Reference Survey of India Maps, 4 miles to the inch, Sheets 51 D, Raskam, and 52 A, K2.
There is so little known about the East Mustagh pass, which is really the Mustagh pass, and has only recently been adorned with a distinguishing adjective, that an account of crossing the pass in 1945 may be of interest. The pass, too, has been seldom crossed in recent years, and most descriptions of it are either inaccessible or scanty. The narrative now given refers to a journey made from north to south, and in the same direction as that taken by Sir Francis Younghusband in 1887. It is a pity, incidentally, that that great traveller does not give a fuller account of his venture.
We left camp, which was 1 ½ miles above and opposite to Sughet Jangal, on 21 st July 1945 after a night of wind which had covered everything with sand. We at once crossed the Sarpo Lagga stream; and early though it was the current was swift and high, and fording was difficult. One coolie was swept away, but one of our Hunza lads grabbed him and dragged him out, together with his load of precious atta (flour). It took us fifty minutes to ford the stream, and we zigzagged as we groped for a firm footing in the ever-shifting bed of the stream. It was, unfortunately, impossible to use our zaq or skin raft. After the first crossing the coolies had to return and fetch the bags of flour, but these were a compact and easy load. Whilst they were away I went down to Sughet Jangal, where Mr. Eric Shipton and his party had been the previous year, but I found no traces of them. Sughet Jangal was a pleasant spot, with abundant wood and grass, and myriads of mosquitoes. We saw a wolf in the undergrowth.
We were now close to the mouth of the Sarpo Lagga glacier, and on Sunday, 22nd July, just as dawn broke, we stumbled over the stones on the right of the valley, and turned right, up the Sarpo Lagga proper. The snout of the glacier was hideous in the extreme. We camped a mile farther up as the coolies had to return to fetch the flour, which made all progress very slow. There was no fuel at this camp, but by searching the cliff above us we were able to grub up enough bad brushwood to make tea for the party. We were very cramped and were all huddled together on the stones, but a trickle of good water compensated for the inconvenience. The weather was dry and fine, but the haze, the detestable bulut of Turkistan, enveloped everything and destroyed any view. Even the junction of the Sarpo Lagga with the adjacent Crevasse glacier, now renamed the Skamri, was hardly visible.
At 4 p.m. there was a roar, and a great mass of swirling black water swept down, from nowhere, on to the camp. Our tents escaped, but the flood inundated the coolies camping-ground, but we were able to rescue their belongings and no harm was done.
East Mustagh Pass
The next day we continued our ascent of the nala, and a very boring business it was. We trudged up the right of the valley. The going was hard but at last we reached a level piece of ground, and camped. This was the last place where there was any wood, and that was only roots of shrubs.
Our affection for the Sarpo Lagga glacier did not increase as we saw more of it. It was a dirty mass of rubbish, indented with small streams, lakelets, and other evidences of decay. Above our camp was a tired piece of glacier, which had not the strength to reach the floor. Desiccation was everywhere evident, and although there were white outcrops of ice on the upper part of the glacier, the glacier itself was certainly in retreat. The lower part was peculiarly lifeless, with its ice-cliffs, large hollows, and other ravages which the state of the ice did not manage to repair.
On 24th July we halted, partly to let the coolies take on the rations farther up the valley, but chiefly to find out where we were. It was impossible to identify the names on the map, and there was no one to ask, as nobody had ever been here before. There was in fact no traffic. I climbed up the right of the nala during this halt, and was rewarded with a fine view as the haze had lifted, but it was impossible to identify the position of the pass. We continued our wearisome crawl up the valley the next day, but only reached what we thought was the right of the Moni glacier. The following day we avoided the immediate crossing of the glacier by descending to the medial moraine of the Sarpo Lagga, and although we had to avoid the pools, cliffs, and other apparatus of the dead ice we were thankful not to have to scramble over the pinnacles, hummocks, and other obstacles of the Moni ice.
We now camped opposite some green patches on the left of the nala, but we still did not know where we were, so called the place Moni for want of a better name. Opposite us, looking so near though actually so far, were these green patches and a hint of fuel. But although three stout young Shimshalis wrent over to search, they came back empty handed.
