Himalayan Journal vol.12
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.12

Publication year:
1940

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. TAKPO AND KONGBO, S.E. TIBET
    (F. LUDLOW)
  2. A SEASON'S WORK IN THE CENTRAL HIMALAYA
    (J. B. AUDEN)
  3. THE JADH GANGA VALLEY AND THE NELA PASS
    (LIEUT. J. F. S. OTTLEY)
  4. DUNAGIRI, GAURI PARBAT, RATABAN, AND CHAUKHAMBA, 1939
    (ANDRE ROCH)
  5. THE UPPER SHYOK GLACIERS, 1939
    (Lieut. I. H. LYALL GRANT and Lieut.-Colonel KENNETH MASON)
  6. THE POLISH ASCENT OF NANDA DEVI EAST, 1939
    (S. B. BLAKE AND DR. JAKUB BUJAK)
  7. SOME QUETTA ROCK CLIMBS
    (W. K. MARPLES AND R. O. G. THOMSON)
  8. THE LOWER SHYOK AND THE GYONG LA
    (Flight-Lieut. ARTHUR YOUNG)
  9. THE CHORTEN NYIMA LA FROM THE TIBETAN SIDE
    (N. E. ODELL AND PETER LLOYD)
  10. MEMORIES OF EARLY KASHMIR CLIMBING
    (Dr. ERNEST NEVE)
  11. EXPEDITIONS
  12. IN MEMORIAM
  13. NOTES
  14. REVIEWS
  15. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  16. CLUB NOTICES

THE LOWER SHYOK AND THE GYONG LA

Flight-Lieut. ARTHUR YOUNG

By way of introduction, I must say that the following account is taken from the diary of one who, having no experience of travelling other than by rail or road, had the temerity to walk off into the Himalaya for four months. Those who read it hoping for technical descriptions of rock formations in the middle Shyok valley will be disappointed; so will those who expect a detailed account of the approaches to the Gyong La from the east. In fact, I write solely in the hope that a description of the routes I took and the difficulties I encountered will be useful to others some day.

My route was from Srinagar to Leh by the Treaty Road; from Leh, over the Khardung La, straight up the Nubra valley to the Siachen glacier and towards the Gyong La; thence back by the same route to Panamik. From Panamik I returned down the Nubra to its junction with the Shyok river and went down the Shyok valley to Khapalu, thence returning to Srinagar by the usual route to Skardu and over the Deosai plains.

My party included a shikari, a cook, and a bearer, and we left Srinagar on the 9th May 1939. The only point worthy of mention along the well-worn Treaty Road to Leh was the crossing of the Zoji La. After a few nights clear of bad weather during which there had been some slight frosts, we crossed with pony-transport on the 13th May, taking, of course, the winter route. There was very little trouble until a quarter of a mile short of Machhoi, where the snow had begun to melt, but even here there was little real difficulty. The telegraph master at Machhoi said that we were the first travellers to bring ponies over, but I saw several Ladakhi traders doing the same on this day. The rest of the road was taken easily, a halt being made to shoot a bear. Leh was reached on the 27th May.

After staying for some days in and around Leh, we left for the Khardung La, 18,380 feet,[1] which was not yet officially open. We halted overnight at Pulu, just below the pass, and, as the sky was overcast, we intended to start again at 3 a.m. Yaks were used between Pulu and Khardung, but although the yak-men themselves had wanted to leave at 4.30, they were slow at loading and we did not get away till 5.45. The snow was rather soft, but the yaks did not seem to worry unduly. When half-way up I met Lyall Grant, who was on his way back from a visit to the Chong Kumdan glacier. He told me that there was a wide gap between it and the wall opposite and that there was little chance of a dam forming for many years.1
The Nubra and Shyok rivers.

The Nubra and Shyok rivers.



After glissading down the steep north face of the Khardung La, we reached Khardung village sarai, 13,500 feet, in a mild snowstorm on the 6th June. Thereafter, following the usual Central Asian trade-route, we had an easy journey to Panamik. The bridge over the Shyok, which was washed away by the flood in 1926, has not been rebuilt, but the river was easily forded just opposite Tirit.2
On arrival at Panamik I immediately inquired about the route up the Nubra to the Siachen and about the Gyong La. The idea of crossing this pass into Baltistan had only occurred to me whilst on the way to Leh. I knew nothing about it and my only information at the time was contained on the 1928 edition of map 52E, which showed its eastern approaches 'unexplored'.1 I hoped to get more details from the Nubra people, but whenever I mentioned the name I met with a blank expression of ignorance. Several men claimed to have seen it, but on further questioning it appeared that they were confusing it with the snout of the Siachen glacier. No useful information was to be had anywhere.

