Himalayan Journal vol.11
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.11

Publication year:
1939

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. MOUNT EVEREST, 1938
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  2. PIONEER EXPLORATION IN HUNZA AND CHITRAL
    (BRIGADIER-GENERAL SIR GEORGE COCKERILL)
  3. THE ATTEMPT ON MASHERBRUM, 1938
    (J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  4. THE DIET PROBLEM FOR MOUNTAINEERS IN THE HIMALAYA
    (DR. G. A. J. TEASDALE)
  5. BIRDS OF A KARAKORAM TREK
    (DR. ELIZABETH TEASDALE)
  6. KA KARPO RAZI BURMA'S HIGHEST PEAK
    (F. KINGDON WARD)
  7. NANGA PARBAT, 1938
    (PAUL BAUER1)
  8. PHOTOGRAMMETRIC STUDIES OF GLACIERS IN HIGH ASIA
    (R. FINSTERWALDER AND W. PILLEWIZER)
  9. A RECONNAISSANCE OF K2, 1938
    (CHARLES HOUSTON)
  10. GANGOTRI TRIANGULATION
    (MAJOR GORDON OSMASTON)
  11. THE GERMAN EXPEDITION TO THE GANGOTRI GLACIER, 1938
    (PROFESSOR RUDOLF SCHWARZGRUBER)
  12. LACHSI AND THE ZEMU GAP
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  13. RECONNAISSANCES OF RAKAPOSHI AND THE KUNYANG GLACIER
    (CAMPBELL SEGORD AND MICHAL VYVYAN)
  14. SIKKIM THIRTY YEARS AGO
    (J. G. FRENCH)
  15. SURVEYS AND VARIOUS EXPEDITIONS
  16. IN MEMORIAM
  17. CORRESPONDENCE
  18. NOTES
  19. REVIEWS
  20. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  21. CLUB NOTICES

GANGOTRI TRIANGULATION

MAJOR GORDON OSMASTON

somebody once said that in order to climb Mount Everest you have merely to issue an order to the Survey of India that a 'trig, station' is required on the top. Be that as it may, the fact remains that surveyors are expected to go anywhere, and in India we certainly get plenty of variety.

In the spring of 1936 I was working in the dense jungle-covered hills between Assam and Burma, in the summer surveying in the Central Himalaya, and in the autumn in the Rajputana desert.

The Indian surveyor has to adapt himself to the different types of country as he meets them, often with no previous experience. This is specially true with regard to high Himalayan surveys. Indians have never climbed in the Himalaya except over passes and for grazing their animals. They consequently know nothing of high- climbing technique.

The following account of incidents during triangulation at Gangotri in 1936 is not intended to bring out any points of a technical survey nature, but is given more to show the kind of mountaineering problems that are met with in such work, and how they were dealt with on this occasion, often very wrongly, by a singularly inexperienced party.[1]
As a survey officer I had always hoped for a chance of surveying in the Himalaya; such surveys are unfortunately few and far between, the proportion of high mountains to plains in India being disappointingly small, especially with Nepal and Bhutan forbidden ground.

When in March 1936 orders came for me to take charge of the new survey of northern Tehri-Garhwal, I was naturally delighted with such a splendid opportunity of getting into the mountains.

New maps were badly needed because of the increasing number of travellers coming to the Himalaya with a genuine interest in the high glaciated regions. These highest areas had not been visited by the surveyors when the existing maps were made sixty and seventy years ago, and the few details shown were unreliable.

The Bhagirathi gorge above Gangnani

The Bhagirathi gorge above Gangnani



My own mountaineering experience consisted of some rock climbing in England, several minor expeditions in the Himalaya-none with experienced climbers-and a good deal of reading. Two junior officers, ten surveyors, fifty khalasis-mostly Garhwalis-and some 120 local coolies completed the survey party. Of these, three of the surveyors had had some experience of high-mountain surveys in Chitral, the rest knew little or nothing of mountaineering.