After a comfortable night, for although it was very cold we were at any rate sheltered, we started for where the Mustagh pass should be. It was 7 a.m. by my watch, but that meant nothing, as it was standard time -or any time other than true sun time. I had gone out on the snow at 2 a.m. to look at the weather, and was worried at seeing a small cloud, the size of a man's hand, and a most ominous symptom. Sure enough, when we actually started, the whole firmament was overcast. There was a bitter, cutting wind and snow scurries were blowing. Here and there we could discern a bit of blue sky, and even a little rare sunshine appeared occasionally. The trouble was that we did not know where we were going. I went first with one of the raft-men. We had two of these experts with us, as well as the inelegant but now useless raft, and very good the men were. We were still in the main Sarpo Lagga valley, and we toiled along up smooth snow in the centre of the glacier. At last we came to the mouth of a side nala, which came in on the left from the south. Here we turned left, more by good luck than anything else, and continued up and up, still over a smooth slope, with dry rocks on our right. To our relief we found some old shelters and rough sleeping-places, and were certain that we were now at Changtok Brangsa, the halting- or camping-place of the Big Rock. The place was not marked on any map, and the Changtok or Spantok that is marked is not the same.
These unromantic traces of human beings cheered us enormously. We were convinced that at last we were on the right road to the pass. So we halted. There was a raging storm, but in the bitter wind we succeeded in pitching the tents. We had a few sticks in a little bag, and managed to brew some tea, but owing to the altitude the boiling-point was low, and the stuff hardly worth drinking. But we did not care: we had arrived at the right spot. The night of 27th/28th July was terribly cold, and no wonder, as we were on snow at a height of at least 17,000 feet. We slept, as the men said, like marmots, all curled up and damnably chilly. Early in the morning there was a sharp fall of snow, but it was easily shaken off.
To gain the summit of the pass proved to be a gentle walk of one hour and a quarter. The crest was approximately 17,750 feet. One estimate is 19,000 feet, but that is certainly an exaggeration. As we looked down on the Baltistan side of the pass we quickly realized why it had fallen into disuse. On the left was a huge five-tiered ice- fall, hardly a bergschrund, and on the right was a precipitous cliff. Between the two lay an impassable chasm. The descent was bad for men, and out of the question for any animals. To go down on the Baltistan side we had to cut steps where we could, and on the rock, which was fortunately firm, we managed to get a foothold, but only a fraction of our boots could get on the tiny ledges of stone which was all that we could find. The coolies did wonders; but then the foot of the hill-man is really prehensile, and not a mere dead piece of flatness as is that of the so-called product of civilization, with the clumsy boots that such a creature must wear. When we arrived at the base of the pass we looked up and wondered how we had done it.
We found ourselves on a wide, almost level snow-field, which hid the ice below. The crevasses were many but not very dangerous. To reach our camping-ground farther down we had a very rocky and troublesome moraine to cross, but we found some wood and that cheered us immensely. Besides, we had a sleep in the warm sun, and above all the pass was behind us. We did not care a doit for the maze of snow and ice that lay before us.
Note.—In his book, Karakoram and Western Himalaya (Constable, London, IC) r.!), the author, Filippo de Filippi, has a reference to the Mustagh pass mi p. 197. The pass was open until the first half of the nineteenth century, mil had previously been regularly used as a through route from Turkistan. In 1903 Herr Ferber went to the crest of the pass, from the Baltistan side, but did not go farther. (See the author's note on p. 199 of the above book.) It is evident that there has always been a regular route between Baltistan and Turkistan over this pass, and there is no reason why the route should not be reopened when the snow and ice permit. Passes always vary from year to year; but, provided the weather is good, any pass can be crossed if proper precautions are taken.
Maps: Survey of India, 4 miles to the inch, Sheets 52 L, 52 P.
It was on 4th August 1946 that Major G. W. M. Young, of the Royal Gorps of Signals, and myself first saw the Tsomorari. Tso is the Tibetan for lake, and this was a noble sheet of water. It is 15 miles in length, and from 3 to 5 miles broad, and is 14,900 feet above sea-level.
