Himalayan Journal vol.14
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.14

Publication year:
1947

Editor:
H. W. Tobin
Index
  1. SASER KANGRI, EASTERN KARAKORAMS, 1946
    (J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  2. A SHORT EXPEDITION TO THE NUN KUN MASSIF LADAKH, MAY-JUNE 1946
    (CAPT. RALPH JAMES, F.R.G.S.)
  3. THIRD CHOICE-PADAR REGION
    (FRITZ KOLB)
  4. NANDA GHUNTI, 1945
    (P. L. WOOD)
  5. NANGA PARBAT RECONNAISSANCE, 1939
    (L. CHICKEN)
  6. SKI-ING IN GARHWAL
    (R. V. VERNEDE)
  7. A PRE-SWISS ATTEMPT ON NILKANTA
    (C.G. Wylie)
  8. EXPEDITIONS
  9. IN MEMORIAM
  10. NOTES
  11. REVIEWS
  12. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  13. EDITORIAL

A SHORT EXPEDITION TO THE NUN KUN MASSIF LADAKH, MAY-JUNE 1946

CAPT. RALPH JAMES, F.R.G.S.

I admit that a month is a very short time in which to attempt a 23,400-foot peak and such an endeavour could be, and in fact was, adversely criticized. However, when one appreciates that none of the members had had a chance during the war to indulge in an expedition of this nature and Berry and Stobart were due to return to the United Kingdom almost immediately, then I am sure that my readers, particularly climbers, will take a more sympathetic view.

For myself I will say that I have no regrets and will always look back on this, my first attempt on Nun, as one of the better-employed months of my life. When my companions read this account I hope they will realize how much I appreciated their company and above all their efforts in making the attempt both possible and as pleasant as indeed it was.

The origin of the plan was with Major Roy Berry, R.E., of the Engineer-in-Chief's Branch, Delhi, and Major T. S. Stobart, I.A., of the Army Films. These two had done some climbing previously in the Himalayas, England, Switzerland, and Austria, and had decided as a final effort before leaving India to attempt to climb Nun Kun, 23,400 feet, in Ladakh. The area of the Nun Kun Massif is reasonably accessible from Srinagar, capital of Kashmir, and Berry had made a study of the mountain from publications of the Bullock Workmans and of previous attempts on the mountain from the Warwan valley in 1944. But none of us had previously seen the Massif at close quarters before the attempt. All were hoping against hope that two months' leave would be possible this year but unfortunately we were only able to get one month, with the exception of Stobart who had been demobilized.

As everyone knows, an attempt on a peak of this size has to be prepared many months ahead, and so, while the problem of leave hung in the balance, Roy and Tom got on with the good work. The latter was in charge of the feeding, medical, and photographic departments, while the former took the burden of practically everything else upon his own shoulders. Early in the year came the first drawback, for the third member of the party, Charles Bailey, fell sick and was invalided home. Roy immediately appealed through the Himalayan Club for anyone who would like to join. It was at this juncture that I, sitting up in Waziristan, jumped at the opportunity.

Tom arranged a large quota of films for us all and 2,000 feet of 16 mm. for his cine-camera; this latter included 50 per cent, in colour.

Roy had done sterling work in buying kit from home, and a few days before the start all the items of equipment from the United Kingdom arrived safely in Delhi. He had also made arrangements through the Himalayan Club for the three Sherpa porters who were to accompany us. The three little men included Angtensing, a very experienced porter who had been on three Everest expeditions, secondly Ang Gilung, also fairly experienced and an Everest man, and lastly the youngster of the three, Sarki, aged twenty. He was, though inexperienced compared with the others, an extremely tough and cheerful chap with an everlasting smile.

The beginning of May saw Tom on his way up to Kashmir, but I had met him in Pindi in order to tie up a few points such as transport for the main party, &c. Everything at this stage went perfectly and a week later I met Roy and the three Sherpas, complete in every detail, again in Pindi. The heat on the 10th day of May was appalling, and the Sherpas were not getting any fitter for it, so we loaded up our lorry straight away and left Pindi for Murree at about 18.00 hrs. and next day covered the remaining 120 miles to Srinagar, arriving there at about 15.00 hrs.

May 13th, '46. Next morning, having collected Tom and various outstanding items of kit, we set off for Sonamarg. Again, except for the fact that I had fish-poisoning, everything went well and that evening we broke up our equipment and stores into pony-loads. From this point the already inadequate road took on the form of a track, and we were obliged to use 'Shanks's pony'.

