Himalayan Journal vol.02
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.02

Publication year:
1930

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. EXPLORATION AND CLIMBING IN THE SIKKIM HIMALAYA
    (LIEUT.-COL. H. W. TOBIN)
  2. THE GERMAN ATTACK ON KANGCHENJUNGA, 1929
    (PAUL BAUER.*)
  3. THE GEM-STONES OF THE HIMALAYA
    (DR. A. M. HERON.)
  4. BIRD NOTES OF A JOURNEY TO GYANTSE
    (L. R. FAWCUS)
  5. THE SHYOK FLOOD, 1929
    (J. P. GUNN)
  6. THE KAGAN VALLEY
    (LIEUT. J. B. P. ANGWIN.)
  7. SONAMARG AS A CLIMBING CENTRE.
    (DR. E. F. NEVE.)
  8. ISTOR-O-NAL AND SOME CHITRALI SUPERSTITIONS
    (LIEUT. D. M. BURN.)
  9. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GERARDS
    (W. E. BUCHANAN)
  10. ROUND THE KANAWAR KAILAS
    (H. M. GLOVER.)
  11. THE MAZENO PASS
    (Captain J. BARRON.)
  12. NINE DAYS' SPORT ON THE PAMIRS
    (Captain A. A. RUSSELL.)
  13. THE MUZ-ART PASS IN THE CENTRAL TIEN-SHAN
    (LIEUT.-COL. REGINALD SCHOMBERG.)
  14. EXPEDITIONS
  15. IN MEMORIAM
  16. NOTES
  17. REVIEWS
  18. CORRESPONDENCE
  19. CLUB PROCEEDINGS.
  20. CLUB NOTICES
  21. LIBRARY NOTICES

THE MAZENO PASS

Captain J. BARRON.

THE Mazeno pass is not unknown. But a brief description of a recent visit may be of interest and will revive memories in at least two members of the Club.

The Rupal Nala runs from west-south-west to north-east. Its valley is blocked at Tarshing by a glacier descending from the Nanga Par bat ridge. The stream, however, flows beneath the glacier and, turning east-south-east, is joined by the Chichi Nala, eventually meeting the waters of the Kamri stream : and so to the Astor river.

I crossed the glacier near Tarshing in June 1929 and found myself truly in the presence of Nanga Parbat, that unconquered giant, 26,620 feet above sea-level. Sunrise from such close quarters was a sight worth seeing, and the view of the whole massif directly to my northwest was superb. But soon, perhaps at seven-thirty in the morning, Diamir herself, as the locals call the highest summit, was veiled by fleecy clouds. They rose from her glistening snowy flanks as the sun grew stronger. " The fairies are baking their bread," I was told.

About seven miles from Tarshing I crossed another glacier, descending from the great peak. From the top of this glacier, where I rested for a few minutes, I gazed on over fifteen thousand feet of mountain, rising sheer before my eyes. The summit could not have been three miles distant and appeared even closer. And, as I looked, a huge avalanche broke from the very summit and stopped not half a mile from where I sat, covering the whole valley with a drenching cloud of snow. This avalanche seemed to take a full minute to descend, giving me ample time to photograph it. I then crossed a large grassy maidan, passed two more tributary glaciers, dirty and insignificant, and reached the great glacier that fills the whole head basin of the valley. It must be about thirteen miles long and some two thousand yards across. Here I pitched my tent : From my door I could count ten glaciers, their upper regions gleaming white and capped by great slopes of snow, increasing in steepness till the crests were reached- huge corniced crests, casting a midday shadow. I remember wondering how it was that snow ever rested there.

I was camped, after a tiring walk in the hot sun over debris, boulders and all kinds of obstacles, on a soft grassy slope, with a clear bubbling stream at hand, and dried-up juniper not far to seek. The place was known locally as Kino ha Bas, " the resting-place of Kino." I was told that Kino was a mighty hunter in bygone days and lived in Bunar. Once he had crossed the range, had shot a gigantic markhor in the Rupal Nala, and spent a night at this spot. It was a delightful camping-ground, some 12,500 feet above sea-level, and well out of the wind. My local expert told me that no one now ever crosses the range if they can help it, as they are affected by headache and mountain-sickness, though they cannot say why.

In the old days before the British arrived, many were the raiding parties which used to invade the Rupal Nala and carry off the ponies, eattle, and herds grazing on the luscious Rupal grass. And it is recorded that once a Dogra army from Kashmir, some three or four thousand strong, under an officer called Bakshi, crossed the Mazeno pass into Chilas on a punitive expedition and recovered much stock, though hundreds of porters are said to have perished from hunger and cold. The main facts are undoubtedly true, though, judging by present conditions, it is hard to believe that animals could ever have been brought over.

Starting at 3-45 a.m., we made our way up a side-valley, climbing steeply over a ridge which must have been 16,000 feet above sea-level. Here we came upon the tracks of ibex, but found very little snow. On the far side we looked down into the Mazeno valley and glacier, which descended gently from its snowy head and led up to the pass, an acute V-shaped notch in the main ridge.

The Mazeno glacier was luckily covered with hard snow, making the going easy. It was on the lateral moraine, where there is a flat stony place with a stream running by, about three miles from the pass, that Bakshi bivouacked his force. This spot is therefore known locally as Bakshi ka Bas. Passing two or three small glaciers on the right, off which an icy wind was blowing, we soon reached the foot of the final ascent, which was tedious owing to the height, but not difficult. After a steep ascent the slope graded off more gently for the last few yards into a bank of snow and shingle within the notch, through which appeared the snowy summits of Tangir and Darel. Quite suddenly we reached the bank to find that on the far side there was an almost sheer drop of a thousand feet to a large snow-field. Instinctively I drew back.

The view was somewhat restricted by the walls of the notch and to the south-west by the snowy ridge, about 20,000 feet high, at the head of the Chichi Nala. But to the north-west there was a fine view of the glacier descending steeply from the snow-field to the Toshi Nala, of the Fasat ridge to the left, and of the mountains and valleys of Chilas. We were at the summit of the pass easily and without any trouble by 9 o'clock.

The steep snow-slope from the pass down the other side must have been well over sixty degrees near the top, and would have necessitated careful work with the ice-axe. The local man told me however that " Mahmuli Lat Sahib," as they call Mummery, here strapped on his crampons, sat down on his hunkers and slid down, presumably stopping himself with his crampons and axe lower down, for there is a sheer precipice of about a hundred feet at the bottom. A very pleasant way of getting down for anyone with nerve !

That was in 1895. It was further round the mountain, on its north-western or Diamarai face, where Mummery and the Gurkha, Eaghubir, about whom the locals are never tired of talking, reached a point over 20,000 feet on the mountain, after most difficult and strenuous climbing. Raghubir was taken ill and the two had to descend. It was still further round towards the north, when attempting to cross to the Eakiot face, that Mummery with two Gurkhas must have been swept away by the fatal avalanche. They were never seen again.

Mummery held that the south face was impossible ; he never saw the Eakiot face. It is possible that if the Gurkha had not gone sick they might have climbed the mountain from the Diamarai side. That was over thirty years ago, and they have never been avenged !