Sir Geoffrey corbett's sudden death at Cairo on the 2nd November 1937 came as a shock, though perhaps not so much as a surprise, to his many friends. Those of us who had known him during the last few years knew of the great physical strain he was living under. It was ill health that deprived India of his brilliant administrative gifts about six years ago, at a time when it seemed certain that he was destined to become the Governor of a province, and in the three short years during which he worked at Oxford he never really regained his health.

In his younger days Corbett was already a sound English rock- climber before he first went to Switzerland in 1898 at the age of seventeen to examine the western districts of the central Alps. In his first season there he explored the Diablerets and the Gemmi districts, climbing the Grand Moeveran and the Dent des Morcles, and finished up with some peaks and passes round Zermatt. In consequence of this he carried out the revision of sections 22 and 23 of Ball's Alpine Guide, part i. His next visit to the Alps was in 1901 while he was up at Oxford as a scholar of Hertford College. In that year he went to the Arolla district, where he made a traverse of the Aiguilles Rouges, besides various other climbs and tours to improve his knowledge of glaciers and ice. During the same period he also climbed a good deal in the Lake district and in Yorkshire, generally with Alfred Barran.

Then came a long break in his connexion with Switzerland. He took a double first in classics and passed into the Indian Civil Service. He was thereafter kept busy in India till after the War, with the exception of two short spells of leave in 1909 and 1912, the first of which was spent in the Lake district, and the second in the Alps before his marriage. In the Central Provinces of India, however, he found some consolation in devoting his spare time to exploring the lesser-known parts of the Satpuras and the hills of the Saugor district. Once at least during the War he managed to get away to Kashmir and from the Liddar traversed the mountains to Ladakh, but his official duties never left him much leisure for organized expeditions. It was therefore for his mountaineering in India as well as in the Alps that he was elected to the Alpine Club in 1916.

Geoffrey Latham Corbett

Geoffrey Latham Corbett
1881- 1937

At the age of thirty-seven he was already Director of Industries and Controller of Munitions in the Central Provinces during the last year of the War, and from then onwards responsible posts gave him little chance of climbing. His tact, sympathy, and wide knowledge of Indian affairs led to his selection for a number of appointments on deputation out of India, to South Africa and East Africa in 1920, to the Washington Disarmament Conference in 1921, to the Fiji Islands in 1922, to South Africa again in 1926, to Geneva in 1929, and he was secretary to the British Indian delegation at both sessions of the Round-Table Conference. Occasionally during these strenuous years he was able to slip away to the mountains or to put in a short season in the Alps. In the summer of 1921 he made a five weeks' tour in Switzerland with the late Sir Henry Hayden. The two had much in common and their outlook on mountain travel was very similar. Corbett's account of that joyous tour, wandering where they willed, is told in his short notice of Hayden after the fatal accident on the north arete of the Finsteraar- horn on the 13th August 1923.1 Corbett was in Switzerland again in 1922, 1925, and 1928, generally climbing or walking with local district guides.

Corbett's capacity for intensive work prevented him from ever becoming a great climber with a long list of peaks to his credit, and he preferred roaming to climbing in the technical sense, especially as he grew older. It was this preference that made him feel how much men stationed in India were missing with the Himalaya at their threshold. Stationed at Simla in 1926 as Secretary for Commerce and Industry, his house looked northwards to the snows, and he was never tired of examining them in every light, of discussing them with his friends, and of inspiring those who had never travelled among high mountains with the strong desire to wrestle with them. It was then that he began discussing plans for the founding of a Himalayan Club. The project had often been discussed before, in fact the idea went back so far as 1866, when Drew and Johnson first formally suggested it to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, while Freshfield had made a similar suggestion in the Alpine Journal in 1884. The idea had recurred to many but, in the words of Corbett himself, 'it never took shape, not because the Club was not wanted, but because in this land of endlessness it is only now and then that the two or three are gathered together'.

