Himalayan Journal vol.04
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.04

Publication year:
1932

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. ON ANCIENT TRACKS PAST THE PAMIRS
    (SIR AUREL STEIN)
  2. THE FIRST ASCENT OF KAMET
    (CAPTAIN E. ST. J. BIRNIE)
  3. AN EXPLORATION OF THE ARWA VALLEY, BRITISH
    (CAPTAIN E. ST. J. BIRNIE)
  4. MY EXPEDITION IN THE EASTERN KARAKORAM, 1930
    (Professor GIOTTO DAINELLI)
  5. SKI-ING IN THE HIGH EASTERN HIMALAYA
    (ULRICH WIELAND ?)
  6. BY SHONTHAR GALI TO RAMA, ASTOR
    (CAPTAIN J. BARRON)
  7. THE SHYOK ICE-BARRIER IN 1931
    (CAPTAIN C. E. C. GREGORY)
  8. A FRONTIER TOUR
    (LIEUT-COLONEL J. R. C. GANNON)
  9. HIGH ALTITUDE AND OXYGEN
    (N. E. ODELL)
  10. SUB-HIMALAYAN DIETETICS
    (Dr. C. STRICKLAND)
  11. THE TSARAP VALLEY, EASTERN LAHUL
    (LIBUT.-COLONISI, C. H. STOCKLEY)
  12. PEAKS AND PASSES OF THE T'lEN SHAN
    (Lieut-Colonel R. C. F. SCHOMBERG)
  13. THE FIGHT FOR KANGCHENJUNGA, 1931
    (PAUL BAUER)
  14. Lhonak, 1930
    (G. B. GOURLAY)
  15. A Journey in Upper Kumaun and Garhwal
    (Lieutenant HUGH ROSE)
  16. Expeditions
  17. In memorium
  18. Notes
  19. Reviews
  20. Correspondence
  21. Club Proceedings

Expeditions

Sir Aurel Stein's Fourth Expedition to Central Asia 1930-31

It is with very great regret that we have to record the abandonment by Sir Aurel Stein of his fourth archaeological and geographical expedition to Central Asia, owing to continued obstruction by the Chinese authorities and the unjustified cancellation of his permits.

In May 1930 the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs at Nanking, Dr. C. T. Wang, upon the recommendation of Sir Miles Lampson, H.B.M.'s Minister, sanctioned Sir Aurel's passport authorizing him to investigate the ancient remains of Sinkiang Province and of Inner Mongolia. Sir Aurel, with his accustomed care, had submitted a memorandum through the British Minister giving the full programme of his intended labours, and these were explained personally by Sir Aurel to Dr. Wang. The passport also provided permission for such survey work as would be found necessary for the proposed tasks. Sir Aurel Stein at the same time expressed a wish to associate with his work competent Chinese scholars and topographers. Unfortunately none were forthcoming.

In order to take advantage of winter travel in the waterless Taklamakan and Lop deserts, when water can be carried in the form of ice, Sir Aurel hastened his departure from Kashmir. In spite of his passports, before half of the journey had been made towards Sinkiang, he learned that orders had been sent from Nanking to prevent him from entering Chinese territory. Two weeks were lost before the intercession of the British Minister was able to remove the obstacles, and Sir Aurel was asked to proceed to Kashgar, where arrangements would be made for his proposed work. On arrival at that city, the local Tao-tai was unprepared to make any such arrangements. After repeated telegraphic application to provincial headquarters, Sir Aurel was informed that he should proceed to Urumchi, where he could discuss arrangements personally with the Governor. This would have meant a caravan journey of at least six weeks, in a different notion to that of his proposed winter campaign, and would have entailed the loss of the whole winter.

Three more weeks passed before the Governor's assent was secured to Sir Aurel's proposal to proceed to Urumchi by a route which skirts the southern edge of the Taklamakan, and which would allow him to visit certain sites on the way. Captain Sherriff, H.B.M.'s Consul- General, obtained definite official assurance that Sir Aurel was to be allowed to work on the way, and a subordinate Chinese official was attached to assist him.

