Lure of Everest, by Brig. Gyan Singh, is the story of the first Indian Everest Expedition. The Indians made their first attempt in 1960. In under a year, they not only prepared for the climbing and logistics of the expedition but designed, tested, and manufactured their own equipment. This is as much as story of an Everest climb as it is the tale of Indian mountaineering coming into its own---the team not only pulled off this logistical miracle, but put three fit climbers in an assault camp high on the Southeast Ridge with a second team ready at the South Col. The climbers can hardly be blamed for the unrelenting weather, with either an exceedingly early and short calm spell or perhaps none at all and high winds and/or snow for the duration of their time spent high on the mountain. The Indians were initially unlucky with Everest, with a similar rebuff in 1962, though they put nine climbers on top of Everest in 1965.
I found the most interesting part of this book the expedition planning and logistics. Tenzing Norgay served as a senior adviser to the expedition, and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute ran pre-Everest courses for the training and selection of team members. With all that needed to be done before the expedition, Singh delegated much of the preparation work. He received enthusiastic help from both team members and several climbers that had not been chosen. Also, Tenzing contracted the Sherpanis of Darjeeling to knit all of the woolen items the team would need. It seems like many of the equipment manufacturers took it as a matter of pride to create first-rate equipment for this trip. It's a testament to Singh's leadership and the climbers' competence that everything worked out smoothly. There was a slight tragedy, however, when the truck carrying most of their food overturned on its way to the train station, destroying much of its contents. The Indians one-upped the Swiss's use of dynamite in the Khumbu Icefall with the use of plastic explosives to safeguard the route. Also interesting was their stringing of a telephone line from the top of the Icefall to Advanced Base Camp. (Actually the second phone line on Everest---the 1933 British party had a line up the North Col that didn't quite reach Camp IV. Unlucky volunteers were sent out into the cold to answer it!) The party also made good use of wireless radios, and they would often hear of their progress on All-India Radio within days.
The buildup and climb was fairly typical, with good weather, and a few variations from previous attempts. Most notably, Singh chose summit teams of three rather than two, with Col. Kumar, Nawang Gombu, and Sonam Gyatso spending the night on the Southeast Shoulder and reaching 28,300 feet before turning back in appalling weather. Also different than earlier Nepal-based expeditions was Singh's leadership from the middle or back of the expedition, largely due to illness, though there is little apparent conflict from this, as is often the case. He gives Sonam Gyatso a small brass icon of Shiva to place on the summit, that unfortunately was unable to keep the Chinese expedition's bust of Chairman Mao company. The reported weather by the Indian summit party corroborates the experiences of the Chinese on the North Side. The Chinese climbers had the luck to ascend the mountain during the relatively calm night and early morning hours of May 25 before the storm arrived that turned the Indian summit party back.