An elderly man who knew Eric Shipton years ago when he was in Mingyol moved me. When we
asked if he also knew Shiptons guide, Usman Akhun, he started to cry. We wondered what
was wrong. He told us that after World War II when the Chinese took command of Xinjiang
Province, Usman tried to join the Communist Party. He thought it would be important for
his future. But Chinese officials refused his requests because he had associated with an
Englishman. That caused an enormous amount of grief later in his life, emotions still shared
by his aging friend.
Just before crossing the range, we were camped in a deep canyon. We realized that we had no
place to hide if a hard rain caused flash floods or if wind loosened buzzers, what we called
falling rocks. As luck would have it, both happened.
The first thing I did was put all my exposed film and cameras into a waterproof bag, which
I tied to a bush on a hill so it would be safe. Then a buzzer the size of a baseball came
whizzing down and landed right between Jeremys and my tent. We heard it smash into the
ground. It would have killed us if it had hit us.
Our tents couldnt protect us from those things, so I took my camera bags and a pack
and built a tunnel out of the stuff. Then I wedged my head and shoulders in. I figured if
I got hit on the body, I could still survive. Nestled inside, I felt so secure that I
managed to go to sleep.
Three camels carried our equipment in the Pamir Mountains after finding Shiptons
Arch. One of them had been taken away from her offspring, and she was just heartsick. All
night, every night, she bellowed and wailed. It sounded like a haunting foghorn. Until we
thought to move her away from the tents, nobody got any sleep.