By the time the expedition reached the oasis of Domoko, where Sir Aurel had reason to look for ruins of Buddhist times, serious obstruction began to manifest itself. The anti-foreign magistrate of the Keriya district declared that he had been instructed to prohibit any digging or the making of any plans. He deliberately opposed any attempts by Sir Aurel to obtain labour or guidance, and threw into prison an old and faithful Turki follower of Sir Aurel, who merely went to call on the latter as the expedition passed his village..

In spite of these difficulties and obstructions, and though laid up by an attack of bronchitis at Keriya, Sir Aurel managed to revisit the ancient site in the desert beyond Niya, abandoned in the third century a.d., where it was possible to supplement his former investigations by useful surveys and finds.

By the middle of February the expedition had made its way across the succession of high sand-ridges and past another old site to the isolated oasis of Charchan. There news was received that the Nanking Government had cancelled Sir Aurel's passport and insisted on his return to India. The official communication reproduced a series of fantastic allegations concerning previous expeditions and unfounded statements about Sir Aurel's present aims. These ridiculous charges had been levelled by a body known as the " National Commission for the Preservation of Chinese Antiquities ", a body of self-styled savants, obviously entirely ignorant of Sir Aurel's scholarly researches into the cultural past of their country ; but since it was impossible to meet those charges from so great a distance, Sir Aurel had no option but to turn back towards Kashgar, with a view to preparing alternative plans of antiquarian exploration in other attractive fields.

Fortunately for his return, Sir Aurel was able to choose the longer route leading past the Lop tract and what was, until quite recently, the terminal course of the Tarim river. He was thus able to collect useful evidence regarding the hydrographical changes which have caused most of the Tarim river's waters to join the Konche-darya and thus flow into the Lop desert about the site of Lou-Ian. Another importent result of this journey was that for a period of four months Khan Sahib Afraz Gul, in the face of serious difficulties, was able to make a complete chain of astronomical observations for longitude all round the Tarim basin, with the aid of wireless time-signals. By the close of April the circuit of the whole basin was completed, a distance of some two thousand miles.

When Sir Aurel reached Kucha, he learned that the representations of the British Legation had induced the Chinese Minister for Foreign affairs to deny having cancelled the passport, or of having any intention of doing so. Sir Aurel was now requested to submit a detailed programme of his intentions under his own signature, for the purpose of allaying the criticisms of certain learned bodies. This was obviously merely another method of adding further obstruction, for under existing postal conditions it would take some months for a detailed programme under Sir Aurel's own signature to reach Nanking, moreover his programme had already been submitted and discussed in Nanking by him personally before the start of the expedition, and the fantastic charges of the " learned bodies " had been fully exposed by Sir Aurel's friends in England. It was patent to Sir Aurel that the “learned bodies" were definitely prejudiced and obstructive to the Interests they were presumed to preserve. To have carried on under such obstruction, disguised as it was under procrastinating tactics, would only have led to serious waste of time and money; and after waiting in vain a further three weeks under the hospitable roof of the Consulate-General at Kashgar for a reply to a wireless message promising to submit the desired programme provided permission could meanwhile be given to work in a specified portion of the T'ien Shan, Sir Aurel felt obliged to decide for a return to Kashmir.

The records of Sir Aurel's previous three great journeys of archaeological exploration into the waterless wastes of Central Asia are sufficient testimony of the sincerity of his motives. For over thirty years his reputation has been international. The veteran scholar and explorer has spent the greater part of his life in unveiling the remains of the ancient civilization which flourished in Central Asia during Buddhist times, largely under the cultural influence of China and under the beneficent control exercised by her great dynasties. In face of the studied discourtesy shown to Sir Aurel Stein, one can only assume that modern China is ashamed of her present or her past. At the same time one cannot but note that the obstructive methods now being adopted are curiously reminiscent of that old policy of rigid seclusion, which history shows to have been invariably adopted by the Chinese during recurrent periods of such internal weakness as exists to-day.