As far as I remember we had about twelve pony-loads. From now on I shall record events much as they are written down in my diary. Before doing so, however, I shall make a few remarks about the present transport situation in Kashmir. To say that this was scandalous would be but a mild criticism. No coolie or pony-man will think of working for the correct rate and if you think that any Lambardar or Tehsildar will help you, then you are in for disillusionment. After endless haggling we managed to persuade the requisite number of pony-men to accompany us for the exorbitant rate of Rs. 12 per pony to Dras-three days' march! Worse still, at Dras the Zaildar (headman), realizing that he had us by the short hairs (we being in a hurry), refused to let us have coolies for the crossing of the Umba La at less than Rs.g for the two days' march; and then to make matters worse they refused to carry more than 20 seers each. Notice of our coming had been sent ahead some time before but all postmasters and other petty officials denied any knowledge of it.

Once away from the money-grabbing fraternity that seems to infest the normal trade-routes, we found the Ladakhis of Suru valley an extremely willing and obliging crowd.

So much for our transport difficulties-the one unpleasant memory of the trip.

May 14th, '46. The ponies arrived early and a short march up the lovely wooded valley of the Sind river took us to Baltal. We put up at the Dak bungalow and in the afternoon took some exercise and practice with the Sherpas in a snow couloir at the foot of the Zoji La, 11,000 feet. Roy lost his dog on this march. Apparently the unfortunate animal turned out to be a sheep-killer and after receiving chastisement from an ice-axe he hared away into the hills and was never seen again.

May 15th, '46. This was our day for crossing the Zoji pass. With an early start we crossed the top of the pass at 09.30 hrs.; numerous trains of ponies passed us on our way up and Tom did a certain amount of filming.

The weather was perfect and there was little snow for that time of the year. We had our midday snack at Machhoi, and then, leaving the snow, we cracked down the grassy track past hundreds of protesting marmots to Matayaan for tea. Here we stayed the night. No time had been lost so far, and at this rate we should be able to get some ten days on the mountain and at least a week above 17,000 feet.

May 16th, '46. A brisk walk took us to Dras by 13.30 hrs.; the bungalow here is cleaner than most and everything seemed very pleasant-until we began talking about coolies to cross the Umba La, a pass leading over into the Suru Nala. It was here that the coolie trouble began. The Umba La is just under 15,000 feet, and as such does not present a difficult obstacle even in May. However, it is not officially open until June. Eventually we were obliged to pay these Dras coolies nearly double the amount asked by the coolies who were later to carry as high as 20,000 feet on Nun! We were more than a little annoyed.

May 17th,'46. The local postmaster at Dras had a very important- looking box in which he kept certain instruments, an aneroid and a thermometer, but even with this help he was an extremely bad weather prophet. As we left for the Umba La he assured us that the weather was bound to keep fine for the next month-within four hours it was snowing quite hard.

We camped in half a blizzard at 13,500 feet. Everyone and everything was wet and miserable. I am not a sadist but I felt that now our coolies were having to work for their money.

We soon got our tents up and overcrowded them with coolies who announced that they were about to die. It was laughable to see the Sherpas chase them about. By two in the morning there was a foot and a half of new snow, and more coming.

May 18th, '46. If it was difficult to get those wretches to work on the previous day it was wellnigh impossible to get them up this morning. However, the chasings of the Sherpas, and the patient persuasion of Roy, saw Tom and me lead off to break a trail down into the nala and over the Umba La proper. We set off at about 09.00 hrs. and shortly after that brilliant sun replaced the cloud and mist. A mountain 19,000 feet high appeared on our right, magnificent in the morning sun. The snow soon became wet and it was heavy going indeed over the last 2,000 feet of the pass. A very deep snow formation lay at the top of the northern side, which culminated in a cornice and fell steeply down 4,000 feet to Umba village on the southern side; this side was not snow-covered except a little at the top. We camped that night in a delightful little willow plantation below the village.

May 19th,’ 46. Having at last got rid of the Dras men we took on a cheerful crowd of coolies from Umba who sang as they strode down the road to Sankho, where they arrived at 12.00 hrs. I had gone ahead and arranged for ponies; when the villagers heard our story they poured scorn on the Dras coolies for whom they obviously had no time. With our kit now on ponies (decent, fat, healthy-looking beasts) we moved swiftly up the Suru river to Thamo, where we pitched our camp under some high rocks. The Suru valley at this point is about 4 miles wide, bordered by snow peaks, and shows definite signs of erosion caused by the swiftly flowing river.

