.
That is certainly true of the Cordillera Blanca, where the sedimen-
tary series reveal a fairly simple form of folding. No large-scale
overthrusting of the Alpine type appears to have taken place. Where
any evidence of thrusting does come to light, both the horizontal
and the vertical displacements seem to have been relatively slight.
NVADO PONGOS (57/lm.) (/8.737ft.)
9S seen from the North
In many parts of the investigated region the folds were found to
be almost symmetrical. Generally they showed a marked tendency
to be overturned towards the east A good example of this type of
folding is illustrated above. This is a reproduction of one of
the field sketches made during the course of the exploration.
The drawing shows the Pongos, viewed from the north. One can
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
clearly see how the rocks forming the mountain (in this case
quartzites) are folded and, as it were, partially crumpled.
The folded sedimentary strata in the investigated region all be-
long to the Lower Cretaceous. They belong chiefly to the monoton-
ous series of argillaceous and arenaceous rocks of mainly terrestrial
origin considered in the Peruvian Cordilleras to represent the
Lower Neocomian part of the Cretaceous.
On the eastern side of the range coal-seams are found here and
there in the series. The slate-sandstone formation also contains,
especially along the western slopes, conglomeratic intercalations,
sometimes with large pebbles. It is poor in fossils; in fact, fossilized
plant remains were found only in the vicinity of the coal-seams.
The slate-sandstone formation on the eastern side of the range is
covered by limestones, considered to represent the base of the
Upper Neocomian. Then follows a thick series in which sand-
stones and marls predominate, whilst the succession is closed by
fossiliferous limestones of marine origin.
Intensive volcanic activity apparently played an important role in
the evolution of the Andes. Indeed, vulcanism is still active in many
places in the Andes. In the Peruvian section it is confined to the
south of the country. No volcanic activity has occurred in recent
time in the Cordillera Blanca itself, but there is ample evidence of
eruptions in earlier geological periods.
In the Lower Neocomian series, volcanic and sub-volcanic rocks
were found to be widely distributed. In many instances they are
developed as so-called sills, formed by injection parallel to the
stratification of the sediments. Good examples of such concordant
bodies were found on the eastern side of the range, Le. in the slate-
sandstone formation directly below the Yanashallash Pass (shewn on
page 195). In other cases, sub-volcanic bodies were found to inter-
sect the sediments. Sometimes they also gave the impression of
having been formed at the earth's surface as lava-flows or by vol-
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
canic explosion (agglomerates and tuffs). Volcanics of this latter
type are of such extensive distribution at two places in the investi-
gated region as to warrant indication on the geological sketch map.
One of these is the massif of the Nevado Huantsan, the more than
6,6oo-ft. high south-eastern face of which seems to consist of an
uninterrupted succession of volcanic material.
Previously, all the high summits in the Cordillera Blanca were
thought to consist of granodiorite. One might well ask why the
highest mountains should invariably be found to be granodiorite
or, in some cases, volcanic rocks. The reason is mainly that these
rock types, owing to their structure and hardness, have proved far
more resistant to erosion than the sediments surrounding them.
Microscopic examination of samples of the volcanic and sub-
volcanic rocks revealed that most varieties contained a percentage of
silica ranging from medium to high. They are chiefly andesites and
dacites, but rhyolites are also present.
The Cretaceous in the Peruvian Andes was hitherto thought to
contain only volcanics of a basic (Silica-poor) type. In the investi-
gated region these were found to be of but subordinate importance.
It is clearly impossible to determine in every case the relative age of
these igneous rocks. A striking feature, however, was that the con-
glomeratic intercalations in the Lower Neocomian slate-sandstone
formation were found to contain pebbles of dacitic and andesitic
rocks, indicating that volcanic activity must have occurred prior to
the deposition of these conglomerates, viz. during or prior to the
Lower Neocomian. This is significant, as otherwise one might pre-
sume that the magmas (from which the aforementioned sills solidi-
fied) had been intruded at a later date. Whether the volcanics of the
Huantsdn might similarly be regarded as proper to the Lower
Neocomian or whether, in fact, they are somewhat younger in
origin has not yet been proved.
