Himalayan Journal vol.07
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Kenneth Mason
    (H.W. Tilman)
    (I. GENERAL r. finsterwalder)
  5. A VISIT TO NUN KUN, 1934
    (F. S. SMYTHE)
    (J. B. AUDEN)
    (A.P.F. Hamilton)
    (Captain F. KINGDON WARD)
    (P. C. DUNCAN)
    (Lieut.- Colonel Kenneth Mason)
  16. NOTES


H.W. Tilman

Appetite grows with what it feeds upon, not by waiting. This was exemplified by a small expedition to Garhwal this year, suggested and led by Mr. E. E. Shipton a few months after returning from Mount Everest. I joined him, and we hoped that Dr. Noel Humphreys, a fellow East African, would make a third, but he accepted the leadership of the Oxford University Expedition to Ellesmere Land. Our party therefore comprised our two selves and three Sherpas, Ang Tarke, Pasang, and Kusang. These three had taken part in the 1933 Mount Everest Expedition, Ang Tarke and Pasang helping to establish Camp VI at 27,400 feet.

Our main objects were to discover a route into the inner basin at the foot of Nanda Devi, the 'inner sanctuary' as it has been called, to make a fairly accurate map of it, and to determine whether the mountain itself could be successfully attacked by a stronger party. Since 1883 there had. been nine attempts to penetrate the basin or to set foot upon the mountain.

1 For to quote from an article by Mr. Hugh Ruttledge, in The Times:

Nanda Devi imposes upon her votaries an admission test as yet beyond their skill and endurance: a 70-mile barrier-ring on which stand twelve measured peaks over 21,000 feet high, and which has no depression lower than 17,000 feet, except in the west where the Rishi Ganga, rising at the foot of Nanda Devi and draining an area of some 250 square miles of ice and snow, has carved for itself what must be one of the most terrific gorges in the world. Two internal ridges, converging from the north and south upon this river, form as it were the curtains of an inner sanctuary, within which the great mountain soars up to 25,660 feet.2
Besides the more obvious route by the Rishi gorge, there had been attacks on the surrounding wall at different places, and in 1905 Dr. Longstaff gained the rim of the basin at 19,000 feet where it joined the south-east ridge of East Nanda Devi, 24,391 feet,3 but not having enough supplies he could not descend into the basin.

1 See also Hugh Ruttledge's paper 'Nanda Devi' in the Himalayan Journal, vol. v, 1933, p. 28; and Lieut. P. R. Oliver's paper 'Dunagiri and Trisul' in the Himalayan Journal, vol. vi, 1934, p. 91. (Sketch-map, p. 92.)

2 This is the height shown on some maps. The officially accepted height according to Burrard's List is 25,645 feet.

3 See Hugh Ruttledge's paper in Himalayan Journal, vol. v, p. 28, for a summary of previous expeditions. East Nanda Devi is shown on some maps from old Survey of India records with a height of 24,379 feet. In the literature of Nanda Devi it is generally known as Nanda Devi East or East Nanda Devi. It is the lvii of the Survey records, and is so shown in Burrard's lists, Table V, p. 3 (.Sketch of the Geography and Geology of the Himalaya Mountains and Tibet).-Ed.

Dr. Longstaff himself strongly urged us to make our attempt to penetrate the inner sanctuary by the Rishi Ganga; and, if we were to carry enough supplies to enable us to remain there for a month, as we hoped, this seemed to be the only way. We allowed for the monsoon reaching us early in July and hoped to escape the worst of it by transferring our activities farther north to the Badrinath- Kedarnath watershed. This was the outline of our plan, but we had alternatives for varying circumstances of time, weather, and money. Perhaps I should have said money first, for it was round our lack of this that our plans revolved.

We left England on the 6th April, travelling by a Brocklebank steamer, whose owners had kindly given us special passage rates. Previous to sailing we certainly had not been overwhelmed by the work of organization, for the size of our party and its modest equipment made organization a simple task. We occupied the rather long- drawn-out voyage by working out estimates of times, weights, and costs, and by acquiring some very elementary knowledge of Hindustani, of which I previously knew nothing, and Ship ton little.

In Calcutta, which we reached on the 5th May, we waited two nights to meet the three Sherpas from Darjeeling, a delay memorable for the hospitality we enjoyed, and useful because of the assistance we received from the Himalayan Club, and in particular from Mr. G. B. Gourlay. We collected the Sherpas, reached Ranikhet on the 9th, and, within an hour of our arrival there, had engaged twelve Dotial porters and sent them on to await us at Baijnath. The following day we sorted and repacked our kit and stores, bought a few last necessities, and, at 6 a.m. on the nth, started for Baijnath with our thousand odd pounds of baggage. Here the Dotials met us, made up their loads and moved off without any fuss. We camped that night at Gwaldam, nine miles from Baijnath, somewhat worn, but very thankful to have seen the last of civilization for five months.

There is no need to dwell on the ten days' march to Joshimath by the Kuari pass, beautiful and interesting though it is, for it has been described before. Fine weather, magnificent scenery, pleasant mannered natives, all provided a graceful introduction to the Himalaya; marches of comfortable length, the nights in the open under clear, star-lit skies, and the bathes in snow-fed streams, attuned mind and body to the work ahead. Complete content was only denied us by our inability to get chickens, eggs, and milk, so that we began to encroach on our scanty supplies sooner than anticipated.

The last march was a long one. We left camp at six and were on the top of the Kuari an hour later, this display of energy on a clear, cold morning being rewarded by an unforgettable view of the Badrinath peaks and Kamet on the north, and all the rest right ro.und to Dunagiri and the Nanda Devi massif on the east. There was very little snow on the Kuari pass (12,400 feet), and we quickly dropped down, contriving to get separated on the way, the Sherpas and ourselves taking a high-level route and the coolies going by Tapoban and the Dhauli valley. They did not reach Joshimath till 5 o'clock and one, who subsequently quitted, not till next day.

Joshimath, where there is a dak bungalow and a post office, was to be our head-quarters till September and, though on the two occasions that we returned there we were glad to see it again, it was certainly not for its own sake nor for that of its inhabitants. The postmaster, however, was an exception to the rest and did all he could to help us in every way.

We had intended to take Bhotias from here up the Rishi Ganga, but the Dotials, now reduced to eleven, were so keen to come that we consented, with some misgiving, to employ them, after warning them clearly that the Rishi would be very different to the track from Ranikhet. On the 21 st May we started, having spent a day reorganizing loads, reducing our kit and bedding to 30 lb. each and the Sherpas' to 20 lb., and packing forty days' food for the five of us and ten days' food for the Dotials.

The lower part of the Rishi gorge has yet to be traversed, but there are two goat-tracks, one from Lata and the other from Tolma, which join and lead to a grazing alp, known as Durashi, high up on the northern side of the gorge, and which entirely avoid the lower seven miles of it. There is one drawback to this side-door entrance. The tracks cross the Lata ridge at a height of 14,700 feet, so that the earliest date on which laden porters can cross this snow-covered pass varies each season.

On the second day's march from Joshimath, Ship ton, Pasang, and I turned aside to climb Lata peak (12,624 feet), 6,000 feet up and 6,000 feet down, in order to set up the planetable and to identify some peaks on the rim of the basin. That night at Suraintota we collected eight more loads of atta and satu for the coolies and eight Bhotias to carry it. Loads were now reduced to 50 lb. From here the track climbs steeply and we slept the night of the 23rd at a little alp just below the tree line. In the morning the Bhotias said that they would come no farther, on the grounds that their rations, which were the same as those of the Dotials, were insufficient. The Dotials played up magnificently and came to the rescue, added all but two of the abandoned loads to their own, and carried very nearly 80 lb. each. The day continued as badly as it had begun; we spent it floundering in deep snow looking for the pass, which by evening we had definitely located, though we had not crossed it.

