Himalayan Journal vol.16
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.16

Publication year:
1951

Editor:
H. W. Tobin
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. ANNAPURNA
    (MAURICE HERZOG)
  3. SWISS HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION, 1949
    (RENE DITTERT)
  4. SCOTTISH KUMAON EXPEDITION
    (W. H. MURRAY)
  5. NORWEGIAN EXPEDITION TO TIRICH MIR, 1950
    (H. R. A. STREATHER)
  6. SIKKIM KHANGKYONG PLATEAU AND KANGCHENJAU
    (T. H. BRAHAM)
  7. SIR JOSEPH HOOKER, K.G.S.I., M.D., D.C.L., F.R.S,
    (F. F. FERGUSSON)
  8. EXPEDITIONS
  9. HIMALAYAN PORTERS
  10. NOTES
  11. REVIEWS
  12. IN MEMORIAM
  13. CLUB PROCEEDINGS

SIKKIM KHANGKYONG PLATEAU AND KANGCHENJAU

T. H. BRAHAM

When, for a variety of reasons, I was obliged to choose the month of November for my visit to Sikkim in 1949, the lateness of the season and the possibility of extreme cold at higher altitudes caused me grave misgivings. Against this, however, was the experience of two earlier visits made during October when constant bad weather and a lot of fresh snow in the higher valleys had restricted most of my plans, and had not convinced me that the period of clear dry weather that usually takes place between the end of the monsoon and the onset of winter could normally be expected much before the end of October. Another point I liked to remember was the ascent of Kabru, 24,075 feet, made by G. R. Gooke on 18th November 1935[1] during a period of extremely favourable weather. Again, in 1937 C. R. Gooke and H. G. J. Hunt had spent the whole of October and November in the Zemu glacier region, ascending the 23,500-foot summit of Nepal peak on 7th November.2 That this season is so seldom chosen for high mountain climbing and exploration only served to increase my interest in making a further experiment. After all, in every mountain journey the final vote is always cast by the weather, and unfortunately the4 experience of past travellers has shown that there is no predominantly best season in Sikkim.

The monsoon of 1949 was a late one, and heavy rain continued throughout October. As late as 29th October rain was still falling in the lower valleys, and the high mountains were covered in cloud. With the beginning of November, however, conditions became more settled, and for a long period (over three weeks) the weather remained beautifully clear, with all the peaks standing out sharply in brilliant blue skies and never a wisp of cloud to cast the faintest shadow over the scene. But three weeks is a short season in the Himalayas; and towards the end of November, when heavy clouds had rolled over the lofty regions, one was reminded of the terrible winter in the heights.

With a time-limit of four to five weeks at my disposal, I had planned a small expedition having two main objects in mind. Sikkim, unlike the rest of the vast Himalayan chain of which it forms so small a part, is now so well known and so thoroughly explored that it is rather difficult to find in it an area still unvisited.To my delight, however, I had observed that a fairly large snow plateau shown on the map situated directly south of Pauhunri in north-east Sikkirn appeared never to have been explored. An attempt to reach it from the south and to find a way out from the north was therefore to be the first object of my expedition. Secondly, I hoped to make an attempt on Kangchenjau, 22,603 feet, from the north.

Kangchenjau (22,603 ft.) From above Dunkung

Kangchenjau (22,603 ft.) From above Dunkung



The Sebo Chu, which springs from the Khangkyong glacier, had been visited previously. In 1934 G. B. Gourlay and J. B. Auden travelled up this valley from Lachung, hoping to find the Karpo La.1 They reached up to about 16,500 feet, overlooking the west side of the valley, before bad weather forced a retreat. But they obtained excellent photographs of the glacial plateau at the head of the valley bounded by an impressive wall of high peaks. They were able to disprove the existence of two glaciers descending to the Sebo Ghu valley, incorrectly shown on the old Survey of India map; and to report that there is one large one fed by subsidiary glaciers issuing from the upper plateau. The Sebo Chu was visited again in 1936 by Captain Sams of the Survey of India, also in an attempt to find the Karpo La. From a point about 6 miles beyond Mome Samdong he went up to a pass which he believed to be the Karpo La, but which must in fact have been about 3 miles north of the actual Karpo La. His pass led to a valley which he believed to be the Khonpuk valley; from here, according to his account, another pass 600 feet higher leads into the Sebo Chu valley.2 Later that year Mrs. Townend decided to follow Captain Sams's route into the Sebo Chu. She crossed a snow-saddle above Mome Samdong and descended to a snow-covered glacier on the east, reaching a wide valley draining from north to south, whose stream lower down joins the Sebo Chu. Her route did not correspond exactly with that followed by Captain Sams. It was not until much later that the Karpo La was placed on the map and the gaps in this area filled in when the new Survey of India sheet appeared in 1940.

