Himalayan Journal vol.09
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.09

Publication year:
1937

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. THE MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1936
    (HUGH RUTTLEDGE)
  2. SURVEY ON THE MOUNT EVEREST RECONNAISSANCE, 1935
    (MICHAEL SPENDER)
  3. THE ASCENT OF NANDA DEVI
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  4. STRUCTURAL STUDIES IN THE CENTRAL HIMALAYA, 1936
    (ARNOLD HEIM)
  5. THE MOUNTAINS SOUTH OF DRAS
    (MAJOR E. A. L. GUETERBOGK)
  6. The Ascent of Siniolchu and Simvu North Peak
    (Dr. Karl Wien)
  7. SURVEY WORK IN THE NANDA DEVI REGION
    (ERIC SHIPTON)
  8. CLIMBING IN LHONAK, 1936
    (LIEUT. J. B. HARRISON)
  9. THE ZEMU GAP
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  10. THE FRENCH KARAKORAM EXPEDITION, 1936
    (CAPTAIN N. R. STREATFIELD)
  11. QUETTA ROCK CLIMBING
    (LIEUT. J. R. G. FINCH)
  12. THE PROBLEM OF MOUNT EVEREST
  13. PEAK 36, SALTORO KARAKORAM A MOUNTAINEERING ANALYSIS
    (JOHN HUNT AND JAMES WALLER)
  14. EXPEDITIONS
  15. IN MEMORIAM
  16. NOTES
  17. REVIEWS
  18. CORRESPONDENCE
  19. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  20. CLUB NOTICES

The Ascent of Siniolchu and Simvu North Peak

Dr. Karl Wien

Owing to the fact that large expeditions both to the eastern and to the western Himalaya were being prepared, the Germans could not make an attempt on either Kangchenjunga or Nanga Parbat in 1936. The German Himalayan Association, however, determined not to let the year pass without doing something, and decided to send a small reconnaissance party into the Sikkim Himalaya. The object of this was to familiarize us again, after the year of inactivity since the misfortune 011 Nanga Parbat, with conditions in the Himalaya, and to study questions which would be useful in the attack on Nanga Parbat in 1937. We set ourselves the task of climbing some of the satellite peaks, between 20,000 and 23,000 feet, of the Kangchenjunga massif, which could be reached from the Zemu valley and above all to explore some parts to the east and south of Siniolchu which were previously unknown. We also hoped to extend the survey of the Zemu glacier made in 1931. For this last purpose we were to use the photogrammetric method again, and took with us a light Zeiss photo-theodolite with the necessary plates, 13 X 18 cm. in size.

A small party was taken: Paul Bauer, the leader, and three other climbers, Adolf Gottner, Dr. Giinter Hepp, and myself. From the results of the last few years, especially the English expeditions to Nanda Devi in 1934 and 1936, and to Mount Everest in 1935, one is convinced that such small, mobile expeditions, with only a few members and a small band of porters, can obtain great results, provided that they do not aim at the highest mountains. A small party, welded together from the beginning, willing and capable of working without the assistance of a great baggage train, and, if necessary, of carrying its own loads, will be able to adapt itself more easily to circumstances arising from the weather and variations of snow conditions. For the reconnaissance which aims at opening up the exploration of a large district rather than the ascent of a lofty peak, a small number of climbers and porters has advantages besides that of expense. It was not, therefore, by chance that Paul Bauer set out this year with only three companions, since from the start the objects of the reconnaissance offered possibilities of testing the success of the small self-contained expedition.

1 I am indebted to Miss M. R. L. Auster and Miss F. E. Barendt, of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, for kindly translating this paper. A detailed map from the photogrammetric survey of Kangchenjunga and the Zemu glacier was published with Himalayan Journal, vol. vii, 1935. This is essential to a complete understanding of the remarkable achievements described.-Ed.

We are convinced that in the future development of mountain climbing in the Himalaya these small expeditions will play an important part. As regards the highest peaks there is a limit to the smallness of the party, which may be explained by the following considerations: (1) the certainty with which the assault party making the attack on the peak can rely on a well-constructed and well- equipped base camp and on the possibility of ready help from companions, (2) the requisition of additional supplies, (3) the physical change in the individual at very great heights, which makes it probable that a certain number will fall out. There are possible compromises between big and small expeditions, and skill in leadership lies in discovering what size of party gives the best promise of success. Preference should be given to the smallest possible party from fundamental as well as financial considerations.

Above all it is particularly important to limit baggage to the smallest amount possible, because the maintenance of a large number of porters and the additional supplies they need makes an expedition extraordinarily cumbersome and expensive. When men are lacking climbers will generally be ready to carry heavy loads themselves; this is especially desirable and necessary in the higher camps, since much will be simplified thereby.

