In September 1908 I had my first glimpse of Sikkim and the Himalaya. I had never before seen the eternal snows. Though, like most other members of the Himalayan Club, I have travelled and camped north, south, and within the Himalaya, and pitched my tent near giant peaks, never shall I forget the rapture of that first impression. And the jingle of the bells of the mules which carried my modest kit sounded like sweet music. The jingle started at Siliguri railway station, for there was no railway to Kalimpong in those days and motor-cars were still curiosities; but mules, though slow, were sure. A huge tree-trunk across the track, brought down by the terrific monsoon rains, or even a complete gap, caused by the same agency, in a hill-side road, occasioned only a few minutes' delay, while the mules scrambled round or above the obstacle; and the two days on the road to Kalimpong were well spent. Birds, beasts, and flowers, a semi-tropical luxuriance in vegetation, and the most wonderful butterflies in the world kept a new-comer's attention constantly engaged, while the crashing of a herd of wild elephants in the forest stirred the enthusiasm of a novice in shikar.

At Kalimpong I was warned to beware of a one-armed Bhutia robber who haunted the Jelap La. He was said to inveigle unwary travellers into talk, and then suddenly stab them with a knife stuck in the end of his wooden arm—ca horrid man', as my informants justly remarked. As I proposed, however, to keep a rifle constantly in my hands, in readiness for the wild game which I innocently believed to swarm in the forests and mountains of Sikkim, the idea of a one-armed knife-man did not disturb me.

Off I went from Kalimpong to the merry music of the mule-bells, past the travellers' rest-house at Pedong, whose caretaker was a white-bearded veteran of the Mutiny war, to the little Sikkim town of Rhenok. I posted a letter there, and was amused to hear a local resident adjure the postmaster to send the letter off promptly, and not keep it to see what was inside it. Then came the long pull up to Gnatong, 12,000 feet up, an abrupt change to winter from the summer of the Sikkim valleys, and a most refreshing one from the steamy heat of my home in Bengal. Next day I rode to the Jelap La, a principal pass into Tibet, through a scene reminiscent of a vast Inverness-shire moor. A British sergeant telegraphist, stationed at Gnatong, came with me. He had been with the Mission to Lhasa in 1904, and was full of stories and reminiscences. In particular I remember his account of what is known in the Near East as the 'Desert Telegraph', the mysterious swiftness of the dispatch of news. Shortly before there had been a murder in the Tibetan town of Phari, some 50 miles away. The people of Gnatong were talking about it before he got the news by telegraph.

I was lucky in my day at Jelap La. In a clear cloudless sky the giant peaks of the Himalaya stood out like a row of mighty sentinels, and straight ahead Ghomolhari, the sacred mountain of Tibet, shimmered in the flawless beauty of its then virgin snows. In 1931 I climbed 20,000 feet up this mountain, to the frozen lake which lies at the foot of the peak of eternal snow. I hope no one will challenge the figure of this height, as I accomplished the climb in a way which would surprise the Alpine Club—on a pony. A stout little local animal took me right up to the frozen lake, much to the amusement of the Tibetans who came with me. After my first sight of Chomolhari in 1908 I returned to the plains of Bengal with my head full of the glories of the Himalaya and of the strange mysterious lands of Central Asia. But, as was usual in those days, my traveller's ambitions were considerably coloured with aspirations to hunt and shoot the great horned beasts whose home was in those parts. Trips in the Himalaya, except for shikar, were still considered eccentric. The Frenchman's proverb about England still held good: 'It's fine to-day. Let's go out and kill something.'

My next trip to Sikkim was in 1910. I took three days to ride from Darjeeling to Gangtok, a journey which now takes half a day by motor. Then I started for the northern frontier of Sikkim, by way of the Tista valley and Gyagong. Food was cheap in northern Sikkim in those days. I bought a sheep for the equivalent of five shillings in English money, and good mountain mutton it was. At Tangu, on the way to Gyagong, there is a high rock overlooking the boiling Tista river. It is a traditional place of execution for criminals. I heard that some years previously thirteen Tibetan beggars stole some things in the neighbourhood. The Bhutias, who inhabit those parts, hurled all thirteen thieves to death from the execution rock. These Bhutias, in spite of their alleged inclination to summary justice, are a very fine lot. They form a clan which came from Bhutan three hundred years ago. Of fine physique and proud of their lineage, they despise their Tibetan neighbours of the north. Though surly and independent if not properly approached, they can at will assume fine and even elegant manners. I noticed this trait particularly when they came to me, cap in hand, to ask for 'a small advance' from the pay due to them for the use of their yaks for my baggage. In their local affairs they were ruled by a magistrate called a Pepun, elected by them. They all used to meet in general assembly, as in the ancient Athenian constitution. To turn one's back on the Pepun was a most serious affront, and the delinquent could be called upon either to pay a penalty or else to take the Pepun's place and assume the duties and responsibilities of his office—another resemblance to ancient Athens.