May 20th,’ 46. I have written in my diary: 'To-day we shall have the first glimpse of Nu’, and after an early start this was the case. At 08.00 hrs. I rounded a bend in the track and there, 12,000 feet above and some 15 miles away, stood the peak Nun clear and shining white in the morning sun. This was the first view of our objective, and at this point we were viewing it from the opposite side from that of our planned attack. The northern precipices looked appalling in their magnitude and as we neared Suru village Nun gave us an idea of what she had in store for us. When first seen, a small lenticular cloud hung over the peak in the still morning air; this soon blew away, however, as a south-westerly wind came up and its place was taken by a small plume which then developed into a banner cloud of some considerable size. Within the course of an hour the peak had changed from clear stillness to being a pretty draughty spot.

We arrived at Suru in time for our midday snack and decided to have a day's rest to sort out our stores for the assault.

May 21 st and 22nd, '46. We were now in the tracks of the Bullock Workmans in 1906, and more recently of James Waller in 1934. With their writings at our disposal and the knowledge they had imparted to the locals (notably one Qasim Khan who came up to 20,000 feet and who well knows the approach route to the east ridge) we knew quite a lot of what to expect for the first part of the climb.

The Zaildar at Suru was most helpful and hospitable, as was the local schoolmaster, whose infant was among the many that Tom doctored.

Nun was still stormy, and by the 22 nd the hills around were white with snow as low as 11,000 feet. On this day we all religiously paraded and took an ounce of Epsom salts.

Things went well in Suru; we all (including the Sherpas) wrote the last letters we should be able to get off for the next three weeks, mended our kit, and cut it down to a maximum of 60 lb. an officer.

The Sharps were to carry little more than their personal kit as far as the Base Camp, as it was for carrying higher up that they had been especially recruited and we did not want them to expend their strength carrying heavy loads to the Base Camp.

May 23rd, '46. Roy, who suddenly developed toothache, was worried about the day's march. Things looked rather grim for him, and Tom decided at Roy's request to try to pull the tooth out if there were no improvement by the evening.

We set off at 07.00 hrs., and most of the locals turned out to see us off. They were very cheerful and seemed to think that perhaps this time the English sahibs would reach the top of their high mountain.

The bridge over the Suru Nala being down, we were forced to cross by one of the most terrifying contrivances I have ever seen. Rope bridges of this nature are all very well, except when the ropes are of wickerwork! The three of us and old Qasim crossed, and the rest went the long way round to Purketse while we went up over the Purketse La. Nun on a fine day provides an excellent view from the top of the pass, but on this day the weather denied it to us. At Purketse Roy's tooth became unbearable, his face was the size of two, and the worst was decided upon. Tom gave him an injection of morphia and I sand-papered the local instrument (a fearsome rusty pair of nail-pullers). Having boiled them Tom got down to work and after a brief struggle the tooth gave him best; but the bitter part was that we only allowed poor Roy five minutes for the morphia to take effect, where I now learn that half an hour is required; however, he batted not an eyelid, to his everlasting credit.

May 23rd,, '46. We marched from Purketse up the Suru Nala, collecting wild rhubarb en route, and crossed the river to the south bank by a natural rock bridge. We finally camped opposite Gulma- tongus village in light driving snow. Cuckoos abounded in this area, and I also observed a brilliant yellow wagtail which I placed as m.f. Melanogriseae. In spite of the strong easterly wind we had a very cheerful camp with a roaring fire. Height about 13,000 feet- night temperature fell to 5 degrees of frost.

May 24th, '46. We marched early and after a few hours turned south and passed into the end of the Shafat Nala. Now for the first time we were off any form of track. About a mile up the nala we were stumbling over a huge mass of red debris which is the terminal moraine of the Shafat glacier. We pitched camp on exactly the same site that the Bullock Workmans called their Moraine Camp in 1906. We now met the weather as it was to be every day we spent on the mountain.

I might mention here that in 1906 at exactly the same time of year the American couple spent three months on the massif and no snow fell during that period, whereas in 1946 snow fell every day until at least the middle of June. Briefly, every day dawned clear, but by midday it was clouding up and by 15.00 hrs., if not before, a westerly wind brought a foot or more new snow which daily blotted out our tracks and made the higher moves very tiring.