Corbett was wise enough not to move until he was certain of support. He refused to be dissuaded by those who argued that there would never be sufficient enthusiasm for a mountaineering club in India. He enlisted the sympathy and support of the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, who became a founder member; of the Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Sir William Bird wood, who was elected first President of the Club; of the Governor of the Punjab, Sir Malcolm Hailey; of the Chief of the General Staff, the Surveyor-General, the Director of the Geological Survey, Secretaries to Government, and those who counted in various other walks of life. He persuaded these, even if they were not climbers themselves, to take a keen interest in his project. When I was impatient, he used to say to me: 'Don't be in a hurry: it's the first step that counts.' And when at last we took that step and the first circular letter went out appealing for support, the response was immediate. From all over India and beyond, from Europe, Africa, and America, replies came welcoming the founding of the Club. Almost all of our 127 founder members had contributed or were able to contribute something to Himalayan knowledge and experience. Well advised and set on sure foundations, the Himalayan Club was formally inaugurated in Sir William Birdwood's room at Army Head-quarters, Delhi, on the 17th February 1928. It was Corbett's child.


  1. Alpine Journal, vol. xxxv, p. 277.


In those early days of the Club I saw much of him. Hardly a step was taken without his sure guidance, and I felt that every move had been carefully planned long before. The Mountain Club of India had been formed in Calcutta just before the Himalayan Club was founded in Delhi. Corbett quickly realized that there must be a fusion of interests if both were to flourish, and that there must be no rivalry or antagonism; and it is to his credit, as well as to the sound common sense of the founders of the Mountain Club, that the two clubs co-operated so closely in their early days, and that after barely a year of separate existence they amalgamated on terms acceptable and beneficial to both.

As the first Honorary Secretary of the Himalayan Club Corbett put an immense amount of work and thought into its early organization, compiling, with the help of his friend the late Sir Everard Upton, our Articles of Association and Rules. In spite of numerous official duties and a variety of other interests he found time to discuss Club policy at informal meetings at his houses at Simla or Delhi, and to deal efficiently with the secretarial correspondence; and though ill health forced him to leave India for good in 1932, he never lost his early interest in its welfare. Often in Oxford, where for a few years he filled the post of Reader in Indian History, we discussed the fortunes and future of the Himalayan Club, and any expeditions that were in the mountains. For a short time also he was the Himalayan Club representative on the Mount Everest Committee, where his advice was always valuable.

A man of boundless energy and with the capacity of taking infinite pains to do everything well, he never spared himself. With his liberal mind, he inspired trust and confidence, earning the respect and affection both of his Indian colleagues at the Round-Table Conference and of his Egyptian colleagues during the last few years, when he was Adviser to the new Ministry of Commerce and Industry at Cairo. Twice, in 1936 and 1937, he returned from Egypt for short spells and visited his old haunts in Switzerland, off the beaten track with his rucksack and friendly umbrella, staying at a fresh place each night. They were his farewell to the mountains he loved. He had exhausted himself in his country's service.

Kenneth Mason.



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Karl Ween, who, with six of his German comrades and nine porters of the Nanga Parbat expedition, was killed by the ice-avalanche at Camp 4 on the 14th June 1937, was born on the 10th September 1906, the only son of Wilhelm Wien, the distinguished scientist and Nobel prize-winner. He himself also studied science and devoted much of his leisure to mountaineering, making many difficult and new ascents, and becoming one of the finest climbers that Munich has produced. As one of my pupils he studied the movement of glaciers and stereo-photogrammetry.

He took part in the German-Austrian Alpine Club's photogram- metric survey of the Zillertal Alps in 1927, and the following year was with W. R. Rickmers on the Alai-Pamir expedition. In 1931 Paul Bauer enlisted him for his second attack on Kangchenjunga. On this expedition, as well as climbing, he did excellent survey work, producing the first accurate map of the Zemu glacier. Three years later, together with Karl Troll, he undertook a survey of the Central East African Highlands, including Mount Kenya, and followed this up with research into the climatology of the Red Sea region.

