Himalayan Journal vol.05
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Kenneth Mason
    (Lieut.-Colonel B.E.M. Gurdon)
    (HELLMUT DE TERRA Tale North India Expedition)
  7. KULU
    (A. P. F. HAMILTON)
    (Captain G. C. CLARK)
    (G. A. R. SPENCE)
    (Lieut.-Colonel KENNETH MASON)
  14. NOTES



Tibet is still a forbidden land to most members of the Himalayan Club. Fortunate indeed are those whose official duties enable them to visit the country with the consent of the Tibetan authorities. Messrs. Williamson and Ludlow left Almora on the 14th August 1932 for western Tibet. Travelling by Askote and the Kali river, close to the boundary between Kumaun and Nepal, they entered Tibet by the Lipu Lekh pass (16,750 feet) on the 2nd September and reached Taklakot (or Purang) the same day. Proceeding northwards from Purang, they visited the tomb of Zorawar Singh,[1] skirted the western base of Gurla Mandhata,[2] and passed along the narrow neck of land which separates the Manasarowar Lake from Rakas Tal.

On the 7th September running water was found in the channel connecting the two lakes. At the point where Manasarowar was emptying into the channel, they found a stream 30 feet wide, 9 inches deep, and flowing at an approximate rate of 2 miles an hour. Near the Ghiu (or Jiu) monastery, a few hundred yards below the exit of the lake, was a deep pool full of fish weighing up to 2 lb.[3]
Still travelling northwards, they reached the little hamlet of Darchen at the foot of sacred Kailas (Kang Rinpoche), where a halt was made. Williamson and Ludlow then spent two days in performing the circuit of the holy mountain.[4]
The circumambulation of Kailas having been completed, they turned north-west, crossed the Jerko La, and reached Gartok on the 20th September, where the annual fair was in progress. During the four days spent here they were hospitably entertained by the Garpon and other leading officials of western Tibet.

From Gartok the easiest and most frequented route to India crosses the Shipki pass and follows the well-known Hindustan-Tibet road to Simla. Avoiding this, Williamson and Ludlow turned south and crossed the little-used pass known as the Sazi La,1 which lies a few miles to the south-east of the better-known Ayi La. Near the summit of the pass a herd of 35 wild yak were encountered. Passing through Dankhar, they threaded their way through a maze of stupendous clay ravines-a characteristic feature of the upper Sutlej country-and reached the little monastic town of Tuling (or Toling- math) on the left bank of the Sutlej river on the 28th September.

A short march of seven miles along the left bank of the river brought them to Tsaparang (Chabrang), a place of considerable historical interest. Early in the seventeenth century Jesuit Fathers made it the head-quarters of their mission to Tibet. For a space the Jesuits prospered and the 'King' of Guge was almost persuaded to become a Christian. A church and mission house were erected, and a branch of the mission was established at Rudok. Then evil days came and the mission was abandoned about the year 1640.2
Since the time of the Jesuits the little town of Tsaparang has seldom been visited by European travellers. Twenty years ago, however, the place was visited by one of our members, Mr. Mack- worth Young. He diligently searched for any traces of the ancient mission, but found nothing save a weather-beaten cross lying on the top of a large 'chorten' opposite the Dzongpon's house.

1 Mr. E. B. Wakefield in August 1929 was probably the first European to cross the Sazi La. He gives the height as about 19,200 feet (.Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, p. 102). Gartok and the Sazi La are shown on Survey of India Map 62 A, Tuling (Tolingmath) and Tsaparang (Chabrang) on Map 53 M.

2 For a full description of this Mission see C. J. Wessels, s.j.: Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia, 1603-1721 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1924). A brief summary will be found in Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, p. 170.

Williamson and Ludlow were equally unsuccessful in their investigations last year. Neither the Dzongpon nor any of the local inhabitants had ever heard of the Mission. Not a sign of the church or mission-house could be traced, and, more unfortunate still, the wooden cross which Mackworth Young saw in 1912 had vanished.1
Leaving Tsaparang on the 1st October, Williamson and Ludlow crossed the Zanskar range by the Nilang pass (Sang Kyog La) and descended the Jadhganga river to its junction with the Baghirathi. Here they were on the pilgrim route from Gangotri, whence they descended through Tehri Garhwal and reached the plains of India near Dehra Dun on the 26th. Ludlow made a study of the avifauna of western Tibet and brought back a collection of skins which will doubtless prove to be of considerable interest, as no collection has hitherto been made in that portion of Tibet through which he passed.


