Well, as proposed I am opening up a thread about AC the mountaineer and his character traits that might or might not show in his and others' accounts of his climbs. It is intended as a material collection to gain as much knowledge as possible.
I will start with material that is not often seen: Charles-Adolphe Reymond's (alleged) diary excerpts of the fatal climb. It was published in German in 1948 in "Berge der Welt - Das Werk schweizerischer Forscher und Bergsteiger im Ausland" and so I offer my own translation which will be imperfect at times of course. It's quite long so I will post it in several instalments (whenever I have one finished to translate).
September 1, 1905
Today my task was to pave the way for the coolies, so I was getting up early, hoping to exceed the one summit that was still hiding the peak from us. On the stove I prepared my breakfast consisting of ox tongue, rusk and chocolate … this opulent meal probably best illustrates that there was no lack of provisions in Camp V.
Before setting out I requested as usual one man to accompany me and carry my rucksack. Crowley replied that most of the coolies had gone and that today everybody had to carry his equipment himself. Since a very demanding and tiresome day was laying ahead of me I left my rucksack behind in the snow, intending to come back and fetch it myself if indeed nobody would be bringing it for me.
I just took the rope with me, at first following the trail of approximately 50 meters that Crowley and his three coolies had cleared yesterday. After reaching the point where he had halted, I was blazing the trail alongside some rock formation, in deep and soft snow, which made this only possible passage highly exhausting.
Beyond the rock formation an abrupt slope of snow was rising before me in an angle of at least forty-five degrees. I began to climb it up because it would lead me above an enormous ice fall, my goal for today. I had climbed hardly a few meters when loud moaning and wailing made me look back at Camp V, which I was able to overlook perfectly clear from my position. I could make out Crowley towering above a coolie lying on the snow before him. Crowley was systemetically beating him alternately with a boot and an alpenstock, while the coolie was howling and crying in pain, begging for mercy with folded hands towards his punisher. Later I learned that the coolie was old Tenduck, the father of De Righi's Naukar, who had refused to go on today, making a pretext of his sickness. Pache meanwhile was marching back and forth in front of his tent, looking like a man who has to witness an outrageous deed, but sees no possibility of intervention, until he finally turned away from the scene and persistently stared at Talung Pass that was beginning to brighten up, illuminated by a rare sunbeam. When he later caught up with me he expressed his utter disgust for that embarrassing incident.
I continued my way up the slope. The higher I reached the steeper it became. The heavy and soft snow yielded with each step, and was followed by naked rough ice resisting even the hardest blow with the icepick. It had begun to snow. Thick fog was preventing me from identifying the end of the slope. In a bad mood I decided to wait for Crowley to arrive. A short while later he did arrive and since he saw my exhaustion he declared to recoup leadership. He chopped a few steps into the ice … and sat down.
We were just about to send the coolies back to Camp V and repeat the attack tomorrow when Salamah offered to take the lead. I agreed and followed him. Salamah was chopping superficial steps into the ice, I was enlarging those and so we finally conquered – with much difficulty - this ugly icefield, which fortunately turned out to be shorter than I had feared. On somewhat better snow we finally reached the height of the ice fall.
My clock showed three in the afternoon. The spot where we lowered ourselves to get some rest was resembling a small semi-circle surrounded by ice pillars, which scarcely accommodated two tents. So I called back to those below to come up. The rope stretched and after fifteen minutes Pache appeared, red-faced and nearly smothered by an enourmous rucksack, mine, which he had been kind enough to shoulder. But I was astonished by the unfamiliar weight of my rucksack. So I opened it and found quite a number of food cans (including two big English ”calorics“) among my personal belongings, which have been hidden there neither by Pache nor myself, but probably by Crowley or one of his men. This little instance shows again that the inhabitants of Camp V had no reason to complain about food shortage.
To be continued.
Here is part two of the Reymond diary. All weird grammar is my faulty translating skills, though I have to point out that the German version is quite weird also at times, it was probably translated from the original French.
The picture shows Jules Jacot-Guillarmod, Charles-Adolphe Reymond and Alcesti C. Rigo De Righi (from left to right) at the base camp of Kanchenjunga Expedition. In the background we might see Crowley sneaking from tent to tent to hide his heavy-weight food provisions in his colleagues' rucksacks.