1 See Lieut. Lyall Grant's paper on the upper Shyok glaciers in this Journal, pp. 52-63.

2 For a brief summary of the effects of the Shyok flood in 1926 see Himalayan Journal, vol. i, 1929, p. 21.-Ed.

As far as Panamik, I had been travelling on the Res system of transport. Beyond here I had to make my own terms. I left my transport arrangements to my capable shikari, Ahmed Lone, who collected an excellent body of Ladakhis willing to carry a maund each for 12 annas and one seer of food a day.

While the coolies were making their preparations, we went over to Kubet, on the right bank of the Nubra opposite Panamik, to try to shoot an ibex. In this we failed, for the only one we saw was too small to shoot. We left Kubet on the 13th June, and passing up the valley camped at Kimi, 11,000 feet, on the right bank, after an easy march of 12 miles.

The next day we had to cross the river immediately opposite Henache. The ford was not easy, for the river at this season was already flowing very fast. It was apparent that in order to do anything worth while near the Gyong La I could not have delayed my departure from Kubet much longer. We crossed safely and from Henache continued up the left side of the valley, over easy fans of scree and rock to Warshi, a 12-mile walk. Warshi is a flea-ridden camping-ground, with no village. There is plenty of good water and wood, but the place is pestered by flies and is a most unpleasant spot. Gompa, which, as the name implies, is a monastery, on the other side of the river, is a far better spot. The day after we arrived at Warshi we had to recross the river, and, if I were to repeat the trip, I would certainly cross the river twice in the same day and camp at Gompa.

On the 15th June, after crossing to the right bank by a fairly shallow ford, we plodded up the valley over shingle for some 9 miles to the snout of the Siachen glacier. Violent winds blew down the valley all day and clouds came down over the Saltoro range almost to the valley floor. By evening, however, the bad weather cleared and we camped in the lee of a small spur a mile below the glacier snout. At this camp, which I called 'Nubra Camp', there was plenty of wood and good water. In the evening, before the light went, my shikari and I climbed the side of the mountain to reconnoitre the route for the next day. Here we met the first stumbling- block. On my map a tributary glacier was shown descending from the Saltoro range and joining the Siachen glacier snout. It was not to be seen anywhere!

On the 16th we started up the right lateral moraine of the Siachen, and on overcoming an ice ridge at the snout we found ourselves in a little nullah down which poured a stream of pure water issuing from a large spring only a few yards up the nullah. I soon realized that the map was hopelessly inaccurate, as the glacier shown on the map did not exist. Puzzled as to what to do next, I camped early and made another reconnaissance, though it was not very fruitful. This delay caused me to lose one day on my schedule.

The next day found us walking over the moraine towards the northern base of a pronounced ridge. It seemed to me that a glacier joined the Siachen near this point and I determined to explore it and see whether it led to the Gyong La. On arrival at the mouth of the nullah, we found the glacier bore little resemblance to that shown on the map, but more like the one which should have joined the Siachen snout, about 4 miles farther down. The going was very rough and slow, but at the northern base of the ridge under which we were travelling there was a level patch of ground on which I pitched camp. My shikari and I climbed high on this ridge to see what lay up the southern of two glaciers which joined each other a mile from their junction with the Siachen. All we could see was that the southern glacier curved round gradually to the north between two ridges with almost smooth faces rising straight from the sides of the glacier at an angle of about 70 degrees. The smooth snow-covered surface of the glacier rose very gradually, without any sign of medial moraine; the walls of the nullah stood straight up from the ice without any lateral moraines. For some reason or other I felt that it would be unwise to go up this glacier with heavily laden coolies. Accordingly, I decided to try the northern glacier.