Kingdon Ward's Irrawaddy Expedition, 1930-31

Kingdon Ward and Lord Cranbrook left Myitkyina on the 30th November 1930 and reached Fort Hertz, the last outpost in Burma, on the western branch of the Irrawaddy, seventeen days later. Here cool es replaced mule-transport and the expedition finally left Fort Hertz and civilization on the 27th December. Owing to the large number of coolies required-seventy-six at the start-in this sparsely populated region progress was comparatively slow, but the Nam Tamai was reached on the 7th January. The Nam Tamai is the second largest headwater stream of the eastern Irrawaddy, and in this latitude is probably as big as the western Irrawaddy. Marching up the Tamai, the junction with the Seinghku was reached on the 23rd[1]. From here to the Tibetan and Daru village of Tahawndam, on the Adung river, as the main branch of the Tamai is called, is only four marches. Tahawndam, the last village in Burma, at 6000 feet, was reached on the 5th February, and here Kingdon Ward established his base (latitude 28° 10' N., longitude 97° 40' E.).

Since leaving Myitkyina, the collecting of natural history specimens, which was the main object of the expedition, had been methodically carried out. Cranbrook, the zoologist, had been particularly active. It being mid-winter, however, there were comparatively few flowers, even in the warm valleys, and Kingdon Ward, the botanist of the expedition, had been through this part of the country several times before. It is therefore all the more interesting to record that on this occasion a fine new Cypripedium was discovered. This orchid appears to have no close relative nearer than the Philippine Islands.

With the base camp established, collecting began in earnest. Here Cranbrook obtained a number of interesting small mammals and birds, supplementing this work with observations on the local migrants in particular. The base camp being situated at the junction of the sub-tropical and warm temperate floras, with the cool temperate and sub-alpine floras crowding close down to it, the region proved to be also a botanist's paradise. Amongst the most striking plants discovered were half-a-dozen new species of Rhododendron, two new primulas, a remarkable Barberry, and a carmine-flowered Prunus, beside which the pinkest Japanese Cherry would look washed out.

In May camp was moved some fourteen miles up the valley- nearly three days' march for coolies, so bad was the track-to a river junction at 8000 feet, most of the heavy baggage being left at the base. Giant Conifers, with lesser Maples, Oaks and Hollies formed the bulk of the forest. Masses of glorious Rhododendrons were in bloom. Here however the Adung river flows through a terrific gorge, so that less than a month was considered sufficient time to spend at this spot.

Early in June the expedition moved on two days' march up the main valley, rising about 4000 feet in 8 miles, to a boggy meadow, evidently a silted-up lake-basin; and here the worst of the summer was spent in an atmosphere heavy with mist and rain. Many high alpine plants and birds were collected, but the country proved comparitively poor in mammals. Blood-pheasants and a species of gopan were common ; no big game was seen.

The Namni L'ka, 15,278 feet, at the head of the Adung valley is regularly used in the summer ; but it proved unexpectedly difficult to obtain cooly transport for an unauthorized journey into Tibetan territory. However, on the 1st September, about a month later than the date originally contemplated, the collectors crossed the pass with the ten coolies and reached the first Tibetan village on the 4th. The weather was bad and the view restricted. It was hoped to reach Ridong, three marches distant and so link up with Bailey's route from Menkong to Rima ; but an embargo being laid on all transport by the Tibetan authorities, this proved to be impossible. Fifteen days were spent at Jite, but the weather was bad throughout. It may be remarked that the country on this side of the range, although politically part of Tibet, resembles the upper Adung valley so closely as to be inseparable from it. In other words, the whole Irrawaddy basin, as far north as latitude 28° 30', excluding only a short stretch of the uppermost Taron valley, is one phyto-geographical and zoo- geographical area, whatever its political divisions may be.

On the 24th September the expedition recrossed the Namni L'ka and returned to the summer camp ; a month later this was finally evacuated. The base camp was reached on the 1st November, after six weeks intensive seed-collecting up the valley. Nearly three more weeks were spent collecting seeds of trees in the lower valley, after which the expedition started back on the 20th for Fort Hertz, which was reached on the 10th December.

In all, the expedition spent 328 days collecting in the head basin of the eastern Irrawaddy. Myitkyina was reached on New Year's Day 1932, the expedition having been away just over thirteen months. Some time must elapse before the full results are known. The collections include over twelve hundred plant numbers, embracing about a thousand species ; some two hundred mammals, a hundred and fifty birds, a small but interesting collection of insects, and several reptiles. Many photographs of plants in situ were taken and seeds of some two hundred species of garden plants secured.