The diary continues:
I then called for Crowley to tell him I would send him down the rope. No answer. I descended a few meters and repeated my calls. To no avail. I threw the rope as far down the slope as I could and waited; because in my opinion I had done more than enough straining work on this day, beginning very early in the morning, and it wasn't my duty to bring Crowley the rope, on the contrary, it was his obligation to come up himself to get it or to send one of his men for it. Since the rope still seemed to be unappreciated and did not tighten I climbed back up to my comrades and we waited with frozen feet and shivering in the cold, waiting if Crowley and his coolies would decide to communicate their intentions. Finally, tired of waiting and and supposing that Crowley had gone back to Camp V because he hadn't heard me, I left the rope with Pache and Salamah and set out to look for a broader sleeping place than the little semi-circle we sat in. I climbed along the back of a snow comice up to a minor flat area that I had descried during a temporary brightening on the peak line of the surrounding ice towers. This flat area led to a snow slope of medium inclination. Beyond that slope the fog was so thick that I could not differentiate if there would be a path we could use tomorrow.
When I got back to Pache we began anew to call for Crowley. He still would not answer. But we heard the voices of Jacot and De Righi who were obviously arguing heavily with Crowley. When I finally lost all patience to listen I cried for the doctor: ”Once and for all, will the coolies come up to us or shall we climb down?“ The doctor replied: ”No, they won't go higher. You come down!“
That was not an easy task. An involuntary glissade by Pache and Salamah destroyed our steps on a length of about ten meters. In spite of wearing my crampons I nearly did not make it to the foot of the slope. There I found two porters and two loads that Crowley had left behind.
The doctor had met us halfway and now helped to lead the porters and the loads back alongside the rock formation where the path I had paved that early morning was by now almost completely destroyed again by the coolies.
While we were getting back to the camp Jacot told me why the coolies had fled. Crowley had hit one of them the day before, so all had been going back to Camp III to complain to De Righi and Jacot about the incident. Those two were then climbing up to Camp V, the former to announce that he will leave the expedition and go back to Darjeeling, the latter to inform Crowley that he is going to depose Crowley from the command of the expedition and will assume leadership himself. And Jacot had all right to do so, it was him who had initiated the expedition in the first place and furthermore him who had shouldered most of the costs.
The doctor asked me to stay at Camp V with Crowley to further explore the possible routes to the peak. He then led all the coolies back to Camp III, since they had only followed him up when he had promised them that they would spent the night back in Camp III. Pache, who had lost his suitcase two days ago somewhere in the rocky terrain and had been freezing immensely during the last two nights, came to say goodbye, explaining that he preferred to go back down with the doctor to help with the search for his belongings. The doctor, Pache and De Righi took off to Camp III shortly before 5 p.m. I myself stayed behind at Camp V together with Crowley, Salamah and Bahadursing.
Crowley had withdrawn into his tent playing the piqued monarch who has been deeply offended by his people threatening mutiny to kick him off his throne. I was busy tightening and strengthening my Mummery tent when I suddenly heard cries for help: ”Help us, Reymond, help us! Bring ice-axes!“ I climbed up to the edge of the snow comice on which Camp V had been built and saw the doctor and De Righi at the foot of a devastated slope that has been ruined by an avalanche. They were pulling on a rope that was disappearing in the masses of snow, trying to excavate it by hand and foot. ”Where is Pache?” I cried as loud as possible. The doctor answered worriedly, ”He is buried in the snow! Together with three porters! Hurry up and come!” I rushed back to the tents and called for Crowley who was still hidden inside his tent: ”Pache and three porters were smothered by an avalanche!”
To be continued.
The diary continues. Enjoy.
Crowley did not move a muscle, he only muttered some dashy aphorisms about the dumbness of people who let themselves get hit by avalanches. Without awaiting any orders from him I quickly stashed some food into my rucksack, put on my crampons and hurried as fast as I could down the slender path that the coming and going of the coolies had paved below our camp. To my great astonishment Crowley still made no efforts to follow me.