On my journey I was joined by M. Hruska, a Czech from Calcutta, who is a ski expert and an enthusiastic lover of mountains. His Himalayan experience had been confined to several visits to Kashmir for winter sports. He carried a pair of ski, hoping that they might be put to good use on the snow plateau.

I was very fortunate to obtain Angtharkay, who proved once again, if such proof were needed, his outstanding excellence and amiability. The four other Sherpas engaged were Dawa Thondup, Arjeeba, Sona, and Mingma Sitar.

Hruska and I left Calcutta on 29th October, reaching Gangtok late in the afternoon on the 30th in misty weather, and we set out for Dikchu on the following morning, having temporarily engaged two local men and four mules to carry the bulk of our stores, which were to be dumped in Mome Samdong. Four days marching, accompanied by the usual agonies of heavy boots and rucksacks, took us to Lachung. The weather looked reassuring and all the peaks were free of cloud, though evidently covered with some new snow.

We left Lachung on 4th November and branched east up the Sebo Chu valley, halting in the early afternoon at Dornbang, where there is an excellent little hut, constructed in 1936. The sole inhabitants were a family of seven engaged in cultivating a medicinal plant grown by the State. Here we began to experience temperatures below freezing; and from this point onwards, throughout our residence in this valley, we experienced fewer and fewer hours of sunshine each day: the sun seldom reached us before 8 a.m., and always left us before 2.30 p.m., darkness falling completely soon after 5 p.m. No people were met with in the valley, although it was evident that the upper reaches are used by herdsmen during the summer. A good track exists as far as 2 miles below the snout of the Khangkyong glacier, from which point it branches east to the Gora La pass leading into Tibet. The chowkidar of the hut at Dombang, a pleasant old man, assured me that we were the first travellers he had seen during his fourteen years' residence there.

The following day's march, a mixture of boulder-hopping along the river-bed and stiff climbing up dwarf forests of rhododendron and juniper, was rather tedious. The porters found it heavy going with their loads, so we camped in the early afternoon in a little patch of forest above the rocky bed of the river a mile beyond Sisi- thang at an altitude of 12,500 feet. We were on our way again at nine o'clock the next morning, soon after the sun reached us. Some deserted huts were seen at Singna Phyakuchen and Chubakha. By now the valley Jiacl broadened out to a vast boulder-strewn plain, and we obtained our first view of our objective, bounded on the north by a mighty wall of peaks. Fr esh snow lay about the valley down to 13,000 feet, but was not in sufficient quantity to prove troublesome. Soon the valley branched to west and east; the former leading to the Karpo La and the latter to the Gora La. We camped that afternoon at about 14,000 feet, one mile above the snout of the Khangkyong glacier on the right bank.

Seventeen degrees of frost in the night had a demoralizing effect on the porters. It became evident that they considered it advisable that a reconnaissance should first be made to find out whether a route to the plateau was possible before committing ourselves to a higher camp. As this sounded like sound common sense I consented. Five of us left camp soon after breakfast, and made slow progress upthe moraine, which turned out to be snow-covered and thus highly unpleasant. By noon we had covered about 2 miles, when we halted at a pleasant site below the moraine commanding an excellent view. We were greatly cheered by what we saw. The moraine ridge ended 2 miles higher up on a rocky spur which in turn led to an ice-slope rising gently upwards on to the plateau at its extreme western end. Everything to the east of this was a gigantic maze of ice-falls. We immediately set about preparing a camp site here for the morrow; and later descended to camp in under two hours.