On the 18th June we crossed the mouth of the nullah and, arriving at the left lateral moraine of the tributary glacier, started to walk up it.1 We had noticed the day before that this side of the nullah was almost entirely free from large boulders, and we were now able to move fairly fast over the level ground for about a mile. On rounding a shoulder of the ridge we came in full view of the northern glacier. Though it was much the same as the southern one, there was a long and very broken ice-fall to overcome. The lateral moraines up this ice-fall were extremely steep and were composed of huge boulders on to which snow and shale were continually sliding from the steep walls of the nullah. In addition to this, two large hanging glaciers threatened the left lateral moraine route through most of its length. To force a route through the centre of the ice-fall was out of the question since the ice was broken up into countless pinnacles and walls.

1 The diagram of the glaciers in the text is not drawn to scale, and should not be taken as correcting the more recent survey as shown on the new edition of map 52E, dated 1938. See my remarks below, p. 99.-Ed.

North and South glaciers.

North and South glaciers.



I was already a day behind my schedule and did not know what lay ahead of us. I therefore decided to climb as high as possible and see all I could towards the supposed direction of the pass. This I did during the next two days. I obtained a view right up the northern glacier until it disappeared round a bend about a mile above the ice-fall. There was a small strip of moraine running up the centre of the glacier from the top of the ice-fall. About 6 miles away, above the northern glacier, we could see the summit of a very high mountain.1 Its southern face fell away very rapidly in a series of extremely steep snow slopes and ice-cliffs. I could see no signs of any rocks on the upper part of the mountain, which must have been well over 23,000 feet high. This southern face eventually disappeared behind the north wall of the north glacier nullah.

1 The peak must be one of the Chumik group of the Saltoro range, the topography of which is almost unknown.-Ed.

From the same point I could see what appeared to be the head of an ice-fall on the south glacier, visible through a gap in the intervening rock-spur. Immediately to the left of this the south wall of the south glacier nullah rose to a high spire, considerably higher than the rock-spur separating the two glaciers. The rock to the north of the spire fell precipitously to the level of the top of the ice-fall on the south glacier, and the rock-spur also dwindled as it curved round towards the north. Studying the mountains with the map it struck me that it fitted the topography of the east face of the Gyong La. The altitude of my viewpoint must have been about 16,000 feet.

I returned on the 20th June; by losing a day early in my reconnaissance, I had been unable to go as far as I had hoped, and I had insufficient food for the coolies to continue over the pass into Baltistan. Nubra Camp was reached on the 21st. I had thought of making a fresh bandobast at Kimi and of returning to try to cross the pass; but when I saw the volume of water in the Nubra I realized that this would be wellnigh impossible. Gompa was reached on the 22nd and Aranu on the 23rd, the right bank being followed the whole way. At Aranu I paid off the coolies. Most of them came from a village above Panamik called Takshai; they were all extremely good, particularly one man called Sonam.

Conclusions: After having my photographs printed and going over the route again in retrospect, I felt convinced that the way to the Gyong La led up the south glacier, up an ice-fall, and over the neve of this glacier. Since forming this idea, however, the Editor of the Journal has been good enough to send me a tracing of Khan Sahib Afraz Gul's map of the lower Siachen. This map has not yet been published, but, judging from the tracing, I see that the Gyong La must be some way south of where I thought it was. Nevertheless, I am still inclined to hold that the south glacier will lead to the Gyong La almost direct, mainly because Dr. Longstaff, who reached the top of the pass from the west in 1909, said in his account of the climb: 'We looked down on to a feeder of the Siachen glacier of Nubra, but the descent is extremely steep, and we were not willing to risk the lives of our coolies by making them carry our heavy baggage down it.'1 Such a description would fit the route down the ice-fall on the south glacier to perfection, for though I only saw the top of the ice-fall, it was apparent from the level of the base of the south glacier that any ice-fall occurring in its course must be extremely steep. Dr. LongstafF also shows the pass as being at the base of the steep southern face of a very high mountain. The mountain which I saw was the only one which was certainly over 20,000 feet and which had a steep southern face. Anyway, better luck to the next traveller who tries to cross the pass!