A few minutes later I reached the site where the avalanche had set off. An alpenstock und two ice-picks were tucked into the snow. I took the picks and slid down the trench of the avalanche to advance faster. When my glissade was finished I realized than an ice-wall of about four or five meters seperated me from De Righi and Jacot. I jumped down that wall by landing cunningly on my back. Then we began to shovel and chip around the rope. During this work the doctor and De Righi breathlessly reported how the disaster had proceeded, their voices trembling with concern. As it happened one coolie had slipped suddenly. This made another coolie fall and finally dragged the whole rope party along. The doctor had desperately tried to get a hold somewhere but was also swept away by the emerging avalanche. He swam with might and main in the snow which kept him on the surface. Immediately after jumping down the ice-wall he managed to get up despite a rough landing, and pulled De Righi out, who had not been buried completely in the snow but was nearly strangled by the rope. The others were all deep under the snow and ice debris. Neither pulling the rope nor hacking at the ice with the axes, neither probing the snow nor relentless shouting yielded any results. The snow simply slipped from the wide side of the ice-pick and fell back into the hole that had just been dug. After one and half hours of futile efforts the night began to fall and the doctor announced sadly: ”It's useless; the layer of snow covering the missing is too thick. There is nothing we can do for them anymore. They are long dead now. All that is left to do is to try to find their bodies tomorrow.”
Persuaded of the incapability of our ice-picks we reluctantly left the scene where our friend Pache and his unfortunate companions laid buried, and wandered in silence, exhausted and freezing, down the slopes that led to Camp III.
While we were digging for the missing members the doctor had been seizelessly tied to the rope which connected him with the victims. Shortly after I had arrived De Righi released himself from the rope since it obstructed his movements. He expertly loosened the knot the noose was tied with. But not before we decided to give up and leave did the doctor cut the rope. He did it only reluctantly and because I told him that we might need the rope for the descent. The avalanche – which I had the doubtful leisure to examine minutely on that and the following days – extended for about 150 meters. At its lower end above and lateral of the ice-wall it was at least 40 meters wide. To uncover the bodies we had to excavate snow one and a half to two meters deep. The bodies of Pache and his coolie were found buried headfirst. Since Pache was 1,76 meters tall, I don't exaggerate claiming he was buried underneath three meters of snow.
Concerning the route that had been chosen by Crowley for the ascent: I for my part had never agreed with it. I had been pleading Crowley from the first day on that we are venturing in avalanche-prone terrain. But Crowley only had answered ironically and paternally: ”My dear Reymond, won't you accept once and for all that you are not back home in Switzerland. The obstacles and dangers are thrice higher here. Therefore our daringness hast to be thrice higher too.” I had not responded to that but had kept telling myself that these slopes were definitely vincible for a practised mountaineer as long as he did not have to cross them twice, but were extremely dangerous for heavily loaded up coolies like ours, who had to cross these paths repeatedly each day. To my deep sadness I was proven correct. Between August 28 and September 1 there were three avalanches smashing the way from Camp III to Camp V.
To be continued.
This pertains to K2
Danke Lutz für das interessante Material! Two points of notice for this thread:
a) the account by Jules-Jacques Jacot-Guillarmod, Six mois dans l'himalaya is available as a facsimile reprint from India. The quality is thoroughly decent: no real imperfections, all photographs clear. Paper quality is rather good (for India). Available as paperback, hardcover or leather. I got my hc copy for USD 15,- (including p&p), sent from India, received within 10 days. The seller is Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd., Dehli, India. This is well worth it, and I recommend this seller. Bought via Abebooks.
b) the account by Dr. Heinrich Pfannl concerning the K2 expedition, titled: Eine Belagerung des Tschogo-Ri (K2) in der Mustaghkette des Hindukusch (8720m), can be found in: Heinrich Hess (red.), Zeitschrift des deutschen und österreichischen Alpenvereins, Jahrgang 1904, Band XXXV, Innsbruck 1904. - The account is rather technical, giving maps, routes, etc. but an enjoyable read, even though "Herr Alester Crawley" (sic!) "von Schottland" only makes a few appearances.