Camp II was established at about 15,500 feet the next day. With a clear view of the route ahead of us we hoped we might reach the plateau on the following day. Once again, however, progress was impeded by the now heavily snow-covered moraine, which the porters found particularly trying. We were relieved to reach at last the lower ice-falls, though the descent on to the glacier from the moraine ridge delayed us a bit. We found ourselves travelling very slowly on the heavily snow-covered glacier, partly perhaps owing to lassitude. The crevasses were reassuringly bridged with heavy layers of consolidated snow and presented no difficulty. It was almost 2 p.m. when we found ourselves past the lower ice-falls and skirting the foot of the upper ice-falls at about 16,500 feet, but still a long way from the top of the plateau. I asked Angtharkay if he wanted to push on to the top that day and he passed on the question to the Sherpas, who replied that they would rather not give their answer. Kveryone appeared to have had enough, and moreover Hruska began to show symptoms of an attack of mountain sickness. We had just begun to clear a site for the tents when the sun left us and it grew bitterly cold; to make matters worse one of our two primus stoves refused to work. Hruska was ill during the night, and had come to the decision that he would have to descend to lower altitudes on the following day. But, feeling a little better in the morning, he very gallantly agreed to carry on in order to avoid the splitting up of the party and a weakening in our porter strength. He left camp early, breakfast less, as he was obliged to go very slowly. More tedious going was provided by a rocky outcrop covered with snow immediately above our camp. Thereafter there was no further difficulty; a gentle rise of 1,000 feet up a narrow snow-slope at the extreme western end of the glacier skirting the ice-falls on our right brought us on to the plateau.

It was an exhilarating sight. A vast expanse of white stretched level directly ahead of us for a distance of about two miles, and appeared to be at least double that distance from west to east. But whilst the map shows the latter expanse to be almost level also, it proved to be a gradually rising mass of glacier hopelessly riven with crevasses and broken into innumerable ice-falls descending in cascades from the mountain barriers rising to the north and east. From our lower camps I had been attracted by a peak at the eastern end- probably that marked on the map as 22,079 feet-which appeared to offer a straightforward route to the top; but I could see clearly now that its lower defences would provide considerable difficulty apart from the constant danger of ice avalanches. The attractive summit at the western end rising to a shapely pyramid-probably Peak 22,674 feet-had seemed to be accessible along its western ridge via a subsidiary summit and snow-saddle; but its aspect appeared changed now and it would evidently provide a climb of considerable length and some difficulty. The rest was fearful rock walls and precipices of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. It is possible, of course, that some of these peaks might be easily reached from the north, and they would be sure to provide an interesting problem to future explorers.

We were not a strong enough party to attempt any of these peaks, and our immediate objective, therefore, was to find a practicable route out of the plateau. There seemed to be a col in the north at the foot of the western ridge of Peak 22,674 feet; Auden and Gourlay had referred to it as possibly leading on to the Tista glacier flowing to the west of Pauhunri. But we preferred to try to find a way out towards the west in the direction of Mome Samdong. When nearing the top of the plateau it had seemed that there was an accessible col in just that direction; we had been able to see only the top of it, and it looked like an easy snow-saddle. At closer quarters, however, it became evident that it would be impracticable for a laden party like ours. It presented an almost vertical rock-face rising for 500 feet directly above the glacier, followed by a snow-slope set at a steep angle leading to the top. Nor was there any other possible alternative visible in the direction we had chosen. Directly before us, to the north, at the end of the level stretch of the plateau, we noticed a prominent reddish-coloured rock; the snow-field rose in a gentle slope beyond this point and appeared to continue in a gradual rise towards the west. We optimistically hoped that by proceeding in this direction we might find a suitable col now hidden from our view behind the red rock.

The crossing of the plateau was infinitely laborious. It involved two hours of hard going through knee-deep snow; all of us taking turns at the painful business of beating a track. It was almost 2 o’ clock when, with freezing feet, we arrived at the foot of the red rock . As the sun would soon be leaving us we decided that it would be wiser to halt here and leave for the next day our search for the col. We placed our fourth camp on a convenient stony patch at about 18,000 feet, directly below the red rock cliff. Hruska was again sick during the night and I admired his pluck in carrying on, especially as he had been unable to eat for two days.

We struck camp at eight o'clock the following morning and immediately tackled the slope on our right. The snow had evidently not consolidated at all during the night, for even at that hour it broke through more than ankle deep at every step. On reaching the top of the first rise we were confronted by some nasty-looking crevasses, which we managed to avoid by bearing constantly to the left. Thereafter, following a lengthy snow-slope, the highest point of which we almost imperceptibly arrived at, we suddenly realized that we were standing on our pass. Before us stretched a level snow-field, evidently draining into a valley towards the west. Our pass, Hidden pass, as I called it, lies between Peak 21,740 feet and Peak 19,270 feet, and almost directly below the lower snow-slopes of the latter. It had not been visible to us from the plateau; nor was it visible later, soon after we began to descend. I estimated its height to be just over 19,000 feet. The view was superb and was unspoilt by a single cloud. Kangchenjunga and all the giants of Sikkim in the far west looked terribly impressive even at that distance; whilst, nearer at hand, Chombu's extraordinary eastern aspect presented a fascinating sight. A glance back at the plateau from the pass confirmed my impression that the peaks rising from it are rendered difficult of approach by the extremely broken nature of the ground, which is not indicated on the map. Only in its extreme western section would one be permitted some freedom of movement; the remainder of it would provide complex glacier travel of a high order, with the ground rising continually to the east. After spending half an hour on the pass, we began the descent. The spacious snow-slopes which led down at first encouraged Hruska, in spite of his weakness, to pul on his ski. Though they were only usable for a comparatively short Stretch they provided him with some enjoyment and the porters with considerable delight; but I wonder whether they justified their weight and awkward carriage for over three weeks.

