An AAC member recently asked us if we wanted an old postcard that Willi Unsoeld had originally sent him in 1976. It turns out that the postcard is an important historical addition to the library’s archives because the story behind it is a tragic one and one that is well-documented in John Roskelley’s book, Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition.
Unsoeld, a prolific climber/explorer and veteran of the successful 1963 American expedition to Everest, first saw the mountain of Nanda Devi in 1949 while trekking in northern India. He was so swept by its beauty that he decided that, should he ever have a daughter, he would name her after that magnificent peak.
In 1976, Willi Unsoeld, Ad Carter, and 22 other members (including Unsoeld’s 22-year-old daughter, Nanda Devi) attempted to climb the mountain. Nanda Devi passed away due to altitude-related causes just before her summit attempt (three members of the team managed to summit the mountain). You can read Nanda Devi’s obituary in the 1977 American Alpine Journal.
This postcard, which includes Nanda Devi’s signature, was mailed about two weeks before her death. It was probably the last time she signed her name.