Himalayan Journal vol.07
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.07

Publication year:
1935

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. NANDA DEVI AND THE SOURCES OF THE GANGES
    (H.W. Tilman)
  2. THE GERMAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (FRITZ BECHTOLD)
  3. DIARY JOTTINGS NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (CAPTAIN R. A. K. SANGSTER)
  4. THE SCIENTIFIC WORK OF THE GERMAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION TO NANGA PARBAT, 1934
    (I. GENERAL r. finsterwalder)
  5. A VISIT TO NUN KUN, 1934
    (LIEUT. J. B. HARRISON)
  6. THE PROBLEM OF KANGCHENJUNGA
    (F. S. SMYTHE)
  7. TRAVERSES IN NEPAL
    (J. B. AUDEN)
  8. NOTES ON EASTERN AND CENTRAL NEPAL
    (LIEUT.-COLONEL KENNETH MASON)
  9. SIWALIK EROSION
    (A.P.F. Hamilton)
  10. THE FORESTS OF TIBET
    (Captain F. KINGDON WARD)
  11. SIKKIM RHODODENDRONS
    (P. C. DUNCAN)
  12. ON THE MAP OF THE ZEMU GLACIER
    (RICHARD FINSTERWALDER)
  13. THE GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY OF THE HIMALAYA
    (Lieut.- Colonel Kenneth Mason)
  14. EXPEDITIONS
  15. IN MEMORIAM
  16. NOTES
  17. REVIEWS
  18. CORRESPONDENCE
  19. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  20. CLUB NOTICES
  21. LIBRARY NOTICES

SIKKIM RHODODENDRONS

P. C. DUNCAN

The accompanying photographs of rhododendrons were taken during May 1934, when the writer, with Mr. Tregoning, was on a month's trek in Sikkim.1
Our objective was the Donkhya La, and the route followed was the usual one from Kalimpong by Gangtok and Lachen until we left Gyagong, when, instead of proceeding direct to Tso Lhamo, we followed a new route putting in an extra camp at Gordamah lake. We camped at the north end of the lake, a fine site, as the view of the twin peaks across the lake is particularly impressive. The following morning we walked along the western shore and clambered up the moraine at the southern end of the lake. From the top is a magnificent view of the north-east glacier of Kangchenjau which falls in fine formation into a small, frozen, milk-white lake. From here we proceeded eastwards along the moraine, eventually crossing the saddle which links the hill known as Lachi with the Donkhya group.

This saddle is composed chiefly of small, loose shale and the climb up on foot is as strenuous as the slither down the other side to Tso Lhamo is easy. From the summit of the saddle the views of the Donkhya group to the south-east, and of the plains and distant mountains of Tibet to the north, are superb. We camped at the north end of the lake at Tso Lhamo and next morning crossed the Donkhya La and resumed the usual route.

It was not until we reached Lachen on our way northwards that we had a hint of the magnificence of the rhododendron forests to come. From Lachen (9,000 feet) to Thangu (13,000 feet) we passed through fine alpine country and must have seen at least twenty different kinds of rhododendrons on that day's march alone. Rhododendrons varying in colour from white to the deepest red, and in height from trees of 40 feet to scrub not more than a foot. We were particularly lucky in that so many varieties were all flowering at the same time. Rhododendrons campylocarpum and Wightii (both lemon- coloured) and a pale pink-flowered rhododenron (Rk. aeruginosum) predominated.

Other alpine flowers noted were small blue gentians, a deep blue variety of poppy, clematis, and three or four varieties of primulas of which Primula Roylei, a deep imperial purple, was the most general. And also we found fine clumps of white heather (Cassiope selaginoides)

1 A sketch-map of North-eastern Sikkim appears on page 140.-Ed.

After leaving Thangu we did not descend into the rhododendron belt again until below Samdong, in the Lachung valley, a day's march after crossing the Donkhya La. The last part of the march from here to Yumtang is through pine forest, the undergrowth of which was mostly rhododendrons, yellow and light purple, then in full bloom. At Yumtang (11,700 feet) we stayed a day, well spent in exploring the surrounding forest country. Here we found great trees of a magnificent deep, rich, pink rhododendron (Rh. Camp- belliae) besides practically all the varied selection we had seen in the Lachen valley.

The plain at Yumtang gave promise of being a fine sight in a week's time, and even now (May 25) there were quite a number of gentians and dwarf rhododendrons in bloom. The most predominant of the dwarf varieties seen was Rh. setosum, with purple blooms and a most delightful resinous smell. A number of poppies were in bud and these were a yellow variety.

It was with great regret that we packed up and left Yumtang, but the first half of the march from Yumtang to Lachung proved to be the most beautiful yet. It was a fine, sunny, breezy day and the pine woods through which we progressed could never have been more perfect. We saw several varieties of rhododendrons which were new to us, the most beautiful of which was a mass of Rh. Roylei, variety cinnabarinum; the flowers varied in shade from deep flame-coloured buds to fully open flame-pink blooms. In my opinion this was the finest rhododendron seen by us.

This was our last day in the alpine belt and our return march to Kalimpong seemed dull after the feast of colour we had experienced.

Both in 1931 and 1932 we had travelled in Sikkim, but never had we seen the rhododendrons to such perfection as this year. It is unfortunate that both of us are the world's worst botanists, but I hope to have acquired more knowledge by the time I am able to return to Sikkim again in the spring.

We are very much indebted to Captain Kingdon Ward for naming the photographs taken by us, but as we omitted to bring back either a leaf or flower of each variety, his task was by no means easy and the names given of varieties may not be correct in every case.

Rhododendrons aeruginosum and Wightii

Rhododendrons aeruginosum and Wightii



Rhododendron Wightii

Rhododendron Wightii



Rhododendron  aeruginosum

Rhododendron aeruginosum



Rhododendron Roylei (var. cinnabarinum)

Rhododendron Roylei (var. cinnabarinum)



Rhododendron setosum

Rhododendron setosum