Lieut.-Col. R. C. F. Schomberg's Journey in Chinese Turkistan, 1930-31

After a wearisome but unavoidable delay, Colonel Schomberg left Leh on the 9th September 1930 for another journey of exploration in the T'ien Shan. The Shyok river, in the absence of either bridge or boat, was easily forded on the 12th, and the Saser pass crossed without difficulty six days later. The weather was dry and cold in the neighbourhood of the Karakoram pass, but there was no snow on it when it was crossed on the 22nd September.

Avoiding Suget Karaul, which is almost always omitted by caravans passing to Central Asia in the autumn months, and taking the route by the Yangi and Topa Dawans, Schomberg reached Kok-yar on the 3rd October. He records that the casualties among the transport animals were very great and remarks that ponies and donkeys lightly laden and in good condition succumbed just as readily as those in poorer condition carrying sometimes heavier burdens. It is the absence of fodder, grass or bhusa, that causes the lamentable death-roll among the pack-transport, and Schomberg calls attention, as so many travellers in the past have done, to the litter of bones along the route. From the Shyok river at Saser Brangsa to Ak-tagh, a distance of a little over a hundred miles, there is scarcely ten yards of the track that is not marked by the mummified body or bones of some poor beast. Human bodies, too, are occasionally seen. It is regrettable that no serais exist on the British side of the border after passing the more or less derelict Saser Brangsa.

On reaching the plains of Turkistan and getting rid of the transport incubus, Schomberg intended to travel during the winter by the Lop Nor area to the north of the Tarim Basin. The political outlook was none too favourable, and it was not till the 26th May 1931 that he reached Kara-shahr after completing this programme. On the 1st June he left that dirty town and traversed the Yulduz. This region lived up to its reputation for rain, wind, mist and other unpleasantsses and until Schomberg crossed the Narat Dawan and reached Aral Tepe, in the Kunges valley on the 15th June, he was unable to record a single fine day. From there he crossed the in Koktassin Dawan and entered the Kash valley, when once more a week of foul weather set in.

From here Schomberg had intended to ascend the Kash river and continue his exploration of the Manas peaks, but the bad weather, and still more, the hopelessly unfordable state of the river caused him to abandon this plan, after the loss of much valuable time in a region where the travelling season is very short. He therefore descended the Kash valley and reached Kulja on the 6th July, from where after a necessary halt to rest the animals, he started for the 1 Tien Shan on the 13th July.

Schomberg crossed the Tekkes river on the 18th and traversed a most interesting route across the main range. Seven major passes were crossed, and as apparently no European had previously followed this route, much new ground was covered. The constant rain of the T’ien Shan pursued the party, a really fine day being unknown, travellers and surveyors in this range must bear this fact in mind they make their preparations, as the rain interferes with all survey work and photography, and seriously limits travel, owing to the consumption of supplies during obligatory halts on account of ather.

On the 10th August the small town of Bai was reached. Then, taking the main road by Aksu and Uch Turfan, Schomberg ascended the Taushkan or Hare river as far as the Biloti Dawan. Kashgar was reached on the 18th September and Gilgit on the 29th October.

Libut. Oliver's Climbs in the Baspa Valley, 1931

Lieut. P. R. Oliver was climbing near the Kanawar Kailas with a Dogra orderly during the spring of 1931. Having reached the Baspa valley towards the end of April they first ascended a small peaks of about 16,000 feet, south-east of Sangla, to reconnoitre*. From here they were afforded fine views of the Kanawar Kailas, across the Baspa valley. Crossing to the north of the valley, they climbed, on the 5th May, a mountain (about 18,000 feet) on the southern ridge of Snowy Peak ' h'. Oliver reports that the local name for this is Noming Kailas, and that it is about 20,000 feet high. From the summit reached, 18,000 feet, the eastern face of the Kanawar Kailas was most impressive.

See Survey of India Map 531, scale 1 inch to 4 miles. The sketch surveys covered by Oliver are about seventy years old. See note in Himal iyan Tol. ii, p. 140.

On the 11th May they reached a point about 18,000 feet on a ridge south of the main watershed between the Baspa and the Todoong Gar, east of Peak ' h and had an especially fine view of the peaks north of the Todoong Gar and of Snowy Peaks ' K ' L ' and ' n '. The weather then broke and no further climbing was possible till the 21st May, when an attempt was made on a summit of about 19,000 feet between Snowy Peak ' h' and the one climbed on the 5th May. They were forced back at about 18,500 feet by bad weather.

