[ The papers published below are the record of two parts of one brief expedition which was planned to explore the basin of the upper Kunyang glacier of the Hispar Muztagh. On the way Messrs. Secord and Vyvyan succumbed to the temptations of Rakaposhi and explored its western approaches. Mr. Secord then had to return unexpectedly to England, and Mr. Vyvyan carried out single-handed a rather less ambitious reconnaissance of the Kunyang glacier.—Ed.]

Rakaposhi (Campbell Secord).

Rakaposhi towers 20,000 feet above the Hunza and Gilgit rivers .which almost encircle it, and the first glimpse of it from Taliche, 40 miles away in the Indus valley, persuaded Michal Vyvyan and myself to have a closer look at it before proceeding to our intended destination up the Hispar glacier. After a day of pleasant ease at Gilgit, therefore, we set off early on the 4th July for a flying trip to the Jaglot nullah which would lead us into the recesses of the mountain's mighty western ramparts.1

It was exciting to be skilfully ferried across the raging Hunza river on a skin raft, but the 20 miles up its arid left bank seemed interminable on—or off—the decrepit ponies supplied to us with only one saddle between them. Hospitable villagers at Matun Das compelled us to rest during the midday heat by hiding our ponies, providing shady couches and apricots galore, and talking volubly in Burushaski. It was a pleasant spot, perched high above the river, its stone-walled orchards oddly reminiscent of the Italian lake- district. The afternoon's monotony was abruptly terminated by a 6oo-foot climb straight up the cliffs fringing the river-bed, and we emerged on the edge of a lovely fertile hanging valley—our nullah, at last! The village of Jaglot lay near by among well-cultivated fields, a startling contrast to the desert we had left below. We discarded the ponies and pushed on up three successive valley steps, camping, as night fell, beyond the uppermost hamlet, with morainal detritus visible in the narrowing gap beyond.

Intense curiosity roused us early next morning, and we walked rapidly upwards, following cattle-tracks along the beautifully treed moraines, as far as a high glacial mound at the junction of two affluents. A delicate cirque of 20,000-foot peaks enclosed the southern branch, but it was the view eastwards which riveted our attention. Rakaposhi soared nearly 16,000 feet directly above us, its western face a mass of tremendous ice-falls enclosed by north-western and south-western ridges of extraordinary beauty, which sprang from a large plateau lying at about 23,000 feet, and which extended at a very high level outwards almost as far as we stood. From the plateau rose the summit pyramid, about 2,500 feet high. It was a fine introduction to the high mountains of Asia.

  1. Rakaposhi, or Dumani as it is known locally, is shown on the Survey of India quarter-inch map 42 l. The great snow plateau from which springs the summit pyramid is well shown in the frontispiece to Himalayan Journal, vol. v, 1933, which is from a photograph taken from a Hart plane flying a little to the south of the southwest ridge. It is interesting to compare this air photograph with the first illustration accompanying Mr. Secord's paper.—Ed.
1. South-west ridge of Rakaposhi from a height of 17,300 feet on the Northwest Ridge. 16th July 1938

1. South-west ridge of Rakaposhi from a height of 17,300 feet on the Northwest Ridge. 16th July 1938

2. North-west peak of Rakaposhi (c. 22,300 feet) from the point at which the crest of the north-west ridge was reached (c. 19,000 feet). 17th July 1938

2. North-west peak of Rakaposhi (c. 22,300 feet) from the point at which the crest of the north-west ridge was reached (c. 19,000 feet). 17th July 1938

We crossed up towards the north-west ridge and eventually found ourselves on a truly glorious meadow surrounded by trees and lying, at 12,500 feet, between a moraine hundreds of feet above the glacier and a long grassy spur projecting southwards from the high northwest ridge. This spur so obviously provided access to the ridge, and the latter looked so temptingly practicable from below, that we decided then and there to return with supplies and our two Sherpas in order to examine it more closely. With such inviting plans in mind, we sped back down the 12 miles to Jaglot village where our ponies waited, and pushed on to Matun Das before nightfall, reaching Gilgit the next morning.

Some delay in Gilgit was more than compensated by its kind friendliness, and by the 12th July we got enough kit off to last a month, carried by stout Baltis whom we collected in the bazaar. We followed in the cool of the evening to Nomal, staying on the right bank of the Hunza river this time, and crossing it the next morning by a fearsome but fascinating rope-bridge, made of willow- wands, and about 100 yards long.

The same afternoon I scrambled up a long ridge above Jaglot village to examine our contemplated route in better perspective; but I had a most unpleasant return down the very steep hill-side later, in chaplis and without my ice-axe, reaching camp after dark, somewhat disconcerted by my first day on an Indian mountain! We made a fine base on our high meadow the next day, and made up lighter loads for the climb.