May 25th,’ 46. Our next halt was to be the Bullock Workmans' Base Camp at about 15,000 feet; as we left the Moraine Camp the noise of avalanches reached us and after a short time we passed below the first glacier junction to the north and had a grand view of avalanches thundering off the peak above. The coolies kept to the main north moraine while Tom and I took a look at the centre of the glacier. This is in my opinion the easiest way up to the Workmans' Base Camp. We found their site to be well chosen, clear of snow, and fed by a spring. The remains of their stone shelters still stood, and Roy spent considerable time making them habitable for the coolies.

May 26th, '46. After some discussion earlier in the journey we had planned to put our own Base Camp at about 17,000 feet, and having reconnoitred a route by glasses the previous evening we set off at about 07.00 hrs. Peak Z. 1 to our left, a magnificent snow and ice peak, commenced showering down a succession of decent-sized avalanches. We could now see our objective only a matter of 5 miles away, looking very close in the clear morning air. It was quite a sweat up to our selected site which was beneath a high rocky outcrop, and we all felt that we should have to spend one or two of our precious days there for reconnaissance purposes and acclimatization. The altitude was beginning to take its toll and we found that whilst in bed we awakened suddenly, fighting for breath.

We reached our Base Camp site in good time; it was an ideal spot under a huge outcrop of rock. The site is well sheltered and safe. Here we pitched our Base Camp at an altitude of approximately 17,000 feet. It was a very good place as it was possible to construct a cave of considerable size under the rock by making a wall of snow blocks. This made a useful cookhouse store and coolie shelter. I might say though, at this juncture, that if I were to go to Nun again I should use the Bullock Workmans' Base Camp for my base (if I had plenty of time) as this has the advantage of a supply of running water.

May 27th, '46. To-day we had decided that if we felt fit enough we would reconnoitre the ground above our rock. However, the weather was against us, and it was impossible to see more than a few yards, so we sat tight for most of the day. Roy did go a little way ahead with Sarki but had to turn back for bad visibility. In the afternoon I tried a little ski-ing by the camp on the short 'Schuster' mountain ski which we had borrowed from the Himalayan Glub. This was our first experience of this particular type of ski and I found them delightfully easy to control. The temperature that night fell to 16 degrees of frost.

May 28th, '46. The weather was still bad, a gale blew from the west, and snow swirled around our camp in great clouds drifting against the cookhouse door. We could do nothing as the visibility during the day was nil. We again sat tight and hoped that to-morrow would give us a chance to go higher.

May 29th, '46. Two precious days had been lost. They had not been entirely wasted as we had acclimatized to a certain extent, but we could not afford to spend a day on a separate reconnaissance. We decided, therefore, that Camp I must be pitched by hook or by crook at or above 18,500 feet that day. A brief reconnaissance from the snow ridge 100 feet above the Base gave us one line on which to work. Roy and Tom led off and I followed with the baggage for two higher camps a little later. To play safe they took a route that was a long sweep around the upper reaches of the Shafat glacier. The snow was deep and tiring.

This route proved unsatisfactory; it lay over a vast snow-field that was of a most unsafe character; in fact, from time to time the violent noises made by settling crevasse snow sent our hearts to our mouths; more, the final wall up to the plateau on which we placed Camp I was no picnic with the midday sun beating full on its south slopes. Up at last, Angtensing and I remained in Camp I with the two coolies we had taken, while Tom and Roy returned to Base Camp with the other two Sherpas by a different route. As usual a fairly violent storm came up from the west in the evening leaving a foot or so of snow behind. Anyhow we had fixed Camp I and at approximately 18,500 feet. We had actually done better than we had expected.

May 30th, '46. I awoke to find the minimum/maximum thermometer standing at 10 degrees F. The plan to-day included the establishment of a Camp II at 20,000 feet by Angtensing and myself (we were then to return to Base Camp). Roy and Tom were to ascend from the Base Camp to Camp I with the loads for Camp III. Things went according to plan, and by 13.00 hrs. I was testing the snow around a sheltered spot on what is the northern portion of the Fariabad ridge at a point where it becomes the ridge leading up to the col between the White Needle and Nun. Now our intended route was clear: up this ridge to the foot of the White Needle, traverse to the col between White Needle and Nun, and thence assault Nun via its east ridge. To attain a camp on the Fariabad ridge we did not go straight up the Shafat glacier but climbed from Camp I in a rising traverse, establishing our Camp II at approximately 20,000 feet at a point half-way between the Fariabad col and the col between Nun and the White Needle. This is not the best of camp sites, but is sheltered and safe from all but the very minor avalanches.