1 Geographical Journal, June 1910, p. 636.

THE ICE-FALL OF THE NORTH GLACIER NEAR SIACHEN SNOUT. HEIGHT, C. 16,000 FEET. 20TH JUNE 1939

THE ICE-FALL OF THE NORTH GLACIER NEAR SIACHEN SNOUT. HEIGHT, C. 16,000 FEET. 20TH JUNE 1939



Coolies fording the Nurbam waist-deep in the middle. 14th June 1939

Coolies fording the Nurbam waist-deep in the middle. 14th June 1939



VIEW DOWN THE SHYOK VALLEY FROM RAMDUNDO NULLAH (ON LEFT); TURTOK H THE DISTANCE.  6th July 1939

VIEW DOWN THE SHYOK VALLEY FROM RAMDUNDO NULLAH (ON LEFT); TURTOK H THE DISTANCE. 6th July 1939



BETWEEN CHANGMA AND MALAKCHA. SHYOK VALLEY. 5 TH JULY 1939

BETWEEN CHANGMA AND MALAKCHA. SHYOK VALLEY. 5 TH JULY 1939



The Siachen Glacier snout

The Siachen Glacier snout



[Note by the Editor. Arthur Young was handicapped by having with him neither Longstaff's account nor Khan Sahib Afraz Gul's modern survey which shows the glaciers near the snout of the Siachen correctly, at any rate in their lower reaches. This shows a very small glacier, the Dzingrulma, feeding a nullah covered with rock material near the snout of the Siachen, in place of the large glacier shown on the previous edition, which Young rightly failed to find. The double glacier, with its two branches, the south and the north, which Young examined must be the one shown on the Khan Sahib's map entering the Siachen at its great bend about 4 miles above the snout. On this map, however, the head of the south glacier which Young saw is at about latitude 350 13', whereas Longstaff shows the Ciyong La at latitude 350 10', about 3 miles farther south. The explanation seems to be that the branch glacier, joining the south glacier about half-way up its course from the south, leads up to the Gyong La, and that this branch was hidden from Young by the rock-spur. The detailed topography of the Chumik and Chulung groups is still to be unravelled, LongstafF having only paid a flying visit in 1909, when the weather was none too good. I have shown in the accompanying sketches the topography as depicted on the existing map 52E (1928) and as surveyed by Afraz Gul.]

After our efforts around the Gyong La we returned to Panamik and repacked our stores and equipment in preparation for the march down the Shyok river to Khapalu, a trip which none of my retinue had done before. Inquiries about this route were met with the statement that it was passable, but that it was very bad indeed and that no one could remember when a sahib had last taken it. That it would be fairly difficult I realized, for there was a lot of water in the Nubra by this time. I had obtained from the Special Charas Officer in Leh a list of the stages down the Shyok from Khalsar to Khapalu. This showed the route down the left bank (see sketch-map on p. 94); he could not give me the stages down the right bank, though this also is a recognized route. The Nubra Ladakhis advised me to follow the left bank, particularly one man who had just come up the right bank and reported that it was extremely bad.1
The route having been decided upon, we left Panamik on the 1 st July and had an easy walk to Tirit, a double-march of 23 miles, the ponies being changed at Tiggur. We were now back on the Res system of transport, and ponies were forthcoming without much difficulty; in fact the natives were most keen to provide transport. This was probably due to the cessation of all trade with Sinkiang, which has hit the Nubra people very hard. No caravans have come over the Karakoram trade-route for the past two years.

On the 2nd July we marched to Hundar. The Tiggur ponies took us as far as the Tirit ferry, where others from Khalsar and Deshkit were to meet us. At the ferry we had to wait some time before we saw them coming from Deshkit. The going thereafter to Hundar was straightforward over the sandy valley floor, a total march of 15 miles. At Deshkit I was fortunate to see the villagers start their first day's celebration of the Tibetan feast of Sias. Several were already well away owing to the effects of chang, and a good time was being had by all.

The next day it rained for the first time on the trek, and there was a violent storm some 10 miles away up the Shyok. When we reached Spanpuk the natives offered to take me to Thoise,[2] a dis- tance of 4 miles, on a zak, or goat-skin raft. It was the most hair- raising 4 miles, and the wettest, that I have ever endured, but certainly a novel experience. The zak was rather old, and I cannot altogether recommend the sport to others. The 10-mile march by land was again quite easy, the path for the most part leading over fans of scree similar to those we had crossed on our journey up the Nubra.

It was beyond Thoise that the fun began. From here we had to take coolies, as ponies could not go down the valley at this time of year, and Thoise is the last village but one on the left bank for three days' march. Ladakhis were most unwilling to come with us, saying that the track was terrible and that few people used it. Various excuses were made, though wages were not mentioned. Ahmed Lone eventually persuaded seventeen coolies to come with us; they were more than we needed, but it seemed to me wise to start with more than were necessary.

