The 'highest mountain in Burma' (vide school geographies of the 'nineties) has now perhaps achieved a distinction which it did not possess when Burma was a province—and by almost universal acclamation, a backwater—of India. It has acquired a certain dignity, if a fictitious one, comparable with that of the country it adorns. Obviously the mountain itself has undergone no change; any new prestige which has accrued to it must be artificial, consequent on Burma's elevation (not in a geological sense) to independent status. Burma has assumed the official robe, and consequently we look at her through tinted spectacles. One thing we see is 'the highest mountain in Burma'. Let us call it Ka Karpo Razi from the start, and explain the name afterwards. Luckily it has an intrinsic interest apart from its more questionable claim to notoriety.

As members of the Himalayan Club are continually searching for new peaks to conquer, a brief account of the snow peaks of Burma, and how to reach them, may be of interest. During many years wandering through south-eastern Asia in search of plants, I have come across (not 'discovered', with the exception of the Yigrong range in Tibet) numerous snow mountains. From the point of view of natural history alone, these would repay the explorer- climber. Unfortunately they are all rather remote. I might mention Pai-ma-shan and Ka Karpo on the Yunnan-Tibet frontier: Gonpa La on the Yunnan-Burma frontier, with Geni Ghimbo a good deal farther north—and higher—on the same range: Namcha Barwa at the extreme end of the Assam Himalaya, with Makandro across the Tsangpo gorge to the north of it; and the beautiful peak called Orpor—I cannot guarantee the spelling—in Tsawarong, a district in south-east Tibet. But of all the peaks mentioned, none is more difficult to reach than the one I am about to describe, though most of them are farther away.

Until at least one of the three greatest Himalayan giants has been climbed, and height is no longer the main consideration, the peaks mentioned are likely to retain their virginity unimpaired. They are too out of the way, and being of no unusual height, are hardly in the running for special honours yet. I imagine, however, that they will all be climbed some day.

That there are any snow peaks in Burma only became known for certain in 1918 when a party of the Survey of India, under Mr. M. C. Petters, carried the triangulation of north Burma to the source of the Nam Tamai, the second largest tributary of the eastern Irrawaddy (called 'Nmai Hka by the Kachins farther south, but retaining the name Nam Tamai farther north, below the junction of the true Tamai and Taron).

Here Burma joins Tibet. It may be added that the Taron valley and the snow mountains at its source have not been surveyed. The Taron, which runs about 40 miles to the east of the Tamai, is the longer and larger of the two, and therefore the main stream of the eastern Irrawaddy. It rises beyond the Tibetan frontier.

Previous to the discovery of these peaks, there had been a certain amount of speculation whether there was any glacier water in the Irrawaddy or not. That there must be snow-water in the Irrawaddy was certain. The sudden early spring rise of the river at Myitkyina, when there is no continuous rain anywhere, and the coldness of the water could not otherwise be accounted for. Besides, snow had been seen on the northern mountains, particularly on the Irrawaddy-Salween divide; but that was no proof of glaciers. After the discovery of peaks over 19,000 feet high, that is, peaks rising 3,000 feet above the snow-line in northern Burma,1 it was pretty certain that there must be glaciers. At first sight, therefore, it seems curious that no glaciers are marked on the map, although snow-beds are shown. I suppose I am the only European to have seen Ka Karpo Razi; Mr. Petters evidently did not. Unfortunately I have mislaid the name of the Indian surveyor who intersected them from two stations, one almost due east, the other to the southeast, of the main peak. But though I have seen Ka Karpo Razi, I have not climbed it, and claim no more than to have made a brief, partial, and—from the climber's point of view—amateurish reconnaissance of it.

My starting-point was Rangoon, in June 1937. It was the last month I would have chosen for a journey to the Nam Tamai; but I had no choice. In Assam, Burma, and western Yunnan the travelling-season extends from November till May. Throughout the monsoon one must expect trouble, if indeed it is possible to travel at all. Uncomfortable as it was, however, I was thankful that it was possible.