One cannot fix precisely when the mountain-building move-
ments responsible for the folding in the Cordillera Blanca occurred,
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
as post-Neocomian sediments are mainly absent. A first erogenic
phase is known to have taken place in other parts of the Peruvian
Andes towards the end of the Cretaceous. The main phase, respon-
sible also for the folding of the Cordillera Blanca, must have oc-
curred in the Earlier Tertiary. A third phase of much less intensity
seems to have taken place in the Pliocene.
In many places in the Andes, such as north Bolivia, south Peru,
and the Cordillera Blanca, the main orogenic phase was followed by
the formation of the granodioritic and related varieties of rocks. As
previously mentioned, separate bodies of these plutonic rocks
(mainly granodiorites and the closely related quartz-diorites) of
considerable dimensions are to be found in the Cordillera Blanca.
Separate masses, extending tens of miles across, occur in the north-
ern part of the range, while the expeditionary area itself also con-
tains fairly large granodioritic bodies, especially on the western side.
To the extreme south these often appear to be fairly homogeneous
in composition over considerable areas. In the north of the area,
however, complications occur. Here it was possible to distinguish
several bodies (not separately indicated on the map) by their com-
position and to ascertain their order of formation, i.e. in order of
increasing acidity. The relationship between two of these rock
bodies is illustrated in the sketch on page 188. The younger 'white'
granodiorite occurring in this figure forms veins in the slightly
more basic 'grey' granodiorite. These veins are too small, however,
to be shewn in the sketch. The quartz-diorites are accompanied in
some places by dike rocks of similar composition.
The formation of the plutonic rocks which, in the Cordillera
Blanca, are considered to have crystallized, at least for the greater
part, out of magma, though some transformation of pre-existing
rocks has undoubtedly also taken place is deemed to have pro-
ceeded during the Lower to Middle Tertiary. Their emplacement,
in any case, took place subsequent to the main phase of the folding.
The various granodioritic masses are admittedly stretched in con-
Geological sketch map of part of the southern Cordillera Blanca
[ ' J Alluvia
Plutonic rocks: mainly p^^ Volcanic rocks: mainly dacitic and an-
granodiorites. Tertiary ^^ desitic lavas, tuffs, or agglomerates.
Cretaceous (and possibly younger)
Limestones, sandstones and marls -\
f Slates and sandstones, with local coal-layers, conglomerates and pre- -I
< dominantly intermediate and more acid volcanic and subvolcanic rocks: I |
[ "slate-sandstone formation" [ Ji
Ditto, thermally metamorphic; mainly hornfelses and quartzites J
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
formity with the general trend of the range; but our investigations
revealed a considerable degree of independence between the folded
structure of the sedimentary series and the shape of the plutonic
bodies. Indeed, the contacts of the latter are clearly cross-cutting
almost everywhere in the area contrary to previous assumptions.
The granodiorites often afforded evidence of movements. They
are intensively jointed; and microscopical examination frequently
disclosed signs of late internal movements in the already crystallized
rock. It seems obvious that the third and last folding phase was
responsible for these phenomena.
The intrusion of the granodiorites and related rocks was attended
by high temperatures which affected the adjacent rocks, bringing
about re-crystallization and also frequently the creation of new
minerals altogether, such as biotite, andalusite, cordierite, silli-
manite, and garnet. In other words, the rocks in the vicinity of the
granodiorites in the so-called contact zone were metamorphosed.
The volcanics in the Cretaceous series frequently lost most of their
initial structure during their metamorphism. In some cases it is even
difficult to recognize their original volcanic character.