The following account of the fatal accident near Panjtarni in Kashmir has been compiled by Captain E. Gueterbock from notes supplied by Major Kenneth Hadow, Major R. V. M. Garry, and Mrs. Burn. It differs in a few particulars from the accounts which appeared in the press at the time owing to a fuller appreciation of certain factors which were not then available.

Lt.-Col. C. F. Stoehr, r.e., had been travelling and climbing in Kashmir for three weeks, when he joined Lieut. D. McK. Burn and his wife at Pahlgam. After a two-days' march, the party spent the night of the 1 ith/i2th August about two miles north of the camping- ground of Vaojan.2 It was decided that Mrs. Burn should take the camp by the path over the Vaojan Pantsal pass northwards to near Dardkut, while Stoehr, Burn, the shikari (Asad Mir), and the tiffin coolie were to traverse Point 17,243 (340 8' 12" N., 750 32' 29" E.), and to descend to the glacier which runs in a north-westerly direction towards Dardkut.

1 In the illustration of Tsaparang accompanying this note, the 'chorten', on which the wooden cross was seen by Mr. Mackworth Young, is the large one immediately below the Dzongpon's house, which is the white building with four windows. To the right of the large 'chorten' are nine smaller ones. Mr. Ludlow informs me that Tsaparang is a dead city nowadays. All the buildings and cave-dwellings seen in the illustration are deserted, and even the Dzongpon himself no longer resides there, though he retains the title of Dzongpon of Tsaparang. About half a dozen families still hang on to the place and live below and to the right of the dzong (outside the illustration).

2 The scene of the accident is shown on Survey of India Map 43 N/12, scale 1 inch to a mile.

Asad Mir used to be a good climbing shikari, but was ill in 1931 and is now getting on in years.1 Stoehr, realizing Asad Mir's age and other limitations, engaged him more for the running of the camp and transport than as a climber. The tiffin coolie was a complete novice as a climber when Stoehr took him on three weeks before.

The four men left camp (12,800 feet) at 5.30 a.m. and were seen by Mrs. Burn before nine o'clock mounting the snow slope southwest of a point marked 17,243 on the Survey of India map. What happened after this is not certain. Asad Mir was somewhat inconsistent in his various reports, but certain facts are known, and from these and Asad Mir's story the following appears to be the truth as near as we are ever likely to get.

Stoehr and Burn reached the ridge, at about 16,500 feet, running west from Point 17,243 shortly before 10 a.m. Though the climb was not difficult, the two Kashmiris, who had only grass shoes on their bare feet, could not tackle the top few hundred feet of rock. They must have dropped behind, for a long-distance conversation ensued between the two officers shouting from the ridge and the Kashmiris below Stoehr and Burn were not carrying rucksacks, so their spare woollies, cameras, food, and first-aid outfits were all with the shikari and tiffin coolie, but the latter could not be persuaded to come up farther.

The usual midday clouds now began to envelop the neighbouring peaks. Without food the ascent of Point 17,243 must have been out of the question, but it appears that the climbers discovered a possible route down the north face of the ridge, to the glacier 1,500 feet below. Such a descent would enable them to reach Dardkut in a couple of hours.

Stoehr usually carried a slab of chocolate in his pocket, and this would suffice until they reached camp. If they went down to the Kashmiris, took breakfast there, and collected their rucksacks, the weather would probably get worse and not permit them to cross the ridge so much later in the day. If they went back at all they might as well go round by the path, and over the Vaojan pass. They therefore decided to send the Kashmiris by the path to Dardkut and, roping up, attempted to descend the north face by them- selves. This must have been about ten o'clock. Every day for the past few days there had been rain and clouds at midday, and they probably expected nothing worse; unfortunately on this occasion a terrific storm burst shortly before noon. The two found what shelter they could on that inhospitable face, and were no doubt wet, hungry, and cold when the weather improved slightly about two o'clock.

1 Asad Mir was with Dr. Ernest Neve and myself on the first ascent of Kolahoi in 1912. He climbed with the late Major J. B. Corry, r.e., Lieut. R. D. Squires, of the Sherwood Foresters, both of the Alpine Club, and with Dr. Neve and myself in 1911; and he had been on previous attempts on Kolahoi and other climbs with Dr. Neve in 1910 and previously. Twenty years ago he was a good, steady rock- climber, ready to go anywhere his sahib led. In 1932 Dr. Neve recommended him to Stoehr solely as a camp servant and tiffin carrier, not as a shikari or guide, on the grounds that he was too old and not physically fit.--Ed.