From Rangoon to Myitkyina by rail takes about 33 hours-a day and two nights. Myitkyina (map 92G), on the right bank of the Irrawaddy 25 miles below the confluence of the eastern and western branches, the 'Nmai and the Mali, is the starting-point by road.

From Myitkyina to Putao (Fort Hertz, 92E) is 219 miles by road, via Sumpra Bum (92F), the journey being divided into twenty-one stages with well-appointed inspection bungalows all the way. The cart road—a motor road in the dry season—extends for 139 miles from Myitkyina to Sumpra Bum, twelve stages. A bus will do the journey comfortably in two days, at a cost of about 120 rupees. At the end of June, of course, I could travel neither by car nor with mules, and hired three bullock carts at a cost of 40 rupees each. The P.W.D. bungalow charge is Rs. 2/8 per person per night.

  1. Generally taken as 16,000 feet. Permanent snow-beds lie far below this level.


From Sumpra Bum to Putao is nine stages, and in the rainy season coolies have to be engaged. The rate is As. 12 per day each, and they usually go all the way carrying their own food, supplemented from the few villages en route. But the European can buy practically nothing on the road except a few chickens and eggs, and a little milk, from some of the bungalow durwans, so that he too must carry most of his food.

In the dry season this section is a good bridle-path, and even during the rains it is not bad, except for flooded and unbridged streams. The highest point on the road is presently reached, and from here the mountains north of the Putao plain, white with snow, are clearly visible in the winter. At this season, however, one sees only a cauldron of pasty-looking cloud. After that the path drops rapidly towards the Mali river and the plain, and is very muddy. Owing to a long break in the rains in July 1937 the heat was almost overwhelming, and the air saturated with moisture. We reached Putao on the 22nd July. The plain is only 1,500 feet above sea-level, and is surrounded by high hills, snow clad for a few months in the year. Thus it is very hot in summer and cold in winter. It is also humid, thick mists hanging over the low-lying country in the cold weather. Putao is our real starting-point. Rations for oneself and servants must be carried from here for as long as one intends to be out; one cannot rely on getting any food in the country beyond, although small supplies can, as a matter of fact, sometimes be obtained by any one knowing the country, as will presently be shown.

A visit to Ka Karpo Razi and back means an outing of eight weeks. As regards supplies in Putao, rice is plentiful and cheap, but ata or flour is unobtainable and chickens are scarce. From Putao to the Tamai river (Nam Tamai—the Shan name) is eight marches by a fair bridle-path. In the cold weather mules or ponies can be taken, if obtainable, but there is little feed for them en route, and it is better to take coolies. These are easily obtainable on the plain. Extra coolies must be taken to carry cooly rations. There is an unfurnished hut at the end of each day's stage. The forested mountains are very sparsely populated; it would be truer to say entirely uninhabited, though there are scattered villages of three or four huts along the rivers, and a fresh relay of coolies can be obtained at Nogmung, on the Nam Tisang, on the fourth march.

From Putao to the Nam Tamai the naturalist will find plenty of work and interest at any season; winter is the time for the zoologist, and summer for the botanist and entomologist. The country is very little known, and off the bridle-path unexplored. This is the locus classicus of Paphiopedilum Wardii, Asarum Wardii, Begonia hymeno- phylloides, and other interesting plants. The lovely Burmannia disticha grows at Nogmung-its most northerly outpost. But it is the marvellous wealth of trees, for the country is entirely covered with a mantle of evergreen warm-temperate rain-forest, that will most attract the traveller. Three ranges of hills are crossed at about 6,000 feet altitude, and three deep valleys filled with sub-tropical jungle. The Tisang valley is hardly 1,500 feet above sea-level, and is a pestilent swamp in the rains; but this is the only really trouble- some march. On the eighth day one reaches the summit of the Mali-Tamai divide—that is, the watershed between the eastern and western Irrawaddy systems, and sees the Tamai river 4,000 feet below. I reached the Daru village of Pangnamdim on the 7th August. And now perhaps a more personal narrative of my quest for Ka Karpo Razi will convey a better idea of the country and conditions.