From the pass we had intended to follow the little glacier which is marked on the map as providing a convenient short cut to Zadong on the Donkya La route. This glacier, however, which broke away to our right at the end of the level stretch of snow, presented a formidable series of ice-falls so terrifying to behold that we bore to the left down a larger glacier evidently draining into the main valley of the Jakthang Chu. Looking up towards the plateau for the last time, I was surprised to behold three pyramid-shaped peaks rising close behind one another to the north, directly north of Peak 22,674 feet. This was puzzling, as the map indicates only one 23,ooo-foot peak lying between Peak 22,674 feet and Pauhunri to the north. None of the three peaks we sawr was identifiable as Pauhunri itself, although the northernmost appeared to be farther away than the other two. Our downward route, which had appeared easy at first, now began to look dangerous. Accompanied by an increase in the general gradient, we were confronted by an enormous system of crevasses. Once again we were very fortunate to find firm bridges of consolidated snow across some of these gaping chasms, of which so many required to be crossed. I think that a traverse of this glacier during the summer would prove considerably difficult, with a far greater number of rifts uncovered and precarious bridges across others. By bearing to the right we eventually reached the moraine, snow-covered and troublesome at first, but later providing the diversion of easy boulder-hop- ping. The valley turned out to be on a larger scale than we had imagined, and it became evident that there was no possibility of our descending on to the Dongkya La track or Mome Samdong that day. We camped in the afternoon at a pleasant spot at about 17,000 feet on the right bank above two little frozen lakes. The Karpo La was visible directly to the south across the glacier along a jagged ridge of rocky spires and snow-covered summits forming the southern wall of the valley. I was sitting outside my tent before dinner when Angtharkay, who had climbed a little above camp to collect some scrub fuel, called out enthusiastically that Kangchenjau was visible. I soon joined him and was rather thrilled to see part of the impressive southern precipices aglow in the last rays of sunset.

Sikkim-tibet frontier range Left to right, peaks 23,073, 22,674, 22,070, and 21,977 Photograph T.E. Braham

Sikkim-tibet frontier range Left to right, peaks 23,073, 22,674, 22,070, and 21,977 Photograph T.E. Braham



The descent of the Jakthang Chu valley on the following day provided easy going and turned out to be most pleasant. Bearing continually to the right, we managed to avoid most of the snow lying in the valley. We finished off by skirting a long spur running roughly from north to south, and descended on to the Dongkya La track about 1 mile above Mome Samdong. Snow lay heavily everywhere and the little yak herd settlement, which we reached in the early afternoon, was quite deserted. We found our stores, left by our mules some days earlier, intact inside the Club Hut.

The weather had been very kind to us. Since leaving Lachung we had hardly seen a single cloud; and although we had never received more than six hours' sunshine each day, there had been no wind, which probably explained why all the snow that had fallen in the last week of October still lay heavily everywhere. The lowest night temperature recorded was 10° F.

The day after our arrival in Mome Samdong was a rest day, but Hruska, who had not fully recovered from the effects of mountain sickness, felt that it would be inadvisable for him to undertake the second part of our journey. Accordingly, accompanied by Sona, he left Mome Samdong that day to commence the return journey to Gangtok. Sona was replaced by a Tibetan, Lhakpa Tundu, whom we had engaged in Gangtok and who got on well with the Sherpas.

