In the context of the end of the Second World War, as life resumed in France, the conquest of the Himalayas initiated in the 1930s resumed with intensity. Competition is fierce between European nations. Everest was reserved for the English until 1953, for diplomatic reasons and because they had been heavily involved in the conquest of this summit for many years.
France was then looking at summits over 8000m high, never before climbed. In 1950, the second French expedition to the Himalayas, the expedition led by Maurice Herzog, successfully conquered the Annapurna, thus becoming the first nation to conquer a summit of more than 8000m in altitude.
The following year, in 1951, the 3rd French expedition to the Himalayas organised by Marcel Livet was forced by diplomatic vagaries. The borders of Tibet and Nepal remained closed to French mountaineers. The expedition was reorganised and finally headed towards the Garhwal Massif, accessible from India, and on its main summit, the Nanda Devi, which reaches an altitude of 7820m.
The Nanda Devi has the particularity of comprising 2 summits, linked by a ridge almost 3km long, permanently above 7000m. Roger Duplat, the expedition leader, decided to transpose a common alpine practice, which is the junction of 2 summits by the ridge that links them.
On April 23rd 1951, 8 French mountaineers set off on the Nanda Devi expedition, and left France, led by expedition leader Roger Duplat. It will take almost 2 months for the mountaineers to reach the foot of the Nanda Devi, after a very long crossing of India, following sometimes inaccurate maps. The 8 climbers are joined in India by 8 Sherpas, who will become true friends at the end of this exceptional adventure. They are led by Sherpa Tensing, who two years later will become the first man to climb Everest in 1953.
On 22 June 1951, Roger Duplat, approaching the Nanda Devi, wrote to Jean Montel, Marcel Livet and Jean Guye, without whom the expedition would never have left: "The day before yesterday, normal departure from Barbezat. Return of a group of coolies to the base camp.
Yesterday, refusal of them to leave and discussion. This morning, without explanation, they were all ready to leave. Arrival of 2 sherpas plus 14 coolies with food (from below) and therefore no more kidneys in the back, except for the mail. Tomorrow, early in the morning, I leave in the lead (2 days) and attack the Nanda. According to the marks I received, the morale at the front is excellent, here it is even better. If the weather stays the same for a week, it's won. Friendly. Roger Duplat".
The assault of the crossing is planned by the main summit. It is planned to equip 4 camps to prepare for the assault, the last of which will be at an altitude of 7200 metres. It will be the launch point for the rope that will carry out the crossing. On the other side, on the Oriental summit, another team has set up 3 camps, up to 7000m, in order to receive the victorious climbers during the descent of the second summit.
The days passed, the bad weather became more and more intense. But still no trace of Roger Duplat and Gilbert Vignes. The group that was waiting for the rope below the West summit climbed the summit of the Nanda Devi Oriental on July 6, at 7434 m of altitude, in terrible weather, in search of their comrades. But at the summit they will not see anything. Tensing, the winner of Everest, would later say of this ascent that it was the most difficult summit he had ever climbed in his life. On June 8, the team gathered at the base camp, and a telegram left to announce the terrible news.
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