On the 6th August we arrived by sea at Calcutta, where the Eastern Section of the Himalayan Club and the Honorary Secretary, Mrs. Townend, received us in the friendliest manner and put every conceivable help at our disposal. Having made the last additions to our equipment with some ice-axes and crampons from the stock which the Himalayan Club maintains, we went on to Siliguri by train and thence by car to Gangtok. The road is open to-day for private cars even during the rains. In the meanwhile Bauer, with the help of Mr. Kydd, had made the necessary preparations in Darjeeling and had engaged a few porters whom we met at Tista Bridge. These included the sirdar Hishey, who had been on the French expedition to the Karakoram, and Tewang, the body-servant of Hugh Ruttledge, whom unfortunately we had to send back from the base camp on account of illness. Besides them there were two Bhutias, Mingma and Purba, and two Sherpas, Nima Tsering and Mingma Tsering, who proved to be the best. They were both of them young but tried men, equal to every emergency. Mingma was the younger and more inclined to be reckless and light-hearted; Nima was more staid and thoughtful, attacking everything with amazing calm and assurance.

On the 10th August we set out from Gangtok with a mule caravan which had to get our baggage to Lachen. In persistent rain we travelled by Dikchu, Singhik, and Tsungtang to Lachen, the last village before we entered the narrow wooded valley of the Zemu Ghu, choked with rhododendrons. At this season of the year Lachen seemed dead, all the inhabitants being away at the summer pastures beyond Thangu, and we had to wait a day or two before we collected the necessary number of porters we required for the loads. Two days later we reached the snout of the Zemu glacier and saw rising above the snow-fields the mighty Kangchenjunga massif. On the edge of the glacier, at a height of 4,600 metres, we found the site of the base camp of 1929 and 1931 on meadows covered with cowslips, Alpine roses, and edelweiss. Having effected some slight improvements in the wall built of grass-sods and stones, we pitched camp, moved into our quarters, and discharged the men and women who had brought up our loads from Lachen; only our six permanent porters remained. From this base camp we proposed to break up into separate parties for individual jobs of work, returning there when the work was completed. During our absence the base camp was left in the charge of our cook, Mam Bahadur.

Beyond the glacier to the south rose the magnificent form of Siniolchu, 6,891 m. (22,610 feet).[1] We know of no mountain that can equal Siniolchu in beauty and boldness of feature. Its ridges are as sharp as a knife-edge, its flanks, though incredibly steep, are mostly covered with ice and snow, furrowed vyith the ice-flu tings {Firnrillen) so typical of the Himalaya. The crest of the cornice- crowned summit stands up like a thorn. We understood how it was that Douglas Freshfleld, who had seen many mountains of the earth, spoke of it as perhaps the most beautiful peak in the world. Ever since his time it has fulfilled the mountaineer's ideal of incomparable beauty and drawn him to it. The impression which it made on us when we saw it for the very first time on the earlier Kangchenjunga expedition was indelible. None of us then thought of trying to climb it. From every side it appeared hopeless and inaccessible, and the eye of the mountaineer searched in vain for holds on its ridges or flanks. Nevertheless, in 1931 we had seen it from the north-east spur of Kangchenjunga; every morning, before the rising mists enveloped it, we had been able to study it; and it was then that the idea of attempting its conquest slowly took shape. The west ridge seemed to offer the best, possibly the only, chance of success.2
We made our first sally towards Siniolchu from the base camp on the 19th August. Two days later we reached the eastern edge of the Siniolchu glacier, skirted the deep ice-fall on the left, reached the great firn-basin that lies immediately below the north face of the peak, and pitched camp in deep soft snow and persistent snowfall. The moist, soft snow could not cling to the steep parts of the glacier and was liable to avalanche. In fact, all around us avalanches thundered down the mountain-sides, so that we were forced to return to the base camp without having done anything. We left a dump of food and equipment on the glacier, but when we returned four weeks later we could not find it owing to freshly fallen snow, in spite of the fact that we had clearly marked the site. Bad weather and the heat made conditions too risky. We had come too soon.



After our return to the base camp the weather improved somewhat and I was able to make some measurements of the Zemu glacier by photogrammetry. In 1929 and 1931 the weather at this time of the year, the end of August, had already changed to the more stable conditions of autumn, and the force of the monsoon no longer reached as far as the Zemu glacier; but now we found a heavier precipitation, corresponding with the greater violence of the monsoon, and this precipitation, owing to the prevailing high tem peratures, made an attack on the high peaks impossible.1 We therefore resolved to employ our time reconnoitring the unknown valleys to the south-east of Siniolchu, since at these lower levels, though the weather could make our work more difficult, it would not bar progress altogether.

Siniolchu, Siniolchu, and the north spur of Simvu, was published in Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, p. 122.