The next day we crossed, and after a little step-cutting on the traverse camped at the empty shepherds' huts of Durashi. Dibru- gheta, the next camp, was delightful, the alp being already brilliant with flowers, and we enjoyed plentiful shallots and wild rhubarb. Here the path ended, and the next two marches over difficult ground were trying for all of us, especially for the heavily laden Dotials. We toiled across innumerable gullies and pushed through thickets of bramble and rhododendron, gradually being forced down to the river. Instead of crossing this at the place used by our predecessors, we continued traversing along the north side until we were again driven down by cliffs, a quarter of a mile short of the Rhamani torrent. We crossed here by a hastily constructed bridge of birch and camped on the south bank opposite the junction of the Rhamani nullah, under a very hospitable overhang.

This was the farthest point hitherto reached, and we made it our base, sending back from here the Dotials, who were very pleased with the additional pay of the eight deserters, which they had so well earned. One day, the 29th May, was spent here checking the food and further lightening our baggage; and in the evening a short reconnaissance on the north bank, which was reached by a natural stone bridge, decided us to-attempt a traverse along the very steep southern side of the gorge.

Shipton and I left very early on the 30th, and climbing directly for a thousand feet commenced the traverse by a series of terraces seen the day before. Each section threatened to peter out on the face of an impassable cliff, but invariably some narrow but adequate step linked it with the next. At midday, having covered about two and a half miles, farther progress was barred by a great buttress towering thousands of feet above us, and the terrace we were on led down to the river. We were now only a mile from the point where the streams draining the north and south basins unite at the western foot of Nanda Devi, and once beyond the buttress, subsequently known as Tisgah', the country looked easy. The river did not appear very formidable and it seemed that a way might be found round the buttress. We were successful, but only after five extremely unpleasant crossings did we reach a point at which entrance to the promised land was assured. We returned and reached our base at six that evening well satisfied, but with some qualms about the river stretch, undoubtedly a very weak link in the chain.

There were 535 lb. of baggage to be transported into the basin, and the next four days were occupied in relaying loads to the end of the traverse. Some minor improvements were found, but generally the route was as at first, for there were few alternatives. In one or two exceptionally bad places we used fixed ropes and pitons, and at one spot the loads had to be hauled up; at a particularly 'thin' bit of the traverse we found no means of fixing a rope, and this mauvais pas, as we called it, remained to the end a nightmare which no amount of familiarity could dispel.

On the fourth day, the 3rd June, it snowed, and three o'clock found us wet and shivering, with all our possessions, regarding without enthusiasm the first of the five crossings. The river, too, looked higher, and when Shipton and I took a load across and fixed a rope we realized that it was now a different proposition. Ang Tarke and Pasang followed with much difficulty and we two returned for Kusang and another load each. It was, however, soon evident from the state of the Sherpas, our own battered feet, and the thought of the four more crossings, that this route would not do; but half the gear was already over, and, since there was an inviting overhang and half a dozen stunted birch trees, we decided to stop where we were.

A warm fire and a night's rest restored our shaken moral, and cutting down three of the birch trees we made a precarious bridge. Ang Tarke and I crossed back to see whether we could make anything of the buttress, while Shipton and Pasang started up the north bank. These two made little progress, but we were more fortunate, and having climbed about 1,500 feet of very steep rock and grass, another heaven-sent terrace took us across and beyond the buttress.

Next morning no time was lost in getting back to the south side, and during the day we made two journeys to a camp at the highest point of the route at about 13,000 feet. Even at that distance above the river I fancied that I could hear it grumbling at our escape.

From here the junction of the two streams within the basin was a bare mile away and it was clear that the north branch was the larger and was fed by the largest ice-field. It was now obvious that with our present supply of food we should not have time to explore both sections of the basin and we therefore decided to deal with the northern first. This entailed another crossing of the river which we now held in some respect, but on the 8th June we had established a camp at the snout of the main glacier, with nearly three weeks' supply of food.

Once within the basin, travel was delightfully easy-easier than anything we had experienced since leaving Suraintota. At its snout the glacier is about 200 feet thick, and at an altitude of 13,000 feet according to our barometer. On the side farthest from Nanda Devi gentle grass slopes came down to the moraine, juniper was plentiful, shallots grew profusely, and there was evidence of bharal everywhere. On the day we arrived we saw a herd of a dozen or more grazing on the spur of Nanda Devi that is washed by the two rivers.

Two miles above the snout the glacier bends at right angles to hug the eastern side of the mountain. Here it is joined by a larger glacier from the north. The junction of the two ice-streams seemed the obvious place to make our head-quarters and we established our camp on the side of the glacier farthest from Nanda Devi at a height of 15,000 feet. By recrossing the glacier, which took over an hour, the camp could be kept supplied with juniper.

On entering the basin we commenced our planetable survey, but found it very different work here from what our few lessons in Richmond Park had led us to expect. We found great difficulty in identifying peaks, particularly those on the rim, and in having enough in view to obtain a reliable resection. We soon made progress, however, and now we took light camps up two of the five subsidiary glaciers which descend from the rim to the east of the glacier junction. The Sherpas, after carrying the camp up, returned to the junction camp until we were ready to come down.

From the first of these camps, at 18,000 feet, there was a stupendous view of the north-east face of the Nanda Devi massif. Starting at Nanda Devi East and continuing beyond the main peak itself there is an appalling cirque of reddish-brown cliff draped with ice- fluting, and springing straight up from the glacier for 8,000 feet- surely the highest and steepest face in the world. For half-way along the northern shoulder the face is only slightly less grim; then it begins to splay out and ends in the spur round which the glacier bends at right angles. This spur was labelled by us the 'comic spur'; I thought that the north ridge could be gained from it and looked possible, but it would be to no purpose, for it ends abruptly in a steep cut-off where the main peak springs from the ridge.

In order to get a general idea of the topography we began our exploration by climbing one of the peaks on the rim, at about 21,000 feet. On the way we examined the descent to the Milam side from the col at the head of our subsidiary glacier and found it unattractive. The Milam valley appeared tantalizingly close beneath us, and beyond was a maze of peaks too complex to disentangle. On our return from this climb Shipton went down with some kind of fever and had to lie up for a day, after which we moved camp up another of the side glaciers. From here we completed the exploration and rough survey of the others. We also examined the col at the head of each, hoping to find an alternative way out of the basin, but from none did a route seem practicable.

We next moved the whole camp and supplies, less some food, up the great north glacier and pitched it in the middle of the moraine- covered and broken surface at 16,400 feet. On the way I collapsed with the same mysterious complaint that Shipton had had nearly a week before, and also had to lie up for a day. There are better places to lie on doing nothing than the middle of a glacier, especially when it means wasting a valuable day, but it was some consolation to feel that at least one day's food was being saved.

The head of the north glacier, which is nearly five miles long, appeared from its direction to lead over to the Bagini glacier from which Dr. Longstaff's party in 1907 had reached the Rhamani, and from the col a snow ridge offered a route up a peak, marked on the Survey of India map with an altitude of 22,900 feet, which appeared to be climbable. This last point gave it an irresistible attraction, for almost all of the many peaks we had seen so far had repelled us at the first glance.