We left Thoise on the morning of the 4th July with an extremely reluctant body of coolies who kept stopping and moaning loudly about the roughness of the route. One of them soon turned back, but by keeping the rest on the move we prevented others following his example. Shortly afterwards he changed his mind, caught us up and agreed to come after all.

There was one small village beyond Thoise, by name Askaru, or Kharu. From it we had a good view of the Shyok valley for about 12 miles. It was certainly barren. The coolies took one look at it, sent up a groan to the abode of the gods, and three of them dropped their loads and fled. This left us with fourteen men, still rather more than necessary, fortunately for us. We kept them moving till they were out of sight of the comforts of Askaru. At last they seemed to understand that I was going on and not back, and they settled down resignedly.

The day's march was an easy one over sand, but it was very hot, and after passing Unmaru on the opposite bank the valley narrowed rapidly to a gorge, up which blew a strong sand-laden wind. The first good water we saw flowed down the Tharu or Pachatang Lungma; everyone cast their loads and drank until I thought they would drown internally. Two miles farther on the coolies announced that we had reached the end of that day's march.

We were at a small dry nullah mouth that they called Nakpopal. There was not a green thing in sight. The picture was one of utter desolation; in fact, the whole day had been remarkable for the absence of any track and for a scarcity of vegetation. At some places there were great cliffs of mud which were gradually being eroded by the wind; sand was drifting all over the valley.

Such was the first picture which I had of the effects of the floods of the Ghong Kumdan glacier in 1926 and 1929. I think it was the best of many. I have already said that it was about here that the valley narrowed to a gorge. One can easily imagine what happened when the huge wave swept down from the wider valley above. The entrance to the gorge must have acted as a partial dam and checked the flow of water and debris brought down by it. A slight backwash might then have occurred and water would have flowed up the Nubra valley.1 Certainly, the desolation at Nakpopal, 'black rocks' in Balti, was awe-inspiring. There was very little wood, but just enough to keep a fire going if it was used sparingly. There was a small spring at the foot of a cliff about 20 yards away. The day's march had been 16 miles, and our camping-ground probably a mile from Changma, where we probably should have been.

On the 5th July there was a cliff to traverse immediately after leaving Nakpopal. There was no path or track, though here and there an odd stone might have been jammed by some previous traveller to make movement easier. We traversed this rock-face for 150 yards and then found ourselves crossing scree, sand, rocks, more scree, and an occasional rock-face again-to add variety. Changma was pointed out to me, but it seemed as barren as Nakpopal, merely a spring at the foot of a cliff.

On the way I noted the appearance of the country on the right bank of the Shyok. I distinctly remember hanging on awkwardly to one rock-face by my hands and feet: glancing across the valley to the well-worn track crossing an easy scree I cursed my folly for coming down this bank. But though that happened several times, when I had more level going 'the fellow on the other side' would have been climbing. I do not think there is really very much to choose between the two sides. Although one would probably have the questionable comfort of staying in a village every night on the right bank, this would be largely offset by the fact that a considerable detour is necessary to cross the Pastan Lungma, and two minor passes have to be crossed beyond it.

It took 10 ½ hours to reach the Malakcha nullah, about 13 miles from Nakpopal. The first good water was reached one mile from Malakcha. It had been a very hot day and everyone almost literally fell into the water. One coolie fell sick through drinking river-water at every halt; all of them drank it although it was laden with sand. Malakcha had plenty of good water, but again very little wood. Immediately across the river was Biagdangdo, on an old river terrace about 200 feet above the river level, an oasis in a gorge of desolation. It appeared large and flourishing, judging by the way every little patch of ground was cultivated.

1 Unmaru and Biagdangdo are 24 and 36 miles below the Nubra Shyok confluence respectively, and about 182 and 194 miles from the Chong Kumdan glacier. From reports received at the time, the Shyok flood in 1926 is said to have reached in the gorge a height of 70 feet above its normal high summer flood- level. The gorge, which is about 12 miles long, checked the flow sufficiently to pond back the flood-waters as far as the Nubra confluence, and this in turn prevented the run-off of the Nubra, which flooded its own valley for a distance of some 10 miles above the confluence. There was very little loss of life.-Ed.