From the Tamai valley I made two trips to the top of the eastern watershed, a rocky granite ridge averaging 10,000 feet in height. This ridge separates the Tamai from its smaller tributary, the Dablu, which joins the Tamai just before- the Tamai joins the Taron. The Dablu, which is only about 50 miles long, rises in a mountain block to the north, probably an outlier of the Tibetan escarpment. In August I reached a col, little more than 9,000 feet above sea-level, from which I looked down into the Dablu valley, and eastwards to the loftier ranges along the China frontier. This ascent, however, has no bearing on Ka Karpo Razi, and an account of it can be omitted. A second ascent in September, farther north, has; it therefore merits some description.

Following the bridle-path up the left bank of the Tamai from Pangnamdim, Gawai is reached on the fourth day. There is a village and the usual rest-hut. I started from Pangnamdim on the 12th August, and after completing the first ascent to the ridge and back, reached Gawai on the 3rd September. This see lion of the Tamai is comparatively thickly populated, though many of the villages are .hidden from sight; they are not like the big villages of the Nagas, Kachins, and Abors, perched provocatively but craftily on the hilltops, but are down in the folds. Moreover, they are ephemeral, here to-day and gone to-morrow, owing to the system of temporary cultivation. When all suitable slopes within reach of a village have been cleared and cultivated, the people must either shift their ground or start a second and shorter rotation. Maize is the chief crop, and the Darus would be almost vegetarian from necessity and not from choice but for the fish they catch. There are plenty of good fish in the Tamai, and the Darus harpoon and trap them in conical bamboo thorn-lined fish-traps. Less often they shoot or trap serow, gooral, barking-deer, and other animals, using a cross-bow and poisoned arrows. Every district has its professional hunter, but also every Daru carries a cross-bow, and shoots at every living thing he sees within reach.

Unoccupied huts in a climate like that of north Burma do not last long and have to be rebuilt or at least reroofed after a few years. If one happens to strike an old one, there is always the chance that it may collapse without warning when the thatch is sodden. If the roof does not, the floor will. All the rest-hut roofs leaked. The village huts are, of course, waterproof, but the first night I spent in the Gawai rest-hut it was as though a watering-cart from above were laying the dust; I could not dodge all the cascades. Repairs were taken in hand next day, but it is difficult to plug holes in thatch, and nothing less than a complete rehousing scheme would make these unoccupied huts habitable in the rainy season. I was soon, however, to return to the comparative aridity of a 60-lb. tent. I sent three men ahead to cut a track through the forest, and we followed up the mountain on the 5th September. From the valley, at an altitude of less than 4,000 feet, we climbed with scarcely a check to over 7,000 feet the first day. The path was often precipitous. Already we were in the cool temperate rain-forest, well above the frost-line. The second day's climb was almost as steep, though not so long, and we camped at about 9,000 feet in conifer forest. On the third day in four hours we reached the main ridge at over 10,000 feet, the last thousand feet being much more gradual.

A glance at the diagram will show the reason for the abruptness of the first two days' ascent, and the easing off of the gradient on the third day. The Tamai valley was made in two parts, first the wide ice-ploughed valley of the quarternary ice-age, secondly, the river valley of more recent date. The latter averages about 5,000 feet in depth, the former about 2,000 feet.