At about 2.40 p.m. the accident occurred.1 The two men were caught in an avalanche when a large wedge-shaped patch of snow 300 feet long (down the slope) and 100 to 200 feet broad (horizontally) broke away from the smooth rock on which it lay about 500 feet below the ridge, and fell 1,000 feet to the glacier below.

This face of the mountain is steep and devoid of any marked ribs. Below the pass are two short rock walls, and below them a large snow slope ran in a steep but even gradient down to the glacier. There are only a few rock outcrops, and the avalanche fell more or less down the middle of this snow slope. Major Hadow reports that the general dip of the rock strata was down the slope2 and that the snow which avalanched was not more than about a foot deep. There were no signs of previous avalanches in the vicinity.

The warmth of an August afternoon at that height, the severe storm and heavy rain, the dip of the underlying strata of smooth rock, and the thinness of the crust of snow all contributed to the danger of an avalanche. Of these the last two conditions were probably unknown to the climbers. Stoehr had had considerable experience of snow at all seasons in the Alps and Kashmir, and Burn had also done a good deal of snow mountaineering in Chitral and Kashmir. They are likely to have recognized obviously dangerous snow and to have tried to avoid it.

The bodies were found in the bergschrund at the edge of the glacier. They had the full rope out (about 80 feet) when they fell. Their heads were completely smashed and death must have been mercifully instantaneous.

Major Hadow considers that they were both on the snow-patch which avalanched as the result of their passage. But in this case it is hard to account for the little progress they made after ten o'clock. If the technical difficulties of descent were so great, they must surely have retraced their steps and gone round by the path, for they were not temperamentally foolhardy. Such a course would also have been indicated if, as has been suggested, an accident had already occurred to Stoehr's foot, for one of his boots was found by itself near the bergschrund; this, however, is hardly evidence of such a mishap (cf. the relics in Zermatt Museum). Where the climbers were when the avalanche occurred must remain unknown.

1 Stoehr's watch had stopped at about this time as far as could be judged by the hour-hand; the minute-hand was broken off.

2 This is well seen in Captain Gregory's photograph, which was taken some days after the accident.

As the climbers had not returned by 6 p.m. when the shikari and tiffin coolie reached camp, Mrs. Burn sent these two out as a search- party. But it was too dark and dangerous for the Kashmiris to go far. Fearing an accident, Mrs. Burn sent a coolie to Pahlgam and another to Sonamarg. The latter had to traverse the difficult gorge to Baltal. When the messages arrived help was speedily forthcoming.

Major Hadow deserves great credit for his energy. A telegram was sent from Srinagar at noon on Sunday the 14th August to Major Hadow at Gulmarg. He left that place at 2.30 p.m. It is 2,000 feet downhill by a foot-path and then 93 miles by motor-road to Pahlgam, yet by 7.30 p.m. he had left the latter place. Picking up a local man on the way, he reached Panjtarni at 4 a.m. after a 30-mile night-march involving an ascent of 7,000 feet. Before 6 a.m. he had organized a rescue party and left Mrs. Burn's camp. Meanwhile the shikari had located the bodies 3,000 feet above the camp and over 2 ½ miles up the glacier. Major Hadow reached camp with the bodies at half-past ten, within 20 hours of leaving Gulmarg.

Great praise is also due to the work of the shikari and coolies, to the assistance given by H.H. the Maharaja of Kashmir, the State officials concerned, and many Europeans, to the courtesy, kindness, and sympathy shown by the pilgrims who passed the cortege on its way to Pahlgam, and, not least, to the courage shown by Mrs. Burn.

Brief memoirs of Col. Stoehr and Lieut. Burn appear on pages 110-11.


Captain G. H. Osmaston, r.e., organized a short expedition to northern Sikkim during October 1932. The other members of the party were Messrs. F. C. Osmaston, Indian Forest Service, A. B. Stobart, and J. Latimer, the last two being members of the Himalayan Club.

The usual route by the Tista valley was followed from Gangtok as far as Thangu (12,600 feet). Lhonak was reached from here over the Lungnak La (16,300 feet), and a base camp was established at the farther (western) end of the valley, four miles north-east of the Langpo peak, two days later.1
During the next five days an unsuccessful attempt was made to climb the 'Fluted peak' (19,881 feet), the climbing party reaching a point 200 feet below the summit on the East Ridge, but too late in the day to negotiate with safety the remaining knife-edge of soft corniced snow.

1 The only good map of any use to climbers in these parts (Lhonak) is Marcel Kurz's 'Kangchendzonga', scale 1 : 100,000, published in


The party then visited the Choten Nyima La and accurately determined its height, 19,037 feet, which is about 500 feet higher than previous estimates. The position of the 'Sentinel peak, climbed by Dr. Kellas in 1910, was also fixed and its height found to be 21,233 feet.