We had spent a miserable night, for it had been bitterly cold and a heavy white frost had soaked ihe tents and delayed our start till 7 a.m. by our watches, though what the real local time was we had no idea. From camp we crawled up long sloping valley, which grew narrower and narrower, iill we reached the crest of the Yala Nyamo La (17,588 feet) There, below ui, bathed in the sunlight, was the Tsomorari, an unruffled expanse of deep prussian blue, with the purple-brown mountains beyond Above lay great banks of cloud, ii was a lovel) sight, and we gazed with delight on the scene.
The descent was very steep, to a green oasis studded with Changpa tents. We camped by a clear stream and spent a couple of nights pleasantly enough, although the wind was violent and threatened to blow down the tents. There is always something disagreeable in these uplands. The place was Karzok Fu. Our halt was needed, as we had to wash and tidy up, arid there was the eternal bother over transport. One cannot be always tough and strenuous, and on extended trips like this it is no use to be for ever active. Many travellers are, and achieve less than the lazy ones. The indifference that arises from the rarified air cannot be exaggerated.
We left Karzok Fu on 6th August and went down a narrow valley to the lake. Our journey was complicated by the yaks, who hated carrying our kit and kept throwing off the loads, to the despair of the cook and fury of the rest of us. On reaching the side of the lake we saw the famous gonpa or monastery of Karzok. We did not go inside as we had had a surfeit of these places, but admired it from without. It was a large building with five big ehortens. There was a huddle of squalid buildings round it, but it would not do to be too critical, as this was the only inhabited place near the lake. The cold must be trying, but there were fields of barley nearly ripe, and it was said to be the highest place in the world where crops were grown. It was some 15,000 feet above sea-level, and one could well believe it: but it was no place to live in.
We spent the entire day walking down the western side of the lake. At first there were one or two streams, but afterwards the only water was from the lake itself. Although the lake was marked brackish on the map the water was tolerable, and could be used in case of need; but we were not very keen about it. Our Hunza men liked cold, fresh, and sweet water, and as the locals assured us that the water, if drunk, would upset our stomachs we all refrained from using it.
Towards evening, bored to tears, we arrived at the end of the lake, at a poor sort of place, Kiangdom. It was an ugly, morose spot, with a howling wind, but it had a spring of good water, and had to do. Next day we went on to Unti, marked Uti on the map. Although we puffed and panted up the Narbu Dongri La (16,237 feet) it was of no interest. I wondered as I toiled up it why one never seemed to get enough air into one's lungs, a silly thought, but the country is so very deceptive, and one can never realize how high the whole region is. On the way to the pass we saw twenty-five kiang and a number of hares, and my head Hunza man shot a Tibetan grouse, a scarce bird, but very good to eat. There was a lot of vegetation, and masses of white pedicularis.
The country was not inspiring. The series of rolling downs, covered with sparse grass, was arid and uninviting. The whole area was bone-dry, but there was a good stream at Unti, a dull place, 15,689 feet up, but sheltered. We saw an ovis ammon, and the country was good for shikar. The wind was treacherous and the country open, and stalking would be difficult, and so sport would be good. Wherever these fine sheep are found it is never easy to get a shot.
Although we had crossed one pass since we left Karzok Fu, we were still in the drainage area of the Pare Chu or Parang river, which flows into the Spiti river. The entire region was unmapped and little known and the frontier between Kashmir and Tibet was un- demarcated. We were bound for Hanle and had two more passes to cross. We wandered on amidst this maze of downs, passing above the green swampy plain of Tegarzung. At last we came to the foot of the Lenak La, and camped at 16,443 The Ladakhi yakmen, indifferent to time or distance, and thinking only of their comfort, wanted to stop much farther back. It was a great mistake, and we would have none of it. There were a great number of kiang, but the Ladakhis refused to eat them, and we could not manage ourselves to devour one of these large beasts. The Ladakhis also refused to eat hares or marmots, and showed a surprising nicety of diet, but they were foolish to reject good food, considering the rubbish they put inside themselves.