Arrived on the main ridge, which was even more laterally compressed in appearance than the spur we had clambered up, we camped in 'cane brake' (Arundinaria) by a small muddy water-hole. Despite continuous rain, lack of water is the most embarrassing problem on these hostile ridges. The smaller valleys are mere deep gashes, and quite unclimbable; one must get astride a spur and follow whithersoever it leads, up and down, up and down, endlessly. But these granite spurs are sharp as knife-blades, with tremendously difficult to get water now, how much more difficult it would be in the winter, I thought! From our camp we had a clear view to the north, uninterrupted by any higher ranges until Ka Karpo Razi itself was reached, exactly 30 miles distant. But of that we were at present completely ignorant, because all we could see was cloud 30 feet distant. It was a good view, as close-ups go; but it told us nothing. The ridge, however, was a botanical paradise, and I spent four hectic days here, finding new species at every turn. On the 12th September we reached the rest-hut at Gawai again, and on the 15th set out for Ka Karpo Razi. The weather was at its worst and the path overgrown after the hot summer. At the end of the first march we crossed to the right bank of the Tamai by a cane suspension bridge, the centre third of which had a footway consisting of three canes only, bound together. A small dog trotted over unconcernedly though the canes were scarcely wider than his paws, and a slip meant certain death. With the support cables to hold on to I felt far less confident than the dog. It is a convention that girls must not carry loads across bridges, though they may carry them up the most heartbreaking mountains. This gives occasion for a display of gallantry by the young men, who, having carried their own loads across, return for those of their girl friends. In two days we reached the Seinghku confluence. The path on the last march was very bad, sometimes washed away, slippery and overgrown, the swollen torrents unbridged.

1. Building a mule cane suspension bridge across the Nam Tamai

1. Building a mule cane suspension bridge across the Nam Tamai

2. Rope bridge across the Adung river

2. Rope bridge across the Adung river

Above the Seinghku, crossed by the usual cane foot-bridge, the Tamai is called by a new name, the Adung river; from this point its gradient increases more rapidly and the most violent rapids occur. A few days' rest, owing to a chill, and I was on the march again, the bridle-path now reduced to a mere jungle track. In two days we reached the last rest-hut, and the last village in Burma at an altitude of about 5,000 feet. Final plans had to be made; this was our ultimate starting-point for the snow peaks, and the advance base for any serious attempt to climb them. A few years ago there was a Tibetan village another two marches up the valley, at a height of 6,000 feet;1 but I now learnt somewhat to my dismay that the Tibetan colony had dispersed, some returning to the Tibetan side of the frontier, and the remnant withdrawing down the valley. This general retreat influenced my own plans. I was pressed for time. I must be back in the Tamai valley before the end of October in order to collect seed of the plants I had found on the ridge. Thus I should have to confine my reconnaissance to the nearest approaches to Ka Karpo Razi from the gorge of the Adung. One branch of the river rises amongst glaciers on the north face of the mountain, turns south, and is joined by the other branch which rises well to the east of the snow peaks. In 1931 Lord Granbrook and I had camped at the confluence whence we had followed the eastern branch to its source. From a high pass I had seen Ka Karpo 15 or 20 miles away in the west;2 but the confluence was the nearest we got to it. Below that confluence, two big torrents which rise on the southern face of Ka Karpo, the Gamlang and the Dandi, join the Adung. Either of these valleys, if it was possible to get into them, must lead to the peak. I decided to explore the Gamlang valley which is the more southerly of the two. I selected this approach partly because it was the nearest to the new base. I also argued that the southern face of the mountain was likely to be less seamed with glaciers, which, in the weather conditions prevailing, might be an advantage. I could not, however, disguise from myself the fact that the longer one stuck to the main valley, the easier the going, and that for a well-equipped climbing party, the (probably) well-glaciered north face offered the best chance of success. September was a very wet month; October might be finer. I delayed the start as much as possible in order to include more of October; but, as already remarked, I had to be back by a certain date, and must therefore start soon. From the last village to the Gamlang I reckoned four marches. I decided to chance the second week of October being fine.

  1. Tahawndam, reached by Kingdon Ward and Lord Cranbrook on the 5th February 1931 (Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, 1932, p. 144).—Ed.
  2. From the Namni L'ka, 15,297 feet, Ka Karpo is 17 miles distant.-Ed.