After crossing the Zemu glacier we climbed, on the 23rd August, a pass 5,300 m. (17,387 feet) high to the south-east of our base camp. From there, when there was a gap in the clouds, we looked upon a rugged mountainous country traversed by glaciers of unexpected beauty. From the precipitous south-east flank of Siniolchu hanging glaciers plunged down to feed the Zumtu glacier, which, like the Zemu glaciers, was completely covered with debris. To the south of this glacier stood some rocky mountains of incredible steepness. They ranged even higher than the continuation of the south ridge of Siniolchu. The loftiest point was the Siniolchu Needle, about 20,000 feet high. Undiscovered land lay before us, for no one had previously set foot in this valley. Unfortunately we only caught a fleeting view of it in the morning; the rest of the time it poured in torrents.

We camped above the streams of the Zumtu glacier exactly opposite the steep 6,500-foot sides of the Siniolchu Needle. On the next day we crossed the glacier, which flowed between two old moraine walls of gigantic size, a fact that showed that the glacier surface had been much higher in former times. On the far side, to the south of the Zumtu glacier, we climbed still nearer to the foot of the Siniolchu Needle, intending to make an attempt to scale it. We did, in fact, succeed in getting as far as the nick in the ridge which separates the Passanram valley from the Zumtu glacier, and which we called the 'Kukur Gap' in honour of our faithful four-footed companion. But as we stood there we were shrouded in thick mist and rain, and the continuous downpour which followed drove us back northwards towards the pass without having seen the Needle from the east at all.

On the 31st August, in the camp south of the pass over which we had wanted to reach the Zemu glacier again, the weather suddenly improved for a short while. Hepp and Gottner took the opportunity to climb Liklo, 5,800 m. (c. 19,000 feet), which was the highest peak in the chain between Siniolchu and Lama Anden. After climbing over very broken rock surfaces they reached the north peak, which was separated from the main peak by what appeared an impassable gap.

Meanwhile Bauer and I laid out a photogrammetric base, but our work was not as successful as we had hoped, since the valleys were always filled with cloud, though the peaks to the north and south of us were generally clear. We tried to name some of the more important glaciers and peaks of this newly discovered district. The clear directions of the Surveyor-General of India, which have since been published in the Honorary Secretary's Report on the Himalayan Glub for 1936,1 gave us the basis for the choice of names, and either traditional or descriptive names in the vernacular were chosen. The name 'Liklo' for the highest peak between Siniolchu and Lama Anden is the old one given to the mountain, now called Siniolchu, at the time of the travels of Joseph Hooker. The other names which we have introduced for the most part refer to some characteristic feature of the mountain or glacier, or to some event connected with them. We took words from the native vocabulary of our porters, that is, Nepali. The word Kasturi means 'a yak', one of which we met below the glacier we named after it. Kukur means 'a dog', and as our four-footed companion came to a 'gap' over 5,000 m. (c. 16,400 feet) that was by no means easy to reach, we named it after him the 'Kukur Gap'. Gantsa signifies ‘a little finger', and this description fitted one of the rock pinnacles of the Siniolchu Needle. Paian are the blue cherries which grow profusely near the moraine of the Paian glacier. We named only the most outstanding mountains and glaciers; a large number of important peaks still remain to be made known by the explorers who may come after us.

1 An unusual amount of rain also fell prior to the monsoon, as we learnt from Marco Pallis.

Siniolchu from the south-east

Siniolchu from the south-east



Twins, Nepal peak, and Tent peak from the flank of Simvu

Twins, Nepal peak, and Tent peak from the flank of Simvu



It was now the beginning of September, and back in the base camp we considered what was to be done, since there was still no improvement in the weather. We knew that the ridge which runs northwards from the crest of Kangchenjunga curves round by Tent peak to the east and continues in this direction so that it separates the Zemu valley from Lhonak and marks off two different climatic regions. North of this chain lies the Lhonak valley, which has less precipitation and consequently fewer glaciers. Its more level topography merges on the one hand into the plateau of Tibet, on the other to the north-west side of Kangchenjunga. The latter should be much less liable to heavy precipitation than the Zemu valley, which is exposed to the force of the south-east winds and where there is still an annual precipitation of from 80 to 120 inches. We thought, therefore, that we should have better weather if we turned next to the mountains on the border of Sikkim and Nepal north of Kangchenjunga. These stand on the climatic divide, and though exposed to the forerunners of the damp air-currents are not greatly affected by them.

The great ridge running northwards from Kangchenjunga bends eastwards carrying the Twins and sends a great spur northwards past the Nepal Gap and then north-eastwards to culminate in Tent peak, 7,363 m. (24,158 feet), the highest of the mountains in the immediate neighbourhood of Kangchenjunga.