After a warm and sheltered night we struggled to the top of the Lenak La (17,800 feet) in 2\ hours. Mouse hares were numerous, and so were picas, with a black marking on their flanks. We shot some hares and very good they were. Perhaps for this reason the Ladakhis came and asked for some of the meat, and forgot their scruples.
We had a truly dismal view from the top of the pass. It was, however, extensive, especially towards Spiti, but it was mournful and depressing in the dull light of an overcast sky. In front, to the north, was the barren outline of the Ladakh range, a most unroman- tic mass of mountain. We hurried down from the cold and gloom of the pass, entered a narrow grassy valley, and camped 2 miles below Gongrale. Next day we pushed on, crossed a plain called Thang- chunkiri consisting chiefly of bulldust, went over a saddle only 15,125 feet high and entered the Hanle plain. The descent at first was precipitous, and we camped not far from the monastery. Sheet 52 L bore only the vaguest resemblance to the country, and Young was very put out. It is never wise to trust these maps. After all, the survey is an old one, and the country remote and uninhabited, and very unprofitable.
Hanle is well known and needs little description. It consists of an impressively sited monastery and one tree. We visited the gonpa, and the monks staged a devil dance for us and were most courteous. Young was busy with his cine-camera, as he is a great expert in all cinematograph work. The results were admirable. Of course, everything the monks did for us went down on the bill, and rightly so. They cannot be expected to amuse tourists for nothing.
Our destination was Demchok, which lay south-east from Hanle. The direct route was impossible, owing to the Ladakh range which lay between. Sowe had to make a detour, at first due north down the valley of the Koyul to its junction with the Indus, and then up the left bank of that river to Demchok. So we set forth from Hanle, after a night spoilt by braying donkeys and barking dogs, but diversified by a kiang being chased by a wolf through the camp.
We crossed the Hanle river, unexpectedly deep and awkward, and in 3\ hours reached the top of the Photi La (17,958 feet). We were surprised to find two small streams on the crest, which was flat enough for a camp, but very cold. On the way to the pass Daulat had missed some burrhel but one of the men had killed a hare with a stone, so there was something to eat. We camped at Lego Chumik (15,566 feet), below the pass.
Next day we pushed on to Koyul village, passing the abandoned fort of Bemkhar, in the middle of cultivation. We stayed at Koyul for two nights. We had to collect transport, which is always such a nightmare, and we wanted to see the people, who differed from those we had previously met. The women especially were dressed differently, and wore a square head-dress, and they, and indeed the men also, were more purely Tibetan in appearance and habit than those farther west.
There was a local official at Koyul, a kotwal, whose job it was to protect the interests of the state. What those interests were and how he did it we failed to discover. The undelimitated frontier between Kashmir and Tibet was close by, but no one quite knew where it was. Koyul was a pleasant place, with a large number of dilapidated emblems of religion. It had clearly been a very pious spot.
We walked down the Koyul valley as far as the Indus. It was a good march. The fields were full of barley and other local crops, chiefly peas and beans, but no wheat, as it was too cold. Besides, barley makes beer, and that is important. There was a cheerful stream, pastures full of cattle, and an inhabited air about the place. Everywhere the ruins of past piety met our eyes.
We were quite sorry to reach the Indus and turn south-east. It was a dull march and very arid. We lost our way and grew very peevish. Finally we could stand it no longer and marched straight to the river, and camped agreeably even though it was raining. There was plenty of grass, fuel, and water, the three necessaries which a traveller desires, and with these he should be well satisfied.
We arrived at Demchok on 16th August, and found it was only 81/2 miles. So we were early, and it was just as well. We spent the entire day in wrangling with the Tibetans. The local Tibetan official had prudently disappeared, and an odd collection of irresponsible savages pretended to minister to us. What we wanted was some guarantee that we should be able to buy the supplies of sattu, the local barley flour, and other needs of our Ladakhis. We could get no satisfaction whatever. So we decided with reluctance to give up going on. It is no use at all entering the unknown unless there is something settled. Of course one can go everywhere taking loads of what is needed, but that costs a great deal of money. We showed all our documents, written in flowing Tibetan, but it was useless. I daresay that we were over-cautious, but gate-crashing in Tibet is not a wise pastime.