After the last orogenic phase denudation of the range increasingly
became the main geological factor. The present shape of the range
over the I3,ooo-ft. level is mainly attributable to the quaternary
glaciation, itself divisible into several periods. The final contours of
the mountain range were mainly carved, however, during the last
of the glaciations. According to Steinmann, this was presumably
caused by the elevation of the range as a whole during the Quater-
nary, after the beginning of the Ice Age. The first glaciations, owing
to the lower altitude of the range then prevailing, had apparently
less effect, their traces being more or less obliterated by the final and
most extensive glaciation.
As may be inferred from their characteristic U-shape and their
polished walls, the quebradas during the Ice Age were occupied by
immense glaciers. As a result of post-glacial changes in climate,
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
however, the glaciers have gradually receded more and more to
higher regions. According to Steinmann, the snow-line during the
last pleistocene glaciation was 2,000-2,300 feet lower than it is at
present. In the White Cordillera the line nowadays occurs round the
i6,ooo-ft. mark (as compared with approximately io,ooo-ft. mark
in the Alps). The numerous glaciers still descending from the cen-
tral parts of the range seldom reach a level lower than 14,000 feet.
The main quebradas are usually, therefore, free from ice.
The snow-line is still retreating upwards in the Andes, as is the
case almost everywhere else on the globe. Heim 1 estimates that it
has risen 150 to 200 metres (500-650 feet) since 1850. After the Ice
Age the glaciers succeeded at first in maintaining an existence high
up in the quebradas a fact demonstrated by the exceptionally fine
end-moraines found in the higher reaches of the valleys. But recent
changes in glaciation have given rise to a phenomenon which has
manifested itself on several occasions in the investigated part of the
Cordillera Blanca and in a tragic manner.
Renewed regression has caused the glacier tongues (or lower ends)
once more to withdraw upwards so that there is now a tendency for
huge volumes of melt-water to collect between the receding
tongues and the end-moraines, the latter often functioning, tem-
porarily at any rate, as natural dams. In this way lakes, or lagunas
as they are called in Peru, are formed. On the western side of the
range lakes of this type sometimes extend over a mile in length.
It would be most unwise to underestimate the dangers inherent in
these lagunas, imperilling as they do not only the mountain regions
but also the more thickly populated valleys on both sides of the
range the Santa valley, and the valley of the Mosna. The threat
arises in every case where the end-moraine does not allow of ade-
quate off-drainage. Without a steady and sufficient flow away, the
water level in the lake naturally rises higher and higher, constantly
1 Am. Heim on the 'Glaciation of South America, as related to Tectonics-
Observations, 1939-1947*. Ed. Geol. Helv. 44-1-1951.
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
increasing the pressure on the moraine-dam. The latter is actually
only a rampart of loose blocks and debris of all sorts. The dam has,
therefore, little real compactness and not much is needed to force a
break. In some cases the increasing water pressure may be sufficient
in itself to cause a collapse. In other instances a break-through may
be caused when large masses of ice 'calve-off' from a glacier and fall
into a lake. The wash occasioned by an immense block of ice crash-
ing down into the water may send a mighty wave surging over the
moraine-dam, which is then all too apt to give way. The lake emp-
ties itself through the breach in the dam. The water, sweeping down-
wards with part of the moraine, hurls itself through the valley, up-
rooting everything that can be torn loose and borne in transit. It
sometimes comes cascading down as far as the principal broad
valley running parallel to the range.
A catastrophic instance of an aluvion of this type occurred in
January 1941 when a laguna-&zm collapsed at the upper end of the
Cohup valley (north of our expeditionary area). A flood of mud
and boulders rushed six miles or so down the quebrada and finally
swooped into the Santa valley. The small town of Huaraz was
partly submerged, a third of the place was entirely devastated, and
more than 5,000 people were buried alive.
During our stay in the Cordillera Blanca we had occasion once or
twice to follow the path of this dreadful debris-stream upwards
from Huaraz. Time and again we stood amazed at the almost in-
credible amount of material brought down at the time of the dis-
aster. Huge blocks, some over 20 feet in diameter, were strewn hap-
hazardly along the route. At various places sad crosses indicated
where entire families had perished.