1 See below, p. 196.-Ed.

We intended now to push forward to these peaks. On the 4th September we left the base camp, wandered up to Green Lake, and followed the Nepal Gap glacier. The best approach to the upper part of the glacier, after passing the junction of the Nepal Gap glacier with the Tent Peak glacier, lies always on the north side of the latter. It follows first the slopes of debris and broken rock to the side of the glacier and then runs along the lateral moraines, easily avoiding two ice-falls on the way to the upper basin. We took three days from our base camp to reach the spot where we pitched camp at a height of 6,000 m. (c. 19,685 feet) on the glacier below the deep depression between the Twins and Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf was climbed by Allwein and Brenner in 1931; its height is 6,440 m. (21,128 feet).

Here we discovered that the north ridge of the Twins, leading down to the Nepal Gap, is not suitable for climbing, owing to its steepness and cornices. We therefore decided to attack the eastern ridge of the Twins. On the clear cold morning of the 7th September we climbed the steep firn-wall, about 500 feet high, and reached the ridge between the Twins and Sugarloaf. By way of some rock-towers we arrived at the beginning of the snow ridge leading to the eastern of the Twins. Even the lowest part of this ridge is extraordinarily steep and very exposed on both sides. Owing to the heavy snowfall of the past weeks and the lack of cold weather, the snow of the ridge was soft where exposed to the sun, and light and powdery on the sheltered north side, so that it was difficult and dangerous to make much progress. When we reached, in the early afternoon, a break in the ridge which would have to be circumvented by a traverse across the very steep slopes to the north (Nepal Gap side), which were covered with soft snow, we soon saw that with the snow in this condition further progress would be dangerous, and so we turned back. In a heavy snow-storm in the afternoon we recrossed the rock-towers and made a bivouac on the wind-swept ledge, since it was impossible to return over the soft snow-slopes. Huddling together with the tent-bag drawn over our ears we spent the night. Our bivouac was exactly opposite the north-east spur of Kangchenjunga. In the morning we saw in astonishment the sun light up the summit with a reddish glow which travelled quickly down the steep flanks, illuminating all the places where we had fought in 1931. It seemed to us that the condition of the north-east spur had altered much since then and as though some of the ice-towers on the ridge had disappeared and given place to gentler slopes.

On the 9th September we set out for the Tent peak and marched in the dark on hard frozen firn in the direction of its south-west ridge, which we reached over steep ice-slopes. A long and gently sloping but heavily corniced ridge brought us to some ice-terraces, which led to an eminence on the south-west ridge, known as Nepal peak. In the late afternoon, in a mighty snow-storm, Gottner and I made a camp in a wonderful ice grotto which protected us from the indecencies of the weather during the night. The persistent snowfall on the ridge made a soft covering through which we had to struggle for four bitterly cold hours the following morning up the steep slopes of Nepal peak, to a height of 7,180 m. (23,560 feet).

From here we could look down better than ever on to the mighty north ridge of Kangchenjunga. To the west of it were the mountains of Nepal which, like the valleys on this side, stood in marked contrast, owing to their fewer glaciers, with the white snowy mountains to the south-east. In the far distance the characteristic forms of Mount Everest and Makalu rose above the high enveloping cloud which lay spread over Nepal.

As we proceeded farther along the ridge from Nepal peak towards Tent peak, wading knee-deep in soft powdery snow, suddenly, with a dull report, the snow covering on the north side up to the top of the ridge gave way and travelled as an enormous avalanche down to the valley below. A second avalanche broke away from beneath Gojtner while he was belaying, and we therefore turned back. We reached camp on the Nepal Gap glacier in the evening after climbing down in thick mist and driving snow.

The following morning signs of approaching bad weather drove us back to the base camp. It snowed furiously the following night. Bauer and Gottner, who had stayed at the Green Lake with the porters, had their tent crushed in and had to wade through deep snow to the base camp. For two days it never ceased snowing, and we were imprisoned in the base camp with nothing to do.

In the Zemu valley region the weather as a whole is determined in the summer by the development of the monsoon over Bengal. Northern Sikkim, as far as the Zemu valley, is influenced by the existence of a cyclone there and by its strength and position. During the second half of August, when we began our work, the depression was fairly stationary. When it broke up the weather was better, but about the 11 th September a new centre of low pressure had developed to the south-west of our region, which resulted in the first long spell of bad weather. During the following days the depression moved slowly northwards and only broke up on the 17th September. From the 19th to the 27th September, during our climb on Siniolchu, which I shall now describe, the pressure conditions over Bengal were levelled out. On the 28th September signs of a fresh depression appeared, but it remained constant for a while. It began to move northwards on the 3rd October and brought us very bad weather on the 5th. This depression began to break up on the 7th. We came to the conclusion this year that it would have been of great value to the expedition to have been able to receive weather reports by wireless from Calcutta.