Now that the upper Adung valley was deserted, the track, never good, had been allowed to deteriorate. It was little used, especially at this season. The first thing to do, therefore, was to send men in advance to clear it, and to throw bridges over the torrents. On 22nd September three men started, and two days later I followed with fifteen almost naked Daru coolies and my two servants. One of the few remaining Tibetans, a man we had employed in 1931, accompanied us as guide. We carried two tents, bedding, and rather sketchy rations for three weeks, besides a large supply of paper and presses for plants. It rained almost continuously. On the second day we camped opposite to the deserted village of Tahawndam, our base in 1931; we kept on the right bank, in spite of difficult cliffs. On the 26th it rained so hard that the men said it was useless to start, as we should be unable to cross the next torrent a mile or two ahead. On the 27th, however, though the rain continued, we decided to go and look at the torrent. The advance party had felled an alder on the bank, and crossed safely-at least, so we assumed. But now a wave was curling right over the bridge, and the muffled sound of big boulders being swept along like pebbles by the red flood warned us not to take liberties. We abandoned the idea of crossing and camped again. In the night the rain stopped, and next morning the flood had dropped as suddenly as it had risen. All day we scrambled along the cliffs of the Adung gorge, and when we camped that evening we were only two miles from the entrance to the Gamlang valley.

To get into this valley we had to climb high up the face of the mountain by a track more fit for goats than for men. We were in a forest of gigantic hemlock spruce, whose rugged trunks matched the wild and turbulent river. When at last we began to descend slightly we soon reached the Gamlang, which roared down a rocky incline between tremendous cliffs. Grossing it by a flimsily constructed bridge we camped at about 9,000 feet in a forest of rhododendron trees. On the last day of September we continued the ascent, passing several snow-beds, and finding the open earth slopes, from which the snow had only recently melted, brilliant with flowers. At a height of 10,500 feet the river divided into two branches, one from the west, the other from the north-west, and we camped in a forest of silver fir and rhododendron. We were not more than 6 miles from the top of Ka Karpo Razi.

It was evident from the appearance of the track that men came up this valley regularly, and I learnt that this was to collect the bulbs of a certain Fritillary (the Chinese pai mu), which is a valuable medicine. The track continued up the western branch of the Gamlang, which rises from a snow peak to the south-west of Ka Karpo; it was the other branch I wanted to explore. However, on the 1st October I followed the path up the western branch for some distance but could see nothing on account of clouds. On the following day I explored the north-west branch. This was a more difficult business as we had to cut our way through the forest. On the 3rd October we moved our camp a short distance up this valley towards the main ridge of Ka Karpo. I sent some of the coolies down for more rations, and at dawn on the 4th for the first time we got a view, not indeed of the snow peaks, but of the high sierras on either side of us, dappled with snow. It was a glorious sight. Squeezed between bare cliffs whose pinnacles were 5,000 feet above our camp, the stream came tumbling and leaping down the ice-worn valley. Dark wedges of fir forest thinned out to the last lonely sentinels. The rising autumnal sun painted the teeth of the ridge saffron; snow cones and alluvial fans striped the cliffs. The sound of tinkling water rose from a hundred cascades. After breakfast we struck camp and continued up the valley, alternately ascending steep pitches, and ploughing through dense scrub on the flat. It was a relief to wade knee-deep in the torrent, though the icy water numbed our legs. Finally, hacking a passage through a tangle of gnarled rhododendron, we came out into a boggy pasture, and camped beside the last stunted firs. The altitude was about 12,500 feet. Opposite to us, across the stream, was a granite cliff a mile high; but we could not see any farther up the valley, as everything was again shrouded in mist. At our backs rose the spur separating the valley of the Gamlang from that of the Dandi; both spurs are flung out eastwards from the great southern ridge of Ka Karpo Razi, which is the watershed between the Irrawaddy and the Lohit Brahmaputra of Assam. If I could climb the Dandi ridge to the north—and there were gaps in it—I should get a clear view of Ka Karpo, two miles away; that is, of course, on a fine day. But first I would go to the extreme head of the Gamlang valley. It will be realized that, unless one could climb the south face of Ka Karpo directly from the Dandi valley, which seemed improbable, the long north-south ridge on which the peak stands offered the only alternative route. I wanted to see if it was possible to get on to this ridge.