We pitched one tent and then went up a few feet and had a look over the edge of the ridge, which fell sheer 5,000 feet to the Fariabad glacier. The route to Camp III would be airy.

It took us about half an hour to descend to Camp I; here Roy and Tom had arrived by a new, direct, and safe route. They fed us on cocoa and we pushed on down to the Base Camp in forty-five minutes, in time to miss the evening snow.

May 31st,’ 46. This day Angtensing and I set off back for Camp I and as we climbed we could see Roy and Tom pushing on to Camp II. This time I went up on ski and made Camp I in an easy two hours. Roy and Tom made Camp II in good time and the other two Sherpas came down to us for the night. By now Angten and I were definitely a pair. In the evening it stormed on us as usual.

June 1st,46. I have a note 'glorious', and it was a pretty satisfactory day from our point of view (Angten and myself); we pushed on and arrived in Camp II in good time. I again found that the short ski made climbing 50 per cent, less tiring. I reached the camp forty minutes before Angten. I feel that on deep-snow climbs of this nature, where the gradient is not very steep, snow-shoes of the 'Trugger' pattern would be a great help. In Camp II, however, all was not fun and games. We found that Tom was finding the height a bit trying, so instead of going on to Camp III as intended, they were staying in Camp II again to acclimatize.

Roy had made a reconnaissance to see if it were possible to pass up parallel to the ridge, but inside it; this he had found impossible as the southern wall of the White Needle is heavily crevassed and ends in a great ice wall. So it had to be the ridge. Angten and I decided to try to find a route up along the ridge in the afternoon. This presented one main problem-a steep, narrow ice slope of about 60 degrees and only 2 yards wide; in the worst bit it was some 70 feet high with a 5,000-foot drop to the left and a great open crevasse 200 feet below to the right. The whole of this difficult bit is some 200 feet in height.

I hacked away for two hours before this was passed. Angten sat patiently at the bottom of my rope, a silent study being showered with ice. After I had finished he led up and shouted down that the way was now clear for upward progress. Our work completed we thankfully turned in, having left a line over this tricky bit, fixed with pi tons.

June 2nd,'46. Snow had again fallen and filled the steps we had cut. Anyhow we packed up and set off to establish Camp III. I led up on to the ridge and broke a trail in the deep snow. Once the ridge proper was gained it took a safer form; it was about 5 yards wide and then slanted off to the west at about 40 degrees. It then fell sheer-to the east it falls dead sheer. We were forced on to the last crest that would give us the view we had not yet seen, the whole east ridge of Nun at close quarters, the connexion between the east ridge of Nun with the White Needle peak. As these points came into view I felt that with our time limit we had not a chance. The photograph showing the 'difficult bit' was taken from approximately 20,500 feet, and the clearly defined col is some 500 yards distant. The whole of the east ridge of Nun is approximately f mile long and the first J mile is what we have called the 'difficult bit'. We agreed that this would not be an easy thing to overcome, and it would possibly necessitate a further Camp V on the ridge beyond the difficult portion. We estimated that another seven to ten days would be required even to attempt this last lap. As we looked in silence at our objective, clouds rushed across the mountain and hurriedly we pitched our tents at about 21,000 feet to settle down to a night of snow and wind. The temperature fell to 40 degrees of frost.

June 4th, '46. The weather did not look too promising, but Roy and I decided to have a crack at the White Needle. We had to turn back at approximately 21,200 feet on the approach of worse weather. A plan of campaign was then jointly resolved. The Needle under so much new snow was getting ready to avalanche. We all decided to retreat to Camp II at once and for myself I should have to continue on down as my leave was drawing to a close.

We packed up our camp and set off down the ridge. This was in much worse condition than before-the new snow lay deep and we sank in above the knees. The whole surface showed signs of slipping over the edge.

I led down, breaking a trail. The whole scene was in cloud and visibility was very restricted; I pushed up my glasses to enable me to see better, and later regretted this. We reached the fixed rope and tried to clear the steps; they were heavily covered. The rope itself took a good deal of freeing in the wind-packed snow.