During our imprisonment in the base camp in mid-September Bauer built a stove from an empty petrol-tank, which warmed our quarters and helped us to survive the bad weather in good spirits. With the first signs of clearing on the 7 th day we set out on new endeavours. This time we intended to make a decisive attack on Siniolchu. The everlasting bad weather had been too much for our Bhutias, who asked to be allowed to go home, so that only our two indispensable Sherpas, Nima and Mingma, accompanied us on this climb.

On the 18th September a part of the food was sent forward, and the following morning, in gloriously fine weather, we sat on the great moraine of the Zemu glacier by the base camp and once more studied the details of pur route with the big telescope. The route over the Siniolchu glacier to its upper basin lay clear before us. More doubtful was the steep passage up the ice to the saddle between Siniolchu and Little Siniolchu, especially in the last section below the ridge where the ice was much broken up. From the saddle onwards the western ridge of Siniolchu seemed to be possible, but a big ice-wall which separated the first peak from the main one looked like presenting us with a further problem. What troubled us most were the great masses of new snow which had fallen, covering the whole landscape down to 16,400 feet in a wintry cloak. These masses lay deep on the Siniolchu glacier, which is exposed to the north, and the single day of fine weather had scarcely reduced them.

On the 19th September, towards midday, we left the base camp with all the force we could muster, four sahibs and two porters, all six of us with plenty to carry. We crossed the Zemu glacier and pitched camp in a sheltered spot near the moraine of the Siniolchu glacier. The sky was overcast at night so that the hoped-for cold did not materialize. The next day the snow was only frozen on the surface and we soon sank deeply into it. As soon as the sun rose the snow became soft; progress in this wintry landscape was so difficult and we sank so deep, first between the boulders and then on to the glacier itself, that eventually we had to make camp in the morning at about 5,000 m. (16,400 feet). In the afternoon we cut a track so that we could go up the hard frozen steps quickly the next morning.

On the morning of the 21st we soon left this ice-fall behind us and crossed the great level firn-field as far as the beginning of the second ice-fall, after searching in vain for our dump of provisions in the deep snow. The upper ice-fall was fairly hard to overcome; we approached it on the right-hand side, where avalanche debris took us close to the rocks, after which we searched for a way through the seracs. There was a lot of step-cutting to be done and we had to haul the porters' loads laboriously up on ropes over some of the steeper sections. We pitched camp above the ice-fall at a height of about 5,700 m. (c. 18,700 feet), right at the foot of the rock-wall which falls steeply down from Little Siniolchu.

View westwards and south-westwards from the north-west shoulder, Point  6,470 m.,  of Siniolchhu

View westwards and south-westwards from the north-west shoulder, Point 6,470 m., of Siniolchhu



It was a cold and eerie place. By 2 p.m. the sun had already disappeared behind the ridge of Little Siniolchu, clouds descended, and it began to snow again. At this point we had to leave our porters behind. The last 4,000 feet up to the peak were too difficult for them to accompany us with their heavy burdens without the loss of too much time. With them we had to leave all those comforting things like tents, sleeping-bags, primus stoves, and well-filled bags of food, and rely entirely on what we could carry in our rucksacks. A tent-bag, our own warm bivouac equipment, and a little Meta cooker were all we had.

The next morning the four of us set out. Some steep places in the gully gave us trouble, and then began the extremely strenuous passage in deep snow leading to the ridge. We were here on the north side of the mountain; the south wind had blown the snow over the ridge so that it had collected in great piles and, owing to the lack of sun, had remained soft and powdery.

At 2 p.m. we reached the ridge at about 6,200 m. (20,340 feet). The far side fell with incredible steepness down to the Passanram valley opposite, and great cornices lay on the side of the Zemu. During the afternoon we only made about 200 yards progress along the steep narrow ridge before the lateness of the hour and a precipitous ice-wall through which we had to work our way carefully called a halt towards evening. The way along the ridge involved constant crossing and recrossing from the side of the Passanram valley, which became increasingly steep, to the overhanging cornices on the other side which were above slopes nearly as steep. It was a matter of feeling our way with the axe, and when doing this on one occasion a piece of the cornice broke off, releasing a great avalanche, which slid down on the Zemu side to break up far below the track of our ascent.

We then arranged our bivouac on a little airy snow ledge above the precipitous abyss of the Passanram valley. In a temperature of about -8° C. we sat in our tent-bags, with our feet in our rucksacks, and with everything we could muster wrapped round our bodies, and so let the long night pass over us. It was not cold, and only Bauer, who sat near the top of the ridge and must have caught the wind, felt chilled.