Demchok was not an exciting place at all. The frontier was ill defined, although a stream, hard to cross at midday, was supposed to mark it. On what was unquestionably Kashmiri territory numerous flocks were grazing. It was evidently the concern of no one, least of all of the kotwal, to safeguard the interest of either country. The truth was, of course, that it did not matter, as the people did not care a doit for political restrictions. After all, they were Tibetans, irrespective of what side of an arbitrary frontier line they lived.
We tried to cross the Indus at Demchok and return a different way, but it was impossible. The river was deep and unfordable, so we returned down the road we had come, in a very bad temper. We went down to Nimu-Mud, crossed the Indus, which was wide and shallow, and eventually reached Shushal (Chushal) where Young left me, as he had to hurry back to India.
R. C. F. S.
Despite the extreme physical discomfort and the rigours of climbing through ice and snow, often enveloped itl masses of damp cloud or swept by equally damp but piercing cold winds, mountaineering or trekking in high places has always offered to a certain type of mentality an attraction that is very nearly irresistible. Why this section of humanity should take such delight in maltreating their own bodies has never been discovered, but it is similar to the lemmings, who annually set out from the coast of Norway to drown themselves in the inhospitable waters of the North Sea.
Being myself of this persuasion, it was inevitable that sooner or later after my arrival in India I should find myself a member of a party of five who last October crossed the Penlong La, of some 6,000 feet, which represents to the trekker the first stage of the ever upward journey into the Himalayas.
Behind him lies the last town, the last electric light, the last motorcar, and beyond, hills rising on hills, climate and vegetation stratified by height, from the sultry valleys full of rainbow7 butterflies, lianas, tree-ferns, orchids, up through pleasant meadows and orchards, through the pines festooned with fairy lichen, the forbidding rhododendron swamps where tangled roots and black deep bog are the only road, ever upwards through the low brushwood, the boulder-strewn wastes, the towering black crags, until finally the snows' soaring white pinnacles and toppling glaciers, playing hide- and-seek with the clouds.
On this occasion we took about ten days to reach our first base, Green Lake, a grassy meadow with a 'southern aspect' about 10 miles up the immense Zemu glacier, and maybe 6 or 7 miles from Kangchenjunga. By that time we had walked 76 miles, and we were at a height of 16,000 feet above sea-level.
I personally had done a very silly thing. My abominable boots, which I had purchased in Calcutta, fitted me in that city, but upon setting out I had doused them liberally with oil, and they had promptly shrunk. I sympathize with the victims of the ancient and then well-established Inquisitorial torture, 'The Boot'. After the first day of 14 miles, pounding downhill most of the way, I had three blisters, two broken. On the next day I wore thick socks, and a pair of Pathan chap lis, but the soles were so thin that the jagged ground became an agony to walk upon. My only consolation was that I could wade through every stream, soaking my burning feet in delicious numbing coolness.
Next day I tried the boots again, but by now my feet had spread. I hobbled 50 yards and then sat down to admire the view. I put the chap lis on once more, but the soles of my feet were bruised. However, I got half-way, and then I drew my wicked-looking Tibetan knife, which I had obtained from a shaggy Tibetan muleteer in exchange for a pocket compass which fascinated him, and sitting cross-legged I sliced away the toes of my despicable boots, while the porters looked on with glee.
The relief was instantaneous, and after that I had very little trouble except for a tendency of the toes to flap.
But by then my feet were a Picasso mural of empurpled flesh, engrained dirt, and ragged pieces of plaster, and I did not really enjoy walking until we reached Green Lake, by which time I had changed into my oversize boots, intended to accommodate my thick sea-boot stockings.