On arrival in Mussoorie in the middle of April I found that the surveyors had already left for the mountains. The most pressing work was the fixing of 'trig.' points for the surveyors in the area east of Gangotri: here, in 150 square miles, there was only one rather doubtful point. This point was the elusive Satopanth peak, 23,240 feet, which has consistently been misidentified by explorers. It lies hidden away behind the ranges on no main watershed, rather like the main peak of Nanda Devi.

To carry out this work it was planned to observe a series of triangles from near Harsil, where there were old stations, eastwards for about 40 miles to the vicinity of the main watershed north of the Ghaukhamba (Badrinath) peaks. An attempt to accomplish this the previous autumn had failed owing to the cold.

Only five weeks now remained before topographical surveyors would be reaching this area. There was certainly no time to spare, and I looked with some alarm at the provisional programme that had been worked out for the observer. Not only was he expected to double-march for 100 miles to Harsil, but subsequently he would climb mountains, up to 20,000 feet, and make his observations at the rate of three per week; hardly a practicable proposition, unless perfect weather and no other delays were assumed.

Leaving Mussoorie on the 21st April with four young Garhwali khalasis and fourteen coolies we reached Dharasu in two marches, via Deosari. This is a delightful route, if taken slowly in three or four marches, and much preferable to the path via Tehri which is more often followed. The marches had been 17 and 20 miles, and we all arrived at Dharasu extremely hot and tired, in the dark. By universal consent the programme of double marches was voted a failure and the remainder of the way to Harsil was done in more reasonable stages.

The path onwards follows the Bhagirathi river all the way, and is good for pack transport as far as Bhatwari: there are also staging bungalows so far. At Bhatwari I met the first of my surveyors, who was carried in suffering from severe internal pains. He did not improve, in spite of my remedies, and had to be sent back to Mussoorie: the trouble was an internal ulcer from which he recovered in due course.

Above Bhatwari the path gets steeper and rougher as the gorge through the main range is approached. At Gangnani, at the entrance to the gorge, there is a hot sulphurish spring gushing out of the hill-side above the path; it has been led into two stone tanks about 5 feet deep, in which we enjoyed a splendid hot bath.

The water, where it first comes out of the ground, is unbearably hot, perhaps I50°F., and the water in the tanks is over 100°. A pleasant old Brahmin presided over the spring and told me that the temperature and flow never varied. Hot springs seem to occur frequently in or near the gorges through the main Himalayan range, but I have heard no explanation.



A mile or two below Harsil the gorge ends abruptly, and the towering cliffs on either side give place to pine-clad slopes bordering on a broad flat river-bed. The river also turns abruptly eastwards north of the main range.

Harsil, at 8,000 feet, is delightfully situated in pine-woods by the river, and the valley is broad enough to give a view of the jagged rock and snow-peaks above. This is the obvious base from which to start operations in this area, and here local coolies replace those that have carried so far.

At Harsil I met Messrs. Ross and Blake, who were staying at the fine old wooden house which now serves as a forest bungalow. Ross was in charge of the survey camp, and Blake, his friend, had taken this opportunity to visit the Himalaya with him. As we sat in the orchard having breakfast under the blossoming fruit-trees, it was hard to imagine more perfect surroundings. Surveyors were working lower down, and there were still about three weeks before the first of them would be reaching the Gangotri area.

There were three old survey stations near Harsil, and our first task was to find two of them from which to start the new work. Khargu station, 14,500 feet, was 2 or 3 miles up the valley on a conspicuous snow-shoulder visible from Harsil. We decided to tackle this hill first.

A small camp was taken up through the pine-forest until snow was reached at 10,000 feet. The coolies were unequipped for snow, so the camp could not be taken much higher. The men actually preferred climbing on the snow with bare feet to wearing their own shoes.

The next day we climbed up the ridge, leaving the coolies below. The climbing was easy, over steep grass and rock, with occasional snow patches. It was only the last 500 feet that we had to climb entirely on snow.

We reached what we supposed to be the station after about four hours' climbing, and started to dig away the snow to make sure. The first rocks were struck after digging 7 feet down, and it was then clear that we could not possibly expect to find the mark until a lot more snow had melted. A few observations were taken to the other old stations and possible new stations up the valley, and a large snow-cairn was built before we started down again.