We accordingly took a light camp to the head of the glacier and, avoiding the ice-fall by a rock shoulder on the right side, made a platform for the tent at about 18,500 feet. We kept Pasang with us; three in a Meade tent is wonderful for warmth, but one too many for comfort. An intricate ice-fall, followed by a long easy slope, led to the col. We reached it next morning in three hours, at 9 o'clock; its altitude was 20,500 feet and from it the fall was very steep to the Bagini below. We now began a desultory attack on the peak -desultory, at least, in my case, for I soon gave in. Shipton and Pasang went on, but returned presently, reporting dangerous snow; and the dispirited party ploughed back to camp through snow unspeakably vile.

The following day we made another attempt. Shipton and I started at 4.15 on the weary plug up to the col. With the help of the old tracks we reached by 9 o'clock the point where the other two had turned back. The snow, however, was bad and I was feeling too feeble to do my share of step-kicking; at 10 o'clock the summit was still a mile away and a thousand feet higher, and after some further ineffective floundering we gave in. It seemed impossible to reach decent snow and a late return over the crevassed ice-field might be dangerous. This second failure was regrettable; but it was not so much the failure as the waste of a precious day that rankled.

We now retreated to our main camp at the glacier junction, filling in the details of the north valley on our map en route. We now had only four days' food left for work in the basin. We considered a plan of sending the Sherpas back to Joshimath for another fortnight's supplies, but turned it down owing to the approach of the monsoon, which might make the river impassable. We therefore filled in the rest of the time as best we could by taking a light camp up another side valley, with designs on a peak marked '38' on our graticule sheet. For my part, I might have remained behind, for my foot, which had been giving trouble, was too sore for me to do anything. Ship ton put in a long day with the planetable on the ridge between us and the north valley while I crawled down again. The following day the Sherpas and I moved the camp back across the main glacier while Shipton went up the east branch again to get more detail for the map.

The weather now showed definite signs of change. On two of the days there was thick mist, and on the 25th June there was persistent drizzle. The Ghangabang glacier, whose snout was not far above the new camp, was still unexplored, but work on the planetable was now impossible. Not wishing to cut our food too fine we therefore packed up. The state of the river had been worrying us for some days. On our return from the north glacier signs of a rapid rise in general temperature had been very obvious; the grass was greener, many new flowers were in bloom, and the flow of all the smaller streams had increased alarmingly. By taking two bites at the cherry we hoped to avoid the consequences of all this melting. We therefore first crossed the stream that issued from the main glacier just below the snout (the cliffs of Nanda Devi prevented us from crossing the glacier), then traversed round the foot of the north-west ridge, and finally forded the southern branch stream. The main stream gave considerable trouble, but the other was easy-not easy enough, however, to make me think it worth my while to go back for a pair of socks unfortunately left on the far side!

We now pushed on as quickly as possible, for our supplies allowed for no unforeseen contingency, and with only one intermediate camp we reached the first base on the 27th June. Our dump of food left here was now found to be unaccountably short, and we could not afford to linger. We left behind whatever would be of use on our return here later in the year, but there was more to carry back than could be left, and we were heavily laden. The state of the river left us in no doubt that our old bridge must have been destroyed, so, after a short reconnaissance, we tried a new route crossing the now turbulent Rishi by the natural rock-bridge, ascending the Rhamani nullah for a thousand feet, and then fording the Rhamani stream. From here we followed a much higher traverse than that by which we had come, and found an easier and shorter way to Dibrugheta.

The shepherds and their flocks had now arrived at Durashi for the summer, and we drank all the goat's milk they would give us, so delectable was it. From the pass above Durashi, instead of descending to Suraintota, we followed the crest of the Lata ridge towards the peak of the same name, and then hit off a path which brought us down to Lata village in the Dhauli valley. A long day's march from the village through steady rain on the 2nd July brought us back once more to Joshimath, exactly six weeks after leaving it.

Letters from the Meteorological Department at Calcutta informed us that the monsoon might be expected to be 'established' in the United Provinces before mid-July, but ever since the 24th June we had experienced enough rain to make planetabling impossible and travel uncomfortable. We congratulated ourselves on having quitted the basin and now sentenced ourselves to a week's rest, plenty of milk, and whatever luxuries we could buy, for Shipton indicted us both on a charge of 'insufficient energy in the basin'. There was no prosecutor, but we accepted the sentence cheerfully.

The Badrinath-Kedarnath Watershed.

By going north towards the Tibetan border we now hoped to escape the main strength of the monsoon. During July, on the northern part of the Ganges watershed, the weather, though not good, did not seriously inconvenience us. But in August, while crossing the Badrinath-Kedarnath watershed, conditions were very bad and we learnt subsequently from our friends in Badrinath that the rains which fell during that month were some of the worst on record. It is worth mentioning, however, that not a single day was lost, nor were our plans altered in any way, on account of weather conditions, throughout the whole expedition. This was of course due to the fact that our primary object was exploratory travel and not climbing.

Our original plan, which circumstance, though not the weather, compelled us to alter, was to go from Badrinath up the Bhagat Kharak glacier and to cross the range to the Gangotri glacier. Mr. G. F. Meade visited the Bhagat Kharak in 1912; he had gained the water-parting and looked on to a glacier leading to the Gangotri, and it was this col-'Meade's Col', as we called it, though it had not actually been crossed-that we hoped to find. If successful we expected to be able to take over sufficient food for an exploration of the upper part of the Gangotri glacier, which, as far as we can ascertain, has not yet been visited.

There was some difficulty in getting coolies at Joshimath, but we eventually left on the 10th July with three of our own and three kindly lent us by a Public Works officer. We took supplies for a month, for we hoped to start the second Rishi trip about the middle of August. Local opinion differed widely about the slackening of the monsoon, some telling us that it eased in mid-August, others mid-September. The later date proved fairly correct.

It is two days' march along the pilgrim route from Joshimath to Badrinath, and a stiff pull-up from 6,000 feet to 10,300. The pilgrimage was in full swing and there was a constant stream of pilgrims, most on foot, some in dandies, and a few on ponies. I had always thought of pilgrims as a happy, care-free, lot; why, I hardly know, unless it was due to the 'happy band of pilgrims' in the hymn, or the Canterbury Tales. But here I had to readjust my ideas, for one and all looked weary and woebegone. The faces of those going up wore no look of joyful anticipation at the approaching consummation of their hopes, and of those returning, no satisfaction of desire fulfilled. Badrinath was a disappointment to us, for as we topped the last rise, passing the black tents of a Tibetan encampment and expectant of something in keeping with the savage surroundings, it was but a huddle of tin-roofed dwellings that marked the Hindu Mecca. We stayed at the dak bungalow and in the evening were honoured with a long visit from Ram Sirikh Singh, known locally as 'the Master'. A lover of mountains and mountain travel, and deeply learned in Hindu mythology and the traditions of these parts, he spends every summer here.

The six men returned to Joshimath, and the next morning we sat in the bazaar buying food and waiting hopefully for volunteers. By midday the tally of eight men was complete, and in this rather haphazard fashion we started, with three weeks' supplies for the five of us and six days' food for the coolies. Two miles up the valley from Badrinath is Mana, the last village on the Tibetan trade-route, a picturesque place of low stone houses, whose roofs are decorated with bundles of drying fuel and groups of gossiping men, for they appear to use the roof as we do a street-corner.

