Himalayan Journal vol.06
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.06

Publication year:
1934

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. CHITRAL MEMORIES
    (The Siege of Chitral Lieut.- Colonel B.E.M. Gurdon)
  2. THE MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION OF 1933
    (HUGH RUTTLEDGE)
  3. MOUNT EVEREST'S WEATHER IN 1933
    (L. R. WAGER)
  4. THE LHONAK LA
    (L. R. WAGER)
  5. THE MOUNT EVEREST FLIGHTS
    (L. V. STEWART BLACKER)
  6. NOTES ON THE BIAFO GLACIER IN BALTISTAN
    (J. B. AUDEN)
  7. A GLIMPSE OF UNKNOWN NEPAL
    (Captain C. J. MORRIS)
  8. A NOTE ON THE NEPAL HIMALAYA
    (Lieut.-Colonel KENNETH MASON)
  9. DUNAGIRI AND TRISUL, 1933
    (Lieut. P. R. OLIVER)
  10. GANGOTRI AND LEO PARGIAL, 1933
    (MARCO PALLIS)
  11. MOUNTAINEERING IN THE KASHMIR HIMALAYA
    (I. THE GLACIER VALLEY OF THAJIWAS Lieut.-Colonel N. N. L. WATTS)
  12. A SPRING TRIP FROM SRINAGAR TO SIMLA
    (A. P. F. HAMILTON)
  13. EXPEDITIONS
    (A JOURNEY TO BHUTAN)
  14. IN MEMORIAM
    (H.M. KING ALBERT OF THE BELGIANS)
  15. NOTES
  16. REVIEWS
  17. CORRESPONDENCE
  18. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  19. CLUB NOTICES
  20. Library Notices

THE LHONAK LA

L. R. WAGER

ON the 13th July 1933, at Rongkong, E. E. Shipton and I left the main body of the returning Mount Everest Expedition, with the intention of trying to cross a col from the Lashar plain in Tibet to the Lhonak valley in north-west Sikkim. When talking of the pass we early adopted the name Lhonak La, and we have since discovered that this name had already been used for the pass by Marcel Kurz, on the map of the 1930 International Himalayan Expedition,1 and by G. B. Gourlay.2 In making our plans we had the advantage of knowing that the col had been reached from the east in 1930 by Gourlay and Eversden, during an ascent of the Lhonak peak, but unfortunately we had not their description with us.

Local Tibetan transport was used for five marches, after which we depended on twelve of our well-tried porters under the charge of the sirdar, Sonam Topgy. The porters relied entirely, and Shipton and I relied largely, on local supplies of food.

Any considerable delay due to weather or other causes would have been inconvenient for our future plans, and until we were across the col we were anxious on this account. Nevertheless from Phuru, our first camp, we spent one day in the Nyonno Ri range, and Shipton reached the top of a peak a little north-east of Nyonno Ri itself. The peak was about 20,000 feet high, but was not on the main watershed.

The Survey of India map (71P, scale 4 miles to an inch) proved to be generalized between Dara and Ghangmu, where two or three villages are omitted. The same may be said of the country shown on map 78A, west of the Lhonak La, where the glacier,3 flowing towards the west from the Lhonak and Jongsong peaks, was found to be actually about four miles in length. A glimpse through the cloud of the Lashar La, 18,546 feet, where the map indicates a track, showed that the way would probably not be easy.

We camped one night at the yak grazing-ground, called the Lashar Plain on the Survey of India map, and at this time of the year we were able to obtain yak meat and yak milk. About two miles above the Lashar plain the glacier from the Lhonak and Jongsong peaks begins. This glacier closely resembles the East Rongbuk glacier. Near its mouth it is completely moraine-covered, a little farther up rows of pinnacles begin, and farther up still there are fairly well developed troughs. The route chosen crossed from the south side to the north lateral moraine at the point where the pinnacles began, and then followed along the moraine to the corner where a smaller glacier from the Lhonak La joins the main glacier from the Jongsong peak. Here at about 18,500 feet we pitched camp, and three local Tibetans whose help we had had to this point returned.

