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Karakorum Expedition, 1947

Excerpt from: Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, 1939 to 1970. Published in Zurich in 1972

Participants: Hans Gyr, Robert Kappeler, H. W. Tilman,

Campell H. Secord.

Outcomes: Exploration of Rakaposhi (7788 m) and the Batura-Mustagh glacier region, particularly the Kukuar glacier; Exploration of the access routes to Haramosh (7397 m).

 

Hans Gyr from Rorschach and Robert Kappeler from Frauenfeld were both highly trained and well-tested mountaineers, but had no experience of the high mountains of Asia. The Foundation had taken over as patron of the expedition and, through the efforts of Ernst Feuz, it also succeeded in motivating two prominent members of the English Alpine Club to participate: these were the Englishman H. W. Tilman, who was the first to climb Nanda Devi, and his colleague, the Canadian Campell H. Secord. Both knew the region well, and Secord had already made one attempt at climbing Rakaposhi. The two Swiss mountaineers got on extremely well with them, despite the difference in language and background, and these four mountain climbers created a harmonious team.

 

In the summer of 1947, at the same time as the Lohner-Sutter expedition was exploring valleys and mountains in the area around the source of the Ganges, this small expedition went to Karakorum in order to attempt the main western summit, Rakaposhi («the Dragon’s Tail»).

 

Everyone who travelled in the land of the Hunzas reported back on the tremendous impression left on them and their companions by the giant Rakaposhi mountain. It was shaped like a three-sided pyramid, and formed the westerly corner pillar of the Karakorum. This was a real weather-beaten mountain, and it caused considerable problems to the mountaineers. Because it has no protective mountain range on its southern side, it is hit by the moist winds that travel up from the seas across India. At the higher levels, they are accompanied by sudden changes in the weather, producing storms and heavy snow falls. Massive snow cornices form at the ridges. For many years, Rakaposhi was the most-frequently assaulted “almost-eight-thousander”. After twenty years of failed attempts to reach the summit, it was finally conquered by a British/Pakistani group of officers in 1958.

 

At first, the authorities and inhabitants usually received the mountaineers with great hospitality and helpfulness. However, they found the fact that bearers and beasts of burden had to be changed from place to place very inconvenient.

 

Hans Gyr wrote a very lively account of these eventful four months, illustrated by Robert Kappeler with some excellent photographs.

 

Let’s examine the assessment made by a competent foreign mountaineer about this and the simultaneous expedition described previously. Colonel E. L. Strutt (1874 – 1948), who took part in the Mount Everest Expedition in 1922 and was previously President of the English Alpine Club and Editor of the Alpine Journals commented: «The two Himalayan Expeditions undertaken in 1947 provide evidence of what the Swiss (whether mountain guides or amateurs) can do in the highest mountains in the world. One of these expeditions had incidentally also issued an invitation to Englishmen. The actions carried out on these perfectly organised and equipped expeditions have been described in masterly articles.»

Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research . Schweizerische Stiftung für Alpine Forschung . Fondation Suisse pour Recherches Alpines . Fondazione Svizzera per Ricerche Alpine
SFAR . SSAF . FSRA . FSRA