Some terrific upheaval must have taken place here in a distant past; the hill-side above Mana is a chaos of gigantic boulders, and the Saraswati, as the river coming from the Mana pass is called, flows here through a fearsome gorge half a mile in length and is bridged above and below by some of these boulders. The Alaknanda, which is regarded as the main source of the Ganges in these parts, flows in from the west and joins the Saraswati at Mana, and then southwards to join the Dhauli at Joshimath. Our path now lay up the Alaknanda westwards. It is a pleasant open valley well grazed by the Mana flocks and the home of many hermits living in caves. Pilgrims visit the waterfall Bhasudhara, three miles up the valley, which falls gracefully in a fine spray from a sheer wall of rock, and bathe ceremonially beneath it.

We camped a mile short of the snout of the Bhagat Kharak glacier on the north side of the river. Juniper was almost non-existent, but on the south bank, unfortunately quite inaccessible to us, was a fine spinney of birch, the only trees to be found until well below Badrinath. Next morning we got into trouble when crossing an inoffensive-looking side-stream. Pasang lost his footing, then his load, his ice-axe, and almost his life. The load fortunately grounded lower down, but in trying to stop it I lost my ice-axe, and the net result was two axes missing and Pasang severely shaken.

Arrived at the glacier we found very easy going on the north side between the moraine and the bounding wall of the valley; small alps were frequent and juniper once again plentiful. Seven miles from the snout we came on an old camp-site, which we judged must have been Meade's. We camped a mile beyond and near the junction of the sixth and last subsidiary glacier entering on the south side. The coolies were now sent back to Badrinath.

The head of the main glacier was surrounded by a cirque of cliff and no second glance was needed to tell us that there was no pass here, while a look round the corner at the head of the subsidiary sixth glacier disposed of the possibility there. From the camp we climbed a small but entertaining peak about 18,800 feet high to the south, and from its summit could see enough of two more side valleys to abandon the idea of our pass being there also; but we had a good view of the north side of the Bhagat Kharak, which was to prove useful later. We now moved camp back in relays across the glacier to 'Meade's Camp', as it was on grass instead of ice, and well suited for a move northwards.

The only possibility now was that there might be a reasonably easy col at the head of the first big subsidiary glacier which flows under the northern face of the Kunaling massif. This great snow peak dominates the valley and on the northern face is tier upon tier of hanging glacier whence the roar of avalanches seemed to be ever in our ears. The glacier up which we would have to go was forced close under this face by an opposing rock spur, and was apparently raked by this falling ice. Moreover the icefall at the junction of the two glaciers was steep and intricate, so that a heavily laden party seeking a route would be exposed to this bombardment for many hours. For these reasons the col at the head of the glacier was never examined, though from a subsequent conversation with Mr. Meade I believe that the col that he had indicated lay there. It is easy to be wise after the event, and perhaps the passage was less dangerous than it looked. Anyhow we turned it down and fell back on a fresh plan.

In 1931 the Kamet expedition had ascended the Arwa valley system and explored two cols at its head.1 It was obvious that the glacier the other side, which was not followed far, must lead to the Gangotri glacier. Our plan was now to force our way into the Arwa system, cross one of these cols, and trace the glacier to the Gangotri. From what we had already seen, there were indications of a possible route over the dividing ridge immediately north of Meade's Camp, and we at once set about relaying loads up this ridge. Meanwhile the weather, which had been so far good, began to deteriorate, and henceforth we experienced nothing but mist, rain, hail, and snow. After four days' work we established a camp on the top of the ridge at ig,8oo feet, with a supply of juniper. The Sherpas gave the name 'Shra La' to this pass.

1 Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, pp. 35-45.

The next day we devoted to climbing a peak (21,000 feet) on our ridge east of the col, while the Sherpas returned to the lower camp for the rest of the loads. It was a long and interesting ridge climb, and very enjoyable in spite of the fact that thick mist prevented us from seeing anything or taking any photographs. We started down the other side of the ridge the following day, moving the whole camp and twelve days' food in one shift, but reluctantly left the remnants of the juniper. The snow was horrible, as indeed it was during the whole of the trip; when possible we sent the loads down under their own steam, or towed them like sledges, with the natural result that everything was sopping wet when we reached the glacier. We were now on one of the southern branches of the Arwa at a height of 16,200 feet, and we pitched camp and tried to dry our things. The glacier, which drained roughly from west to east, we called ‘A'. Across it to the north two smaller glaciers came down to it. We chose the most westerly, at whose head appeared an easy col. The Arwa basin was notably different in character from the Bhagat Kharak and assumed a more Tibetan appearance, with more rounded and gentler slopes.

We plodded up the small glacier and crossed the col at 18,000 feet, to find the far side equally accommodating, so that we plunged down the snow slopes to a camp on the neve of 'B' glacier, at 17,000 feet, another of the Arwa's five branches. From here we could make out the position of 'Birnie's pass', though it was still two miles away and higher than we expected. Hopes, depressed by the soft snow and heavy loads, now began to revive. The pass (19,400 feet) was gained next day after flogging through the most gruelling snow yet encountered by us, and descending a short steep glacier, we camped at 17,000 feet on a big moraine-covered glacier flowing almost due west. The early morning portent of a large halo round the sun had resulted in a beast of a day with snow and drizzle, but a momentary clearing in the evening gave us a glimpse of what we thought must be the western wall of the Gangotri valley, and, having also the luxury of water at hand, instead of snow to melt, we went to bed in cheerful spirits.

Two days' travel down the glacier brought us on to the Gangotri glacier. What pleasure the first flowers and grass and a small herd of bharal gave us! Our camp was at 14,000 feet on a pleasant alp 21 miles from the snout, Gaumukh, the Cow's Mouth, to which we walked on the day of our arrival. The going on the right-hand side was bad; it took 2 ½ hours to reach Gaumukh. After taking some photographs we returned by the grass-covered moraine of the left side and recrossed the glacier from a point opposite to our camp. If we had seen nothing else on the trip, the sight of the amazing spire of the 'Matterhorn Peak', south-west of our camp across the glacier, would have been ample reward; and many were the films we exposed endeavouring to do it justice.

The quarter-inch map, 53/N, corrected in 1926, is very incorrect here, the most serious fault being the omission of a big glacier on the east side coming in between ours and Gaumukh.[1] We had not brought the planetable with us this time, but made a rough compass traverse from the start of the Bhagat Kharak to our camp here, which appears to fit in fairly well.

By now our food was insufficient to allow time for exploring the Gangotri beyond the point reached by the Pallis Expedition of 1933,[2] and we decided to return as quickly as possible in order to carry out another scheme of work up the Satopanth glacier. In two days we were back at the foot of 'Birnie's pass' and clearer weather made it possible to sketch in more accurately the numerous side- glaciers to the north and south. The gully which leads up to the col on the west side is unpleasantly loose and steep, and we made a special effort to tackle it while the stones were still frozen up. Pushing past our old camp on 'B' glacier, instead of recrossing the pass to ‘A', we carried on down to the snout and then followed the valley south, finally camping at the point where glacier 'A' terminates. The next day the Sherpas ascended this glacier and retrieved a small dump of food left there. Two long marches from here, by the Arwa valley and the Saraswati below Ghastoli, took us back to Badrinath on the 2nd August.