For the next eighteen months he devoted his time to further study at Hanover and Munich, but in 1936 again accompanied Paul Bauer to Sikkim, when that loveliest of mountains, Siniolchu, and the north peak of Simvu were climbed for the first time.

On his return to Germany the Reichsportsfiihrer, Herr von Tschammer und Osten, selected him to organize and lead another attempt to climb Nanga Parbat, the mountain which had exacted such heavy toll in 1934. This was Karl Wien's last expedition. He will be remembered by us as a loyal, reliable, and modest comrade, always ready with help in survey and research, as well as when climbing. He did much to improve and advance methods of survey, and our best tribute to his memory will be to carry on his work.


  1. Translated by Lieut-Colonel H. W. Tobin, d.s.o., o.b.e.


Richard Finsterwalder.


I feel that those British members of the Himalayan Club who knew Karl Wien would wish me to add a brief tribute to his memory. In India we first heard of him as one of the three climbers who reached the summit of peak Kaufmann on the Pamirs on the 25th September 1928, when he was only just twenty-two years of age.1 Then we made his acquaintance in India when he came with Paul Bauer's second expedition to Kangchenjunga. On that occasion he was one of the three who reached the formidable slabbed ice slope leading to the final north ridge that turned them back on the 18th September 1931.2 It will be remembered that he remained behind after the rest of the expedition left the Zemu glacier, in order to complete the field work of his survey of the glacier, and we owe the field work of that fine map to his energy and devotion.3 He wrote to me about his work in East Africa and the Red Sea, and visited me later in Oxford. He had a very great charm of manner and a delightful personality, with three loves in life: his country, science, and high mountains. He had many friends among mountaineers in England.

After the catastrophe on Nanga Parbat in 1934 he took the greatest pains to investigate the weather conditions that were primarily responsible for that disaster.4 It is hard to believe that there was any man better qualified by scientific and physical training, by courage, and by energy, than he to lead a great adventure in the Himalaya. Paul Bauer has written that the disaster of 1937 was no error of judgement. Very occasionally avalanches reach much farther than the best experience can foretell; and if some hold still that an error of judgement was committed, it can only be such an error that any other mountaineer of great experience would have made. Perhaps it also means that none of us yet fully understands the structure and movement of Himalayan snow and ice.5

Kenneth Mason.

  1. Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, 1930, pp. 118-19.
  2. Ibid., vol. iv, 1932, p. 120.
  3. Ibid., vol. iv, 1932, p. 122; vol. vii, 1935, pp. 130-5.
  4. Ibid., vol. viii, 1936, pp. 78-85. Karl Wien also wrote an appreciation of Willi Welzenbach after the disaster of 1934 in ibid., vol. vii, 1935, pp. 156-7. It was with Welzenbach that Wien made those three great first ascents in the Glockner group: the Glockerin NW. face, the Eiskogele N. face, and the Gross Glockner N. face.
  5. Members of the Club will recall the destructive avalanche which overwhelmed the Ski Club of India hut at Khillanmarg on the 1st March 1936; the site of that I mt had been selected after consulting both expert and local opinion. Professor R. l insterwalder also calls my attention to the fatal avalanche at the Pordoijoch, early last winter, which covered an area normally entirely safe, and in which - ii-ht experienced mountaineers lost their lives.
Karl Wien 1906-37

Karl Wien 1906-37

The Porters who died on Nanga Parbat, 1937

The Porters who died on Nanga Parbat, 1937



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Hans Hartmann, who was among those who perished in the avalanche at Camp 4 on Nanga Parbat, was known to many members of the Himalayan Club. Born in 1908 in Berlin, he went to Munich as a medical student and there joined the Akademische Alpenverein, of which his father had also been a distinguished member. He had made several difficult ascents in the Alps before, on the Bianco ridge of the Piz Bernina, which he climbed with Karl Wien under severe conditions in the winter of 1928, his feet were so badly frost-bitten that amputation above the toes was necessitated.

