Himalayan Journal vol.12
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Kenneth Mason
    (F. LUDLOW)
    (J. B. AUDEN)
    (LIEUT. J. F. S. OTTLEY)
    (Lieut. I. H. LYALL GRANT and Lieut.-Colonel KENNETH MASON)
    (Flight-Lieut. ARTHUR YOUNG)
  13. NOTES


PEAKS AND LAMAS. By Marco Pallis. London: Cassell, 1939.

9 ½ X6 ¾ inches; xx+423 pages] 95 photogravure illustrations; 3 maps. 18s.

Peaks in Garhwal and Bashahr constituted the primary objective of Mr. Pallis's expedition in 1933, and he graphically describes successful attempts on Central Satopanth,1 22,210 feet, and Riwo Pargyal, 22,360 feet. But also, in the course of this expedition, he made friends with those Lamas whose doctrine and way of life impressed him to so great an extent that he resolved on the close study of Tibetan Buddhism, of which this book is so valuable an exposition.

Determined to acquire fuller knowledge of their traditions and teaching from Tibetan Lamas, in their own atmosphere, he set himself to learn their language. After three years study he organized another combined mountaineering and research expedition. Having first mortified the flesh in a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to scale Simvu, 22,360 feet,2 Mr. Pallis, with two companions, set out for Hlobrak, a noted monastery near the Tibet-Bhutan frontier, in order to exalt the spirit therein. Meanwhile, however, owing to an 'incident' in which other 'foreigners' were involved, the Lhasa Government had decided to withhold the anticipated permit to enter Tibet proper. This placed Mr. Pallis and his party in a quandary, but they had the good fortune to meet and to make friends with the 'Hermit Abbot of Lachen'. From him they received much-valued instruction and advice during their stay at the little Gompa of Thangu. Then, acting largely on the Abbot's suggestions, they turned westward across India, and then north to Ladakh, where among the great monasteries they would assuredly find enlightenment. They were not disappointed, for, clothed and living like Tibetans, they found at most of them welcome, tolerance, and goodwill. Only at Hemi, the largest and best-known, were they unfavourably impressed by the decadence and lack of courtesy of the monks. Likhir, magnificent in structure and set in superb surroundings, they pronounced unforgettable.

1 The peak climbed by Kirkus and Warren, which they named Central Satopanth, 22,210 feet, was misidentified at the time. It was evidently one of the Bhagirathi group, probably the one shown with a height of 21,176 feet on the new Survey of India map. At the time it was identified as the summit with a height of 22,050 or 22,060 feet {Himalayan Journal, vol. vi, 1934, P- 115) ' this is evidently 'Swachhand peak' climbed by Meszner and Spannraft on the 20th September 1938, about 3 miles south of Satopanth (see sketch-map in Himalayan Journal, vol. xi, 1939, p. 143). The heights in chapter iv must therefore be several hundred feet too high.-Ed.

2 At that time still a virgin peak. It was first climbed by Bauer's expedition on the 2nd October 1936.

Eventually, at Spituk and its lesser neighbour Phiyang, their fullest hopes were realized. A most remarkable man, one Lama Dawa, Bursar of Spituk, became their guide, philosopher, and friend. Of him Pallis writes: 'Both in theory and in practice he realized the highest ideals of the religious life. He was not only a well-informed exponent of the Doctrine, he was the very thing itself. The effect on the author of spending several weeks, steeped in an atmosphere of Buddhism, has evidently been profound, and he has set down his impressions with clarity and conviction. He has also portrayed the life and the homes of the Ladakhi peasantry. His enthusiasm seems to make him somewhat oblivious of the dirt and smell that so often offend the European traveller in Ladakh and Tibet. His explanation and diagrams of the Wheel of Life, or Round of Existence, as he prefers to call it, are exceptionally lucid. He has also dealt with Tibetan art, which he studied at Phiyang, under a noted local painter.

Although baulked in his original project to pursue his quest in Tibet proper, Pallis has undoubtedly succeeded in attaining what he set out to acquire, a clear understanding of the Doctrine and of the customs of the Lamas. It would be indeed interesting to see how he would fare at the Yellow Gap Monasteries of Lhasa or at the Red Gap Monasteries of Dikhung, to which Lama Dawa commended him.