I made the descent and soon Roy joined me; Tom appeared over the ridge, a huge figure in the mist encumbered with his film gear and a good deal of other kit (we all carried loads of about 100 lb.). Suddenly he slipped and the precious camera fell out of his rucksack and rocketed down the ice slope, jumped into the air, and landed nearly at our feet on the edge of the most forbidding crevasse. A shout from above and Roy laboriously climbed back to help, and after twenty minutes' tricky work Tom and the Sherpas were down and Camp II was reoccupied. For myself I had no alternative but to go on down; as it was, I was bound to be a few days late. After a short rest I strapped on my ski and set off-we had planted thin black twigs in the snow at about 10-yard intervals to mark the route for just such an occasion as this and although visibility was otherwise nil, these twigs stood out so well that I only had to regard them as flags of a slalom to make a safe descent.

This run from 20,000 to 17,000 feet was one of the most exhilarating I have ever experienced, and although only a mediocre performer I had made Base Camp in twenty minutes with very few falls.

I stayed overnight in the Base Camp and found that I was snow- blind as a result of descending without glasses in the mist.

However, in the morning I could see about five yards, just enough to see the twigs, and made a run of sorts down to about 16,000 feet where it is ice. Here I left the ski, and with Angten leading me like a dog, I stumbled over the moraine, forded the river, and camped at Gulmatongus on the second evening from Camp II. I was in Suru next day and in Srinagar three days after that via a shorter route through the Warwan valley.

Now about my companions. Roy was due to return to the United Kingdom in the near future and being so near the goal he was reluctant indeed to turn back. He and Tom therefore stayed on in Camp II, but unfortunately the altitude prevented Tom from going higher again.

However, the same toughness and spirit that had kept Roy going in spite of his toothache now drove him at the mountain again. Fate was indeed cruel-the two primuses that we had used for higher up packed up irreparably. They could cook on compo fuel for only one day.

Even then Roy decided to go back and set out on the day after the retreat to Camp II accompanied by his Sherpa Gilung and reached the summit of the White Needle by 12.00 hrs., good going: 20,000 to 22,000 feet in four hours. He had hoped to be able to photograph the east ridge of Nun, but apart from infrequent glimpses through the cloud which hung over Nun itself, he saw little on the east side.

The other side to the north and east of the White Needle was perfectly clear and he took some really good photos from the summit of the White Needle showing Kun, 23,000 feet, the snow plateau, &c.

But what he saw of the east ridge led him to write: T can assure you, however, that from what I saw of the Ridge, I certainly did not like it, and I feel quite certain that the West Ridge is simpler.- It is, I admit, steeper but has not the outstanding difficulties of the East.'

After this commendable effort, he returned as far as the Bullock Workmans' Base Camp at 15,000 feet on the same day-a creditable performance as it was done on foot in company with all kit, Sherpas, and coolies. He arrived in the Base Camp exhausted and half snow- blind. They returned to Srinagar by the short route over the 17,000- foot Lonvilan pass, as I did myself.

General Information

Tom was our film-man, doctor, and dietician, and was the most experienced on snow and ice. His advice was constantly sought and nearly always proved correct. He had great patience and sympathy for the local people, whom he did all in his power to help and cure. His cooking was admirable. It was a pity that he insisted on lugging his cameras around, as there is nothing more tiring than going that bit faster than the main body in order to film them and then catch them up. I am sure that it was this that made him the more vulnerable to the height.

A few notes that may be of help to anyone attempting this route:
  1. From Suru coolies were paid 2s. 8d. per day-they made their base at Gulmatongus whither they retired after delivering their loads at our Base Camp. Qasim and one or two others were kept at the Base Camp for a day or so to help carry higher.
  2. Satisfactory stages from Suru are Purketse-cross the river by a rock or snow bridge as near to Gulmatongus as possible and camp opposite the Gulmatongus-turn up the Shafat Nala and make the Workmans' 'Moraine Camp', thence to the Workmans' Base Camp. This I advocate as a pukka Base Camp if there is plenty of time. Our Base Camp would be an excellent Camp I. After that I believe our route to be the best and I feel that Camp II could still go down on the same site. It may also be possible to place Camp III on the main White Needle col and a Camp IV on the final ridge instead of a Camp V.
  3. Local produce. In the Suru Nala generally milk and eggs can always be obtained, also the odd chicken and skinny goat. But no vegetables of any description.
  4. Ski. I strongly advocate their use on this route, and incidentally it affords a very fine ski-run down. If soft snow be encountered, as with us, then Truger snow-shoes for Sherpas would be invaluable.
In 1906 Nieve Penitente gave a firm surface up to 20,000 feet.
  1. Avalanches. Waller wrote us that he considers the Needle liable to avalanche. With all the new snow followed by hot sun that occurred during our visit it did not do so, but Peak Z. 1 and numerous other peaks kept up a steady roar.
  2. Firewood ends at the terminal moraine, but could be coolied up to the Base Camp.
Equipment