We left Malakcha nullah at 6 o'clock on the 6th July. The route was similar to that of the day before: a climb up, then down, then over steep slopes of shale. Once we passed under a long cliff which was being rapidly eroded by the wind. It was about 150 feet high and composed of river conglomerate. Stones came hurtling down the cliff, hit the scree, and crashed onwards. We had to watch for these, for the first warning was the click they made on the scree some 50 feet up.

The altitude of the river was only about 9,000 feet, and the heat at this comparatively low altitude combined with that radiated from the gorge walls was far from pleasant, especially for the laden Ladakhis whose home is considerably higher. At 10.45 we reached Tebe Lungpa, a large stream of the clearest water I have ever seen. I would not have exchanged that water for a glass of beer for all the snow-leopards in Kashmir!

Beyond Tebe Lungpa the road improved; by that I mean that we did not have to traverse faces of rock, slippery shale slopes ending in precipices, or have rocks hurled at us by eroding cliffs. We were now in Baltistan, and here the people seemed to take more interest in keeping their roads open. Like all mountain roads, this one went up and down and round; one still had to clamber round fallen rocks; but wherever it could be paved with stone or where steps could be cut this was done. We had intended to reach Turtok, the first village beyond the gorge on this side of the valley, but I was not worrying particularly since the map showed a hamlet called Ramdundo, about 2 miles short of it. The coolies confirmed the name, but there must have been some misunderstanding, for when we reached the place there were no signs of huts. There was good water but we were only able to 'beach-comb' just enough wood. We pitched the tents by sunset after a march of 16 miles.

On the 7th we hoped to reach Turtok and go on to Siari. The lambardar of Turtok, however, not without some self-interest, it seemed to me, said we could not do so. We were all rather tired after the efforts of the past few days, and I was not unwilling to stay at Turtok for the night, especially as I had to pay off the coolies who had brought us through the gorge. The Baltis of Turtok showed great curiosity about all my equipment; I was told by some of the elder men that the last sahib to come this way had done so about eleven years before.

The bridge shown on the map as crossing the Shyok at Turtok has not been rebuilt since it was destroyed by the Shyok floods. We left the place at 6.30, and after 4 miles of easy going down the sandy valley arrived below the village of Tyakshi, where we were to change coolies. We were travelling along the valley bottom which was carved out of earthen cliffs about 150 feet high on either side. The top of these cliffs must have been an old river-bed level, and it was on this that Tyakshi village was built. Several men were waiting for us below and these yelled up to others on the cliff. Very soon most of the men and children came sliding down a long scree, the women staying at the top. They were all wildly excited and asked to be allowed to make music in celebration of the rare coming of a sahib.

We eventually departed with fresh coolies. I thought these Baltis a grand lot of men, who, thank Heaven, have seen very little of our so-called civilization. We reached Prahnu, a 12-mile walk from Turtok, early in the afternoon. The bridge here has been rebuilt since it was swept away during the Shyok flood, and is in good condition. It is now the only one in the whole length of the Shyok from the Nubra.

Prahnu was one of the prettiest villages in which I had ever stayed; it is the base for some good ibex shooting. The local shikari was an old man, but he produced three chits, one dated 1909 and the other two 1921. I was told that no one had been to shoot here since then. Shepherds said that there were some very large ibex up the nullah, but that the country was very rough. Much as I would have liked to stay, I felt that I had been 'in the blue' for some six weeks and that I might have been recalled from leave.

We left Prahnu at 7 a.m. 011 the 9th July, and after crossing the bridge were held up for a considerable time by having to traverse a conglomerate cliff. We then followed the left bank, and changing coolies at Chuar and Siksa, reached Piun after a short march of 8 miles. Here we joined the more usual route from Ladakh to Baltistan by the Indus and the Ghorbat La. On the following day we hoped to reach Khapalu. We had been told that the road from Piun onwards was fit for ponies and therefore started with ten coolies and two ponies. The road was, however, long and tiring, and very bad in places; much of the delay that occurred was due to the animals; and I am convinced that it would have been better to rely altogether on coolies. When we were almost level with Abadon, the coolies led us up the side of the mountain, saying that there was a short cut to Khapalu. The road here was very good though steep, but it took a long time to reach the top of the ridge. From it, at about 10,000 feet, we were just in time to see Masher- brum, 25,660 feet, at the head of the Hushe nullah to the north, lit up by a most magnificent sunset. We marched on for another hour or so, then, realizing that we should not reach Khapalu before dark, we camped by the road-side. On the 11th July we walked for an hour and a half into Khapalu.