Huaraz was not the only place to suffer in this way. In 1945 a
similar fate overtook the village of Chavin on the east side of the
range. In this case the debris-stream is said to have caused the
deaths of some 500 people.
This danger still threatens from several quarters. The Peruvian
SOMETHING ABOUT GEOLOGY
authorities are fully alive, however, to the necessity of taking pre-
ventive measures to avoid further catastrophes of this type. A
special commission, aided by foreign experts, is charged with the
task of keeping unremitting watch on water levels at critical points.
Steps are taken, when necessary and wherever practicable, to drain
off water artificially, so as to keep the level and the pressure in the
glacial lagoons within safe limits.
Our scientific programme in the Cordillera Blanca was com-
pleted according to plan. Our field-work included an intensive
study of the granodiorites and related rocks, and in direct connec-
tion with these of the metamorphism of the country rock. Some
insight was also gained into the relationships between the structure
and shape of the plutonic bodies, which are considered to be, for the
main part, of an intrusive nature. We furthermore prepared a
geological map of terrain covering roughly 1,000 square kilometres
(approximately 600 square miles), most of it above the 13,000-6:.
level. Exploratory work at high altitude led in several instances to
very satisfactory results. It stands to reason, however, that solutions
have not been found to each and every problem. Nevertheless an
advance, modest though it may be, in our general knowledge of the
Andes has undoubtedly resulted from these investigations.
The Dutch expedition to the Peruvian Andes was in the field
from May to September 1952 and the major portion of this
time was devoted to geological research work in the south-
ern part of the Cordillera Blanca. These scientific investigations
were indeed the primary purpose of our mission to Peru. Only a
period of about five weeks could be allotted in which to attempt
a number of first ascents.
Nevertheless it is this comparatively brief climbing portion of
our stay and what happened on our ascents of the Queshque and
the Pongos, on our conquest after two defeats of the mighty
Huantsan, which are described in this book. Much of the material
was conceived some of it actually written whilst Terray, De
Booy and I were still up there in that far-off white Aoides world of
snow and ice, aloof and isolated from human contact. Thus it is
that the story unavoidably revolves round and concentrates on just
the three of us.
None of the things which occurred to us could possibly have
taken place, however, without the co-operation and help of many,
many others. My two fellow expedition members and I cannot end
this book without paying tribute to these good friends. We are
only sorry that there is insufficient space to permit of detailed ack-
nowledgments. But to all who assisted us in any way whether
mentioned or not we here and now place on record our deep and
The Hon. C. J. A. Ranitz, the President of the Royal Nether-
lands Alpine Club has written 1 of his reactions on 1 3th July 1952
when, seated in a wicker chair, enjoying the morning sun in the
garden of a country house in Twente, his eye fell on a brief report
in a Dutch newspaper of our victory over Huantsdn. It was a thrill-
ing, unforgettable moment, he said, and all that day he had been
quite beside himself, flushed with pride and joy at our success. To
his mind flashed memories of earlier Dutch explorers and naviga-
tors, Tasman, Linschoten, Houtman, Heemskerk, Barentz to men-
tion but a few whose names are now indelibly written on the map
of the world. On the mountaineering side he paid us the compli-
ment of adding our names to the list of Dutch climbers who in the
past have brought- off so many fine achievements. He recalled
Sillem, the first Netherlander to climb the Matterhorn, the Visser-
Hoofts husband and wife who made four expeditions to the
Himalayas and Karakoram, and the equally intrepid pioneering
work of climbers like Lorentz, Nouhuys, Herderschee, Colijn,
Dozy and Wissel in New Guinea.
We in turn would here like to pay our tribute to him not only as
a fine mountaineer himself and not only in his guiding capacity as
President of the Royal Netherlands Alpine Club, which sponsored
our mission, but also as the inspirer who was 'with us' from the
very first and backed us to the very last.
The other members of the Club's Executive Committee were
splendid, too ; and we became deeply indebted to the honorary mem-
ber, Dr. P. C. Visser, whose name is so closely linked with Dutch
mountaineering and who perhaps has done more than any other in-
dividual to raise the Netherlands' prestige in this field outside Europe.
