Himalayan Journal vol.02
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Kenneth Mason
    (PAUL BAUER.*)
    (DR. A. M. HERON.)
    (L. R. FAWCUS)
  5. THE SHYOK FLOOD, 1929
    (J. P. GUNN)
    (LIEUT. J. B. P. ANGWIN.)
    (DR. E. F. NEVE.)
    (LIEUT. D. M. BURN.)
    (W. E. BUCHANAN)
    (H. M. GLOVER.)
    (Captain J. BARRON.)
    (Captain A. A. RUSSELL.)
  16. NOTES


" The Wrong Shape."


The Editor,

The Himalayan Journal.

My dear Mason,

In my review of Hayden's book on " Sport and Travel in the Highlands of Tibet," published in the first number of The Himalayan Journal, I referred to the Tsarong Shape, mentioned in the book, as having been executed. The source of my information on this matter was one of the London dailies, which, however, seems to have mixed up the present Tsarong Shape with his predecessor. I have just learnt from Col. Weir, Political Officer in Sikkim, that Hayden's friend is still alive. My regret at having repeated the mistake made by the London newspaper is overshadowed by my gratification that such an enlightened officer should still be in the service of his country, I suggest that the mistake should be publicly corrected in the next number of the journal.

Calcutta, Yours sincerely,

3rd October, 1929. E. H. Pascoe,

Gilgit and Hunza River Floods.


The Editor,

The Himalayan Journal.

Dear Sir,

With reference to your paper on Indus Floods and Shy oh Glaciers published in the 1929 Journal, I have collected the following notes while out on tour, which I trust may be of interest.

The Second Great Indus Food, 1858. I do not think that there is room for any doubt as to the origin of this flood. There are old people still alive in Hunza who remember it.

They say that there used to be a small catchment area forming a lake on the top of the hill forming the right ridge of the Hunza valley, some nine miles above Baltit and about a mile below Atabad. The lake was called " Shaikalti Phari," and was opposite the place now shown on the map as Ganesar (really Ghammesar). The bank of the lake suddenly gave way and down came a tremendous mass of the hill-side into the Hunza valley, below, completely blocking the river to a height of many hundreds of feet. The river was blocked for nine months and a lake formed, stretching right back to the mouth of the Shingshal river and the Batura glacier. The old grey-beards of Hunza say that when the obstruction eventually gave way, the air remained misty for a week. Enormous damage was done to all cultivation near the river.

At the present day the remains of this obstruction are very noticeable-in fact, the stream has only cut a narrow passage through the debris, the track to Kashgar has to climb over the obstruction, and a very steep climb it is. Upstream of the obstruction the river, right back to Pasu, has only a gradual fall, and the usual huge boulders of the Hunza river are here buried under fine shingle. On each bank, some distance above the high-flood level, can be seen distinct traces of a sandy deposit, which might indicate the bed of the lake.

Gilgit River Flood, 1865. This is very probable. In the Karumbar branch of the Ishkuman river two well-known transverse glaciers periodically close the river and form lakes. One is the Karumbar glacier, shown on the Survey maps as some four miles above Bhort. The other glacier forms a lake at Sokhta Rabat considerably higher up the same river.

Hunza Valley Flood, 1873. I can find no evidence of a flood of any size in 1873. The people say that the Batura glacier has never caused a flood. It has been known to move across the river, but the water has soon found its way underneath or over the top.

Shingshal Valley Flood, 1884. The old Hunza records show that a lake in the Shingshal valley burst about 1884, and caused considerable damage to lands at Altit and Ganesh, near Baltit.

Shingshal Valley Flood, 1893. The present Mir of Hunza confirms that a flood from the Shingshal did damage to lands at Altit.

Ishkoman Valley Flood, 1893. In the summer of 1893, the Karumbar glacier, which had formed a barrier across the Karumbar river, suddenly gave way, precipitating a flood down the Gilgit valley. The water began to rise at 11-20 p.m. on 6th July, reached 23 feet above high-flood level at Gilgit, and began to subside at 3 a.m. on 7th July. A new bridge was under construction at Gilgit, just below she old one built by Aylmer. Both were washed away. These were pier bridges ; later a suspension bridge was constructed, and this has remained.

Ishkoman Valley Flood, 1905. The Karumbar glacier was again responsible for a flood in 1905. The glacier broke about midnight on 17-18th June, and the flood arrived at Gilgit, 20 feet above high-flood level, at 8-30 a.m. No damage occurred below the junction with the Hunza river, but above Gilgit considerable damage was done to villages along the banks of the river.