The improvement in the weather was only a temporary truce; it was soon raining again. However, during the next few days I explored the best route to the extreme head of the valley, and on the 8th October I set out from a height of about 13,500 feet to reach a small hanging glacier, one of three which I could see clapped against the cliffs. This glacier lay in the south-west corner, that is, away from Ka Karpo; but I could see a possible route up the cliffs to it, and, moreover, at its head was a small col, which promised a view. Having reached a moraine overlooking the glacier at a height of 15,000 feet, however, and having descended to the ice, I found it so steep and crevassed that it would have been rash to go on alone. A thick mist was rolling up the valley and licking the ice-foot; I should soon be smothered in it. I therefore utilized the short time at my disposal trying to detect a route up the cliffs across the valley, to the crest of the Dandi divide. I could see no way up those forbidding precipices, although an ice-ledge high up offered good prospects for a further advance, if I could reach it. The Dandi spur joins the main ridge about one mile south of Ka Karpo, so there was much to be said for getting astride it as far up the Gamlang valley as possible.

On my way down to camp I glanced back at the head of the valley, and at that very moment the veil of cloud was rent, and the whole of the main ridge where it framed the Gamlang valley came into view. I have never seen cliffs of such Gothic perfection. The ridge bristled with spires and minarets; being nearly 4,000 feet above where I stood, and within half a mile, the overwhelming effect can be imagined. There was no way to the top of Ka Karpo here.

On the 9th October, with the promise of better weather, five coolies carried a light tent and other necessities to the foot of the cliffs at the head of the valley. I had intended to try the glacier again; but while surveying the cliffs through a field-glass that evening I spied a possible route up to the ice-shelf on the Dandi ridge, and decided to attempt it next day. Marang, my Kachin servant, and I slept the night in the Whymper tent, and early next morning I started up the cliff. I was carrying a heavy rucksack in case I was benighted high up, and this delayed me. I gained the shelf, which sloped up fairly steeply towards the crest. There was ample room between the precipices on my left and the cliffs on my right, which were set back like the walls of a New York skyscraper. After ascending a few hundred feet I reached a small corry glacier. Just above it was a gap in the cliff, and once through that gap I must have been close to the top. Unfortunately I could not negotiate a smooth granite wall, 15 or 20 feet high, which led to a small valley above. I therefore continued along the base of the set-back cliff towards the corner where spur and ridge met a couple of thousand feet above. Presently the shelf began to grow steeper, and also narrower, and before long it tapered out altogether, the cliff coming down flush with the precipice, at the base of which was a gulley like a grave. So the climb ended at something under 16,000 feet. I returned to the main camp in heavy rain which continued all the next day. The 12th October, however, dawned fine, and I decided to make a last effort to see Ka Karpo Razi, so near, but so invisible.

3. Near the head of the Gamlang Wang, a right-bank tributary of the Adung, rising from the southern ridge of Ka Karpo Razi

3. Near the head of the Gamlang Wang, a right-bank tributary of the Adung, rising from the southern ridge of Ka Karpo Razi

4. Ka Karpo Razi, 19,315 feet, from the south: seen from the Gamlang-Dandi dividing ridge, 12th October 1937

4. Ka Karpo Razi, 19,315 feet, from the south: seen from the Gamlang-Dandi dividing ridge, 12th October 1937

It was now obvious that the only chance was to climb the Dandi ridge close to our camp. Luckily there was a wide valley above the first line of cliffs, with a gap at its head; if we could scale the lower cliff wall the rest should be easy. A convenient stream gave us a good right of way up the cliff, and we attained the valley without any difficulty. Clambering over piles of boulders, we at last reached the col, framed between rock towers hundreds of feet high; it was as though a tooth had been extracted from the ridge, leaving a narrow gap. An icy wind sang round the gaunt towers. Peering over the edge of a flat rock, and holding on against the fierce blast, I drew back. We were almost literally balanced on a knife edge, and there was a sheer drop on the other side for a thousand feet into the rocky valley of the Dandi river. Except that there was a small glacier at its head, the Dandi valley was a replica of the Gamlang valley.