Foreign climbing circles showed considerable interest in our
plans. Rene Mailleux, for instance, the vice-President of the
Belgian Alpine Club, gave us the benefit of his experiences during
1 The Hon. C. J. A. Ranitz wrote a glowing Foreword to the original Dutch edition:
Naar onbes-tegen Andes-toppen:
the Franco-Belgian expedition of 1951 to the Cordillera Blanca.
The French Himalayan Committee and the French Patagonian
expedition generously loaned us equipment. The latter organization
additionally put provisions at our disposal.
In non-climbing circles, too, there were many at home and
abroad who helped us by word and deed. Among the personalities
which spring to mind are Seiior Enrique Goytisolo B., the then
Peruvian Ambassador to the Hague, who took a keen interest in
our plans from the start, gave us excellent advice on many aspects,
and extended a helping hand generally; Dr. J. Kwast in Holland
who so readily responded to our appeal for help in the medical
field; and Professor Dr. H. A. Brouwer, Director of the Geological
Institute of Amsterdam University, whose interest was, of course,
primarily in the scientific side of our mission.
Whilst the expedition was operating in South America the co-
operation and help given us by various Peruvian societies and
bodies were especially heartening. We shall always think affection-
ately of our reception by members of the Grupo Andinista Cordillera
Blanca at Huaraz; and we especially cherish the memory of the
gracious hospitality we enjoyed at the house of Mr. and Mrs.
Morales, the parents of our stalwart friend, Cesar, secretary of the
We became indebted too, to Dr. H. J. Spann, a geographer,
whose intimate knowledge of the Cordillera Blanca enabled him to
give us any amount of invaluable advice. The fine aerial photo-
graph of the Huantsan included in this book came from Dr. Spann's
Financially we were indebted for contributions given in a most
altruistic way not only by our sponsors, the Royal Netherlands
Alpine Club, but other Dutch organizations such as the Netherlands
Organization for Pure Research, the Royal Netherlands Geo-
graphical Society, the Royal Netherlands Geological and Mining
Society, the Prince Bernhard and Molengraaf Funds, Royal Dutch
Airlines (K.L.M.) and the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company
(K.V.S.M.). We wish to express our thanks, too, to the many con-
cerns who let us have all sorts of stores either gratis or at greatly
reduced prices; and who, therefore, like the rest, contributed in no
small measure to our success.
We acknowledge thankfully the welcome and the assistance
afforded us on various occasions by the Dutch Ambassador at Lima,
His Excellency L. A. Gastmann, and at a later stage by his successor
Ch. J. H. Daubanton. In addition to Legation assistance, we
received welcome aid in an hour of need from another Dutchman,
J. Corver, chief official of the Royal Netherlands Steamship Com-
pany in Peru. Thanks to his energetic help we were able to move
off to the Cordillera Blanca and get down to work within a few
days of our reaching Lima. Only those with experience of travelling
the world with loads of gear and equipment can appreciate how
easy it is to get bogged down and delayed by endless formalities.
During our stay in Peru powerful support for our cause at home
was forthcoming in unstinted measure from our faithful ally, S. B.
Spijer. He proved himself invaluable in looking after our interests
generally, polishing up our articles for the press, developing our
photographic material and making provisional classifications of
rock samples. His activities in Holland helped in no small way to
maintain the spirit and confidence of the team out there in Peru.
Then last but definitely by no means least we mention Mr.
Kroupnitzky, the Manager of the Anglo-French Silver Mining
Company, and his charming wife. We shall never forget their warm
spontaneous welcome, nor the way in which they kept open house
for us. It is good to know that such people as these are still to be
found in odd, isolated place%in this world, upholding the best
traditions of European civilization. As Lionel Terray, on his own
arrival at the Kroupnitzky home, put it: 'Nous sommes bien tombes
ici!' Yes, we were indeed made to feel at home.
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