Shingshal Valley Flood, 2nd August, 1905. The usual Shingshal valley lake, formed by the Khurdopin glacier blocking the upper Shingshal valley, caused a heavy flood in the summer of 1905. The bridge at Chalt was washed away, and a rise of thirty feet was recorded at Bunji. The Gilgit-Chalt road was extensively damaged,

Shingshal Valley Flood, 11-12 August, 1906. In 1905 the obstruction was not completely cleared, or the glacier again closed in across the Shingshal. A flood considerably higher than that of 1905 resulted on the night of ll-12th August, 1906. Askurdas, Tashot and Chamogah bridges were all washed away. At Chilas a rise of 36 feet was recorded. At Chalt the river rose fifty feet above the normal summer level, and 25 feet above the flood of the previous year.

The Shingshal Valley in 1907. In 1907 a flood was again expected, and an elaborate system of bonfire warnings was arranged from the head of the Shingshal valley to Baltit. Actually however the water found its way over the top of the obstructing Khurdopin glacier, and, cutting a trough down gradually through the ice, dispersed quietly in eleven days.

Shingshal Valley Flood, 1927. The Mir of Hunza declares that there was no flood this year, nor is there any official record. If there was one, it must have been very small.

I am, Sir,


8th May, 1929.

Yours faithfully, H. J. Todd, *

(Political Agent, Gilgit)

Note by Editor.

The remarks on page 22 of my paper in Volume I about the 1927 flood were from Captain Morris' lecture before the Royal Geographical Society (O. J.y Vol. LXXI, p. 525). Captain Morris has been good enough to supplement this from a verbatim extract from his diary.

".. It seems that after our departure from Shingshal on 25th June one of the smaller glacier lakes at the head of the valley broke, thus allowing a large volume of water to escape down the valley. The rope-bridge at Shingshal was washed away and several of the more low-lying houses were partly submerged® It would appear that our caravan left the village just in time : had they halted another day, and had we failed to reach Misgar via the Ghujerab, a different story might have had to be chronicled. As it is we seem to have come in for a considerable amount of luck."

Captain Morris explains that at Shingshal they split their expedition into two, the lightly equipped party crossing to the Ghujerab, while the heavier kit and surplus equipment returned down the Shingshal. He learnt afterwards that for two or three days the water rose considerably in the main Hunza valley : but perhaps not enough for the Mir to describe the volume of water as a flood, having in view the earlier happenings. Captain Morris did not see the rise himself as he was at Misgar at the time, and Misgar is above the Shingshal junction.

In view of these facts it seems probable that the glacier barrier did not burst, I he water probably reaching the top of the ice and cutting a trough comparatively harmlessly through the glacier. It is also possible that the glacier was not cut through to its base and the lake only partly drained as happened in 1907.

Secular Movement of Himalayan Glaciers.


The Editor,

The Himalayan Journal.

Dear Major Mason,

Many thanks for the most fascinating volume of the Himalayan Journal, and congratulations. Although at this moment my publisher is whipping me with scorpions, I must find time for suggesting briefly a most interesting problem.

It strikes me that historical information concerning the Shyok Dam and other dams and their consequent floods, extending through nearly a century, is so correct (owing to the economic importance of floods) that the material may possibly suffice for an attempt at synchronization of (1) the causes and effects within the Himalaya, with (2) glacial phenomena in Europe, especially in the Alps.

The documentary evidence to be interpreted consists of floods, landslides, glacier dams (or reliable advances of glaciers), earthquakes, and glacial advance in the Alps. Synchronization with Europe must be approached with caution, because glaciologists do not consider the evidence of a uniform Eurasian ice-age (not to speak of a world-wide one) as yet sufficient. All the more need for collecting data.

The last great advance in the Alps was about the middle of last century. From the state of the dead ice of the Turkistan glaciers, we are however inclined to believe that their last great advance may tally with the Alpine one. The trouble is that the Himalayan glacier floods may have nothing to do with a general advance, as I propose to show. I wonder if anyone has ever gleaned old evidence of a general advance from the tales or reports of surveyors, pilgrims, traders over the passes, monks, old Indian diplomatists, etc.?

The Shyok advance is abnormal. What is it due to ? In Turkistan a certain type of glacier is very prevalent. It has no large basin, but only a tremendous corrie at its head. It is fed exclusively by ice-falls clinging to the walls of the corrie. Now in some of these corries there may occur an exceptional crash bringing down enormous masses of ice all at once.

I believe the explanation of the Shyok dam must be sought for in the shape of the upper reaches of the glacier. I venture to guess that a big ice-field resting on inclined rocks, thirty to fifty feet thick and perhaps covering half a square mile, comes down every thirty years or thereabouts.