 Crossing the bridge over the Shyok river at Prahnu. 8th July 1939

Crossing the bridge over the Shyok river at Prahnu. 8th July 1939



 Between Tyakshi and Prahnu, Shyok valley. 8th July 1939

Between Tyakshi and Prahnu, Shyok valley. 8th July 1939



View back up the Shyok valley from near Abandon. 10th July 1939

View back up the Shyok valley from near Abandon. 10th July 1939



 Between Prahnu and Chaur, Shyok valley. 9th July 1939

Between Prahnu and Chaur, Shyok valley. 9th July 1939



Conclusion. The route by the left bank of the Shyok is very rough, but I do not think there is much to choose between it and the one on the north bank. Contrary to the evidence of map 52B, there is a route running the whole way down both banks of the river between the Nubra and Khapalu. Coolies must be taken over the greater part of the route; and though ponies can be obtained from Piun onwards, the ground is hardly suitable for them, and I would recommend coolies in preference. If ponies are required, word should be sent ahead to the lambardar of Piun, as the ponies are kept grazing up the Chorbat Lungpa. The only bridge across the Shyok in this stretch connects Siari and Prahnu. I think it would be impossible to travel down the valley floor at any time, except perhaps in the depth of winter, when the water is certain to be at its lowest level; even then it would be necessary to ford the river many times a day. At uninhabited camping-grounds on the left bank wood is very difficult to find, and a stove of some kind should certainly be taken. On several occasions a track had to be made before we could cross nullahs, cliffs, and screes; an ice-axe was most useful for the purpose. Rope was never used, though I thought several times that it would be necessary; it is advisable to carry some. Plenty of good water can be found at the end of the day's march, but it is scarce between the stages. It is a thirsty business marching down this valley in July, and all should carry some water. On no account must the Kashmiris, and, if possible, the Ladakhis, be allowed to drink the river-water. I was told that the water at Ramdundo had turned bad, and that for this reason the village had been deserted. However, we all drank it before we were told about this, and we have not yet died. I suggest the following stages for the trip from Panamik:
  1. Panamik to Tirit, 23 miles. Change ponies at Tiggur.
  2. Tirit to Hundar, 15 miles. Cross Shyok. Pony transport.
3. Hundar toThoise, 10 miles. Pony transport; obtain coolies at Thoise.

4. Thoise to Nakpopal, 16 miles. Easy sandy route with coolies.

5. Nakpopal to Malakcha, 13 miles. Difficult hot march.

6. Malakcha to Turtok, 18 miles. Difficult hot march; start early. Order ponies at Piun, if wanted. In any case send warning for transport to villages ahead.

7. Turtok to Prahnu, 12 miles. Route moderately rough.

8. Prahnu to Piun, 8 miles. Go on to next village if possible.

9. Piun to Khapalu, 28 miles. Start very early; avoid the short cut and keep by river bank.

Sport.

Of shikar on this trip I have mentioned little. I might add, however, that if anyone is keen enough to go so far for it, there is very good shooting to be obtained near the snout of the Siachen. We saw several very large heads lying about on the moraines, probably the work of a family of snow-leopards. On one occasion we actually disturbed a sleeping snow-leopard, but as soon as he saw us he disappeared like a flash of lightning. On returning from the Siachen I went up the Yarkand road as far as Tut Yailak and found a few bharal. The heads were quite average ones and I shot only two. My shikari told me that all the large heads were to be found beyond the Saser pass. The Shyok valley itself contained nothing at all, according to the evidence of the few inhabitants we met; but evidently there is very good ibex shooting in the Laonchon nullah near Prahnu.


[1] This height is taken from the 1938 edition of Survey of India map 52F, which covers the ground to about 17 miles beyond Panamik. Beyond this point I had to rely on the 1928 edition of map 52E, which does not show the survey work of Khan Sahib Afraz Gul on the Visser's expedition of 1929-30.

[2] I have spelt the names throughout as they are shown on the latest Survey of India maps for the sake of uniformity.-Ed.