Undaunted by this handicap he played a great part in the Kangchenjunga expedition of 1931, when he was one of those who went highest. He was a zealous scientist and, as is shown by his ascent of the Bianco ridge, alone and for the second time, an intrepid climber. Married in 1934 and the father of two small children, he pondered long before accepting the invitation from his devoted friend Karl Wien to join the 1937 expedition to Nanga Parbat.

H. W. Tobin



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Pasang norbuAng tsering ii
Jigmay sherpaNima tsering i
Gyaljen MonjoKami sherpa
Chong karmaNim tsering
 Mingma tsering

Once again we have to record with deep regret the death of several gallant porters on Nanga Parbat. Of the twelve men enlisted at Darjeeling, nine lost their lives. Several of them had fine records of mountaineering to their credit.

Pasang Norbu (H.C.P. No. 29) was well known to many Himalayan climbers as Pasang 'Picture'. His expeditions included Kang- chenjunga, in 1929 and 1931, both under Paul Bauer's leadership; Nanga Parbat, 1934, under Merkl; and Mount Everest, 1936. Pasang 'Picture5 did brilliantly on Nanga Parbat in 1934. He was the porter who, after working all day, carried oxygen through the night from Camp 1 to Camp 2 in the vain effort to save Alfred Drexel's life.18 He was also one of the eleven porters who reached Camp 8 at 26,000 feet, and one of the five porters who survived the terrible blizzard which killed Merkl, Wieland, Welzenbach, and the six other porters. On that occasion he led two other porters to safety, though terribly frost-bitten himself, and he was later awarded the Medal of Honour of the German Red Cross for bravery and endurance.19 Yet after this experience he volunteered for Mount Everest in 1936, and Nanga Parbat again in 1937. After 1936 Hugh Ruttledge wrote of him: He is an absolutely first-class man, and I would recommend him for a responsible position with any expedition.' He was about thirty years of age when he met his death on Nanga Parbat in 1937.

1 Himalayan Club porters have been registered and given numbers to assist identification. These notes have been compiled from various sources, mainly supplied by Mrs. Joan Townend, the Honorary Secretary of the Eastern Section, supplemented by other material. For Paul Bauer's tributes to these men, see ante, pp. 146-7.—Ed,


  1. Himalayan Journal, vol. vii, 1935, p. 30.
  2. Ibid., p. 167; vol. viii, 1936, p. 146.


Ang Tsering II (H.C.P. No. 15) was a local porter from Sola Khombu on the 1933 Mount Everest expedition, and on that occasion was one of the eight porters who reached Camp 6, 27,400 feet, and returned in a blizzard on the 29th May. He did not come back to Darjeeling at once after the expedition, but returned to Sola Khombu, and it was his namesake who survived the ordeal of Nanga Parbat in 1934.20 In 1935, however, he rejoined the Mount Everest adventure and became the personal porter of Michael Spender, who gave an excellent account of him. Later in the year he accompanied G. R. Cooke on his Kabru climb;4 and no sooner was he back from this expedition than he was sent, with Ang Tharkay, by John Morris to select porters from Sola Khombu and to bring them over the Nangpa La to meet the 1936 expedition at Rongbuk in April, a task that he successfully carried out. Immediately he returned from Everest he joined the Japanese expedition to Nanda Kot, and was the only porter that reached the summit with the climbing party.5

Jigmay Sherpa (H.C.P. No. 23) had an almost continuous record of expeditions from 1929 onwards. He was on all three of the Kangchenjunga expeditions in 1929 (Bauer), 1930 (Dyhrenfurth), and 1931 (Bauer). He was Wyn Harris's personal porter on the 1933 Mount Everest expedition, and Walzenbach's servant on Nanga Parbat in 1934, though he was not one of the porters to go high on either occasion. He was with Shipton on his Mount Everest reconnaissance in 1935, and with G. R. Cooke on Kabru at the end of the same year. He volunteered again for Everest in 1936 and Nanga Parbat in 1937. He was the porter who carried down Birnie on his back from Camp 2 to the Base Camp in the 1933 Mount Everest expedition. Hugh Ruttledge writes of him as 'everlastingly willing and cheerful, with a very great influence on the others; a man of great experience and very strong; extremely good-tempered and hard-working, and an excellent servant'.