The view from Green Lake is one of the finest in the world and it has been written of more than once in these pages, so I must curb my enthusiasm. Nevertheless I would offer my own homage to Siniolchu-Queen of the Himalaya who rises as delicate and sheer as Kangchenjunga is massive and forbidding. Her fluted ice-cliffs seemed to shine with an inner light-and then the vision was veiled by cloud. But looking up, there, as in a window, brighter, higher, and bluer than I had conceived, was framed one delicate lacework of ice. We climbed on for several hours until we found ourselves on a sharp arete, guarded at either end by a steep gendarme. The mist cleared and we could gaze down a 500-foot cliff, at the base of which was the 'Hidden Glacier5. Here, at about 19,400 feet, we bivouacked-not too uncomfortable. Next morning the weather seemed uncertain, we had no rope, and, except for our head porter, Pasang, very little experience, so prudence overcame what valour we had. It snowed heavily, and it was through already deep snow that we struggled back to Lachen. Here we ran into the Dewan of Sikkim, Mr. Lall, scholar of Balliol and a member of the Club, who was paying a call on the Abbot.
‘Hidden Glaciernear 'Litle Siniolchu’, looking north-west. The peak in far ditance is part of the Chorten Nyima Range
Kangchenjau, from the Sebu La
Kolahui (17,799 ft.)
Route followed was across face of smaller peak to intervening col and thence starting up face. The cord held by coolies is not climbing rope
Next day three of us headed for the Jha Chu and the Sebu La La, which we negotiated successfully, but found very heavy snow on the east side. It is not possible to describe adequately the grandeur, the vastness of that tremendous ring of great peaks which form the encircling horizon. The remainder of our homeward journey was most pleasant, and culminated in a grand party at His Highness the Maharajah's Palace at Gangtok.
I4th-18th June 1950
The writers left Simla on 14th June 1950 by early morning bus to Narkanda, about 40 miles, with the intention of walking via Baghi to Sungri, and of climbing Mural Kanda, 12,400 feet. We returned to Simla on the evening of 18th June.
On arrival at Narkanda they were advised to avoid the main Narkanda-Baghi road because of the danger of falling rock consequent upon road repairs, and took instead a higher track which separates from the main Narkanda-Thanadar road 1 mile from Narkanda as a mountain track rising sharply upwards to the right. This path rises steeply, skirts Hatu (10,456 feet), leaving it on the right, and passes over a neighbouring height about 300 feet lower than Hatu and approximately east of it. This diversion rejoins the Narkanda-Baghi road about half a mile from Baghi. The total distance is about 8 miles.
Baghi to Sungri, 16 ½ miles, was covered the next day, the road being a very pleasant one maintaining a steady height of about 8,500 feet, although rising to 9,700 feet at Khadrala, 7 ½ miles from Baghi, where for those who would prefer to do Baghi-Sungri in two days there is a rest house.
On the following day, with a guide, Mural Kanda was climbed. The path rises steeply from the dak bungalow at Sungri, and continues to rise, keeping more or less to the ridge, in an easterly direction, for about 4 miles, where there is a sharp descent before the climb continues and a change of direction to the north. The total distance to the top was covered in 4 ½ hours, the return journey in 3 ½ hours. The walking distance, there and back, was estimated as about 16 miles.
The return to Simla was by the same route, except that, by starting early, it was found possible to follow the Baghi-Narkanda road, the danger points being passed before the work began on the new road (approximately 9.30 a.m.).
Baggage was carried by mule, coolies (by reason of the harvest and of the road reconstruction) being virtually unobtainable. The Kailas Transport Company, Narkanda, were very helpful in the matter of transport. Accommodation at Baghi and Sungri was in dak bungalows. Previous application for permission to use them should be made to the Executive Engineer, Mahasu Division, Kennedy House, Simla.
This short trek is highly recommended. Mural Kanda is one of the very few i2,ooo-foot mountains within easy reach of a hill-sta- tion, the dak bungalows are comfortable and excellently situated, whilst the scenery is uniformly interesting. At certain seasons (and owing to the onset of monsoon weather we were unlucky in this respect) and more particularly in October, the views of the snows from the dak bungalows and from Mural Kanda are superb.
Notes on some of the birds encountered are appended by J. H. Bishop, a keen ornithologist.