The delights of glissading had been impressed on me by experts in the plains, but the details of how to glissade had unfortunately been left largely to my imagination; admittedly Calcutta is hardly a suitable place to demonstrate. I shall not easily forget my attempts at glissading during this descent. Perhaps the most useful result was to dissuade the rest of the party from trying at all, except for Blake whom nothing would stop. He and I competed as to who could fall down the snow-slopes the quicker, never by any chance for more than a few yards on our feet. For some unknown reason the use of an ice-axe, except as a drag-anchor in the last extremity, was considered 'bad form'. Beginners are well advised to approach the art of glissading with due caution, a thorough knowledge of snow conditions and of how to use the ice-axe being essential. Glissading is often more dangerous than ski-ing because it is done down steeper slopes, and you go faster if you sit down, instead of stopping.

During the next week we found two of the old stations on the north side of the valley, where there was much less snow. We were now in a position to extend the work eastwards. The weather had so far been perfect, and we had had splendid views of the mountains; what had struck us particularly was a tremendous line of peaks stretching north and south of the main valley near Gangotri. This barrier was going to be a serious obstacle to the triangulation; and there seemed to be no gaps in it much below 20,000 feet, except the narrow Bhagirathi gorge.

In order to try to see across this ridge we decided next to make a station on a snow-peak about 19,000 feet high on the west of the Rudugaira glacier. This is the peak mentioned by Auden.1 It is really an outlier on a northern spur of the Gangotri group.

A climb to this height was a new experience for most of us. Two camps were made, the first at about 13,000 feet near the last juniper fuel; the second at about 16,000 feet on the last rocks showing through the snow. The local coolies were feeling the altitude and reached this second camp with difficulty, and then went down again. The 3,ooo-foot climb to the top next day was mostly up easy snow-slopes on the east flank of the mountain. The khalasis were very keen to show what they could do and started off much too fast; # it was an object lesson to see how the slow plodders passed the morning thrusters in the last thousand feet. Snow conditions were excellent, steps could be kicked when required, and roping was unnecessary.

Ross led all the way-a really fine effort, as he has no head for heights and had never been anything like so high before. Blake made a spectacular arrival on the summit: he had gallantly taken the plane-table from a mountain-sick khalasi, and was so thrilled suddenly to find himself at the top that with a cheer he broke into a run, only to collapse in a gasping heap. He is possibly the first man to try to run uphill at this elevation, certainly not a feat to be recommended.

In spite of our height being 19,100 feet, only the very top of one unclimbable peak showed over the barrier ridge. This was very disappointing and meant that I should have to be content with a contracted series of triangles up the narrow main valley. There was no time to try to occupy a station on the barrier ridge itself, which would have been a better alternative.

At Gangotri I parted company with Ross and Blake: they went down to look after the surveyors below while I continued the triangulation up the Gangotri glacier.

The Bhagirathi river passes through a narrow gorge at Gangotri, whose sides rise steeply to 20,000-foot peaks. My first station above Gangotri was as high as I could get on the northern wall (17,000 feet), about half-way between Gangotri and Gaumukh.

The weather had hitherto been so kind that I counted on getting the observations done in one day from a light camp 3,000 feet above the river. Instead, having climbed up another 2,000 feet with the instrument, we sat in a cloud, being snowed on all day. At 4 o'clock in the evening we descended, only to find that, according to my orders, the light camp had been taken down to the valley below. This meant a very early start next morning and a 5,000-foot climb to the station; the weather again failed, and two days were spent in the re-established light camp waiting for it to clear.

1 Himalayan Journal, vol. viii, 1936, sketch-map, p. 99.

The German Base Camp on the Gangotri glacier at Nandanban, 14,230 feet and Shivling, 21,466 feet. 1938

The German Base Camp on the Gangotri glacier at Nandanban, 14,230 feet and Shivling, 21,466 feet. 1938



Shivling, the Gangotri ‘Matterhorn’, 21,466 feet, from the north-east

Shivling, the Gangotri ‘Matterhorn’, 21,466 feet, from the north-east



After finishing this troublesome station we moved up to Gaumukh. Even at this time of the year there is a tremendous volume of water coming out of the ice-cave, and the river is quite unfordable.

