Himalayan Journal vol.16
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

H. W. Tobin
    (W. H. MURRAY)
    (H. R. A. STREATHER)
    (T. H. BRAHAM)
  7. SIR JOSEPH HOOKER, K.G.S.I., M.D., D.C.L., F.R.S,
  10. NOTES


THIS IS MY VOYAGE. By Tom Longstaff. London: John Murray.

324 pages 1 23 illustrations, 15 maps. 21s.

Before the foreword the author quotes from the Hymn to Artemis, by Callemachus of Cyrene, the prayer of Artemis to Zeus for an inheritance: 'Give me for mine own all mountain lands . . . the high places shall be my home.’ The foreword itself begins:’ "Voyaging is Victory" said the Arabs.’ These two motifs dominate the book, for in the course of a voyage which is by no means completed Dr. Longstaff has grasped a goodly part of the inheritance for which Artemis prayed and has carried out many victorious explorations, especially in High Asia.

Doctor Longstaff has wisely arranged his fascinating story in topographical rather than chronological order, from the Alps to the Caucasus and-in 1905-to the Central Himalaya. There he and his two Swiss guides, the brothers Brocherel, were the first human beings to look into the inner sanctuary of Nanda Devi. In 1907 he was chosen to join the first reconnaissance of Everest, which was intended to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Alpine Club. All arrangements were well in hand and the auspices favourable when 'the Olympian Lord Morley put down an illiberal foo’, apparently not wishing to awake suspicion in the, then Imperial, Russian Bear. So the author hurried west to Garhwal and tackled Trisul, second only to Nanda Devi in that group. Rush tactics, involving an ascent of 6,000 feet in one day, with Alexis Brocherel leading for ten hours, were crowned with success and established, though it was not claimed as such, an altitude record of 23,360 feet.

Doctor Longstaff turns back the clock to 1905 to tell of a thousand- mile walk across the Himalaya which included exploration of the vast mass of Gurla Mandhata, 23,340 feet, just south of Lake Man- sarowar. Here he and the Brocherels together created another record by avalanching down 3,000 feet in a couple of minutes: miraculously the only damage done consisted of a few cuts and bruises, two broken crampons, and lost hats and ice-axes.

In a short chapter on the 1922 Everest Expedition, where he was doctor and naturalist, he describes the mountain as forbidding-'the brutal mass of the all-in wrestler, murderous and threatenin’.

Harking back to 1909 again he tells the story of his great exploration in the Karakoram, when the main axis of the range was found to be miles farther north than the Survey of India had shown so the then kingdom of Kashmir gained 500 square miles from Chinese Turkistan.

During the First World War Dr. Longstaff served with the Gilgit Scouts, and this gift from heaven enabled him to see with his own eyes much of the wild region between the Western Himalaya and the Eastern Hindu Kush.

In the West he found other fields of interest in the Canadian Rockies, Spitzbergen, and Greenland, and his last chapter is a short, vivid survey of the mountains of Britain, concluding with those especially delectable ones in and about Coigach, the extreme northwest corner of Ross-shire-that enchanted land to which he 'has come back to live'.

The fourteen maps drawn by the author's wife are clear and easy to follow, and there are many delightful photographs. In fact the only complaint that could be lodged against this book is that there is not enough of it, and it is to be hoped that one of these days Dr. Longstaff's outstanding success with this volume will impel him to give us a second.

H. W. T.

BERGE DER WELT. 4 Band. 1949. Herausgegeben von der Schweizerischen Stiltung fur Alpine Forschungen. Buchverlag

Verbandsdruckerei AG Bern.

Every year the Swiss Association for Alpine Research produces a fine volume of the mountain expeditions of Swiss travellers, as well as of other journeys, and the present volume for 1949 is well worthy of its three predecessors.

What, however, makes this particular number of peculiar interest to all wanderers in the Himalayas is the account of HerrHans Gyr's visit to the karakoram in 1947. Many members of the Himalayan Club know Hans Gyr personally, and indeed anyone will find himself anxious to congratulate him both on his achievements and on the admirable account which Herr Gyr has given, after a perusal of the book. In 'Karakoram 1947', which occupies the first ninety-five pages of Berge der Welt, the writer has given all lovers of the mountains a delightful account.

The production of this work, with its charming photographs, is a model to all. The illustrations alone hold one fast and recall poignantly the days spent amongst these wonderful mountains; and looking at them makes the heart ache as one recalls the happy days which seem to have gone for ever.