On the 26th May from a light camp at about 16,000 feet, pitched in deep snow below the Charang Ghati (pass, 17,600 feet), a mountain east of the pass was climbed in bad weather (about 19,000 feet). Oliver notes that it is the eastern faces of Snowy Peaks ' n', ' L' and ' K ' that are seen from the pass and that they are separated by eight miles (as the crow flies) and two deep transverse valleys from the Kailas group. He does not agree with Mr. Glover's remark in The Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, p. 85, that there is a possible line of approach to the highest peaks of Kailas from here.

Altogether some useful mountain reconnaissance was carried out, but it is regrettable that the existing map is so old and on so small a scale. The mountains are interesting and afford good climbing, and the valleys are inhabited ; they are easily accessible from Simla and beyond the Baspa are largely free from monsoon influences. In the spring Oliver records that the snow lay soft and deep as low as 14,000 feet, while drifts were found down to 10,000 feet; conditions later in the year should be easier. Oliver is willing to advise or assist any intending climbers with further information. We do not yet know the height of the Kanawar Kailas, but Raldang is 21,240 feet, and there are several others over 20,000 feet in the neighbourhood.

Mb. G. B. Gouklay's Journey in Sikkim, 1931

Messrs. G. A. R. Spence and G. B. Gourlay spent sixteen days in Sikkim from the 11th to the 26th October 1931. They had hoped to be able to get up to 20,000 feet within nine days of leaving Calcutta, but bad weather encountered at Thangu and the exceptionally early arrival of the winter snow precluded all chance of high climbing in the short time at their disposal. They accordingly decided to cross the Dongkya La and return thence to Thangu by the little used Sebo La, which links the upper Lachen and Lachung valleys.

Deep fresh snow on the Dongkya did not satisfactorily explain the slow progress made by the porters, which necessitated camping on the north side of the pass some five hundred feet below the summit; but next morning five men, including four Sherpas who had all done well Kamet, were down with influenza, which more than accounted for the difficulties of the previous day. Spence volunteered to return to Thangu with the sick men and had some trouble in getting them along though he tied them on to the backs of yaks. Gourlay proceded over the Dongkya with four men and camped at Samdong . The next day (22nd October) he crossed the Sebo La and rejoined Spence at Thangu.

The Sebo La affords an entrancing high-level route equal in splendour to the route across the Lungnak La. The crossing of the pass involves no climbing difficulties but is a first-class scramble for a fit man ; nevertheless a rope was used on the western slope and enabled the party to descend the glacier straight, thus saving a considerable amount of time.

In addition to two very excellent porters from Lachen the following Sherpas were employed: Kippa, Dorje, Nima, Ang-Nerbu, and one other. From Thangu the return to Calcutta was accomplished in four days.

Mr. L. R. Fawcus' Journey in Sikkim, 1931

(The following notes on a journey by Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Bottomley, Mr. A. J. Dash and Mr. L. R. Fawcm have been communicated by the latter)
Many members of the Eastern Section of the Himalayan Club find that their duties in the Plains limit their chances of a visit to the Himalaya to the period of the Durga Puja holidays-about ten days usually in October-with perhaps a day or two extra thrown in with the favour of the " powers that be ". They find then that, after a hot weather and rainy season in Calcutta, their keenness rather outruns their power to make arduous marches at a high altitude.

Our object in going up the Lachen valley in October 1931 was to ascertain whether the proposed site for a Club hut at Makotang in the Lhonak valley was accessible to such a party coming up from Calcutta. Our travels must therefore be considered rather " small beer” when compared with those usually chronicled in The Himalayan Journal, for we were on a well-known route almost the whole way and attempted nothing more arduous than the ascent of the Lungnak La (about 17,200 feet), the pass which leads from the Lachen valley just above Thangu into Lhonak[2].

Actually the ascent was harder than we had expected, for fresh snow had fallen and was lying in deepish drifts all over the route, effectually concealing the path and proving tiring to laden porters and quite impassable to yaks. By half-past two in the afternoon of the 17th October, we were still a thousand feet from the summit of the pass and more snow seemed to be threatening in the sky. We therefore left most of the porters to find a camping site and went up with two unladen men to the summit. This was reached in time to return just before dusk to a camp pitched on a snow-field ; the weather was too misty for us to get more than fleeting glimpses of the peaks which border the Lhonak valley, but we made pretty sure that after the first heavy fall of snow in October a hut at Makotang would be of little use for the desired purpose.