It was not, however, the view at my feet, but that across the valley which attracted me. Barely two miles distant rose the great peak of Ka Karpo Razi, the highest mountain in Burma. Its steeplelike summit pierced the frothing clouds. I was just in time to get a close-up view of it, the first ever seen by a European. The whole southern face was exposed, and it looked exactly like the New York Telephone Exchange building with its set-backs and receding walls. The whole formed a tapering tower, rising sheer for 6,000 feet above the head of the Dandi glacier. Thus the Dandi valley, which is difficult to get into from the Adung gorge, offers no easier approach to the peak than does the Gamlang. The southern face of Ka Karpo is unclimbable. I ascended a few hundred feet above the col, but by this time thick cloud was coming up and the view was lost. We returned to camp, reached it at dusk, and next morning started down. All the way back to our base camp it rained steadily, but the very day after our arrival, the 18th October, it turned fine!

The results of this all too brief reconnaissance may now be summarized.

Although Ka Karpo Razi is only 5 ½ miles due west of the Adung gorge, the approach to it by either the Gamlang or the Dandi is difficult, and offers no prospect of success. The ridge rises with astonishing abruptness for thousands of feet, and the bare granite cliffs look absolutely unclimbable. The ridge itself is an impossible route. Thus the southern and eastern approaches are ruled out. There remains the possibility of an approach from the north. Since there are glaciers on the south face, there must be larger ones on the north face, and the northern branch of the Adung river offers a comparatively easy route. From our base camp to the Gamlang valley was just over three marches. To the point where the Adung divides is an easy five marches; arid from there to the main glacier torrent might be reckoned two more. It would at least be worth while to look at the mountain from this point.

An unlimited supply of coolies is not available in the Adung valley, but since the distance from the last group of villages is not great, they can travel to and fro. With a little notice in advance, one might rely on thirty or forty to go at least as far as the glacier torrent, i.e. a week's march.

The Daru coolies are barefooted and ill-clad, and the former Tibetan population, who wore cloth boots and warm clothing, no longer exists. I took some of the Darus, without loads, to 15,000 feet in October, but they were unhappy. They cannot stand snow, and would have to be properly equipped for a climb; but very few would be required to go above 15,000 feet. As to the size of such a party, three sahibs would be ample; two experienced rock climbers would suffice—and it cannot be too strongly emphasized that Ka Karpo is essentially a cragsman's mountain. As to the season for making an attempt, at one time I favoured October, when the maximum amount of snow has melted, and before any great amount of fresh snow has fallen. October 1930 was a good year. On the other hand, October 1937 was not, and right up to the end of the month we had bad conditions, with a week of fine weather. The best month would probably be May, or early June, exactly the same as for Mount Everest. The weather is warm, and often sunny then— it was so in 1930; but there would be a risk of avalanches, though probably most of the gullies would have shot their loads by then. The most serious objection to June is, of course, that it leaves the party with the long, troublesome march back to Fort Hertz at the beginning of the monsoon. But the path is not bad in the early weeks, and once Fort Hertz is reached there is no further difficulty.

The scene now shifts back to the Nam Tamai for a distant view of Ka Karpo from the ridge above Gawai. The fine weather beginning on the 18th October lasted six days, and then came more rain. This, however, did not last. On the 27th we started for the ridge, but the weather broke almost immediately, and we reached our old camp on the 29th in pouring rain. Except for a snowstorm on the 1st November we had only brief storms, and by the 3rd the sky was clear at last.

We now had the crystal clear atmosphere I had waited for, and the view of Ka Karpo Razi 30 miles away was magnificent. Seen from the south, the four snow peaks appear to be in line from east to west, forming a continuous snowy range rising some 2,000-3,000 feet above the average height of the Irrawaddy plateau (which is a westward extension of the Yunnan plateau). The whole northern horizon was visible for 250°. The gorge of the Adung now looked a mere scratch on the surface; but it, together with its two big tributaries from the north-west, the Tazon and the Seinghku, served to break up the northern mountains into four blocks. This is what the horizon looked like on the 4th November.