It was jolly to be back in Badrinath, for the people seemed much more friendly than those of Joshimath and always willing to help. We were given some remarkably fine apples and the Sherpas recklessly spent five rupees on a goat. Our friend, £the Master', we were told, was in camp up the Rishi Ganga, a small stream descending from the beautiful peak of Nilkanta (21,640 feet). This stream enters on the right bank of the Alaknanda just below Badrinath, and is not to be confused with the Rish Ganga of Nanda Devi. It was rather humiliating to find that when we spoke of the Rishi Ganga everybody understood us to mean this little stream, and not the one which loomed so large and famous in our minds, which was here almost unknown. 'The Master's' custom was to spend much of his time in solitary study and meditation. One can imagine no more inspiring a hermitage than a grassy alp nestling at the foot of the perfectly formed Nilkanta. We spent a morning with him here to relate our doings and to talk over our next move.

There is a tradition that in bygone days the temples at Badrinath and Kedarnath were served by a single priest who found it no great trouble to officiate at both on one and the same day. The two temples are but twenty-four miles apart, as the crow flies, but as the map shows, they are separated by a great 20,ooo-foot barrier of snow and ice. If the tradition is to be believed, then indeed 'there were giants in those days'. We were keen to see if we could find a route between these two ancient centres of worship, and, by way of encouragement, 'the Master', who had been some way up the Satopanth glacier, thought that the col at the head of it would 'go'. To establish the possibility of a direct route from Badrinath it would be enough to reach the Madmaheswar valley, without actually going to Kedarnath.

The Satopanth Glacier and Madmaheswar valley.

On the 5th August we once more took the road to Mana with four local porters carrying twelve days' food for ourselves and five for them. Instead of entering Mana we turned off short, and taking the south side of the Alaknanda camped by the little forest of birch-trees at which we had gazed longingly from our fuel-starved camp opposite, four weeks before. We talked all the way of the noble blaze we were going to have, but it was otherwise ordained, for we spent the evening nursing a pitiful flame which a driving rain endeavoured to quench.

The snouts of the Bhagat Kharak and Satopanth glaciers unite at the foot of the ridge running up to Kunaling, but the Satopanth is the lesser of the two. It provides even better going than its fellow, with, on its south side, a succession of grassy flats, some forming the setting for the turquoise and emerald jewels of little lakes. When there were no flats there was a moraine to follow, its crest worn to a smooth path by the feet of many goats, and even over the surface of four lateral glaciers there was a rudimentary track.

We camped on the third day from Badrinath at the spot where the moraine terminated, high up at 15,700 feet on the south side of the valley, apparently the abode of some local deity, for there was a stone shrine and a prayer flag. The whole valley, indeed, must be of some sanctity, for we saw many such marks of devotion. The camp was about five miles from the snout of the glacier, and the crest of the col was probably another two miles away. We had had eyes for little else but the col and the ice-fall below it ever since setting foot on the glacier. It appeared encouragingly low and not unduly steep; to within a few hundred feet of the top we could see a way; beyond it looked broken and crevassed. The giant Kunaling, flanking it on the north, stood so far back that there was no danger from avalanches on that side, and the ridge running south and east from the col was lower and too steep to hold much snow. So much was clear; but what happened on the other side was the question, and our arguments on this point were more remarkable for heat than topographical science. Ship ton was confident that we should get on to the head of the Gangotri, while I believed that we would reach the Kedarnath side of the watershed, according to the compass bearings and the triangulated peaks of our map.

We sent the local coolies back the same afternoon, thus giving ourselves a little extra food, and started the next morning for the pass, carrying all the kit and nine days' food. Military text-books say: 'Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted'; but rules are meant to be broken, and reconnaissance here would have entailed too much labour. The lower parts of the ice-fall were not quite so straightforward as we had expected, but all went well until we were stopped by an unbridged crevasse about 1,000 feet from the top. It extended right across the glacier, and, try as we might, we could find no way over. A cursory examination of the rock ridge to the south, however, gave us a gleam of hope. To get on to these rocks we must descend over a thousand feet; when we got down, it was 3 o'clock and snowing hard, so we camped on the snow at 16,700 feet and left the rocks for the morrow.

A subdued and chastened party roped up at the foot of the rocks on a dull, wet morning. As we slowly gained height our spirits rose and we felt better when we had safely crossed a stone shoot which had made an extremely unfavourable impression on us from below. Wet, slippery rocks and heavy loads do not go well together, but at 2 o'clock we stepped from the rocks to the comparative security of a snow ridge which brought us close to the col and slightly above it. The day had never been favourable, and now we were enveloped in a thick mist; we seemed to be moving over a large snowfield and we advanced cautiously in a south by west direction, descending hardly at all. Fifteen minutes of this was more than enough; it was hopeless to go on thus blindly; we therefore pitched camp where we were at 18,400 feet and prayed for fine weather.

No clearing came that evening nor early next morning, but at 8 a.m., in gently falling snow, Shipton and I went on for a short half-mile till stopped by an ice-fall. We sat here waiting until, with dramatic suddenness, a clearing came. A green valley, incredibly far below us, and the hills to the south showed that we were undoubtedly looking into the Madmaheswar valley, and not into the Gangotri. But of more interest at the moment was the way down. The glacier we were on descended in three exceedingly steep ice-falls, separated from each other by small ice-plateaux. Before the mist closed down again we were able to work out a route through the first ice-fall. The Sherpas had packed up by now and we descended the first thousand feet without difficulty. Above the second ice-fall, however, a crevasse stopped us on the right, and we traversed back a mile to the left before halting to take stock of our position.

At our backs was another col which would probably have taken us over the watershed again and down to the valley which lies to the south of Nilkanta. If the ice-fall defeated us we could retreat by this route. From the map and from what we had seen, the descent was certain to be very steep indeed, for we had to drop 7,000 feet in less than three miles. Shipton and I were rather despondent about it. However, we packed up again and started down at a furious pace, across the track of an avalanche. At the top of the third ice-fall we dumped our loads, for again it looked as though we had reached the end of our tether, the ice heeling over into space in a terrifying manner.

But now, the Sherpas seemed to catch fire and would not hear of retreat. Whether it was the pure zeal of the explorer, the challenge of a difficult climbing problem, or the Badrinath goat meat, which inspired them, I do not know; but we both feel that the crossing of this pass was due to them. Shipton led us down for another 200 feet through a maze of crevasses to a little rock outcrop where we unroped and sat down gloomily. Not so the Sherpas, who tried all the likely and unlikely places, until even they were ready to give in. We began to rope up to return to the loads. However, close by, at the edge of the ice-fall there was a gully, which, if we could get into it, would take us down. The 50 feet of rock down which we must first climb had been voted hopeless already; and it was overhung by ice at the top and by hanging glaciers across the gully. At the last moment Ang Tarke darted off for a final look at it, disappeared round the corner, and just as we were beginning to feel anxious for his safety, reappeared with his face wreathed in smiles to say that the rock would 'go'.

We now brought the loads down to the rock outcrop and camped there at 16,300 feet, as it was now dark. Next morning before breakfast we tackled the wall, before the sun got to work on the ice above it. By a strange perversity, on the one morning when the sun was unwelcome, he chose to rise in a clear sky! We lowered the loads down to Ang Tarke in the gully as fast as our numbed fingers would allow, and then climbed down ourselves-a most grisly place!- Shipton coming last en rapelle. We sped down the gully exulting, but fast as we went, it was a long time before we were down on the dry glacier. We now crossed to the right-hand moraine and followed it for a mile to the snout; then, plunging into a horrible tangle of thorn bush, sat down at midday to a belated breakfast.