By 6 a.m. the next morning, the 23rd September, we were already on our way. Steep bits of ridge alternated with more level stretches, but there were always heavily overhanging drift cornices on the north which forced us down on the steep southern slopes. Towards 8 o'clock we reached the depression between the fore peak and the main peak. Here we split into two parties. Bauer and Hepp remained behind in readiness to give help if needed, or, in the event of the others not returning at the right time, to meet them with the bivouac. Gottner and I went on. At first we were held up by a steep and very difficult ice-wall, 200 feet high, beyond which was more corniced ridge. After passing this we eventually reached the foot of the final pyramid about noon.

The weather had held remarkably well. While below us surged the clouds, we ourselves stood in clear sunshine with a gentle breeze blowing from the south. The state of the snow on the ridge varied very much according to the exposure, some of it being frozen to the hardness of rock, while when we were on the north or north-western slopes it was soft and deep.

The west ridge culminates in the summit pyramid; we went forward on steep snow-slopes, occasionally breaking through to ice. We struggled slowly up, taking it in turns to lead on the rope. A short way below the summit we had unfortunately to make a detour to the right, because on this side the summit cornice was less high and did not overhang so much. By 2 p.m. Gottner had cut a passage through the cornice, and a rope's length beyond the summit of Siniolchu was attained.

It was a fantastic scene which met our gaze. From the peak the sharp south ridge branches off, furrowed on both sides with thousands of ice-flu tings; the north and south faces fell with appalling steepness, and yet there were relatively few rocks sticking out of the ice. We shouted joyfully to our friends in the saddle below to tell them of our arrival, but we had to hasten our descent, as the sun was threatening to soften the steep slopes of the peak. The climb down to the bivouac of the night before took four hours and had to be carried out with great caution. The portion of the ridge exposed to the west, which during the ascent had still been frozen, had now softened somewhat and balled between the prongs of our crampons. Just as the sun vanished behind the peak of Kangchenjunga we reached the bivouac where our companions were already awaiting us. We had to spend a second cold night up there. On the next morning we climbed down to the camp where our porters had remained and went on to the camp site beneath the first great ice-fall of the Siniolchu glacier. At midday on the 25th September we arrived back at the base camp.

The few days that still remained had to be well employed. We decided to divide into two parties: Bauer, Gottner, and Hepp wished to turn to Simvu and, if possible, make a second attempt on the Twins and Tent peak. I wanted to take up the cartographic work which had hitherto been impossible on account of bad weather, and for this purpose wished to cross the Simvu Saddle, descend into the Passanram valley, from there connect up with the Talung valley, and then to cross over to the Zumtu valley to complete the photography from there. On the 27th September we went up together to the Green Lake. Four porters-our two Sherpas, Mingma and Nima, and two men from Lachen, Girti and Dorje-accompanied us. The last two had been brought in to make up for the Bhutias. Mam Bahadur stayed behind again to look after the camp.

The climbing of Simvu was begun on the 30th September, when Bauer, Gottner, and Hepp reconnoitred the ascent from the moraine of the Simvu glacier. In the cirque of the northern buttress of the Simvu massif they could clearly distinguish two glacier basins, a lower one at a height of 5,600 m. (18,370 feet) and a higher one at 6,200 m. (20,350 feet). The farther of the two north-east peaks, 6,545 m. (21,473 feet), which they called 'Trapezium Peak', from its shape, seemed to be the easier of the two, and this they decided to attempt.1
On the 1 st October, a cold day, the climbers, accompanied by two porters, left the camp on the Zemu glacier and made tracks upward in the fresh deep snow. They pitched their tent below the Simvu Saddle peak, 5,835 m. (19,140 feet), protected by a huge snow-drift, at a height of 5,600 m. (18,370 feet), and sent the porters back. At 6 a.m. on the 2nd October they set out and then began an extremely toilsome trek in deep powdery snow. Giant crevasses forced them to make a detour to the left, and they followed the steep slopes which led to the upper glacier basin. There they rested for a short time before attacking the precipitous ice-walls which led up to the ridge. The climb from here to the ridge presented the greatest difficulties. The extraordinarily steep firn-slopes were covered with soft snow, through which they had to fight their way up nearly vertically in order to avoid the danger of an avalanche. Only when the layer of snow, 12 inches thick, had been removed, could they work with an axe. The wall increased somewhat in steepness below the ridge. At 2 p.m. they reached the ridge at a point about 500 feet below the summit. In good snow conditions this last stretch would have been quickly traversed; but new deep snow now lay even on the exposed parts, so that it was an hour and a half before the summit was reached. There they sat down astride the sharp edge of the ridge for a short rest. Having broken track with much labour through nearly 3,500 feet they had every reason to be satisfied with their success. They came down much more quickly. When Gottner and Hepp reached the tent again, where they waited for Bauer, it was already night.