The next advance, up the true right edge of the glacier, was heavy going over tumbled moraine, and the coolies were very slow.

We crossed the first side-valley about a mile above Gaumukh, but snow began to fall in the early afternoon, and we were forced to camp above the lateral moraine a mile short of Nandanban, which I had hoped to reach. There were no tents for the coolies, who crouched over tiny fires all night in the snow, huddled each in a single blanket. Treated kindly, these men will as a matter of course put up with what would be to us terrible hardships.

One coolie at this camp fell and hurt his shoulder while collecting fuel; he was in great pain, but whether the bone was broken or the shoulder dislocated was beyond me to tell. Splints were improvised from tent-pegs, and his arm strapped to his side with puttees for the night, but the next day he had to be sent down to Gangotri. Three weeks later I saw him again, still with a very stiff shoulder but apparently out of pain. It is almost impossible to persuade these simple people to take the trouble to visit a dispensary.

The weather now cleared up, and I was able to observe at two stations astride the Gangotri glacier on consecutive days; one on the rocky peak, 17,346 feet, directly above Nandanban, referred to as Little Satopanth by Marco Pallis,1 the other on the lower slopes of Shivling, 21,466 feet. This peak has previously been referred to by various formidable titles such as 'Matterhorn in a nightmare', &c., and it certainly is a stupendous rocky tower. Its rock faces are so steep that little snow can find a hold except on the extreme summit, which is crowned with a fine ice-cap.

Nandanban, 14,230 feet, in the angle between the Gangotri and Chaturangi glaciers, is a splendid camping-ground with clear streams running through many acres of flat grassland. The only drawback is that fuel has to be brought from 2 miles down the valley. This was the obvious place for my base camp, and it seemed comparatively free from glacier winds, a great consideration. Here, on the 21st May, the first two surveyors arrived on the scene from below, and a day was spent in camp computing, in order to give each of them a few points to work from.

My next move was to explore up the main Gangotri glacier, choosing suitable stations at which to observe on the way back. I estimated that this would take a week, including observations at three, or possibly four, stations.

1 Himalayan Journal, vol. vi, 1934, p. 113. It belongs to the group now known as the Bhagirathi group, and not to the Satopanth group.-Ed.

A start was made on the 22nd May; the route taken led along the right lateral moraine for a mile or two, after which rock-falls from the Bhagirathi peaks forced us on to the centre of the glacier, where the going was surprisingly easy. There was hardly any snow on the surface of the glacier, and the medial moraines were comparatively smooth. By 2 o'clock we had reached the farther end of the Kedarnath massif and were beginning to see round the easterly bend of the glacier towards its head. We camped here on rocks on the left side of the glacier. Snow fell during the night, and the coolies, who now had tents, were slow to move in the morning. I boiled them a kettle of water on my stove and took it to them for their tea, only to be told that perhaps it would do for washing in! I have yet to experience whether it is possible to keep one's temper in such circumstances. It is these futile customs amongst caste Hindus that are the chief drawback to employing them as mountain porters. We eventually got started with eighteen coolies, the remaining nine staying behind to work as a fuel convoy from the base camp.

The way up the glacier was now over snow-covered moraines. The surface was good except near rocks, where we sank through knee-deep. Camp was pitched at about 16,000 feet on the last rocks showing through the snow, opposite the entrance of the Swachhand glacier.

The Chaukhamba group at the head of the main glacier was now in full view 5 miles due east. The slope of the glacier remained almost imperceptible right up to and in between the ridges of this massif. The peaks themselves looked very difficult to climb from this side.

This was all new country, as no one had explored the last few miles of the Gangotri glacier before, and the topography differed very much from the old maps. Even as a professional surveyor I must admit to a thrill when finding myself in an area that is all wrong on the map. True the old maps had ample reason for being wrong in these uninhabited regions, and it is more the feeling of finding something really new that is so particularly satisfying-a feeling that must unfortunately become more and more rare as our maps are extended and improved.