On the 15th the Baltis carried these loads about 5,000 feet up the grassy ridge to the snow-line, to just above 17,000 feet; but they lacked the will to stay with us through the night in order to carry the loads one stage farther to the main north-west ridge. We therefore paid them off and settled down to a happy evening in the finest situation I have ever experienced for a camp. The shapely immensity of Rakaposhi's western amphitheatre was almost unreal, while in the distance Nanga Parbat floated above a darkening sea of intervening ranges.

We awoke deep in the vivid shadow cast across the sky by Raka- poshi. Vyvyan had a persistent headache, and, as one Sherpa had been left below with a touch of malaria, I carried loads to the ridge with the help of the other. It was a long pull-up in heavy snow, and the sun's heat became intolerable. We topped the crest a little over 19,000 feet and were rewarded by a fine view down to the Hunza river below and of some of the big peaks to the north; but a huge shoulder farther up the ridge stood out northwards from the main line of the ridge and hid the Great Karakoram mountains to the east.

We dropped into a little saddle at its foot and cached our loads. Most of the return was expedited by long, galloping glissades. Vyvyan was himself again and the next morning we packed up our camp and took three more loads up to the saddle at about 18,700 feet, where we levelled a platform in the snow below the crest of the ridge for the tents. We had 200 lb. of kit and supplies with us, enough for over a fortnight, and we began to think optimistically about turning our reconnaissance into a bid for the summit! But we had come up over 14,000 feet in four days and a sudden loss of appetite made us aware of the altitude, so that we decided to have a day's rest.

Our rest was enlivened by a visit paid us by two local herdsmen whose curiosity had drawn them up through the snow much farther than they had ever bothered to come before; and it was a strange experience to hear these very 'jungly’ lads exchanging remarks in a sort of Urdu with our Sherpa, whose equally isolated mountain home was a thousand miles away.

4. Rakaposhi and its north west ridge seen from the north west the Hunza valley. The Northwest Peak on the right was climbed on 19th July 1938

4. Rakaposhi and its north west ridge seen from the north west the Hunza valley. The Northwest Peak on the right was climbed on 19th July 1938

With another scorching day we eventually started up the fairly steep but very broken and easy ridge of the shoulder in order to prospect the ground ahead. We were soon taught our first lesson in estimating Himalayan distances. We climbed steadily and quite fast, with only short halts, for five full hours before the 'shoulder5 began to level off into the summit of a fair-sized mountain. The summit ridge was long and tricky, because it carried a tremendous cornice which had partly fractured away from the ice of the ridge. The view from the top came suddenly, opening a whole new world to us, including Disteghil Sar and Pumarikish—Kunjut No. 2, as it used to be called—both in the Hispar Muztagh of the Great Karakoram, through which the Hunza cut cleanly. From there the eye was led to the remote peaks of the Sinkiang frontier. Fantastic 200-foot seracs lurched crazily over the inviting valley more than 3 miles almost directly below us; and Nanga Parbat stood out with amazing clearness, 60 miles away across the Indus, the intervening ranges having dropped below us, not unlike a Bernese peak from the Breithorn above Zermatt.

Our attention was, however, fixed upon the ridge between us and the great snow plateau, which would spell success or failure in an attempt on Rakaposhi. It was painfully clear that our party of three could go no farther. An exceedingly steep drop of about 750 feet led to a long knife-edged ridge of ice, which eventually emerged into the near buttress of the plateau. This ridge appeared to be nearly level, and we were at a height about half-way between its height and that of the plateau; we must have been at about 22,500 feet, the ridge at a little below 22,000 feet, and the plateau's edge at just above 23,000 feet. It was clearly very difficult and quite long, but not likely to prove impossible even with loads. It would, however, require more extensive resources than we had at the time, though with three first-class Sherpas it should be possible to put a camp on the plateau.

We turned back sadly, though we were grateful to have been able to see so much and to have come so far without serious difficulty. We struck camp next morning, leaving five gallons of paraffin cached in the rocks at the western end of the saddle, and then tumbled all the way down to our base-camp meadow with only one pause at our 17,000-foot cache to have a meal and repack the loads for our coolies to collect later. Anxiety to learn whether I would have to return to England early induced me to leave Vyvyan to supervise the porterage as usual, and I came straight back to Gilgit the next day, walking to Nomal in about five hours and riding the rest of the way in the evening. To reach civilized luxuries only 56 hours after leaving a 22,000-foot summit seemed almost an Alpine proximity!