It was a few years ago that I had first conceived the idea of making an attempt on Kangchenjau. Dr. A. M. Kellas's modest description of his ascent of the mountain in 1912 had made a deep impression on me. I could never hope to recapture the emotions he must have felt in those early days of Himalayan travel when every ascent was a fine achievement, with porters not yet trained and frequently disinclined to approach the higher snows. Dr. Kellas's ascent of Kangchenjau had been made via a 21,000-foot col which he approached from the north above Donkung. From the col, however, he noticed that a much preferable route would be from the south side of his col which could be reached by proceeding south-west along the north-east Kangchenjau glacier which drains into a lake directly south of Gurudongmar Cho. He recommended a camp on the glacier at 20,000 feet which, he remarked, would render the ascent of the mountain comparatively easy. This encouraging suggestion provided a good reason for my choice in attempting a mountain that had already been climbed. Another reason, rather lacking in modesty perhaps, was that of the three highest mountains in that area, Chomiomo and Pauhunri being the other two, Kangchenjau alone had not been ascended since Dr. Kellas's first ascents. In fact, whilst much interest has been shown in Chomiomo and Pauhunri, there seems to be only one recorded attempt on Kangchenjau, made by N. A. Tombazi in 1919,1 and the route followed was that recommended by Kellas, referred to above. After reaching about 20,000 feet on the north-east Kangchenjau glacier, Tombazi was forced to retreat by bad weather.

I left Mome Samdong witl 1 five men on 14th November. Under normal conditions a camp can be made beside Cho Lamo in one stage over the Dongkya La. Our rate of progress, however, was greatly reduced by the heavy snow lying along the valley north of Mome Samdong. Five and a half hours' marching brought us to a pleasant site near two small lakes about miles below the pass at an altitude of 17,500 feet. Here, finding peat-like fuel, we decided to camp. The following day we crossed the Donkya La in brilliant weather which provided most impressive views of the surrounding peaks and of distant Tibet. A solitary Tibetan, who accompanied us over the pass, pointed out the crumbling remains of the massive fortifications standing above the Donkya La ridge running from east to west. These high watch- towers were in use during the Tibetan-Sikkimese wars to ward off invaders in the days when the boundary-line between the two countries ended here. We camped in the afternoon at Yumcho, north of Grudongmar Cho. The aspect presented by Kangchenjau from this spot was not encouraging, and I climbed some distance above our camp in the evening to investigate our route for the next day. Skirling Curudongmar Cho I came to the foot of the next lake. The Kangchenjau glacier sweeps round in a great curve to the south-west from this point, and it appeared to me to be rather badly broken. Kellas's 21,000-foot col on Kangchenjau was of course not visible from my viewpoint, but the approach from this side struck 1 ne as being lengthy and I did not feel at all confident that we should find an easy way to the top of the col from the head of the glacier. The upper ice formations of glaciers are often subject to great change from year to year, and a route that may have offered an easy approach in 1912 could not be counted upon to provide similar conditions thirty-seven years later. I now feel some tinge of regret that I did not, in spite of this, make an attempt to investigate this route; but at the time I adopted the line of least resistance and felt that I could not do better than follow in Dr. Kellas's footsteps and attempt to reach his col from the north.

When we started westwards down the plain the following day, I was puzzled to observe no sign of the col nor of the two lakes which, I was aware, lay directly to the north of its approaches. We had reached a point about 2 1/2 miles above Donkung when I discovered a col providing an approach from the north, from which there seemed to be an easy climb up one of Kangchenjau's ridges. Here I committed a grave error in route-finding and decided to make for this col and make an attempt on the mountain along this route. The small glacier draining north from this col offered a straightforward approach, and we placed a camp at the foot of its moraine at about 16,000 feet, intending to place another camp on the col or at a suitable spot on the ridge above it the next day. After a very cold night Angtharkay, Dawa Thondup, Arjeeba, and I started at 9.30 a.m., half an hour after the sun reached us, leaving Mingma Sitar and Lhakpa Tundu to strike camp and descend to Donkung. We reached our col in just over three hours, after a stiff climb up the last 200 feet. Standing on a very narrow rocky platform with a precipitous descent into the Shako Chu valley to the south, I realized at once that our route was impracticable. The western ridge of Kangchenjau, which in its lower reaches is badly broken and heavily corniced and higher up reveals unpleasant rock buttresses, ends in a snow-shoulder almost 2,000 feet below the western (lower) summit; it is of considerable length. I estimated the height of our col to be about 17,500 feet. There was nothing for it but to swallow our pride and turn back. I was bitterly disappointed; but I had by no means resigned our attempt on the mountain. We descended to Donkung the same evening, and I think the Sherpas had envisaged our descent to Thangu the next day. Inside the dark, smoke-be- fogged yak herd's hut that night, however, I managed to win their confidence sufficiently to persuade them that our attempt on the mountain should be renewed-this time by Kellas's route. Their price was a day's rest first in Donkung, which I was quite ready to grant.