To Lama Dawa, and to his three other teachers, the author has rendered graceful tribute by 'reverently5 dedicating his book to them.

H. W. Tobin.

APPROACH TO THE HILLS. By C. F. Meade. London: John Murray, 1940. 265pages \ 16 illustrations', 2 sketch-maps. 10s. 6d.

This is a book divided into two parts, Alpine and Himalayan, that might be described rather unfairly as a 'best-seller5. The first part will appeal to the lay public, while the Himalayan portion will do the same as regards the elect, as well as those persons whose knowledge of Alpine periodicals, British and foreign, can be described as nil. Without any doubt the book is extremely well written through-out, and its admirable opening chapter, 'The Inaccessible Meadow' (Mont Aiguille), sets a standard that is fulfilled entirely. 'A Great Guide (Blanc le Greffier) is a fascinating description of one of the best professionals and characters to be found in Alpine history, several of whose sons have become equally famous. Pierre, the third, recurs throughout the book as the author's close companion and friend. Other great guides lightly portrayed are Aloys Pollinger, senior, Sepp Innerkofler, and the still living Antonio Dimai. I confess that a few of the anecdotes concerning Pollinger are a puzzle to me. I cannot conceive him bickering with anyone-outside the family circle-while the 'rock in the rucksack' episode was really very different! Regarding the sensational adventure on the Guglia di Brenta ('Losing the Way on a Dolomite'), the writer truly describes Pierre Blanc's great feat as one 'thoroughly up to the standards of the modern climbing of to-day, but inadvertently accomplished some twenty years before its time'. The climb took place in August 1909 and has but barely been repeated since. This chapter is perhaps the best in the book.

The following pages describe a series of the now notorious adventures of the German and other 'Suicide Clubs' on the north faces of Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, Eiger, Watzmann,[1] &c. The narrative is paraphrased from various periodicals, prominent among which are the Alpine Journal and Der Bergsteiger, that egregious source of D.A.V. propaganda and empty boastfulness. The articles are well written, but the author deals perhaps too lightly with the malefactors. Kroner's 'last appearance on the scene' (p. 68) was when he perished at the base of Matterhorn's north face in 1933, his then companion vanishing without a trace on the Morgenhorn a year or two later. Armand Charlet's methods of dealing with north faces and competitors are both instructive and amusing (pp. 69-72). The final results on Eigerwand are rightly passed over in a note, while the ultimate farce and medal distribution-at Berchtesgaden-are not mentioned. The Balloon Adventure and Christmas Carol at Bonneval-sur-Arc, if admirably described, are mostly of esoteric interest.

Of Part II, as already stated, there is little but high praise to be awarded. Without appearing to be too meticulous, it is a pity that the ancient myth concerning the height and locality of Nanda Devi should be perpetuated. The facts are as follows: 'Nanda Devi is not, as sometimes stated, the highest mountain in the British Empire. Even if there is a slight doubt whether K[2] lies wholly within the British Empire, owing to the fact that the boundary here has not been delimited, Nanga Parbat is most certainly wholly within it, as are other mountains in the Gilgit Agency and Kashmir.'2 A few other errata have crept into the text. The Himalayan pheasant is a mortal, not a 'manol', on the authority of Gould's Himalayan Birds; Graham christened one of his peaks 'Mt. Monal' in 1883, hence a considerable distribution of wigs on the green! A 'Scotch' regiment is an anachronism-or worse-as glaring as 'the English' in India. We believe that 'Scotch whisky' still passes muster, even if it be suspect of synthetic origin. Before talking of British 'selfishness', writers should remember that none but British subjects are permitted by the Tibetan Government to take part in Mount Everest expeditions. 'Nilkanta' is the Survey of India's name for the beautiful Garhwal peak.
But of the strictly Himalayan portion of the book, comprising the Nanga Parbat and Kangchenjunga tragedies and adventures, the most interesting parts deal with Mr. Meade's own personal expeditions during the three seasons spent by him and his professional companions in Garhwal. Morris Slingsby's curious obsession as to the positions of Kamet and its Ibi Gamin satellites was, we believe, provoked by a kind of altitude cerebral stroke. In the light of present-day Himalayan mountaineering, there is little doubt that Kamet would have fallen to one or the other party had either waited for complete or even partial acclimatization. The 1913 party was of course mindful of Longstaff's successful rush tactics on Trisul in 1907. Mr. Meade and Pierre Blanc set a standard in their treatment of the excellent Bhotia porters-les enfants, as Blanc called them- which is still benefiting the numerous parties now visiting Garhwal and Kumaun. On one subject, the size of the climbing party, Mr. Meade is silent. But there is no question that too small a party, in the case of the siege of a major Himalayan mountain, is far more dangerous than too large a one. The lack of success of some-so- called-'light' parties can in large measure be attributed to incipient starvation provoked by lack of porters and the consequent urge to live on roots. None of Mr. Meade's parties were deficient in this respect.