We were rewarded in the morning when we emerged from our tent on to the hard-frozen snow to see dawn breaking over Chomiomo and Kangchenjau. Later, during the descent to Thangu we had good views of Chombu, the peak on whose shoulder lies the Sebu pass which leads from the Lachen valley to Mome Samdong in Lachung, and of Thangu, which gives its name to the valley below it.

On the following day some members of the party went up to Palong above the Thangu bungalow and returned after taking some excellent photographs of the northern Sikkim peaks from this point, which can be recommended as a fine view-point to any traveller in the Lachen valley.

A few observations of interest to the naturalist may be noted. Owing to the lateness of the season little high-altitude fauna was to be seen between Thangu and the Lungnak La. Fresh specimens of the Clouded Yellow (Colias Fieldi) and a Fritillary (Argynnis Lathonia) were flying. The Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax Pyrrhocorax) was abundant here as elsewhere at these altitudes in Sikkim, and it was interesting to see the Nepal Wren (Anorihura Nepalensis) creeping along the boulders of the mountain stream just below snow-level. On the return march I was able to get the dried skin of one of the high-altitude water-shrews from a villager. It appears to be the Himalayan Water-Shrew (Chimarrogale Himdlayica), but will, I hope, nitoly identified by the Darjeeling Museum, where it has been deposited.

L. R. F.


Mr. F. Ludlow's Natural History Tour in Kashmir, 1931

Mr. F. Ludlow and two friends from England carried out an intersting tour in Kashmir during the summer of 1931. With Messrs. W. and A. B. Duncan, he left Srinagar in mid-April, crossed the Sinthan pass on the 17th, and reached Kishtwar four days later. A month was spent on natural history and shikar mainly in the Gan and Bangar valleys. The party returned to Kishtwar towards the end of May, traveled up the Marau-Warwan valley to Inshan, and crossed the Margan pass on the 9th June. After a week's refit in Srinagar, they left for Ladakh on the 17th June, and following the Treaty Road reached Leh on the 30th. Mr. A. B. Duncan then left for Hanle, while Messrs. Ludlow and W. Duncan visited the Changchenmo. The party was re-united at Leh on the 14th August and set off a week later for Skardu, Mr. W. Duncan taking the Chorbat La and Khapalu route the others the ordinary route by Kargil. From Skardu the return journey was made across the Deosai to Gurais, and thence by the Tilel valley and Gad Sar to Sonamarg. Srinagar was reached on the 5th October.

The objects of the journey were mainly to shoot big game and collect natural history specimens. The bag included black bear, black bear, goral, ovisjammon, Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, bharal, shapu and ibex. The collections comprised approximately 60 specimens of small mammals, 600 bird-skins, 400 lepidoptera, 400 hymenoptera and 100 different species of high-altitude plants.

During the winter Mr. Ludlow was engaged in writing up the specific results of his previous expedition to Sinkiang and the T'ien Shan. A paper on'the birds of Sinkiang was being prepared for the Ibis.

The Haardt " Mission a travers 'Asie, 1931-32 "

Though most of the members of the Himalayan Club prefer to wander through and enjoy the Himalaya on their flat feet, it may interest them to have a brief summary of M. Haardt's attempt to conquer the passes of Northern India with Citroen "caterpillars ". As far as I am aware no official account has yet appeared in India, and some of the short, notices in the press have not been altogether fair, leading one, as they do, to suppose that the attempt was undertaken light-heartedly and without proper forethought.

The greater part of the backing was French, as well as most of the personnel, and it was given the status of a French Official Mission ; but a large part of its resources were derived from the National Geographical Society at Washington, which was represented in the party by Dr. Williams. It also had British support. General Sir Ernest Swinton, the prophet of war-planes long before these came into being, and one of the inventors of the armoured tank, who remained in England, and Colonel E. V. Gabriel, who accompanied the Mission, were the British representatives.