  1. From the first visible peaks with snow on them (bearing 6°) to the notch which marks the Adung gorge. These peaks are jagged and rocky, with knife-edge ridges connecting peak to peak, and are too precipitous to hold much snow. Almost due north (bearing 3590) is a single pyramid with a fine snow slope. It has the appearance of a snow peak, though it looks slightly lower than the first group. Then comes a comparatively level, though broken, ridge which presently drops abruptly to the Adung gorge. This block of peaks lies to the east of the Namni L'ka (bearing 3430) and the highest peaks are probably about 18,000 feet.
  2. From the Adung gorge to a saddle at the head of the Tazon river. This sector includes all the snow peaks over 19,000 feet high. From the Adung notch a shoulder rises smoothly to culminate in Ka Karpo Razi (bearing 3350). Beyond that the line continues in a broken rocky ridge, perhaps the cliffs I had seen at the top of the Gamlang valley, followed by an abrupt slope up to a twin snow peak (bearing 326°) and an equally abrupt down-slope to the west. After that there is a widish gap or saddle which looks like a pass (unused) at the source of the Tazon river, with two low peaks immediately above it.
  3. From the Tazon saddle to the Diphuk La, the main pass into Tibet—and Assam—at the head of the Seinghku valley. This is a fairly level-topped massif, with a good deal of snow on it, and no outstanding peaks.
  4. From the Diphuk La southwards to where the snow ceases, on the divide between the Tamai and the western Irrawaddy. An isolated pyramidal peak, probably limestone, is conspicuous close to the Diphuk La, on bearing 2970. Then, turning south-eastwards down the Tamai valley, there is a long, level plateau ridge, which is continued some distance beyond the last of the snow before it subdivides and joins the great network of lower ridges and spurs in the south. From December till March or April the whole panorama, down to the 8,ooo-foot contour, would be white with snow. Turning now to the west and south-west, the plateau structure of north Burma is clearly revealed by the long, level ridges with the wide shallow ice-ploughed valley of the Tamai, and the V-shaped split in its floor, cut by the modern river which is conspicuous in the middle distance.

The available maps of the Tamai and Adung valleys are: on the ½ -inch scale, Survey of India sheets 91 h/sw and 91h/se (1922). On these sheets are marked: 'Hkakabo' Razi, 19,315 feet: twin peak with no name, 4 ½ miles to the north-west, 19,020 feet and 19,124 feet: nameless snow peak, 4 ¾ miles to south-west, 19,142 feet. On the ¼ -inch map, however, 91H, published in 1925, the heights are given as: 'Hkakabo’ Razi, 19,296 feet: twins, north-west, height not marked (so the heights given on the ½ -inch sheet may be accepted): south-west peak, 19,161 feet.

And now as to the name given as 'Hkakabo’ on the map. The surveyors, coming from the south, and hearing the word ka, naturally thought it was the Kachin word hka, water. In fact, 'hkakabo' is an extremely good shot at phonetic spelling for what they heard. But the Darus do not speak Kachin, and the local word for water is 77. It is very unlikely that the Darus would have any name for these snow peaks, which few of them can ever have seen. Any name they know would have been derived from their Tibetan masters in the Adung valley. The name is, in fact, obviously the well-known Tibetan name for a snow mountain, ka (or kang), snow, and karpo, white. Ka Karpo is therefore the white snow mountain just as the more famous sacred peak on the Yunnan-Tibet border to the east is called Ka Karpo, usually corrupted to Kagurbu on maps. We have also Kang Ri Karpo, on the Assam-Tibet frontier. As for Razi, this does appear to be a Daru corruption for the Tibetan ri, a mountain.

Thus there is a reason for altering the map spelling to the accepted romanization, which conveys both the language used and its meaning.

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