In the investigation which I propose, the normal rate of advance is an unknown quantity. I daresay very few Himalayan glaciers have been well timed so far.

The whole investigation will be somewhat of a jig-saw puzzle ; the fitting together of the pieces will not be easy. For landslides may be caused by earthquakes : Icefalls may be caused by earthquakes : Earthquakes may be caused by landslides, and ice- falls may cause and be caused by landslides caused by earthquakes. Who will tackle the tabulation of dates and data after this ?

Add to this the fact that even if normal speed of a glacier is known, the collapse of its hanging feeder will result in a much higher speed under such increased and enormous pressure. On the other hand one might tentatively arrive at the abnormal speed of the Shyok, when one starts from a landslide or earthquake about ten years back, or twenty as the case may be.

The whole question is eminently one for you people on the spot, who know conditions and can visualize them.

At the time of writing this the European papers report the bursting of the Shyok dam.

Bremen, Germany, Yours very sincerely,

23rd August, 1929. W. R. RlCKMERS.

Note by Editor.

My friend Mr. Rickmers doubtless knows of the observations made by officers of the Geological Survey of India, and published in their Records, Vol.'35. Since then various observations have been made by travellers all over the Himalaya. 11 is a vast task to collect and collate all these observations many of which are of very doubtful value, and investigate them. During the last twelve months I have done this for thirty-four glaciers in the Karakoram region, but I must confess that I have fought shy of attempting to attribute definite causes, such as landslides, earthquakes, etc., to what I consider the " accidental component" of glacier snout movement.

I have tried to show that snout movement is made up of four main components, secular, periodic, seasonal and accidental; and that in certain glaciers one of these components may greatly preponderate over the others. I have tried to define the conditions where secular movement will cloak periodic, and where periodic variation will prevent any visible secular movement. I have then classified those glaciers, of which we have sufficient details, into groups, viz., those (1) liable to show secular movement, (2) showing marked periodic movement, and (3) showing accidental movement.

Those in the first group seem to be either stationary or in very slight secular retreat, and only these could possibly show any synchronization with glaciers in Europe or elsewhere. Four of those in the second group seem to me to show a definite periodicity of advance, of approximately 45, 45, 48 and 55 years. But these are not " in time," and two of them within a few miles of each other were moving in opposite directions. Periodic movement is, in fact, affected by the actual configuration of the ground and the physical conditions of each glacier; and in certain compound glaciers it is possible for one side of a glacier snout to be advancing while the other retreats. Obviously no synchronization is here possible. Synchronization of the weather conditions in the neve area might be possible, but not at the snout, for though a glacier may be considered in some ways as a thermometer laid on the bosom of the earth to record by its " reading " at the snout the change of volume in its " bulb " or neve area, yet the reading really records the volume many years back owing to the time that the ice takes to reach the snout.

Seasonal variation is also not possible to synchronize, for it depends primarily on latitude. Accidental movements are haphazard, and as Rickmers says, in the nature of a jig-saw puzzle, which will cause someone many sleepless nights before it is splved.

I do not think that the advance of the Chong Kumdan glacier was abnormal. Elsewhere in this volume I have mentioned what I believe to be its periodicity, and the chart which accompanies my paper indicates, I believe, a periodicity (of 45 years) so regular, that we are now able to forecast almost the year when the next block will occur.

Pre-Ghal in Waziristan.


The Editor,

The Himalayan Journal.

Dear Sir,

In your notes (p. 105) of the last Journal, there is a reference to Captain W. R. Hay's visit to Pre-Ghal in September 1927, in which you remark that it would be interesting to know who were the officers who ascended the mountain during the expedition in 1881.

There is a detailed description in the official history of the expedition published by the Government Central Branch Press, Simla, 1884. The following is a detailed list of the officers who went to the summit:

Capt. G. Martin (Survey) Capt. W. Frith.

Lieut. Blunt, r.e. Major H. Lugard.

Lieut. Smith, d.a.q.m.g. Major T. 0. Underwood.

Lieut. Hughes, 1st Punjab Cav. Capt. C. Mansel.

Lieut.-Col. A. Ross. Lieut. E. Inglis.

Lieut.-Col. Tonnochy. Lieut. W. Newell.

€apt. A. H. Campbell. Lieut. E. Nodwell.

Capt. A. H. Turner. Capt. C. P. Egerton.

Lieut. R. Da vies. Lieut. F. W. Egerton.

Lieut. A. Daniell. Lieut. F. W. Hancock.