It was by no means the kind of valley we had expected, and we struggled on with bush over our heads and boulders under foot. Towards evening the river which we were following plunged vertically downwards for several hundred feet. It was raining too hard to see what happened beyond and we therefore pitched camp (11,500 feet) at 5.15 p.m. Satisfaction at having crossed the pass was now mingled with doubt about the country ahead. What concerned us most was a tributary river entering from the north which would have to be crossed; once more we debated whether it would not be wiser to recross the pass while there was time. But the lure of the unknown, assisted possibly by the thought of going up that rock wall, decided us to go on.

In the morning, after some delay, we found a way down the cliff, lowering the loads and coming down ourselves en rapelle, the rope being anchored rather hazardously to a juniper root; but the going continued indescribably bad and by 2 o'clock we had travelled only three-quarters of a mile. For the next two hours we enjoyed rather easier conditions, pushing through a forest of beautiful blue flowers on 8-foot stems, until we emerged in pine forest close to the river we expected and feared. It was running in a narrow gorge which higher up appeared to close over and span the river by a natural bridge. The Sherpas were confident of the bridge, and Kusang declared that he could make out a track leading to it on the opposite bank. We started to climb up towards this heaven-sent 'bridge'; but when we came upon quantities of tree mushrooms and a convenient spring of water we agreed to call our day's work done, for it was already getting dark.

What a camp that was! The fragrant smell of the great pines, the soft carpet of pine needles beneath us, the mushrooms and tender bamboo shoots off which we dined, the blazing fire round which we lay and dried our sodden clothes; and as if this were not enough to make us happy, was not the dreaded river safely bridged? and was there not a path to lead us from the wilderness? It was raining cheerfully in the morning, as it had been doing off and on since we left the glacier, and we made a leisurely start, struggling up through the forest till on a level with the supposed bridge. When we obtained a clear view our spirits fell: there was no bridge, nor any hope of crossing higher up. The only place where we could reach the water was close to the junction of the two rivers. We therefore returned to camp, dumped the loads, and examined the junction to see whether it could be bridged. We found two flat-topped boulders with a span of about 20 feet between them, but it was now too late to do anything beyond felling a couple of straight pines with Ang Tarke's kukri, before darkness forced us to return to camp.

The camp was the same, but our outlook had changed, our complacency of the night before had received a jolt. The first village, Gaundar, shown by our map to be eight miles away, might not exist. Unless the going improved it might take five or six days to reach it. Such atta and satu as remained was wet and rapidly going bad. We had not advanced a yard to-day and the river was not yet crossed. If all went well our food would just last, but to allow for contingencies we resolved to live on bamboo shoots while we could. Ang Tarke had shown us the value of these and they grew in profusion here and would probably continue down to 8,000 feet.

On the 14th August we went down to the river early, shot the two cut trees down a steep gully above the bridge site, and quickly cut two more. In getting the last two down Pasang received a severe blow on the foot from a falling stone which rendered him dead lame and incapacitated him from load-carrying for the rest of the trip. Apart from this disaster we made a good job of the bridge, and after a rest to give Pasang a chance to get over the shock, we redistributed his load and resumed the struggle with the forest. We gained nearly two miles this day before camping in a steady deluge of rain; but we were well accustomed to it by now and my diary only notes the moments when it stopped. The Sherpas ran up a bamboo shelter under cover of which we at last had a fire going and huddled round it to eat our bamboo supper.

Before starting on the morning of the 15 th we abandoned what we could spare in order to lighten our waterlogged loads. I was luckily able to contribute the heaviest victim, a 1oo-foot climbing rope. We expected to reach another tributary of the Madmaheswar that day, an unwelcome obstacle, but we now felt that with pine trees and a kukri we could get over anything. However, no bridging was needed, for after an hour's search we found a way over by rocks and a fallen tree. We camped high up on the far side at 5.15 p.m. There was no water but we soon collected enough by spreading the tents. We could only put the day's run at not more than a mile and a half, and there were only a few handfuls of bad satu left.

The 16th was a critical day with a maximum of difficulty. Gully followed gully, each choked with almost impenetrable growth of bush and bramble which covered and concealed a chaos of boulders. Between the gullies the hill-side was slippery, strewn likewise with boulders and densely overgrown with bamboo. In the evening we almost trod on a black bear; he was as frightened as we were and fortunately cleared off. We halted at 5.30 p.m. The most generous estimate could not credit us with more than a mile's progress on this day, and there were still four more to Gaundar.

Next day we tried to do better by an earlier start, fewer halts, and a later finish. In the afternoon we came across a cave which was evidently visited by native shikaris, a fact that gave us some encouragement; before nightfall we had the luck to find an overhang under which we passed a more than usually wet night. It was below the bamboo zone and we repented our laziness in not having brought some shoots. But we were now fourteen days from Badrinath and, we estimated, only two miles from Gaundar; we therefore determined to know before the 18th was over whether Gaundar had survived the fifty odd years since its existence had been noted by the map-makers. On this day the sun gave us some fitful but encouraging gleams, and in defiant mood we finished our food, a proceeding less rash than it sounds, for there was only half a cupful of satu each.

At first the going was, if possible, a shade worse than that of the 17th, and we had only made three-quarters of a mile by midday, when we broke out of the forest upon the long grass of an ungrazed kharak. We hurried to the next rise and saw, on the far side of the river, a small patch of cultivation. Evidently the map had not let us down, for hurrying on we soon sighted Gaundar itself, a little hamlet of four houses. The old patriarch who met us was surprised almost out of his wits; almost, but not quite, for he retained sufficient grip of himself to raise the price of atta to several times its current price; but we were too thankful to haggle.

From Gaundar a footpath follows the valley for ten miles down to Kalimath, where it crosses the Mandakini river and joins the pilgrim route to Kedarnath, which is about eighteen miles away. In two days we were on the pilgrim route, and had we gone on to Kedarnath it would have taken us eighteen days altogether from Badrinath. We felt that the mountaineering priest of olden time could have taught us a lot. To those interested in records I commend an attempt to beat his fine performance!

There is another interesting path from Gaundar which crosses the Madmaheswar above the village and follows the ridge on the south side for three or four miles to a temple of that name. It is occupied by a solitary priest and is occasionally visited by the hardier pilgrims. Heavier rain than ever accompanied us down the valley, and on joining the pilgrim route we turned south, not having time to visit Kedarnath, much as we would have liked to do. We stopped a night at Ukimath where there is an important temple whose officials were intensely interested to hear that we had come from Badrinath. They lodged us in the temple guest room, fed us, and the secretary lent me a pair of trousers. The Rawal of the temple, as are those of Kedarnath and Badrinath, is a Brahmin of south India, and the temple secretary, who I believe in time becomes the Rawal, is also from Madras.

From here to Joshimath is a six days' march over a good bridlepath. At Ghamoli in the Alaknanda valley, at only 3,500 feet, we were again on the pilgrim route from Karnaprayag to Badrinath. We reached Joshimath on the 26th August, rejoicing to see that the rain was lessening day by day, and much refreshed by a week of comfortable travel. Pasang was still lame and unable to carry a load, but we hoped that after a few days' rest he would be able to come with us once more up the Rishi Ganga.

The South Side of Nanda Devi.

We regretted that we should not have our Dotials with us on our second trip to Nanda Devi, the more so since coolies are difficult to get in Joshimath, and as difficult to keep when obtained. But the Mana men had impressed us favourably, and before leaving there we had arranged with a man called Alum Singh, who had been with Mr. Meade in 1912, to recruit twelve men for us. On reaching Joshimath we sent Ang Tarke up to Badrinath, and he was back with the men in three days.