The Chaukhamba peaks were already well-fixed points, so that it was unnecessary for me to go any farther up the glacier for a station. A rocky peak just east of the Swachhand glacier appeared to be exactly in the right position for what I wanted, if only I could climb to the top, about 21,000 feet. I examined it carefully with binoculars from across the glacier and noted in my diary that there seemed to be no continuous route to the summit. This was not very hopeful, but we set out next morning to disprove the verdict, if possible. Six coolies, each carrying about 20 lb., would establish our camp and come down again, while two khalasis were to stay up on the mountain with me. The coolies were very slow crossing the glacier, and when I had climbed about 500 feet of a fairly easy rock buttress I saw them still sitting on the glacier below. Five minutes of long- range argument ensued-complaints of the impossibility of coming up on their part, and a rapidly increasing volume of scathing remarks from me; even if unintelligible, my efforts were louder and fiercer than theirs, and eventually up they came.

Chaukhamba (Badrinath), 23,190 feet, from the Upper Gangotri glacier

Chaukhamba (Badrinath), 23,190 feet, from the Upper Gangotri glacier



Kharchakund, about 21,800 feet, from the north

Kharchakund, about 21,800 feet, from the north



Most of these local hillmen are excellent climbers and think nothing of scrambling along tiny ledges or on extremely steep slopes, even with loads. On this day, once started, they did very well indeed, and even when the rope had to be used to get up the steeper places there were no further complaints.

The climbing got steadily steeper and more difficult, and at 3 p.m. we were only at 18,000 feet on steep rocks. The coolies could not be kept longer, so loads were dumped and they went down, leaving the three of us to build a platform for the tent. The position was a distinctly airy one on a few square feet of sloping spur jutting out from the face of the mountain, the ground falling away steeply on three sides.

I personally spent a miserable night, and slept hardly at all. The two khalasis apparently needed no air, and slept soundly all the time. Unfortunately there was no place to sleep outside the tent. Besides being half suffocated, my eyes began to ache badly about midnight and later to water profusely-my first, and I hope last, touch of snow- blindness, evidently due to wearing ordinary Crookes glasses without sideguards during the rock-climb. The attack wore off soon after getting up in the morning, but it was painful while it lasted.

Owing to the low altitude of this camp we could not hope to reach the top of the mountain the same day in time to do the observations, as the afternoons were always cloudy. The plan was therefore to get as high as we could by 2.30 p.m. and then for the two khalasis to come down to the camp, leaving me to observe next morning. Between us we carried half a double sleeping-bag, the theodolite and stand, and sufficient cold food for my supper and breakfast, and a small thermos flask of tea.

It is often said that altitude dulls the senses: this is the only excuse I can now give for not taking a rope. At the time, perhaps, I was influenced by the thought that both the khalasis were sure-footed hillmen who had never used a rope before, and also that I had no intention of doing difficult climbing with a theodolite. I have come to the conclusion now that there is no good excuse for being on a steep mountain-side without a rope.

Three routes up the face all ended in unclimbable cliffs, and by midday we had made little if any height but had worked across to a snow-gully running diagonally upwards. The snow proved sound though rather soft, and we kicked steps up it for several hundred feet at an angle of over 450. As the gully steepened so the rocks forming the edge on our right looked more attractive and we tried to get on to them. Several attempts failed before we finally succeeded in making a landing, as the rocks were deceptively steep. Having gained a footing we rather wished to be back on the snow.

Although the average slope of the ridge up which we now climbed was about 450 it contained a number of awkward steeper pitches, luckily most of them so short that a helping hand from above or below was all we required. It was soon 2.30 p.m., the time that had been settled for the khalasis to go down. We were still climbing up the ridge, but there was no chance of reaching anywhere near the summit, and I proposed to observe next morning from the best viewpoint near by. The khalasis refused .point-blank to go down, saying that they would much rather stay with me than break their necks going down alone. The only alternative was to go on up, which we did till about 5.30 p.m. when the head of the gully was reached, at a height of 19,100 feet.

