MAJOR E. J. E. MILLS
Jimmy Mills was killed, together with his climbing companion J Capt. M. R. Jones, under tragic circumstances during an attempt on Kunyang Chish, 25,762 feet. This impressive peak situated ten miles south of Distaghil Sar had never been attempted, nor even reconnoitred before. Major Mills was the leader of a joint British-Pak Forces expedition to the mountain. After a few weeks’ reconnaissance, a route was selected by the south ridge which was considered possible though difficult. Two camps had been set up; and after overcoming two difficult obstacles along the route it seemed that the way to the summit was open. Major Mills and Capt. Jones were on a snow ridge at about 20,000 feet, followed by Dr. Horniblow and Capt. Khurshid. Owing to heavy mist, visibility was poor. The first sign of disaster observed by the second party was of a yellow object seen falling through the mist to the right. Some moments later, as they advanced further along the ridge, they observed that a section of the snow, some 200 feet in length and 30 feet wide, had avalanched over the right-hand cliff which falls about 5,000 feet sheer to the Pumarikish Glacier below. Search parties were immediately organized on the glacier but owing to the heavy avalanche debris neither of the two bodies could be recovered. Only a rucksack belonging to Capt. Jones was found.
Major Mills joined the Club in 1961. He had taken part in the 1958 Services expedition which climbed Rakaposhi. A year later, with three other Army officers he carried out a very useful piece of mountain exploration in Alaska. His book, Airborne to the Mountains, published in 1961, is a well-written account of this expedition. He came out to Pakistan in January, 1960, for a one-year course at the Staff College in Quetta, and during this period he made two brief visits to Swat Kohistan. During the second visit, with three Pakistani officers, he climbed a peak of about 18,500 feet north-east of Kalam in mid-winter under very severe conditions. He was very well liked by the Pakistani officers with whom he served in Quetta, and he was therefore an obvious choice as leader of the 1962 expedition. He had developed rapidly into an excellent climber; and he seemed to possess all the qualities—courage, tolerance, unselfishness—that distinguish good leadership. He also possessed without doubt the art which Geoffrey Winthrop Young commends in Courage and Mountain Writing.
I am indebted to Jimmy Mills not only for his fine descriptions of Swat Kohistan, but also for having led me to the discovery of an impressive and quite unsuspected mountain group to the east in Indus Kohistan. Three weeks before his death I received a letter written from his Base Camp on Kunyang Chish. He seemed cheerful, and optimistic about success. He died a mountaineer’s death ; and he rests amidst the mightiest mountains and glaciers of the earth.
T. H. Braham
B. BENTLEY BEETHAM (1886-1963)
Bentley Beetham was a boy, and for over 40 years a master, at Barnard Castle School. During his youth he was always keen on wild life, and especially on birds. It was in studying and photographing bird life that he first went in for climbing rocks; and he made some magnificent pictures of birds, as those of us who have seen his slides know. He wrote several books on birds, the best-known of which is Our Banished Birds. He soon found that one can climb for pleasure and adventure apart from studying birds, and in 1919 he joined The Fell and Rock Club. It was about that time that he began climbing in the Alps, and was soon making guideless ascents of many of the Alpine peaks, in the early 1920′s. In 1924 Beetham was selected for the Everest Expedition, and had very bad luck, with a severe attack of sciatica which came on just as the serious climbing was about to begin. He managed to limp up to Camp III, with great pain, in time to see the first attempters coming down, and the whole expedition was severely handicapped by having our best climber forced into inactivity, while the rest of us did our poor best without him. In the years following Beetham and his companions climbed in Norway, the Tatra, Dauphine, the Tyrol, and especially the High Atlas of Morocco which he visited four or five times, and which he probably knew better than any other Britisher. Beetham only made one trip to the Himalaya after 1924, going in one of W. H. Murray’s expeditions ; but he had to return early owing to dysentery and digestive troubles—once more bad luck dogged him in India. One day on Raven Crag gully about eight years ago he fell and broke his skull in six places, and his right wrist. He was unconscious for three weeks—but he made a recovery and went on climbing. But recovery was never complete, and his last year was spent in a nursing home until his death on April 5. He was a fine climber, a good friend, an unselfish companion and a brave one.
Dr. T. H. Somervill