Nima Tsering I (H.C.P. No. 17) was on the 1933 Mount Everest expedition and on the 1935 reconnaissance. The following year he was with the French expedition to the Karakoram, where he did well as a high-altitude porter; and on his return from the Karakoram he joined Bauer's expedition to Sikkim for the successful campaign against Siniolchu and Simvu. Karl Wien wrote of him as 'staid and thoughtful, attacking everything with amazing calm and assurance'.1

Gyaljen Monjo (H.C.P. No. 58) and Kami Sherpa (H.C.P. No. 117) were both new porters on the 1936 Mount Everest expedition, and carried loads to the North col.2 Both received good reports from the leader. Chong Karma (H.C.P. No. 104) and Nim Tsering (H.C.P. No. no) were new porters on the French Karakoram expedition of 1936, when they were well reported on.


  1. Ibid., vol. vii, 1935, p. 167.
  2. Ibid., vol. viii, 1936, p. 114.
  3. Ibid., vol. x, 1938, p. 77.


Mingma Tsering (H.C.P. No. 68) was the younger brother of Pasang 'Picture'. He was first employed by Mrs. Townend on her visit to the Guicha La in 1935, and was then chosen for the Mount Everest expedition of 1936, when he reached Camp 4. On his return from this expedition he immediately went with Paul Bauer and Karl Wien to Sikkim in August for their successful attack on Siniolchu and Simvu. Nothing seems to stop these men from going on a climb except absence on another.

Hugh Ruttledge wrote of him as a 'first-class lad with an exemplary character, always at work and cheerful', while Mrs. Townend also writes of him as an excellent boy.

John Morris, who was in charge of the porters of the 1936 Mount Everest expedition, has written the following note about Pasang 'Picture' and his brother Mingma:

There was at first considerable doubt whether Pasang would be selected for the 1936 Everest expedition. His hands had been terribly frost-bitten on Nanga Parbat in 1934, and it was only too apparent that it would be unfair to let him go high again. If he himself realized that to be again frost-bitten would probably mean losing the use of his hands, he showed not the slightest sign of it, and came almost daily to plead with me to include him in the party. Eventually I left it to Humphreys and Warren to decide. They both agreed with me that from a medical point of view his inclusion in the party was not warranted. But who could resist Pasang's astonishing persistence and ever-smiling face? We just had to take him, and a satisfactory compromise was effected by making him Smijth-Wind- ham's personal servant. By giving him this particular duty he would not be required to go beyond Camp 1, where there was no danger of further damage to his hands. Nevertheless, in spite of all our precautions for his safety, Pasang one day escaped from what was doubtless the boredom of the Base. He was always a front-line soldier; and before any of us knew what was happening, he had carried up a load to the North col. The next day he was back again with his master, smiling and happy once more. He had proved to his own satisfaction that he could still do as well as any of the others. There was just no stopping that man!


  1. Ibid., vol. ix, 1937, p. 59.
    Mrs. Townend is my authority for saying that Gyaljen Monjo went to the North col; Paul Bauer says that Kami Sherpa did so (ante, p. 147). I have been unable to verify whether both did so.


Pasang's younger brother Mingma was altogether a different type, being of a rather quiet and mild disposition. He was, if anything, rather stronger physically than Pasang, but lacked such splendid strength of will. Perhaps I can better explain the difference between the two brothers if I say that I shall always retain a picture of Pasang in my mind—nothing, I think, can efface it—whereas the picture of Mingma is already fading, and in a year's time I shall have forgotten how he looked.

Nevertheless, Karl Wien wrote of Mingma, after the Sikkim campaign at the end of the very same year, that he was equal to every emergency, though, owing to his youth, more inclined to be reckless and light-hearted than Nima Tsering II.

Kenneth Mason.

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