It was in the Gilgit area that Hans Gyr did his work. It is true that the party he was with failed to climb Rakaposhi (known locally as Diyomir), but the mountain is far more difficult than is supposed, and, indeed, deceives the casual spectator. It certainly took in the writer of this review, who went all round it only to find that he was too late to attempt an ascent. The local experts say that the only time to try the climb is the first fortnight in August, as then alone there is no wind, and it is the wind that will defeat anyone who attempts to climb the mountain. Years ago the well-known Swiss guide Lochmatter, when he was travelling with Dr. and Mrs. Visser, declared that the mountain could be climbed. No doubt it can be, but this view was based on a very superficial examination, and the many grave difficulties were overlooked. Diyomir is a sublime peak, and it is one which we hope will retain its virgin summit untrod by man.

The account of the Kukuay glacier is extremely interesting. The glacier is one of the many ice-rivers which fill the valleys of the Western Karakoram, and which have, incidentally, caused so much destruction to cultivation. Little is really known of any of these glaciers. They have been visited, explored, and mapped, but their history remains a mystery. Yet they are of the greatest interest, for they lie in the middle of a settled and inhabited area. No one who has contemplated the havoc made, for instance, by the Bar glacier, can fail to wonder what causes the ebb and flow of these capricious streams of ice. There are many theories but there is as yet no explanation.

Perhaps one criticism may be made of this admirable account. Possibly it is a superfluous criticism. But the inclusion of a general map of the region visited would be of help. The small sketches in the text, as well as the full-page diagram, for it cannot be called a map (i.e. the one on p. 9), are inadequate.

The thanks of all who love mountains, and those especially who treasure memories of the Karakoram and value the secrets of that strange ice-world, will thank Herr Hans Gyr for an admirable account and congratulate him on his exploits. May he again visit those wonderful peaks, and attain his heart's desire.

R. C. F. S.

SCHOLAR MOUNTAINEERS. By Wilfrid Noyce. London:

Dennis Dobson Ltd. 1950. 8vo. 164 pages and 12 plates. Price 12s. 6d. net.

It needs a skilful hand, discerning judgement, and good taste to make an attractive and readable book out of a well-worn subject, but that is what Mr. Wilfrid Noyce has done in his Scholar Mountaineers. There have been many learned disquisitions on the battle of ideologies and the eventual victory of romanticism over classicism in the evolution of mountain feeling, but this book is constructed on very different lines.

It is a short sequence of pen-pictures of real live men whose song, like an orpheic chorus, gradually builds the edifice of mountain fascination. There is Dante, with his very creditable vertical-distance performance; Petrarch, on Mont Ventoux; Rousseau, with his sentimental inconsistencies; de Saussure, the scientist with the pen of a poet; Goethe, the self-centred romantic; the Wordsworths, Keats, Ruskin, and Leslie Stephen ; Nietzsche, the prophet of North faces, Pius XI, and Captain Scott. In a book on scholar mountaineers I should have liked to see a chapter devoted to one of the most important of them all, Allbrecht von Haller, the 'Pliny’ of Switzerland, veritable citadel of scholarship, administrator, statesman, educationalist, bibliographer, great anatomist, encyc lopaedic botanist, and founder of modern physiology. Haller loved the mountains and there were few years when he did not go to the Alps, the Jura, the Hartz, or the Black Forest, to collect their llowers or study their topography. And, if Keats is included among scholar mountaineers, I should also have liked to see Senancour. But these are matters of opinion. As regards matters of fact, de Saussure's ascent of Mont Blanc was the third, his sojourn on the CoJ du Geant took place in 1788; the famous description of Leslie Stephen should run 'fleetest of foot of the whole Alpine brotherhood'; trivia which detract little from the welcome due to this enjoyable book.

G. R. de Beer

CLIMBER'S TESTAMENT. By Kenneth Richards. London: Alvin

Richards Ltd. 246 pages; 36 illustrations. Price 12s. 6d.

The title of this book is an apt one, because Mr. Richards delves with a great measure of success into the minds of mountaineers in order to find out what climbing means to them and what mountains hold for them. He does not go outside Great Britain and he addresses 'those thousands who have only scaled the Matterhorn in their dreams and never in actuality reached the snow-line' and 'any of us who have felt the call of the high places, and answered it, fair weather or foul'.