There is a very good chance that Rakaposhi can be climbed by our route. There is no possible access from the north, and the eastern ridge is ruled out by remaining above 21,000 feet for some 10 miles. The south-western ridge is only practicable in its highest section, beyond a prominent dome, and this section might conceivably be reached by a very arduous and dangerous route up the western ice-falls. The only alternative deserving examination before undertaking an attempt by our north-western ridge route is the approach from the Bagrot valley on the south, which is very little known. Rakaposhi is a fine and easily accessible mountain, deserving of further attention.

The Kunyang Glacier (Michal Vyvyan).

On returning to Gilgit after our climb on the north-west peak of Rakaposhi, Secord found that he would have to make his way back to Europe as soon as possible and not take part in our intended journey to the Hispar glacier. This was a great disappointment to us both, because the Kunyang glacier, the first large right bank tributary of the Hispar, had been the original objective of our visit to the Karakoram before we were led astray by the sight of Rakaposhi. The Kunyang glacier had been recommended to Secord by Colonel Mason; its interest lay in the fact that it had never been penetrated far enough by any one to view the great eastern bay of the head basin, which had been largely put on the maps by conjecture; and though Disteghil Sar, 25,868 feet, on its north-east watershed had been identified and photographed, Pumarikish or Kunjut No. 2, 24,580 feet, on its eastern flank had only been seen from points bearing south of it. Bad weather seems to have spoilt the views when the Bullock Workmans, Galciati, and the Vissers were in the neighbourhood, for all of whom this particular region was, of course, a mere detail of much more extended travels.

It had been suggested that somewhere at the head of the Kunyang glacier there might be found a col across the main backbone of the Great Karakoram, thus providing a passage between the Hispar and the Shimshal valleys by way of the Kunyang and the Yazghil or Mulungutti glaciers. There seem to be traditions in the Shimshal valley of the existence of such a pass, and also in Nagar. I found that the Mir of Nagar had sent shikaris to prospect up a glacier valley, which may have been either the Kunyang or the Jutmuru, but it was thought that they had not penetrated very far.

5. Northern slopes of Rakaposhi, 25,550 feet, seen from Aliabad, Hunza. 20th May 1913

5. Northern slopes of Rakaposhi, 25,550 feet, seen from Aliabad, Hunza. 20th May 1913

Without Secord I had only one Sherpa, Arjeeba, to climb with, so that I had not much hope of reaching the watershed of the Kunyang; moreover, the absence of Secord's work with his panoramic camera was going to curtail any very detailed results from my visit. As things turned out, all that I was able to produce alone comprised a sketch-map based on a few compass bearings, from which the plan annexed to this paper has been drawn, together with an almost complete Leica panorama of the head of the glacier basin, part of which is here reproduced. I had relied on working by resection from Disteghil Sar, Pumarikish, and one other point, but no other point was visible from any of the places I reached; and I found that the other points whose heights were marked did not appear to be sufficiently accurately located in relation to the two triangulated peaks to provide a third ray, though the failure may have been due to my own inexperience as a plane-tabler.

I left Gilgit by the ordinary road to Nagar on the 27th July; I made one double march myself, which my baggage took four days to complete. The great inconvenience of private travel in Nagar State is the requirement that baggage, and even riding animals, must be changed at arbitrary stages in order to give a share of the traffic receipts to each village on the road. As there is a dearth of ponies and donkeys, incompetent porters are often pressed into service and one's baggage suffers from these frequent changes. On one occasion, between Minapin and Nagar, a change was insisted upon after a two-mile march. The Political Agent at Gilgit, who was most helpful to me, as things were, in securing the good offices of the Mir, could, however, in all probability make special arrangements for a party with a particular claim to consideration.

Nevertheless, there remains for travellers to Hispar the question of transport onwards from Nagar. The Mir, who showed me very kind hospitality, provided local porters and an Urdu-speaking lam- bar dar who interpreted to the Burushaski-speaking porters. The latter were to receive 8 annas a day with food, or 12 annas if they had to carry their own, and they were to be changed at stages beyond Nagar wherever others were available. None were satisfactory, and neither the lambardar nor the additional shikaris whom the Mir insisted should join my bandobast were of much assistance in controlling them, or indeed of much other use.

The road from Nagar to Hispar, which probably varies according to conditions, at once descends a cliff outside Nagar and crosses the Barpu glacier a little way above its snout. This glacier seems to be advancing; at the moment it very nearly reaches the valley, and the stream which issues from it appears just as large as that of the Hispar, which it joins almost at once. The first stage was to Huru, a minute oasis above the Hispar river, and the next day we reached Hispar after crossing and recrossing the river by bridges made of wire and wooden slats.