Here we found ourselves on a narrow horizontal step in the main arete with a precipice downwards at one end and upwards at the other; it was quite obvious that we could get no farther. The step or shoulder consisted of a jagged edge of rocks a few feet across and about 30 yards long; on one side was the snow-gully up which we had come, on the other a precipitous drop of over a thousand feet. The station was afterwards aptly named 'Precipice ridge'.

Distribution of my food and bedding lacked much enthusiasm, anyway on my part. The food, consisting of a few potato cakes and chapatis, was easy enough, and was soon gone; but half a sleeping-bag for three was rather a problem. The good-hearted khalasis insisted on my having the bag if they could have the waterproof cover, and so it was arranged. As it grew dark we settled down in the safest places we could find; I wedged myself between rocks on the crest, while the khalasis climbed down a few feet and crouched together in a cleft.

Soon after dark it began to snow and continued on and off all night; this was probably the kindest thing the weather could have done as the temperature never fell much below freezing-point and there was no wind. I failed to realize this at the time, however, as my sleeping-bag absorbed the snow like a sponge and was soon soaked through.

The night seemed unusually long, the only relief being occasional shouts of 'Are you all right down there' and some sort of grunted reply from below.

View from ‘Precipice ridge’, looking down the Gangotri glacier, at the end of May 1936. Kedarnath is the large mass in the left centre of the photograph

View from ‘Precipice ridge’, looking down the Gangotri glacier, at the end of May 1936. Kedarnath is the large mass in the left centre of the photograph



Swachhand Peak, 22,050 feet

Swachhand Peak, 22,050 feet



Day broke with the longed-for sun making feeble attempts to pierce the snow-clouds. Awful thought!-Was all this effort going to be wasted? By 10 a.m. the sun decided to come through properly, and we were able to thaw out our boots and socks, and get started with the observations. Two hours saw the work finished, and after cutting the survey mark on a rock and building a small cairn, we packed up for the descent.

Climbing down was more difficult than expected, chiefly because we were rather weak, having had hardly any food or drink since the morning before. In one place I misjudged the width of a sloping ledge and found myself being pushed off into space. An urgent call to the khalasi close above, and after a few anxious seconds a welcome nailed boot appeared over my shoulder, to which I clung while regaining position.

Lower down a sloping slab of rock had to be crossed: we had hardly noticed it on the way up, but taking it downwards was quite another matter. A pair of puttees threaded through a convenient hole served our purpose this time; only a slight pull being necessary to keep our nailed boots gripping the rock. All safely across, the puttees could not be pulled away. Government puttees cannot be abandoned so easily, and the khalasis were determined that some one must cross back and cut them adrift. I was equally determined to do nothing of the sort. We compromised by one man leaning across as far as possible and cutting off the ends of the puttees.

The rest of the descent was without particular incident, though we were all very exhausted and the level walk across the glacier to the camp was a weary grind.

On the way down we had passed within shouting distance of our upper camp and told the coolies who were waiting there to bring it down. They were apparently rather surprised to see us come back at all.

Mugs of welcome tea greeted us in camp, and after a first feeling of sickness we soon revived. Later on in the evening star observations were done, using the cairn on 'Precipice ridge' as a reference mark.

Only two days' rations remained, so we hurried down the glacier next day and completed observations at a station on the north-east spur of Kedarnath during the afternoon. One more station on the north of the glacier, observed from on the next day, completed the connexion with my work round the base camp, and we arrived there the same evening.

A day of computations showed that the Gangotri glacier was about 4 miles out of position on the old map, and therefore there was still quite a large area without any fixed points to the north. To make these points it was necessary to observe at a few more stations up the Chaturangi glacier. The work was exactly similar to that done up the main glacier, except that higher and more satisfactory stations were reached.

Chaturangi means ‘four coloured’, and the glacier has been so named from the different coloured rocks making up its moraines. This glacier forms far the best route to the main watershed, which has been crossed in several places at its head during the last few years;1 but again it was quite wrongly shown on existing maps.

A short march up the left side of the Chaturangi glacier brought us to the huge moraine of a lateral glacier which formed the end of the ablation valley. The next day we crossed the main glacier and camped at a junction of glaciers at about 17,000 feet. My intention was to try to make a station on the peak which dominates the lower part of the glacier from just above this junction.