When I left Tangu for Gyagong, on my way to the frontier, I was preceded by a procession of Buddhist monks and worshippers blowing the long trumpets, some of them 6 feet in length, which are a feature of Tibet, to scare away evil spirits. In my camp in the gloomy gorge of Gyagong I was struck by the huge mountain eagles, ten feet or more from wing-tip to wing-tip, which circled round the tent and cook's fire. Next day I camped on the frontier of Sikkim and Tibet, near the Cho Lhamo Lake, in a warm and sheltered spot where the temperature at night was only ten degrees below zero and the wind, though it cut like a knife, did not actually lift things from the ground. I nearly missed this delectable spot, for I had ridden ahead; my Bhutia 'guide' missed the way, and I had the bright prospect of sleeping out in one of 'the coldest and windiest places on earth'. Next morning a herd of ovis ammon, the great wild sheep of Central Asia, came and inspected my camp from a neighbouring bluff some 500 yards away. With glasses I enviously admired the fine horns of the leader of the herd, 'the father of all the flocks of earth'. I could do no more than admire, for I was recovering from a recent accident, a compound fracture of my left leg caused by the kick of a pony on the polo field. My leg, though all right for riding, could only hobble at a walk. The ovis ammon seemed to know all about this, an example of the mysterious sixth sense so often displayed by animals, which seems to show them unerringly the absence of danger. But what would General Kinlock and other classic exponents of Central Asian venery say to a story of ovis ammon, shyest and most wary of beasts, the 'blue ribbon' of the Himalayan chase, paying a visit to a camp?

Nowadays, of course, this shooting talk is out of date. The modern sport is photography or cinematography of wild life. But shikar is not inappropriate to old-world reminiscences such as these. Also, of course, the animals to which I have referred are not real ovis ammon—they are sportsman's ones. Zoologically their name is ovis Hodgsonii. But their horns are large.

It was during this trip in Sikkim in 1910 that I heard about the 'Abominable Snowmen', the subject of so much journalistic attention nowadays. An entry in my diary kept during the trip describes them as 'men who live on the edge of the snows. Sometimes they catch (human) men, who live and hunt with them for ever. They seem to be like our fairies.' The voluminous correspondence on this subject has not mentioned Colonel Waddell's account in his book on Sikkim published in 1898. He mentions seeing tracks in the snow on the Donkhya La in north-east Sikkim in 1896. He was told that they were made by Snowmen, and advanced the explanation that they were bear tracks. But the difficulty is that as far as I am aware —and I have been a keen shikari in Sikkim—no bear is known so high up in the mountains. The brown bear of the Western Himalaya, who goes very high, and even the large black bear, who inhabits a rather lower range, are unknown in Sikkim. So the 'Abominable Snowmen' need not yet yield their place in the correspondence columns to the Sea Serpent and the Loch Ness Monster.

When at the end of October 1910 I returned to my post as Joint Magistrate in the Midnapore District in Bengal, I was consulted on trips in Sikkim by two fellow members of the Indian Civil Service in Bengal, Messrs. Buchan and Cullis. Buchan was a younger brother of Lord Tweedsmuir, the present Governor-General of Canada. Next year they crossed the Guicha La to Tongshyong Pertam and the Talung glacier. Blackwood's Magazine of 1912 contains an interesting account of this trip. Soon afterwards Buchan died, and in 1915 Cullis was killed in action with the Rifle Brigade in France. Their premature deaths deprived the Indian Civil Service of two singularly brilliant and promising members.

In Darjeeling before the War I met Mr. Douglas Freshfield, and he told me many things about his great reconnaissance of Kangchen- junga.

In 1912 I returned to the northern frontier of Sikkim and shot an ovis ammon. On this trip I met Captain Noel, who subsequently took cinema pictures of the attempt on Mount Everest. In Upper Sikkim in 1912 he told me of his hopes of an attack on that great peak. But mention of Captain Noel and Mount Everest introduces the modern chapter of Himalayan activity, and may serve as a fitting conclusion to these memories of bygone days.

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