On the return journey Captain Osmaston and his cousin, with eighteen porters, crossed southwards into the Zemu valley by a snow gap (19,429 feet), four miles east of'Tent peak5 and corresponding with the 'Lhonak pass5 of Kellas. The descent on the southern side was unsuitable for any kind of transport, as in one place an ice-fall, 500 feet high, stretched right across the glacier and the cliffs at the side were almost impassable. Captain Osmaston reports that they found Marcel Kurz5s new map ('Das Massiv des Kangchendzonga5, scale 1:100,000) most accurate and useful.

The Zemu valley was followed as far as Yaktang, from where Captain Osmaston proceeded alone over the Kishong La to the Tulung monastery,1 and thence down the Ringpi Chu and Talung valley to Mangen, where he rejoined the main party. The route forms an interesting alternative to the main one by the Tista valley, but the small path is both steep and rough and only passable for lightly laden coolies.

The expedition arrived back in Gangtok on the 25th October and reached Calcutta on the following day, just 3! weeks after starting. Excellent weather was met with as soon as Lhonak was reached, and a fine series of photographs of the whole area was obtained, some of which it is hoped to publish in the next volume. This expedition as well as other recent ones to northern Sikkim, emphasizes how accessible the Lhonak district really is, and how much interesting mountaineering can be accomplished in a single month's holiday from Calcutta.

1 Maps show the path as passing over the Yumtso La, but this route is now abandoned and overgrown. Colonel Tobin, who took this route in 1929, gives the distance between the Kishong La and the Yumtso La as three miles. He gives further details of the route, with slightly different spellings of the names (Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, p. 113).

[1] Zorawar Singh was the Dogra Wazir and commander-in-chief who conquered Ladakh from the Tibetans in 1834-5, anc* Baltistan in 1840. In 1841 he assembled an army at Leh with the intention of invading and plundering Lhasa. Rudok was occupied and the upper Indus monasteries looted. The Tibetans avoided battle till mid-winter when at 15,000 feet above sea-level the Dogra general was slain in a snowstorm. The Indians were routed and, owing to the intense cold, very few survived.

[2] A reconnaissance climb was made on Gurla Mandhata by Dr. T. G. Longstaff in July 1905; see Alpine Journal, vol. xxiii, pp. 202-26. Gurla Mandhata and Manasarowar are shown on Survey of India Map 62 F, scale 1 inch to 4 miles.

[3] For the previous history of this connecting channel between Manasarowar and Rakas Tal see Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, p. 103, footnote. In September 1929 Mr. E. B. Wakefield found the stream 'deep and fast-flowing after recent rain*. For a summary of observations in 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1928 see 'Some Geographical Observations in Western Tibet, by Mr. S. R. Kashyap, in the Journal and Proceedings, Asiatic Society of Bengal (new series), vol. xxv (1929), p. 225. Mr. Kashyap concludes that it is certainly correct to include the lake-basin of Manasarowar in the catchment area of the Sutlej, as proposed by Sir Sidney Burrard.

[4] The circumambulation of Kailas is an act of great merit for both Hindus and Buddhists. Mr. Kashyap in his paper mentioned in the previous footnote remarks that there was a man staying at Darchen, at the foot of the mountain, when he was there, who was in the act of completing twelve circuits, which would take about a month. Pilgrims of course go barefooted and take about two and a half days over a single circuit. 'Some sadhus make the circuit measuring the length throughout with their bodies, lying prostrate, and, as the path is very rough and stony, it is an exceedingly austere performance.' The circuit is about 29 miles, according to Mr. Kashyap, who gives many interesting details of the pilgrimage which he has studied on more than one occasion; he corrects the description given by Sven Hedin in some important particulars. Sven Hedin apparently did not make the circuit and wrote from hearsay; as far as I can ascertain, Mr. Hugh Ruttledge is the only European who completed the circuit prior to Williamson and Ludlow.

The dead city of Tsaparang Photo: F. Ludlow

The dead city of Tsaparang Photo: F. Ludlow

Channel connecting Manasarowar and Rakas Tal. Ghiu monastery in background Photo: F. Ludlow

Channel connecting Manasarowar and Rakas Tal. Ghiu monastery in background Photo: F. Ludlow

Northern face of Panjtarni, the scene of the accident on 12 August 1932 Photo. Cavt. C. E. C. Gregory

Northern face of Panjtarni, the scene of the accident on 12 August 1932 Photo. Cavt. C. E. C. Gregory