We left on the 30th August with fifteen coolies carrying thirty days' food for us and twelve days' food for themselves; but we hoped, by sending spare men back as food was dumped and eaten, to be able to keep the last men till everything was carried into the basin. The weather was better but still gave us anxiety on account of the lack of waterproof bags for the food. Taking the route by which we had returned, we found at Durashi that the shepherds were preparing to leave for the winter. We reached our old base on the 5th September, the only incident being the crossing of the Rhamani, which some of the locals did not like. One old warrior, who had filled the important post of egg-carrier to the 1931 Kamet expedition, had to be carried across, but with some excuse, for on a previous occasion he had nearly lost his life in one of these rivers. At the base our dump of oddments had apparently been under water, but no harm had been done except the rotting of a hundred feet of rope. Thirteen coolies now remained, and we had no hesitation in taking them with fairly light loads along the traverse, for, though slow, we found these Mana men very safe on rock and impervious to wet and cold.

In two days we reached the high camp (14,500 feet) above the 'Pisgah' buttress, the mauvaispas and other tricky places having been passed without any trouble; indeed the coolies with their bare feet were safer than we were, and crossing the mauvais pas Shipton and I took off our boots. Three more of them returned from here, and we asked the remaining ten for a special effort on the next and last march for them. They responded nobly. By 11 o'clock we were opposite the junction and then followed three miles of fast easy going. These southern slopes were like rolling moors of short grass, in violent contrast to the opposite side of the river which had an endless alternation of buttress and gully, rising precipitously from the water.

Bharal were very numerous, but the scarcity of juniper was disappointing. We camped at 14,500 feet at 2 p.m., having outrun the last supplies of this necessary fuel. We were then about half a mile from the snout of the glacier which almost at once divided in two, one branch continuing due south and the other curling round to the east under the mountain and terminating four miles up under East Nanda Devi. Opposite the camp was the cone of a fallen avalanche from one of the gullies, which completely bridged the river.

The Mana men were paid off that evening; they had enjoyed the trip, but, shepherds as they were, they were sad to see such quantities of grass growing to no better purpose than to feed a few bharal.

When we had left Joshimath it was with a mighty resolve not to return that way. We had so far burnt our boats as to send our remaining kit back to Ranikhet. We hoped to find a way out of the basin by the col at the foot of the south ridge of East Nanda Devi, on which Dr. Longstaff had stood in 1905. If we failed to do that we had a second string to our bow at the head of the southern branch of the glacier. In 1932 Mr. Ruttledge had gone up the Maiktoli or Sundardhungha valley with the intention of climbing the surrounding wall at that point and so gaining an entrance to the basin.1 It had not proved possible from that side, but he had told us to go and have a look at it, and it might prove less formidable from the opposite direction.

We began by walking up the left (true) side of the eastern branch. It was very misty, but we saw enough of what we called 'Longstaff's Col' to decide us to leave it alone. It looked over 19,000 feet, and near the top, where it was very steep, we suspected ice. By now our boots were past their best, two of the Sherpas had no ice-axes, and we should be heavily laden.

Our next move was to take five days' food up the south glacier. Neither of these two main southern glaciers is as big as those on the northern side, nor are there as many lateral branches. The eastern glacier is only a quarter of a mile wide and about four miles long, the southern perhaps half a mile wide and very little longer. The going was easy, first on grass on the west bank and then on the glacier itself, dry and flat. We camped three and a half miles up, in the lee of an inadequate boulder as shelter from a sharp snowstorm. The aneroid indicated 17,700 feet, but now for the first time it began to play pranks, and we had to rely more on our own judgement. We estimated our height here at 17,000 feet. The col we believed to be the one suggested by Mr. Ruttledge was, at a guess, another two miles on. It looked about 18,000 feet and the approach was by an easy snow slope. At first we intended to reconnoitre, but every day the mist had been down at an early hour and we realized that we should have to camp there if we were to see anything. Furthermore, if it at all resembled the Satopanth pass, as seemed likely, for the drop to Maiktoli was 6,000 feet, no reconnaissance unless carried right down to the bottom would be any use.

When ascending the glacier we had been attracted by the sight of East Trisul (22,320 feet), and it was the more tempting as there appeared to be no climbing difficulties. Accordingly we left next morning to place a camp at about 20,000 feet, in order to climb the peak on the following day. From the start I went so badly that at 19,000 feet I returned to camp with Pasang. The other three successfully climbed the peak. From a camp at about 20,000 feet they started at 5.20 a.m. and were on the summit by 10 o'clock, though the snow was powdery and exhausting. At 12.30 they were back at the high camp, and at 3.30 rejoined us on the glacier.

Meanwhile I had started planetabling, and the day after their return we established a new base half-way between our glacier camp and the base camp. Here we brought everything except 60 lb. of satu which would be enough to take us back by the Rishi, if it became necessary. A more pleasant site for a base camp would be difficult 1 to find, for it was situated in a meadow of short grass, sheltered by the moraine and huge boulders, with a clear stream running past the tents. It was at about 16,000 feet, but the nights were now fine enough to allow us to sleep out again. What a 'bedroom' it was! As dawn banished sleep, the opening eyes rested full upon the majestic outline of the 'Blessed Goddess' and watched the rosy light steal gently down her east-turned face.

Himalayan Journal, vol. v, 1933, p. 30.

Next morning we took a two-day camp up the east glacier. On the south side grass slopes continue almost to the head where a short lateral glacier enters from the south, and here we made camp at about 17,300 feet, sending the Sherpas down.

Facing us across the glacier was the serrated rock ridge which higher up curls round and merges in the snow-covered south ridge of Nanda Devi. It was to reconnoitre this ridge that we had come. We gained the crest 1,000 feet above the glacier by scree slopes. It was impossible to follow the saw-tooth arete, but we crossed over it and traversed along the north-east side. At 19,000 feet the serrated ridge joins the rock buttress at the foot of the main south ridge, and we reached it at this point by a snow slope. The south ridge is here a narrow ridge of rock and snow, rising at an easy angle and continuing thus up to about 22,000 feet. It then broadens out and joins the much steeper snow-covered rock of the south face. What the last 3,000 feet are like is hard to say; they are certainly steep, but under favourable conditions look climbable. Having seen all sides of the mountain we concluded that this offers the only possible route. Yet from below this had appeared hopeless; we were surprised at the ease of the lower part: an experience which bears out the mountain 'proverb'-'Rub your nose in a place before saying whether it will "go" or not!'

At about 20,500 feet we turned back, having taken many photographs, for at last we enjoyed a brilliantly fine day. Before returning to the base camp next day we climbed a thousand feet up the ridge south of the camp for photography and planetabling, during which time the Sherpas arrived to take the loads down and amused themselves by collecting prodigious rocks for a cairn, a hobby of theirs.

It was now time to straighten our final plans. We were not very happy about the way out of the basin and were anxious to settle it one way or the other. We still had food for twelve days, but had seen all the basin. If we now went for the pass and failed after three or four days, there would still be enough food to attempt 'Longstaff's Col', if we felt like it. On the other hand, if we crossed at the first attempt, we should lose about six days' climbing. Finally we decided to start at once, take everything with us, and if successful to spend the rest of our time up the Sukeram glacier or elsewhere.