This time the climb was successful. After one false move on the western slopes of the mountain, we traversed across to a climbable ridge to the south and established the light camp at about 19,000 feet.

Three khalasis stayed up with me, and the camp site was flat enough for me to sleep outside the tent. In this way I spent a very comfortable night, a most agreeable contrast to the stuffy tent.

At 4 a.m. tea was boiled and breakfast eaten. Having all, as I thought, had some food we moved off for the climb half an hour before sunrise.

It was very cold till the sun reached us, but there was some fairly steep rock-climbing at first which helped to keep us warm. After that the climb was entirely up a snow ridge; at first broad and gently sloping, but gradually steepening above. The khalasis, for some reason, were unusually lethargic and needed constant encouragement to keep them moving. It was only afterwards that I discovered that they had taken nothing to eat before starting.

The snow was in good condition and only in one place caused trouble where it was soft and steep round an outcrop of rock. Here for about 20 feet a combination of wading and making steps with the knees had to be used to get up.

Farther up, the ridge narrowed to an edge with a small cornice towards the east. To avoid this we kept a few feet down the opposite side; in spite of this, without warning, several yards of the cornice suddenly broke away along our track and I found myself standing on the extreme edge with a cloud of falling snow billowing down below. We allowed more margin for error after this, but the slope on the uncorniced side had a disconcerting way of breaking away in slabs 2 or 3 inches thick round our feet.

1 Birnie, 1931: Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, pp. 35-45; Shipton and Tilman, 1934: op. cit., vol. vii, 1935, pp. 9-14; Martyn and Gibson, 1937: op. cit., vol. x, 1938, pp. 79-85.

An extra large slab coming adrift round the last khalasi was too much for him and he sat down and refused to go on. We were near the top now and, as he seemed quite happy sitting where he was, we continued up without him.

The summit, consisting of a broad, flat expanse of snow, was reached about half an hour later. The snow was soft and loose, and the legs of the theodolite had to be supported on rucksacks to keep them from sinking in. There was a splendid view in all directions; Kamet and Nanda Devi could easily be picked out to the east, besides a sea of other nearer peaks.

An observer generally develops the habit of holding his breath while making delicate intersections, consequently at this height, 20,980 feet, observing was breathless work.

The observations were finished about midday just as snow began to fall. We tried to build a cairn of snow to mark the station, but the snow behaved like dry sand and it was only possible to make a sloping pyramid about 3 feet high. There was no flag to stick in the top, and the only dark object we could find between us, which we cared to leave behind, was a chapati; this was duly set in the side of the pyramid as a bull's-eye to sight on from lower down the valley.

One of my two remaining khalasis now complained that he had fever, so as we started down he was placed in the middle and we kept close together. All went well, and we picked up the third unfortunate khalasi on the way; he had recovered his nerve and was only too glad to be moving again.

On reaching the upper camp the khalasis had their first food of the day! I now could well understand the poor showing they had made during the climb, which was merely a symptom of empty insides. This kind of stupidity on the part of inexperienced Indians has constantly to be guarded against. There is no local name for this mountain, which to commemorate this folly was called 'Khalipet'.

The coolies, who had come up to take down the light camp, were all suffering from altitude headaches and seemed very exhausted, but a little brandy on lumps of sugar pulled them together wonderfully, and we were soon down on the main glacier.

The three remaining stations down the valley were quickly finished, and the completion of the work was happily rounded off on the 7th June by the arrival of Ross and Blake at the base camp on the same day as I returned.

So ended what for me had been throughout a grand adventure. We had made our mistakes, and learnt many lessons. The hills treated us kindly, as beginners.


[1] This paper by Major Osmaston reached me after going to press, together with the attached sketch-map. I had already drawn from a blue-print of his surveys the sketch-map of the Gangotri region which accompanies Professor Schwarz- gruber's paper on p. 143 below, which should be consulted when reading the second part of Major Osmaston's paper. I have also included some of Professor Schwarz- gruber's magnificent photographs to illustrate Major Osmaston's paper.-Ed.