Other than to say we were well equipped there are few points. We used double sleeping-bags and sponge-rubber mats. The latter, although inclined to disintegrate in the plains, are strong in the cold. I had a 1 -inch leather hem sewn around mine and it was entirely satisfactory.

The overlap of tent doors should be capable of closing both ways in event of changing wind. A Himalayan Club tent with a zip was excellent.

The Nun Kun Massif

The Nun Kun Massif



In conclusion

There is little else to be said. The Bullock Workmans considered the Peak Nun inaccessible, and although they climbed the 22,000- foot pinnacle peak nearby, they left Nun alone. Nun remained unvisited until Dr. Neve visited the area in 1910 and Professor Mason reported on the Nun Kun Massif in 1920. James Waller made an attempt in 1934 and also made the first ascent of White Needle. He returned in 1937 but was frustrated by toothache when approaching the west ridge. Exactly forty years after the area was first visited the attempt recorded above was made. Nun is a worthy opponent, her great sheer sides, falling 6,000 feet from the south and nearly as much from the north, deny access except by the east and west ridges. That either of these is possible has yet to be proved.

Nun still stands inviolate-her summit will not be easily won.

Notes on the Topography of the South Side of Nun as shown in the Accompanying Sketch

The sketch-map that I have used to illustrate this report is nothing more than an enlargement of the Survey of India recordings. It was in fact made by Professor Mason to illustrate a note correcting the direction of flow of the Barmal and the Bhot Khol glaciers. The remainder of the sketch is based on the Bullock Workmans' recordings of 1906. Professor Mason has shown once already that the readings of the Bullock Workmans were far from accurate even, as they do, recording a whole ridge where there is in fact only an ice-fall. I would like to express my view on the south side of Nun. On this map a large ridge is shown running due south from Nun of equal height on both sides, and is shown as running up to the summit of Nun. To the east of it a large glacier is shown running down to the Fariabad Nala. The snow- field to the south of Nun is shown divided by the next ridge due east of the one mentioned above, half running down the Shafat and the other half to Fariabad. I contend that this is not the case; firstly, the ridge to the south does not join Nun at the summit but just below and to the west of the White Needle (see photo 'The Difficult Bit') taken from the Fariabad ridge. A clear view is obtained to Mt. Nieve Penitente and there is no other ridge to the south side of Nun. Secondly, it is not of equal height by a long way; for instance, the ridge falls to the level of the Fariabad Nala on the west and only some few hundred feet to the east-a difference of several thousand feet. In a photo of the Bullock Workmans' from Mt. Nieve Penitente this ridge clearly appears and it can be seen that no snow falls over the western side. This is as it appeared to me, only that to the southern extremity an ice-fall comes over the ridge and joins the glacier from Z. 1, thus forming the Fariabad glacier proper. The main mass of glacier formed on the south side of Nun swirls around the so-called Fariabad col and becomes the Shafat glacier. We had our Base Camp on the ridge of the Fariabad col and our first route to Camp I showed quite clearly that this is the case (incidentally it is also apparent in a photo of the Bullock Workmans' from the shoulder of Z. 1).

In fact, to illustrate our route properly, it would be necessary to shift the whole of the southern ridge as shown just a bit less than half an inch to the right and cancel the southern extremity of it altogether. Had we more time we could have surveyed this and have been in a position to put in a report with some authority.

Moraine Campólooking down on terminal moraine of Shafat glacier

Moraine Campólooking down on terminal moraine of Shafat glacier



A Shows position of our Base Camp from Bullock Workman’s Base Camp. Nun is distance-White Needles is the needle point sticking up to right

A Shows position of our Base Camp from Bullock Workman’s Base Camp. Nun is distance-White Needles is the needle point sticking up to right