On the 17th September we camped at the foot of the snow slope leading to cRuttledge's Col'. Coming to this camp our loads made such an unpleasant impression that we jettisoned a few more oddments here: old shoes, old clothes, plates, &c., with which the Sherpas crowned their last cairn, an astonishing creation which surpassed all previous ones. We were away before 8 a.m., treading on hard snow which happily lasted for a third of the way. Thereafter it assumed that trying form of a hard crust, which for a few steps remains firm and then lets one through. It was hot before we reached the col at 18,500 feet; here we had a long rest and set up the planetable for the last time. There was a glorious view down to the Rishi junction with Changabang standing out beyond.

After descending a few hundred feet we were stopped by an ice- fall. Dumping our loads we went forward to reconnoitre. On the left was a stone-swept gully, on the right some ice-swept slabs, and in the centre a very difficult ice-fall. We returned to the loads and made camp, for we were quite prepared to adopt siege tactics, if necessary. After some food we felt better, and towards 4 o'clock roped and went down to have another look. We dismissed the gully and slabs at once, but after some false starts we worried a way down for about 500 feet. We could also see a possible route for another 500, but it was getting late and cold, so we hurried back to camp.

The next morning our boots were so wet that we waited till the sun was up in order to avoid frostbite. The nights were now much colder and the snow was good at first. In an hour we had reached yesterday's farthest point and were safely past some very unstable seracs. Below we twisted and dodged as before, encountering some steep pitches down which we lowered the loads, the snow ever getting softer and softer. In the early afternoon we reached dry glacier where the angle eased off, but with our loads and boots with worn- out nails it was difficult to walk without cutting steps. A little lower we halted to brew some tea and to take council. Ahead of us the glacier swept down with a last ice-fall, the steepest of all. On the right were some easy rocks, though separated from us by a 40-foot ice-wall and a gully, the target of debris from the great ice terrace thousands of feet above.

We took the latter route, lowered the loads down the wall and ourselves followed en rapelle, anchoring the rope to an ice-bollard which we hacked out. We were soon across the gully, and pleased to find ourselves on dry land again set up camp. Except for the seracs and this gully our route was free from danger, but our tents were hardly up when fragments of some falling serac came bounding down the gully, pieces falling harmlessly near the camp.

We were still 3,000 feet above the Maiktoli glacier, and from camp we could not see a way down, for the slopes we were on dropped precipitously out of sight. Drying our things delayed us till 10 o'clock next morning, but on starting we were soon held up by a cut-off down which loads had to be lowered. Shortly afterwards, during a repetition of this performance, one of the rucksacks shed most of its contents. The aneroid only bounced twice before fetching up in a gully, some hundreds of feet below. A tin of ghi also scattered its contents far and wide, but very little of this was wasted; for what the Sherpas did not eat was either put on their hair or on our boots!

The way became steeper as we descended. We groped our way in a thick mist expecting every moment to be stopped by a precipice. When it cleared a little we sent Ang Tarke on to reconnoitre, and, by a brilliant piece of route-finding, he spotted the only possible line down a place which appeared to us quite hopeless. We reached the level glacier at 2 p.m., close to the foot of an ice-fall, and found a stone shelter used by shepherds. From here a track led down by the right side of the glacier which appears to be fed almost entirely by avalanches falling from the rim of the basin above and the slopes of East Trisul. The path crossed several of these avalanche cones and two miles down we camped by another stone shelter. The shepherds had apparently left some weeks before. It was a curious place, with lush grass all round and less than 300 feet above a big ice-fall. This Maiktoli valley is exceptionally steep-sided, and the three glaciers which fill the cirque appear to stand on their heads, so steep are they.

Now that we were down we experienced an 'end-of-the-season' feeling and decided to bring our wanderings to an end. Anything too soon after the descent from the col would seem stale, flat, and unprofitable. Accordingly, at Sundardhunga, instead of turning up the Sukeram valley, we forded the river (quite as cold and frightening as the rest of them), and got on to the track which descends to the valley of the Pindar. Here we joined the well-known route to the Pindari glacier, and at Sameswar on the 27th September we boarded the bus for Ranikhet.

The end of an already long account is no place for a summary of the topographical results, but it would not be right to close without a tribute to the Sherpas through whom we were able to carry out all we planned. For nearly five months we had lived and climbed together, and the more we saw of them the more we liked and respected them. That they can climb and carry loads is now taken for granted; but even more valuable assets to our small self-contained party were their cheerful grins, their willing work in camp and on the march, their complete lack of selfishness, their devotion to our service. To be their companion was a delight; to lead them, an honour.

In addition to the enjoyment of such a journey we had had it in mind to show that an expedition can be run on very modest lines, and yet achieve something worth while. The present generation of climbers at home can only be grateful that British officers in India have left so much to be done. What better way of showing gratitude than to accept with both hands.

1 The Brocklebank Line were kind enough to take us out and back on a cargo boat for £30 each. Indian Railways gave small reductions for travel in India. We did not stop a night in a hotel during the trip.

[1] The map referred to was published in 1882, reprinted in 1926 with corrections from extra-departmental sources only. Captain Birnie corrected on the map the topography of the Arwa system, but unfortunately the maps drawn in Calcutta and London from his material do not agree. The London version, published in the Geographical Journal, vol. lxxix, p. 7, is stated to be more correct by Mr. J. B. Auden of the Geological Survey of India, who was there in 1932, than the one in the Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, p. 44. In 1933 Mr. Kirkus supplied a small sketch-map of the Gangotri glacier made during the Marco Pallis expedition that year. The difficulty of fitting this sketch-map and Captain Birnie's are described in the footnote in the Himalayan Journal, vol. vi, 1934, p. 113. (In that note Mr. Auden is stated to have corrected Captain Birnie's map; this statement is erroneous.) No regular survey work has taken place in this region for fifty years, and merely a reconnaissance map had been made before then. It is quite time that a reliable map by rigorous methods were made.-Ed.

[2] Himalayan Journal, vol. VI, 1934, pp. 106 sqq.

Hauling loads in the Rishi Ganga Gorge below ‘Pisgah’

Hauling loads in the Rishi Ganga Gorge below ‘Pisgah’

Climbing a cliff ladder near Trun in the chayal Chu valley, Upper Subansiri See page 144(Photo: G. Sherriff)

Climbing a cliff ladder near Trun in the chayal Chu valley, Upper Subansiri See page 144(Photo: G. Sherriff)

The Inner Sanctuary of Nanda Devi

The Inner Sanctuary of Nanda Devi

North face of Nanda Devi, 25,645 ft.

North face of Nanda Devi, 25,645 ft.

North face of Nanda Devi East, 24,391 ft. The main peak of Nanda Devi is on the right

North face of Nanda Devi East, 24,391 ft. The main peak of Nanda Devi is on the right

Enclosing Wall and Head of Glacier tributary, right bank, Bhagat Kharak

Enclosing Wall and Head of Glacier tributary, right bank, Bhagat Kharak

Peaks and Wall enclosing Bhagat Kharak right-bank tributary

Peaks and Wall enclosing Bhagat Kharak right-bank tributary

Avalanche Peak, Arwa Ststem, from Glacier to the South

Avalanche Peak, Arwa Ststem, from Glacier to the South

Looking back Bhagat-KharakArwa Watershed Pass

Looking back Bhagat-KharakArwa Watershed Pass

South East Rim of Basin from about 19,500 feet on Nanda Devi SE. Ridge

South East Rim of Basin from about 19,500 feet on Nanda Devi SE. Ridge

Nanda Devi Main Peak, 25,645 feet, from the South

Nanda Devi Main Peak, 25,645 feet, from the South

Peak 21,858 feet from Sundardhunga Col

Peak 21,858 feet from Sundardhunga Col

Sundardhunga Valley

Sundardhunga Valley