Today, the melting glaciers of the Himalayas are giving up the bodies of climbers from ill-fated expeditions of the past. Time can bury or, sometimes, with a little human help, resurrect.
The film clip below is from March 1970, roughly 49 years ago. Don Brown, the Peace Corps Administrator and excursion cinematographer took it on our hike to the summit of Jbel Ayachi (3,757 m.) I wrote here in an earlier blog about that climb, unaware that Don had video footage. The grainy 8mm film looks as ancient to me today as the early black and white films of the first expeditions to Everest looked to me as a youth. We are all now accustomed to the sharper, better exposed clips, taken with ease by a cellphone. I kept thinking of Merrimack Cooper’s Grass, where he follows a Bakhtiari nomad migration across the Zagros. “Tramp, tramp, tramp.” I see the silent movie’s captions in my mind, along with all the sheep.
What a gift to have this video resurface! The team of three is clearly having fun. The star is H. Louden Kiracofe, Peace Corps doctor. The film begins at the Peace Corps Office in Rabat, Morocco. Louden is clowning as Abderrahman, who took care of the Peace Corps motor pool, inspects the vehicle.
The action shifts briefly to the Setti Messaouda Gate in Sefrou. My house was inside to the left. Don and Louden stopped there to pick me up.
Next we are camping in the Cirque de Jaffar, one of the possible starting points for climbing Jebel Ayachi. Berber boys were fascinated by us, and hoping we would share chocolate with them, which we did, of course.
We left about sunrise, and the mountain shots are dark. There is a narrow gorge on the initial approach, with vertical walls and a stream flowing through it. Afterwards we just continued up through the valleys that lead to the summit. Louden and I had done the climb before, and there was little difficulty finding the route.
Out of breath from the altitude and the march, Don decided that he had had enough and stopped in the large basin about 500 feet below the 12,300 foot peak’s two summits. There he waited until Louden and I returned, hence, no footage from the summit, though Louden and I took 35mm slides. I am the guy with all the sunscreen on his face, and the red cap. Don appears briefly in his yellow parka.
The trip was great fun. Thanks, Don, for finding the old film, digitizing it, and sharing it! To see it, just click on the link, Climbing Jebel Ayachi.