Lieut. A. Ormston. Capt. A. Shepherd.

Surgeon P. D. Pank. Lieut. C. Yaughan.

Lieut.-Col. R. Clifford. Major J. Trotter.

Lieut. A. Eardley-Wilmot. Capt. H. C. Halkett,

Capt. W. Campbell. Lieut. E. de Bratle.

Surgeon H. K. Mackay.

The escort consisted of 140 rifles from each of the following regiments :

1st Sikh Inf. (now 1-12th F. F. Regiment.)

4th Sikh Inf. (now 4-12th „ „ )

1st P. I. (now l-13th F. F. Rifles.)

2nd P. I. (now 2-13th „ )

4th P. I. (now 4-13th „ )

6th P. I. (now 6-13th „ )

This party made the ascent from Kaniguram, S. W. of the mountain, that is, from the opposite side to that used by Capt. Hay and myself. The description referred to is very detailed and most interesting.

Shuidar, the next highest mountain to Pre-Ghal, is now regularly ascended by parties of officers from Razmak. The first ascent from that place was made on the 14th April, 1927, by D. R. C. Boileau, Sergt. Hodson and myself of the 60th Rifles and A. J. B. Sinker and another of the 2nd Bn. 1st K. G. 0. Gurkha Rifles.

Yours faithfully,

Lahore, Roger North, Capt.,

10th June, 1929. (1st P. W. 0. Sikhs, 12th F. F. Regt.)

The German Attack on Kangchenjunga.


The Editor,

The Himalayan Journal.

Dear Sir,

I have just received from Mr E. O. Shebbeare a rough translation of Mr. Bauer's account of his party's climb on Kangchenjunga last autumn. I am full of admiration for this fine performance : the hardships the party endured, the grit and determination they showed in sticking to the route selected until success crowned their efforts, and the difficulties of competing with an unfamiliar language and unfamiliar conditions, which they seem to have so effectually surmounted, can be read between the lines of a modest account, and I consider that the party is to be congratulated on a very gallant attempt.

As the attempt is to be repeated this spring by another party, I have tried to analyse briefly the results of last autumn's climb, to compare it with the problem of Mount Everest, and to assess the chances of success. If you consider that this analysis would be of interest to readers of the Journal, you are of course welcome to publish it.

Exclusive of false starts it took the party just under a month from the foot of the ridge (17,060 feet) to Camp X at 23,290 feet. This- includes the establishment of Camp X for six sahibs and four porters equipped "for the fight for the eight thousanders." (The meaning of this expression is not quite clear to me. 8000 metres == 26,600 odd feet == 1500 feet below the summit, so I am not certain if they were equipped for the whole distance to the top). This represented a climb* of 6230 feet.

Compare Mt. Everest : In 1924 we estimated to establish a similar party (equipped to lay out one more camp and reach the top) at Camp V (25,000 feet) in 15 days from the Base Camp (16,500* feet). This represented a climb of 8500 feet.

We failed : but that this was not an unreasonable estimate is. proved by the fact that we established Camp V in 1922 (including a four-day reconnaissance of the East Bongbuk glacier-up and back again) with four sahibs in 19 days from first leaving the Base Camp^ largely over an unknown route.

Camp V on Mount Everest was 4000 feet from the top-an easy rock climb.

Camp X on Kangchenjunga was 5000 feet from the top, and, judging from what Mr. Bauer says, the condition of the snow even at this height necessitated "stamping a track."

Now the difficulties imposed by altitude only begin to be really serious from about 24,000 or 25,000 feet onwards, both as regards -condition of the snow and rarity of the air.

Next consider the time available on Kangchenjunga.

Mr. Bauer's party started presumably in the tail of the monsoon -(26th August), and got badly caught high up on the mountain by the Urst winter snowfall on 3rd October,-after five and a half weeks. A party trying it in the spring can hardly kick off from the foot of the mountain until 15th April on account of the spring cold ; the monsoon is due to arrive by 21st May (I am writing from memory)-again five and a half weeks.

On Everest we reckoned on a season of from four to six weeks, i.e., from 1st May to the arrival of the monsoon on the north face of the mountain-any time between 1st and 15th June. The penalty for being caught high on Everest in soft new snow is the danger of avalanches on only about 1500 feet of descent from the North Col. On Kangchenjunga there must be thousands of feet of such dangers-as Mr. Bauer found.

Events may well prove me wrong : but on the face of it, Kangchenjunga appears to me a more formidable and more dangerous proposition than Mount Everest.

I remain, Sir,

Yours faithfully,

E. F. Norton.


5th March, 1930.