He deals in a chapter headed 'Sport or Religion' with that recurring question-why do we climb? And though the answers are many and diverse he weaves them into a distinct pattern. 'The Personality of Mountains', which follows in logical sequence, will appeal to most of us. To another much-debated question-when is a mountain not a mountain?-he finds it hard to give a definite reply, and he observes that on no other problem are mountaineers so hotly divided as that of 'Solitary Climbing, Virtue or Vice?', and discusses the pros and cons, the whens, wheres, and hows, with illuminating examples. He quotes from Whymper: 'Remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence', capping this himself with: 'He has not only his own safety to consider but the feelings of others.'

The chapter titled 'Fauna and Folks' explains itself, and the last sentence surely applies to mountain-dwellers the world over, from the Rockies to the Kuen Lun-'quiet folk, not greatly given to speech, but they are the salt of the earth'.

The concluding chapter, on 'Weather', begins: 'It had to be. A book on climbing without it would be like bread without yeast.' In a final 'Codicil' the author says that Climber's Testament is written in the firm conviction that the mountain trail is a way to a good life, and that it can be followed in Great Britain as profitably as anywhere else.

In a supplementary section he then outlines the possibilities open to climbers in this country, taking a quick look in turn at Wales, the Lake District, and of course Scotland, from Galloway and the Cheviots to Skye and the Cuellins. Although cursory it does constitute an inventory, showing how very considerable is the extent of our mountain heritage. Kenneth Richards has given us a valuable contribution to mountaineering literature.

H. W. T.

THE BREAKING STRAIN. A novel by Hugh Merrick. London:

Constable, 1950. 10s.

When I was handed this book to review and glanced at the publisher's note on the inside of the dust-cover, my immediate reaction was hardly favourable, for I read: 'Ronald allows his infatuation for Cynthia to cloud mountaineering judgement. He ignores the local guide's advice to wait for better weather and the climb begins. Jealous of Michael and therefore desperately anxious to impress Cynthia with his skill and daring as a leader, Ronald is guilty of a series of minor errors . . .' Getting down to rock-bottom, that was indeed the stark reality beneath the gripping and authentic exterior of the story that I finally read with eagerness, after a preliminary dawdling over the first pages occasioned by the discouraging blandishments of the publisher.

Somehow I cannot imagine many of my climbing acquaintances -even those in their teens-allowing a pretty face to distract them on a climb to the extent that Ronald Seacombe did. However, the novelist must be allowed his plot, and it must be admitted that he handles a somewhat improbable situation amazingly well. Once the reader has reconciled himself to the eternal triangle being applied to a rigorous ascent in the Swiss Alps he may enjoy Hugh Merrick's intimate delvings into the working of the minds of those taking part. A particularly fascinating series of short chapters records the last thoughts before sleep of the occupants of the Helmjoch hut, refuge of the Swiss Alpine Club, 10,000 feet high on the slopes of the mighty, fictitious Helmspitze. These examinations of conscience continue at intervals during the following day's belated climb, and though intensely interesting psychologically they tend to give the reader the impression-quite false in reality-that a lot of time is being wasted, and he finds himself thinking, ‘Oh, hurry up, do! Don't just stand there, thinking.'

F. B. L.


The Austrian Alpine Club, which came to new life about two years ago, has its headquarters in the Gilmstrasse at Innsbruck and is always ready to help members of the Himalayan Club, with which it also exchanges Journals.

It may be useful to members either on leave or permanently living in the United Kingdom to know that Austria is an inexpensive country for those who want to go to the mountains, whether to climb, walk, or ski. The exchange is favourable and, especially in the smaller and less fashionable places, the cost of living is low. If visitors are prepared to forgo some degree of luxury and to do without ski-lifts and cable-cars, a stay, even with the present sterling allowance, can be prolonged quite reasonably. Without wishing to advertise, there are Krimml in the Pinz gau of Salzburg, the Zillertal-with Mayr- hofen and Zell am Ziller, the Oetztal, and the Bludenz area. Our President and also the Editor were at the first named at different seasons recently.

The Deutsche Alpenverein has also been re-established, with its headquarters at Nuremberg. It exchanges Journals and reciprocates gladly.

Another item which may be of interest is the existence at Biella, in Italy, of the library of photographs of the late Vittorio Sella, who specialized in the Himalaya and Karakoram. The pictures are quite unsurpassed and are not expensive