I left Donkung again on 19th November accompanied by Ang- tharkay, Dawa Thondup, and Arjeeba. Bearing east we turned right up a low ridge, and descended into a small valley containing two frozen lakes leading directly to the foot of the slopes rising to Kellas's 21,000 foot col. We placed our camp at about 19,000 feet, 1 mile from the foot of the col. As we were receiving less than six hours' sunshine a day, we realized that it would be necessary for us to establish a camp on the col if we were to allow ourselves some chance of reaching the summit of the mountain. Kellas, who had made his ascent in early August, had placed his last camp at the foot of the slopes leading to the col, and the climb to the summit had taken just over six hours from that camp. The night at our 19,000-foot camp was the coldest we had experienced, and the thermometer registered 36 degrees of frost. Added to this was the wind, our constant companion ever since crossing the Donkya La, which was so severe that night that it blew my tent in on top of me, and I was obliged to perform the painful task of refixing the guy-ropes in the bitter blasts outside. For once the Sherpas were late in stirring and they did not set the primus going until after 7.15 a.m. The sun did not reach us until 8.45, and when it did the wind, which had abated hardly at all, drove away the little warmth that its rays might otherwise have provided. A distressing discovery that we had made the previous day, which was confirmed the next morning, was that the slopes leading to the col received no sunshine at all, the col itself very little, and the upper part of the mountain two to three hours in the late afternoon. It was almost 9.30 a.m. by the time we set out, our object being to place a camp on the col that day. In just over an hour we reached the foot of the slopes, and were pleased to find that the snow was in perfect order. The surface was hard, probably due to the action of the wind, and steps could readily be kicked or scraped. The first few hundred feet provided no difficulty. But beyond that, with a steady increase in the general angle, steps had to be formed with greater care, handholds sometimes being required. We were keeping towards the corner of the slope, close to the rock precipices on the east. The wind troubled us incessantly and the cold was intense; we had already lost all sensation in our toes and fingers. Arjeeba and Dawa Thondup had lagged behind all morning, and showed some reluctance in continuing with the attempt. They remarked to me twice that their feet were cold. At about 1 p.m. we had reached a point two-thirds of the way up and probably 500 or (ioo feet below the col, when I began to feel that to continue the climb under existing conditions would mean exposing ourselves to the almost certain danger of frost-bite. Moreover, a camp placed on the col would receive no sunshine until 10 o'clock the following morning. I consulted Angtharkay, and he asked the others, who gave the immediate answer that it was too cold to go on. This was one of the occasions on which Angtharkay revealed his great superiority over the others. Whilst he complained of the cold, like all of us did, he showed himself willing to carry on in spite of it, and remarked that with clear weather and good snow conditions we were near enough the summit of Kangchenjau to reach it. But the persistent wind, the total absence of sunshine, and the numbness we all felt in fingers and toes could not easily be gainsaid; and it was with the greatest reluctance that I gave the order to retreat. The cold had defeated us. Had this north side of the mountain received but a few hours of sunshine in the morning, I do not think our attempt would have been unsuccessful. The route is not difficult, nor is it of great length. The crux of the climb is in the ascent to the col, which increases in difficulty near the top. The remaining 1,600 feet above the col along the summit ridge appear to be quite straightforward except for a narrow belt of rocks which can be avoided easily by bearing to the right. It was most regrettable that we had to turn back. Snow conditions, which had proved so good, would have provided us with splendid climbing on the ridge; the summit plateau appeared deceptively near. If Angtharkay's indomitable spirit had rather shamed me, the obvious relief shown by Arjeeba and Dawa Thondup when we began to descend salved my conscience a little. We returned to Donkung the same evening, arriving just before dark, and despite land-slides and other vicissitudes reached Gangtok on 26th November.

I would like to conclude this brief account with the sentiments expressed some years ago by Dr. Kellas, for they express better than anything else I know why man's love for the hills takes him again and again to remote regions in order to capture some of their joys: £If one were asked to give a justification of our glorious pastime, one might venture to say, mountaineering is the most philosophical sport in the world.’

(Note.-As with scores of other Tibetan place-names the spelling of Kangchenjau seems to vary with every writer's whim, and every cartographer's fancy, with recurring controversy.-Ed.)


[1] Himalayan Journal, vol. viii, p. 107.