Considering the low price of the book, the illustrations are reproduced adequately. I have no hesitation in recommending this most literary effort to mountaineers and general public alike.

E. L. Strutt.

THE EVERLASTING HILLS. By J. Waller. ('J. W.'). Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1939. 8 ½ X 5 ½ inches', xii+190 pages; sketch-maps and 64 full-page illustrations. 15s.

The jacket tells us that 'Mr. Waller, like Mr. F. S. Smythe, is a well-known mountaineer, and, combined with his knowledge of climbing, he has developed the art of photography to the highest pitch'. The author's foreword promises 'to show the mountaineering progress of a gunner subaltern between the ages of 21 and 27; a subaltern who has not yet achieved the rank of expert, but who has had experiences in the hills which have determined him to go on and so qualify'. These experiences have been described, in greater detail than in this volume, in the Journal; reference may be made to vol. vi, p. 132 (Kashmir), by Waller; vol. vii, p. 53 (Nun Kun), by Harrison; vol. viii, p. 14 (Saltoro), by Hunt; vol. ix, p. 127 (Analysis of Saltoro expedition), by Hunt and Waller; vol. x, p. 159 (The Kashmir Alps), by Waller; vol. xi, p. 42 (Masherbrum, 1938), by Roberts, and a following article on diet by Dr. Teasdale.

Climbers will probably prefer these accounts of the actual climbs to the more popular narrative of the present book, the object of which is to 'encourage any young man to go climbing in the Himalayas'. The author proposes to show that mountaineering is 'a worth-while sport for the ordinary man', and that 'soldiers and others stationed in India' should not be scared off Himalayan climbing by the impression that it is 'only for the expert and superman'.

This is an excellent object, and the Himalayan Club was founded with this object among others. But, while the Club would thus welcome any encouragement to climb and explore the Himalaya, especially among soldiers, such as the author has in mind, it does, or should, concern itself with the motives and methods of climbing encouraged. And here, perhaps, in the friendly pages of our Journal, in the intimacy of our family circle, as it were, a reviewer may be allowed to express some doubts about the wisdom of the advice given in this book and the idea of the climber presented, without being accused of too cynical an asperity.

Let it be said, then, first, that in his desire to dissipate that impression about climbing being an affair for the expert only, our author is in danger of going to the other extreme. After all, it is necessary to learn some things before going up a mountain, just as it is necessary to play about with stick and ball before going into a chukker on the polo ground. There is, to take an elementary example, a correct and an incorrect way of tying on and using a rope; the author seems to take a delight in deriding 'orthodoxy' in this and other matters (see Plate 23 for some enlightenment). The old maxim was 'Take a season or two learning how to go up steep ice, how to traverse steep snow in all sorts of consistency, how to spot crevasses, &c., and don't attempt to climb a mountain till you can'. One can agree with the author when he says that a man can learn to climb in the Himalaya without experience elsewhere, but vehemently disagree when he asserts, 'I see no reason why a party of complete novices should not undertake Alpine type climbs in the Himalayas'. Again, what dangerous talk it is to urge 'beginners' luck' as he does here: 'I have become a great believer in luck; it seems to me that the mountains are kinder to those who cannot be expected to know their dangers.' Heaven help the novice who starts climbing in that faith! Better the words of Whymper, who was no timid climber: 'Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.'

