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NAKED MOUNTAIN NANGA PARBAT: DEADLIEST PEAK IN THE HIMALAYA Randy Morse 1982 1st ed Hardcover DJ Fine Multiple Copies Available
By Morse, Randy
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Canada, 1982. 193 pp, 27 color photos. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine condition.

The 1980 Canadian attempt on Nanga Parbat included Aid and Al Burgess, and was the first by English speaking climbers since Mummery in 1895. 

Nanga Parbat is the ninth highest mountain on Earth. Nanga Parbat means 'Naked Mountain' in Urdu, parbat deriving from the Sanskrit word parvata meaning 'mountain'. Nanga Parbat was one of the deadliest of the eight-thousanders for climbers in the first half of the twentieth century; since that time it has been less so, though still an extremely serious climb. It is also an immense, dramatic peak that rises far above its surrounding terrain. Nanga Parbat is also famous as Killer Mountain because of the difficulties that mountaineers face to reach its summit.

In the 1930s, Nanga Parbat became the focus of German interest in the Himalaya. The German mountaineers were unable to attempt Mount Everest, as only the British had access to Tibet. Initially German efforts focused on Kanchenjunga, to which Paul Bauer led two expeditions in 1930 and 1931, but with its long ridges and steep faces Kanchenjunga was more difficult than Everest and neither expedition made much progress. K2 was known to be harder still, and its remoteness meant that even reaching its base would be a major undertaking. Nanga Parbat was therefore the highest mountain accessible to Germans which they seemed to have a chance of climbing.

The first German expedition to Nanga Parbat was led by Willy Merkl in 1932. It is sometimes referred to as a German-American expedition, as the eight climbers included Rand Herron, an American, and Fritz Wiessner, who would become an American citizen the following year. While the team were all strong climbers, none had Himalayan experience, and poor planning (particularly an inadequate number of porters), coupled with bad weather, prevented the team progressing far beyond the Raikot Peak, but they did establish the feasibility of a route via Raikot Peak and the main ridge.

Merkl led another expedition in 1934, which was better prepared and financed with the full backing of the new Nazi government. Early in the expedition Alfred Drexel died, probably of high altitude pulmonary edema, then on the 7th July sixteen men were trapped by a ferocious storm at 7480m. During the desperate retreat that followed, three Germans, including Merkl, and six Sherpas died of exhaustion, exposure and altitude sickness, and several more suffered severe frostbite. The last survivor to reach safety, Ang Tsering, did so having spent seven days battling through the storm. It has been said that the disaster, 'for sheer protracted agony, has no parallel in climbing annals.'

In 1937, Karl Wien led another expedition to the mountain, following the same route as Merkl's expeditions had done. Progress was made, but more slowly than before due to heavy snowfall. Some time around the 14th of June seven Germans and nine Sherpas, almost the entire team, were at Camp IV below Raikot Peak when it was overwhelmed by an avalanche. All sixteen men died instantly, in what remains the worst single disaster to occur on an 8000m peak.

The Germans returned in 1938 led by Paul Bauer, but the expedition was plagued by bad weather and Bauer, mindful of the previous disasters, ordered the party down before the Silver Saddle was reached. The following year a small four man expedition, including Heinrich Harrer, explored the Diamir Face with the aim of finding an easier route. They concluded that the face was a viable route, but the Second World War intervened and the four men were interned in India. Harrer's escape and subsequent travels became the subject of his book Seven Years in Tibet.

Nanga Parbat continues to fascinate the world, and especially Germans. Reinhold Messner, the world's greatest climber and most prolific author on climbing has written no fewer than five books on Nanga Parbat.


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