1 Dyhrenfurth, G. O., Himalaya: Unsere Expedition 1930, Berlin. Map: Das Massiv des Kangchendzonga, by Marcel Kurz.

2 Gourlay, G. B., 'Lhonak 1930/ Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, pp. 123-34, I932*

3 Kurz calls this the Lashar glacier on his map, but since it does not lead to what is called the Lashar La on the Indian Survey maps, this name seems inappropriate. The name Khar Glacier would be more satisfactory.

During the day, owing to cloud, we never saw the Lhonak La, but the lie of the ground suggested that the east side would be relatively easy. It was decided that our next camp, if possible, should be on the col itself, and that one day should be devoted to an attempt to climb Kellas' Peak, a mountain on the frontier ridge to the south of the col (Pt. 6450 m. of Kurz's map).1
On the 19th July, at 7.15 a.m., we left the glacier camp. Shipton and I were roped for route-finding, but the glacier proved easy, and at 9.30 a.m. we were at the foot of a gentle snow-slope leading to the col. Shipton here decided to take a porter with him and try to reach the summit of the Lhonak peak. Owing to a slightly dilated heart I had to avoid any hurried climbing and did not accompany him, but went off with two other porters for a col north-west of the Lhonak peak, which seemed as though it might be a way back across the continuation of the Dodang Nyima range into the plains of Tibet. I reached the col at about 1 p.m., and found that it only led to the North Lhonak glacier and that the descent would be difficult or impossible. Shipton reached the summit of the Lhonak peak shortly afterwards, and descended hurriedly as snow was imminent.

At our camp on the Lhonak La we had gentle snow from 3 p.m. At 1.30 a.m. the porters brought us tea, thinking that it was just before dawn, and we found that already there was 6-8 in. of new snow. We gave up the idea of climbing Kellas' Peak and only hoped that we should be able to descend the east side of the Lhonak La without undue delay. By 5 a.m. the snow had stopped, and while the porters were packing up the camp, Shipton and I descended the pass a little, and decided on the route which we would attempt. At 6 a.m. we and the porters, who were heavily laden, since they would not jettison any of the food, began the descent.

Smythe had told us what he remembered of the route taken by Gourlay and Eversden, so that where the slope from the col began to be crevassed we went over to the rocks on the north side. These were liable to be swept by avalanches, and were too difficult for heavily-laden porters to race over. So a route down the centre of the glacier was tried, but this led to an impassable ice-fall not clearly seen from above. We therefore returned with Aila, one of our porters, to the rocks under the Lhonak peak, and while we stood debating the extent of the risk from avalanches, Aila unroped, crossed over to the rocks, and worked out a zigzag route along ledges which, owing to the general steepness of the rocks, afforded reasonable protection from avalanches. Down these rocks the porters carried their loads except for two short pitches where they had to be lowered. Then we raced away from danger over the deeply snow-covered Lhonak glacier.

1 This peak was apparently climbed by Dr. Kellas. Another mountain, 23,180 feet, north of Mount Everest, has also frequently been called Kellas' Peak, a practice which should be given up to avoid confusion.

[1]
Away from the steep slopes of the Lhonak peak we returned to the north side of the central Lhonak glacier, and walked down moraines to a point about a mile above the snout of the glacier. Here we were able to camp, as we fortunately found an old dump of rhododendron fuel left by some other party. From this camp, in two marches by way of the Lungnak La, we reached the Tangu Rest-house.

During the whole journey the tops of the mountains were largely obscured except in the early mornings, but we only had snow on the Lhonak La and one shower of rain when we were about half-way down the Lhonak valley.


[1] Photographs of the Lhonak La from the south and south-east will be found opposite page 128 in the Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, and opposite pages 265 and 304 in Prof. Dyhrenfurth's Himalaya: Unsere Expedition 1930, Berlin.