1 In the spring of 1936 Marco Pallis tried to reach the summit of the more easterly of the two northern peaks of Simvu, but a great cleft in the ridge had held him up (see below, pp. 148-9.-Ed.).

On the next day, the 3rd October, all three descended to the Zemu glacier, and on the 4th, which was still fine, they made an expedition to the grave of our friend, Hermann Schaller, who had met with an accident on Kangchenjunga in 1931.

During the next few days the weather was bad again. Another spell of bad weather kept the party shut up in the base camp. The upper part of the Zemu glacier had been already covered with so much snow that the few fine days had been unable to dispel it. With this second spell of bad weather the advance guard of winter made its appearance.

It was not till the 9th October that it cleared again. Then Bauer and Gottner, with the two porters Nima and Dorje, left the base camp to push forward into the mountains which lie between the Zemu glacier and the next valley to the north, the Lhonak. They left by the little valley nestling beside the Zemu glacier, climbed up to the east of the 'Kegelberg', until the grass-slopes below the glacier came to an end, and pitched their camp at a height of 5,300 m. (c. 17,380 feet). On the next morning they left this camp, and, after crossing an old moraine and steep snow-slopes, reached scree at 5,650 m. (c. 18,540 feet). This made the passage to the 'Hidden glacier' possible. The broad firn-plains of this 'plateau' glacier, through which the peaks project comparatively little, form a contrast to the steep formations of the Zemu valley itself and of the Kangchenjunga massif. They make a sudden transition to the Lhonak type of country, which is separated from the Zemu glacier with its heavy precipitation by this climatic divide.

Bauer and Gottner crossed the 'Hidden glacier' and in the evening camped in the neighbourhood of the Podon La, under the 'Black peak', at a height of about 5,700 m. (c. 18,700 feet). On the next afternoon they climbed the 'Black peak', 6,020 m. (c. 19,750 feet). On the nth October, after crossing the Podon La, they climbed the Podon La peak and the Green Lake peak.

The weather was fine. While to the north it was completely clear, clouds kept rising up from the Tista valley and gradually reached the Zemu valley, breaking through towards the north over the pass to the east of Tent peak (5,960 m.). The saddle between the Langpo peak and Tent peak is very difficult. Tent peak falls with incredible steepness to the saddle, from which it is inaccessible. Even the saddle just mentioned could not be crossed without great effort. The easiest crossing to the north in this region leads to the west of the Podon peak. This pass might well be called 'Tent peak pass'.

View in to the Eastern Cirque of the Simvu Massif from Simvu North Peak, 6,545 m.

View in to the Eastern Cirque of the Simvu Massif from Simvu North Peak, 6,545 m.



On the evening of the 11 th October Bauer and Gottner turned back to the camp below the 'Black peak', and on the same day reached the peak of a further mountain something over 6,000 m. high, from which they descended in a north-east direction. They camped on the shores of a small moraine-dammed lake at a height of 5,400 m., hoping to find next day a direct crossing into the Tonya, or Tum- rachen, valley eastwards.1
Meanwhile the weather worsened, and the lack of visibility made their scheme impracticable. They therefore descended into Lhonak by a big valley that was very steep in its upper part. Below a wonderful moraine-dammed lake the valley again falls steeply, finally debouching with a gentler slope into the main Lhonak valley. Before reaching the latter they came upon the abandoned camping- ground of Tibetan yak-herds-deserted at this time of year. In the evening they descended the main valley as far as Langpo, where they spent the night.

They had now reached quite a different type of scenery, characterized by a smaller amount of precipitation and consequently fewer glaciers. Compared with the Zemu region the most striking differences are to be found in the flatter and more rounded topography and in the amount of debris covering the mountains and filling the valleys.

On the 13th October they crossed the The La and entered the Tumrachen valley. This pass was free from snow, though the Tangchang La, which was lower but farther south, lay deep under snow and would probably have been impassable-a proof of how rapidly precipitation diminishes towards the north in these parts.

In the Tumrachen valley the party came across large old moraines, still well preserved, though the ice has retreated long since from this part of the valley. After a long and strenuous march they reached Y .iktang in the evening. Here they met the column of porters going up the Zemu valley from Lachen to strike the base camp by the Znnu glacier. On the 15th October the base camp was packed up .Hid in the evening the Lachen men brought the heavy baggage into Yaktang.

Meanwhile, on the 29th September, with four porters I had crossed the Simvu Saddle and climbed down into the Passanram valley. This descent is very steep. The way led down over a precipitous ice-fall, the lower part of which we had to avoid by way of the rocks which border it on the south side. Weather and snow conditions were very bad, and we made terribly slow progress. I climbed as first man on the rope, with Mingma and a Lachen man called Girti. Nima followed in our tracks with the second Lachen man. Both the glacier and the rocks, being covered with deep fresh snow, required great care. In the afternoon, when making a detour to the south over a narrow terrace, we reached a short, steep, rocky gully which led down into a large ravine filled with debris. During the descent of this my porter Mingma slipped and fell. I was able to hold him easily on the rope, but he dropped his equipment, including the photo-theodolite. After falling over a cliff 200 feet high, the instrument lay in the snow-filled gully. After a long search we managed to find the individual bits, but naturally they were completely useless.