The expedition left Syria in April 1931 in seven Citroen caterpillar cars with trailers, and without untoward incident crossed Iraq, Persia and Afghanistan. It reached the Khyber in June and Peshawar on the 19th of that month. It was never intended that the seven caterpillars would make the whole journey across the mountains of northern India ; and long before Peshawar was reached a duplicate set of seven cars had been despatched to Peking to make the journey across Mongolia and the Gobi desert to pick up the party at Kashgar. Haardt and his companions intended to take the cars that had crossed from Syria as far as possible, then to traverse the intervening ground to Kashgar on foot, there to collect the Peking cars and continue the journey in them to Peking. From here it was intended to cross French Indo-China, Siam and Burma to India. The survivors of the fourteen cars were then, I believe, to transport the survivors of the expedition back to Syria by way of Persia and Arabia. At best this could happen, in January 1932.

The most careful forethought was exercised and the most deliberate preparations were made ; it appears that no expense was spared. The cars were equipped with material for portable bridges up to a span of fifty metres, and with winches and various cable attachments for scaling cliffs and rounding corners, which would otherwise be too narrow for them.

The very serious floods in Kashmir, which were abnormal, caused much delay, and to avoid more dislocation of the normal functions of the Gilgit road than absolutely necessary, the expedition was broken up into two sections. The first party, consisting of four Frenchmen, left Bandapur on the 2nd July to reconnoitre and prepare the route. The second group, comprising twelve Europeans and including six mechanics, followed ten days later in two caterpillar cars. The other five cars were presumably left in Srinagar. The second group, wit hout serious difficulty accomplished one normal stage a day as far as the Burzil pass, which was still deep under snow. On the day the cars crossed the Burzil, they only reached Sardar Kothi in the darkness. Godhai, 23 miles further on, was reached at midnight the following day, and Astor, 17 miles on, was attained by 2 p.m. the next.

Beyond Astor the road had been washed down the khud and a day or two were lost in scratching a track out of the hillside. The cars left Astor on the 23rd July, to be eventually held up by a slip nearly a quarter of a mile long. A road could have been cut and the cars taken over under their own power, but it would have been a long business. Haardt therefore dismantled them and had them carried over this slip by coolies. They were re-assembled beyond this break, whence they pushed on happily to Doyan. A further bad break here was negotiated by means of winches and cables, and a day was spent crossing the Hatu Pir, the famous northern spur of Nanga Parbat. The road here ascends the spur face, an almost perpendicular cliff, by a series of steep zigzags, each section of the road being almost vertically over the one below. It is the Golgotha of the whole route and those who know it must marvel that any cars were taken over it. The difficulties were however surmounted and Gilgit was reached on the 4th August.

Haardt had been advised that the utmost limit he would be able to take his cars would be Nomal, one march of seventeen miles beyond Gilgit. The road here, though having a good surface and being well kept up as far as Baltit, is only a six-foot scratch across the harsh face of the mountain-side. Beyond Nomal is the very difficult Chaichar defile, where the Hunza river cuts a tortuous gorge through the southern Karakoram immediately west of Rakaposhi, a peak 25,550 feet above sea-level. This defile had already been ruled out as impracticable. But Haardt had made up his mind to reach Nomal with at least one caterpillar, and this he did. In fifteen hours the single car that attempted the journey covered the seventeen miles, the last three being completed in the dark. This car then turned round and started back for the plains of India, while the members proceeded, as had been intended, on foot.

The next check was at Misgar, caused by Chinese obstruction. Having already granted permission to the expedition to cross China the Chinese authorities as usual changed their mind, and some delay was caused while waiting for them to change it back again. The Peking group also was detained at Urumchi, the capital of Sinkiang, and not allowed to proceed to Kashgar. We have no news whether the pedestrian party caught up the waiting cars, or whether the expedition has yet reached Peking, but there has been plenty of time for China to change her mind several times during the last few months. As yet in December 1931 there is in Burma no sign of the survivors arriving from Siam.


[1] It was up the Seinghku valley that Kingdon Ward travelled to the Lohit and Assam, via the Diphuk La in 1926. For his journey up the Adung valley in 1931, see the Survey of India Map 91 H/se, scale one inch to 2 miles.

[2] There is plenty of interest in small expeditions such as the one here described so briefly. I only wish more members would send in for publication their observations on such journeys.-Ed.