Beyond Hispar one stage took us to Iseyum Pari, where there is a shallow lake in the moraine above the glacier. The next day we soon turned the corner on to the moraine above the west side of the Kunyang glacier and a point a couple of hours beyond the last juniper trees proved to be the farthest that we could persuade the porters to go. I arranged that they should return for me on the 12th August, eight days later, and explained that if they did not find us on that day they were to assume that the Sherpa and I had succeeded in crossing to the Shimshal valley.

Arjeeba and I made camp an hour or two short of the first little side glacier that descends from the Lak ridge. There was a cairn near by and I think a point somewhat above our camp represents the limit reached hitherto up the Kunyang glacier, since it is in view of Disteghil Sar. I had perfect weather, whereas my predecessors had had no such good luck, and I subsequently regretted the waste of the first two days available to me after pitching this camp. The first day we spent in a fruitless attempt to cross the Kunyang in order to ascend the ice-fall descending the Pumarikish massif in the hope of reaching the east bay of the upper Kunyang from here. The second day I spent in a visit to the western bay of the Kunyang glacier, a wild and splendid gorge, though inaccessible from the moraine, owing to a precipitous cliff face which intervenes.

6. Panorama from Kunyung Spur station of the enclosing wall of the eastern bay of the Upper Kunyang glacier, from the north to south-east, showing the south western aspects of Disteghil Sar, 25,868 feet, the north western face of Pumarikish (Kunjut No. 2), 24,580 feet, and the suggested pass over the watershed to the Yazghil glacier and the Shimshal valley. 10th August 1938

6. Panorama from Kunyung Spur station of the enclosing wall of the eastern bay of the Upper Kunyang glacier, from the north to south-east, showing the south western aspects of Disteghil Sar, 25,868 feet, the north western face of Pumarikish (Kunjut No. 2), 24,580 feet, and the suggested pass over the watershed to the Yazghil glacier and the Shimshal valley. 10th August 1938

During the next two days Arjeeba was sick, and when we finally started for the head of the glacier we had only four days left. It was rather a trying march to the spur which divides the northern head from the larger eastern bay. From a point above the glacier I had fixed as the best line to follow on the glacier a red medial moraine band composed of granite detritus originating apparently from the north face of Pumarikish and flowing in from the eastern bay. The whole Kunyang glacier seems to be increasing in bulk and undercuts its moraines. It therefore is rather a dangerous business by Alpine standards to embark on the glacier between the stone-falls from the banks, though perhaps this is a normal incident in Karakoram experience. The glacier is not crevassed, but its surface is like that of a very high sea, and it is covered with debris much of which is balanced on the crests of the waves and comes down in the sun. The ice 'breakers' near the shore of the spur required a good deal of step-cutting on the route which I followed, though I dare say a better one could be found. We left the red band opposite the neck where the eastern bay joins the main glacier. The ice of this channel is very broken, and as its sides are continually raked by stones I am satisfied that it would not be the proper route into the eastern bay.

We camped on the spur at about 14,500 feet and the next day reached its crest, perhaps from 2,500 to 3,000 feet higher. From here we looked straight across to what may well be the sought-for pass across the range. It is at the eastern end of the bay where the ridge sinks to its lowest point between Disteghil Sar and the massif of Pumarikish. The way to the foot of the putative pass looks easy to reach. The descent from the spur is simple, at any rate as far as a slight bank of rock which separates the glacier between the spur and the eastern watershed into two levels. The route upwards to the col itself seems, however, to involve a passage through an ice-fall. There appear to be seracs overhanging the glacier itself and it would probably be best to aim at the crest of the rocky spur which forms the right bank; on parts of this the snow does not appear to lie at too steep a slope.

It was disappointing that we could not try this route, because we had come to the end of our food. Arjeeba had not brought any tsamba with him as he had been told to do, his excuse being that he had been feeling so ill when he started that he then felt that he would never want anything to eat again, but he had since recovered and had eaten up most of my chocolate and emergency rations. There was thus nothing to be done but to return after taking a photographic panorama. Personally I found the view of the north face of the Pumarikish massif an ample compensation for the journey from Gilgit, if any compensation for such an interesting and unfamiliar route were needed. I am not absolutely certain whether the great triangular peak is Pumarikish, or whether the latter is the first snow lump which appears on the photograph just before the ridge flattens and which is actually in a different vertical plane. To judge from the other side of the glacier lower down, there is not much difference between the height of these two points. I have treated the north peak, belonging to the main ridge in the photograph, as Pumarikish in my sketch map, but the delineation of the ridges extending southwards, unlike those to the west and north, is conjectural on my sketch, as far as I am concerned.

One other point of topographical interest raised by these photographs is the identity of the snow peak appearing behind the col. I venture to identify it with the point marked 24,030 on the Survey of India quarter-inch map 42 p, on the very existence of which some doubt has, I believe, been cast.

Our return journey was uneventful.

⇑ Top