On our ninth day we faced the last foothill barrier, a tiny gap at over 12,000 feet, the Kuari Pass. Douglas and I talked about getting away at 4am for the sunrise and a mighty view of the new country ahead. But low clouds and battering rain foiled our plan, which was just as well, for Douglas was not going well on the 2,000-foot climb to the top, and was showing signs of unsteadiness on the steep 6,000-foot descent to the Dhauli Valley where at Tapoban village there is a Rest House we hoped to get into.
We found the Chowkidar its keeper but he would not admit us because important sahibs were expected. Our saviour was a Yogi in saffron robes who stormed at the keeper telling him that we were 'Guests of India', and must be admitted. The door was unlocked, and the Holy Man stayed for tea, regaling us with his creed of universal love and of one brotherhood of man. Scott badly needed rest. His temperature was 103 degrees. Tom plied him with medicine which cured his stomach pains, and in twenty-four hours he was up and about.
Our agreement with the Dhotials was that we would retain only six of them as permanent members of the expedition once the first phase of the expedition was over. At Tapoban it looked as if we were going to have a strike on our hands when it came to buying food for the climbing part of the trip. By dismissing all but six, they believed we were not honouring our contract.
We required an interpreter to explain our case, and one was forthcoming when the important sahibs who had booked the Rest House arrived. Mr Hartwell Singh was a friendly agricultural officer who had taken his degree at Edinburgh University, one of a party of four who were happy to occupy the schoolhouse and leave us in possession of their quarters.
Once they were installed and had supper we rounded up the Dhotials, and Mr Singh explained the illogicality of our taking a whole team of porters into the Rishi Gorge to sit there waiting while we climbed snowy mountains. We would choose six for the entire period of the expedition. These would be chosen before the major difficulties of the gorge. When he asked for volunteers wishing to remain with us for the four months, all put up their hands. The strike was over. They would help us into the Rishi.
Now we could give them an advance of pay, and make arrangements for the purchase of 300 pounds of food of the country, flour, lentils and rice, to supplement high-altitude rations in the climbing area. My job was to work out what was required from our crates of stores, extract it, repack the crates and nail them up for leaving at Tapoban for collection on our return from the Rishi. It was hard work and I was glad of the help of Tom and Bill.
Our route moved north up the roaring Dhauli River and climbed on a path through terraced fields to Lata village, described by Bill Murray as 'a mountain eyrie at 8,000 feet, affording a vulture's prospect down the Dhauli'. A score and a half of families lived there, and in no time sick villagers were arriving, queuing for treatment for this and that ailment, the cheerful Tom never at a loss to offer something that sent them away happy.