In May 1981, Rick White and Greg Child joined Britons Doug Scott and Don Whillans, along with Frenchman Georges Bettembourg to climb Shivling’s East Pillar in Nepal (pictured). They were stormed in for two days at the halfway point where White celebrated his 35th birthday. Jubilant after making the first ascent, but weakened from a lack of food, White and Child began their descent on very steep ice. They reached a small notch in the ridge and were just about to sit down for a rest. White continues:
The snow started slipping but we didn’t have axes because somehow or other Doug and George had the axes and Greg and I had hammers. But you can’t self-arrest with a hammer—you can’t belay with a hammer as Greg found out, so he got ripped off the belay and we went tumbling down. We fell 200 metres, 250. We were really lucky because there’s a col between the two peaks—Shivling’s got two peaks—and we landed in this little valley. I blacked out and woke up at the bottom and I thought, “O shit, my arms are working”—and we were fine. It all happened so fast. If we’d slid a little bit to the left we would have gone over a six thousand foot drop.Doug Scott remained a close friend of Rick White's until White's death in 2004. The 13-day East Pillar route was the most technically difficult climb ever done at altitude and remained unrepeated for 15 years.
Picture: Rick White collection.