Now about the motive of the climber which the ordinary man, for whom this book is written, may infer from it. Quite frankly the author confesses that at first, 'My real motive in wishing to climb was to be able to talk about my ascents of virgin Himalayan peaks'. Later, he admits that the publicity given in The Statesman to the Nun Kun effort 'made a greater impression on me than it should have done', which, indeed, is evident when in choosing Masherbrum for his 1938 expedition, he writes, 'I must admit that I was also keen to try something a little higher than any peak which had so far been climbed'.

That is exactly the Philistine view of climbing, just a competitive stunt. As the Editor notes in our Journal, vol. vii, 'What pernicious things height records are!'

As to this Masherbrum attempt, there is a statement which calls for some explanation. It is this: 'To keep our objective secret I applied through the Himalayan Club to climb Kangchenjunga, or, if that were refused, Tirich Mir in the N.W.F.P. I then went on with my preparations for climbing Masherbrum, and in due course permission to climb both the other mountains was, as I had expected, refused. Masherbrum is in the Karakoram range which is officially part of Kashmir, so that'-other foreign expeditions being sanctioned already for that part-'besides being a matter of policy, secrecy became a necessity. It is a point of interest to know why an officer stationed in India should request Government permission to climb a mountain in India when he asks no assistance of the country or State; does not ask for remission of Customs duty, as do the large expeditions from overseas; and is, anyway, allowed to visit the same area for shooting or any other purpose without asking permission from anyone.' [Is he? He was not, fifteen years ago when your reviewer was last in Baltistan.] 'But from inquiries I made, it seems that the Government does expect to be consulted. I regret to say that I did not do so; and although we later experienced a serious accident, no assistance was requested from the Government, or from Kashmir State, the Maharaja and officials of which, it is only fair to add, did all in their power to help us as soon as they heard that we had had an accident.5
It may be also 'a point of interest to know why the services of this Club were invoked to back a bogus request for permission to climb peaks which there was no intention to attempt, and why a matter of custom-as the author knew it to be-as well as of courtesy -which it should be-was deliberately neglected.

The Himalayan Club has owed a great deal to the support of the Government of India and to individual members of that Government in several of its Departments. It would be deplorable if those good relations should be impaired by the irresponsible action, to use the mildest term, of members of the Club, while availing themselves of the services of the Club. Any expedition, however small, in regions like the Karakoram, must be a concern to the local administration, and it is only fair that those responsible, in this case the Kashmir Durbar, should be consulted. It is to be hoped that the Club will give no countenance to such 'secrecy5, however 'well- known5 the mountaineers who would use its services in this way.

To end what, it is feared, may be considered a rather captious notice on a pleasanter note, the photography may be heartily commended. The contrasts of light and shade have been skilfully caught to throw into relief the contours of the mountains, and the relativity of height and distance carefully brought out. The titles of some plates have been transposed as the volume could not be seen through the press by the author on account of the war.1
S. G. Dunn.


It is regretted that the members of the Club who had undertaken to write notices on Arnold Heims Central Himalaya, referred to in Himalayan Journal, vol. xi, 1939, p. 207, on Frank Smythe5s Edward Whymper, and on Dyhrenfurths Baltoro, have been unable to find time to complete their reviews up to the time of going to press, owing to other duties.

1 The author asks me to notify the following corrections to the titles of the plates: Plates 27 and 28: Titles should be interchanged. Plate 56 should have the title which is printed with Plate 57; Plate 57 should have that given to Plate 60; and Plate 60 that given to Plate 56-Ed

[1]St. Bartoloma is the name of the hamlet near its base.

[2]Himalayan Journal, vol. ix, 1937, p. 21, note 1. The origin of the statement can be traced, most unfortunately, to Alpine Journal, vol. xl, p. 281, on the authority of Dr. Longstaff.