1 For the Lhonak and Tumrachen valleys, see Marcel Kurz's map, Das Massiv des Kangchendzonga.-Ed.

Nevertheless, I decided to go on in order to ascertain the relative positions of the three valleys to the south-east of Kangchenjunga, the Talung, the Passanram, and the Zumtu valleys. I sent back two of the porters the next day with the remains of the photo-theodolite. As Nima was leading the party there was no need for anxiety, though I watched them till they had passed the rocks. I myself went on with the two others through snow, rain, and fog, down the Passanram glacier, where we camped at a height of 3,500 m. (c. 11,500 feet).

On the way we were much struck by a very fine example of glacier overthrust. The first big side glacier debouching from the southwest pushes its debris-free trunk over the moraine-covered, highly crevassed Passanram glacier.

I made a little exploratory sally towards the ridge to the southwest of the Passanram glacier. A little glacier is embedded there, not very steep, over which it seemed that there might be a way to the Talung glacier. Both the Passanram and the Talung valleys are, however, very deeply entrenched, and the ridge which divides them falls with amazingly smooth walls on the Passanram side, so that it was difficult to reach either the ridge or even the little glacier.

I had again to climb the Passanram glacier a little way as far as a point where a large side glacier comes down from the Simvu basin; but this glacier does not reach the Passanram. From here I climbed diagonally in a southerly direction towards the lower part of the glacier, which there falls away more steeply. At 5,000 m. (c. 16,400 feet) I made a high camp, and the next day reached the edge of this glacier. Owing, however, to bad weather which set in, I had no chance of climbing the ridge.

We now turned back again to the Passanram glacier and worked down its valley in order to connect, by a passage already reconnoitred, with the Zumtu valley, where we had made a food dump earlier in the season. From here we intended to cross over to the base camp on the Zemu glacier. Unfortunately, at the point where the passage to the Zumtu valley leaves the Passanram, which is already densely wooded here, a fresh spell of bad weather, which was also experienced by my companions on the Zemu glacier, surprised me. Heavy rain and snow fell, making it impossible to make the crossing over the rather difficult, steep, and naked slopes.

On the other hand, after this heavy fall of snow I was now cut off from the Simvu Saddle with its steep ice-falls. With a heavy heart I therefore decided to force a way down the Passanram valley and reach the Talung. I could not take the way used by Allwein in 1931, because I had already gone too far south on the opposite bank of the Passanram river.1 Here at the very bottom of the valley the river flowed in a deep ravine. Our position was difficult because we could not reach our food dump. Our food had nearly run out and we did not know how long this route through the primeval forest would take us.

Five days later, during which we were much harassed by continuous rain, we eventually reached the Talung river, some two miles from the highest settlement, Pinting, on the north side of the river. Those two miles took us more than two days. The Talung valley here is still completely trackless on the north side, and the precipitous rocks, falling straight down to the river-bed, make long detours necessary, so that it is even more difficult than the south side.

By the evening of the 1 oth October we had accomplished half the distance and found ourselves near the Sitangram torrent, which here comes in from the north and pours in a mighty waterfall over the polished rock ledges into the Talung river. Scarcely 400 yards away, on the opposite side of the valley, lay the upper clearing of the Lepchas, Bontong. This is not always inhabited, but is often looked after by the next settlement down river, Sakyang. Between us lay the incised valley bottom, in the bed of which foamed the Talung river.

We managed to cross the Sitangram torrent the following morning, after which we struck the first signs of a path, though we soon lost them again. In the evening we came upon a little uninhabited hut, and the following afternoon, hungry and exhausted, struggled into Pinting.

The next two days took us over a good route via Be and Nuk to Mangen and Singhik, where I waited for my friends in the bungalow. When Bauer had learnt that I was so long overdue, he had set out to meet me with help, but above Tsungtang he met my messenger, who reassured him of my safety and gave him reasons for my delay. On the 19th October we all met again in Gangtok.

1 For an account of Dr. Allwein's passage of the Passanram and Talung valleys, see Himalayan Journal, vol. v, 1933, pp. 58-64.-Ed.


[1] I have left the heights given by the author in metres in order to facilitate reference to the only map of the region of any use to the mountaineer, the map made by Finsterwalder from Wien's photogrammetric material, and published with the Himalayan Journal, vol. vii, 1932.-Ed.