Home Blogs The unique history of Mt. Dhaulagiri ascent
November 6, 2020

The unique history of Mt. Dhaulagiri ascent

  • Juddha Bahadur Gurung
Photo by Khem Raj Goutam/RSS

In the global tourism market, Nepal is popular digestion for mountaineering and trekking. There are two reasons behind it. Out of 14 peaks in the world’s 8 peaks above 8000 meters are in Nepal, and many people around the world interest to visit and observe closely these massive white peaks of Nepal. Some people love adventure activities and come for mountaineering in Nepal and high skilled mountaineers guides also available in the Nepalese market.

Mountaineering in Nepal started a century ago. The first attempt to climb Mt. Everest was made in 1919 by a British mountaineering team. A five-member Mount Everest Committee was formed under the leadership of Colonel Charles Harvard Bury.

The members of this group had climbed from the northern face and reached a height of 7,020 meters for the first time. European climbers continued their effort for an expedition to climb Mt. Everest from 1922 onwards under various names continued for more than three decades, and the sequence continues.

Juddha Bahadur Gurung

On the other hand, in the history of mountaineering in 1950, a French team led by Maurice Herzog, who had come to climb Mt. Dhaulagiri, the highest peak in Gandaki Province, Western Nepal did not climb Mt. Dhaulagiri and changed their mind and headed towards Mt. Annapurna I (8,091 meters). On June 3, 1950, the expedition team made a successful summit. This summit set the world record for the first time to climb the world’s highest peak elevated at 8,000 meters.

This climb became a hot topic of discussion all over the world, it encourages or stimulates global mountaineers. This summit marked the beginning of climbing more than 8,000 meters. later on this, the mountain climbers continued to achieve success. The successful climbing of Annapurna I, after three years on May 13, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa successfully climbed the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest (8,848 meters).

The decade of the 50s is known as the decade of mountaineering. Most of the mountains above 8,000 meters were successfully climbed during this period. This ascent brought Nepal’s mountaineering expedition to the forefront of the global arena.
On May 15, 1955, a group of French mountaineers Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition team led by Jean Franco climbed the Mount Makalu (8,463 meters) and on May 25 of the same year, the world’s third-highest peak, Kanchenjunga (8,586 meters), was successfully climbed by British mountaineer George Christopher Band. On May 9, 1956, a Japanese team led by mountaineer Toshio Imanishi (Japan) and Gyaltsen Norbu (Sherpa) successfully climbed Mount Manaslu (8,163 m) and on May 18 of the same year, the world’s fourth-highest mountain, Lhotse Himal (8,516 m), was successfully climbed by Swiss citizen Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger. Thus, in the 1950s, most of the highest mountains were successfully climbed.

The Mt. Dhaulagiri expedition is unique in many aspects such as history and characteristics. In 1950 Maurice Herzog team came for Dhaulagiri but switched to Annapurna. Dhaulagiri expedition team completed without oxygen. The Swiss team made its first attempt to climb in 1953. After this, a large group of Argentine climbers also tried to reach the top but did not succeed. In the history of mountaineering, Mt. Dhaulagiri climbing is special from other mountaineering. On May 13, 1960, a seven-member Swiss-Austrian joint expedition team led by Max Eiselin used an aircraft to reach the top of Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 m). The aircraft was named ‘Yeti Himalaya’ even though the engine was Pilatus porter.

According to the diary of Dhaulagiri expedition team member and mountaineer Kurt Diemberger, the plane arrived in Kathmandu on March 12, 1960, eight days after it flew from Zurich to Nepal with six climbing members. Other crew members arrived in Nepal on February 29 from Zurich via Bombay, India. The flight was scheduled from Bhairahawa as the luggage had to be brought in lorries from Bombay, but it was later decided to fly from Pokhara to Dhaulagiri base camp.

On March 28, 1960, the first flight of the Yati Himalayan aircraft from Pokhara landed at Dapacol ( 5,250 meters high above the sea level). The second flight landed for the first time on April 3 at an altitude of North-East Col (5,742 m). It was the first record in the world such aircraft landed on a glacier in history. The plane was carrying food, mountaineering gears, and support workers on board.

The sick members of the mountaineers were dropped off in Pokhara and necessary mountaineering gears, equipment, and food were transported. Meanwhile, on April 13, the plane was forced landed at Pokhara Airport due to an engine problem and had to wait a few days to bring a new engine from Switzerland. After a three-week wait, the Yeti Himalayan aircraft flew to North East Cole on May 4. The next day, on May 5, on the way back to Pokhara from Dhaulagiri base camp, the plane crashed into a rock, and the flight was not successful.

The two pilots, Ernest Saxaer and Mechanical Engineer and co-pilot Emil Wick, left the wreckage and returned to Pokhara on foot. It was the first world record in the history of mountaineering to land a plane in the highest elevation of the world on a snowy surface. Information about this plane contained in the video material titled ‘Flying Expedition in Nepal’ prepared on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Dhaulagiri expedition in 2010.
The development of infrastructure mainly transport in Nepal was very primitive or in its infancy 60 years ago. So, the team took a long time or 100 days to complete the mountaineering journey. They spent about 80 days in the mountains. The logistic was very heavy or approximately more than five-tone that were food, climbing gears, and other supportive materials

At that time, people were not aware of the mountainous environment, and the climbers had no legal obligation to keep the environment clean. After the 1980s the extensive environmental awareness at the community level. Although the Tourism Development Council was established in 1956 and the Department of Tourism was established in 1958, the Tourism Act was not enacted.

During this period, no provision was made for garbage management by mountaineers in the mountains. As the pressure of tourists for mountaineering and trekker flow has increased in Nepal, the Tourism Act was first introduced to manage the tourism sector and was implemented from 2035 (1978). The regulations under this Act said that mountaineering should be managed by the climbing team, but did not make it mandatory.
The second amendment to the Tourism Act 2035 BS has made a legal provision that the mountaineering teams have to deposit a certain amount for garbage management in the mountains. This arrangement shows that the government of Nepal is aware of the mountain environment and has fulfilled its duty.

The message has been given that the mountaineers are not only required to collect garbage and bring it but also to monitor the garbage meticulously. In most of the mountains of Nepal, there is garbage created by the climbers, especially food containers, empty bottles, oxygen cylinders, ropes, plastic shells, metal tools, or equipment used by the climbers.

It is reported that the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has conducted a cleaning campaign in some mountains including Mt. Everest at regular intervals, but the existing garbage in Mt. Dhaulagiri has not been cleaned to date. According to the climbers, the Yeti Himalayan plane is still at an altitude of 5,700 meters at a hidden valley in Mt. Dhaulagiri.

On the occasion of the diamond jubilee of the Mount Dhaulagiri expedition, another record would be set in the context of the Dhaulagiri expedition. This is the right time for concerned stakeholders to pay attention to Dhaulagiri clean up. Bring the aircraft and display in Mountain museum in Pokhara, it could be one of the attractions for visitors.

– The author is a Tourism Year (2020-2022) Coordinator of Gandaki Province.

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