Some Bird Notes
The Narkanda-Baghi forest (8,500-10,500 feet), accessible by motor from Simla in four hours, contains many interesting birds not usually seen near hill-stations. We came across the orange-gorgeted fly-catcher, the slate-blue fly-catcher, several pairs of white-collared blackbirds, missel-thrushes, Simla black- and brown-crested tits, and we heard several times unfamiliar call-notes. The late Mr. A. E. Jones, in his booklet The Common Birds of Simla, mentioned that bullfinches also are to be found there.
The 16 miles from Baghi to Sungri (ranging 8,500-10,000 feet) did not reveal any other birds than those in the Narkanda area, though the eastern variegated laughing thrush became more common, and an unidentified warbler, too, which started his song with a long whistle.
Sungri leads on to the high, bare slopes of Mural Kanda, and we came across six Monal pheasants on our day's climb; at about 11,500 feet, where the trees give way to grassy uplands, tree-pipits, rose-finches, black redstarts, and rufous-tailed fly-catchers were breeding.
Dr. Phillips made a note (below) of the call of what must have been the allied grosbeak, which I think is worth recording, as it is not noted either in Whistler or Salim Ali's Indian Hill Birds, and is quite unlike the call of the black-and-yellow grosbeak (Picteroides vigors).
The key is estimated. The bird starts its call about a third below the first note of the normal cuckoo's (Cuculus canorus hinnaeus) call.
We heard this at about 11,000 feet and only once. Does this indicate that the allied grosbeak is found at higher altitudes than the black-and-yellow, which was common from 7,000 feet all the way from within 4 miles of Simla?
This note excludes the commoner birds. It is added because it indicates what a rich field is open to north Indian ornithologists who have only a short holiday. I may add that we heard, even at 12,200 feet, many other bird-calls which we could not trace or identify.
L. R. Phillips and J. H. Bishop
Lahul is one of those areas of the high Himalayas that can only be reached by way of a high pass. Ah hough the two main head-waters of the Chenab river the Hhag.i and I he Chandra™ rise in Lahal and flow along its two valleys at a height mostly under 11,000 feet, the trek right along the Chenab from the plains seems to be impossible. Indeed, even the parts of the Chenab valley that are in the northeast of Chamba State, 50 miles lower down-stream than Lahul, can best be reached by crossing even higher passes than those that lead to Lahul.
Once you have crossed the Rohtang pass and descended into the Chandra valley you leave the characteristic Himalayan forest behind you. The Kulu valley is as well wooded as any part of the outer Himalaya, but the Pir Panjal Mountains, which separate it from Lahul, act as a barrier also against the monsoon. The total average rainfall in Lahul is only some 2 5 inches, and of this total more falls in the spring than in the monsoon months.
The absence of trees means a great reduction in the number of birds. During a fortnight's trek in June 1950 I noted less than sixty species. Probably if I had spent a fortnight trekking over the Kulu valley I might have seen twice that number. My companions were Captain Ranald, R.N., and Mrs. Ranald, Mrs. Narendra Nath, and Miss Parry. They all kindly helped in the look-out for birds.
Lahul is not quite treeless. One species of pine occurs, three of juniper, and one at least of birch; and there are extensive groves of willow and poplar in the cultivated areas which have been planted during the past eighty years. There is also some cotoneaster and rose scrub.
The pine woods, sparse and not extensive, grow on northern slopes and I did not visit them. Between Keylang and Jispa, for nearly i o miles, there is a fairly extensive wood of Juniperus magnipoda, with an upright growth and an appearance almost exactly like that of a pine-tree. This woodland contained several birds not seen elsewhere, and I was sorry not to be able to spend more time in it. It would probably yield some interesting secrets.
Amongst the most conspicuous birds are vultures and choughs. Wherever you stand to rest, if you scan the mountain-tops you are likely to discover one or more griffon vultures, and the fine lammer- geier, with brown body, narrow silvery wings, golden crown, and painted tail, is scarcely less common. Towards sunset especially you may see a dozen or more of these two species soaring in the sky. The lammergeier is, perhaps, half-way between vulture and eagle; but of true eagles I saw none. Kestrels and sparrow-hawks were seen in small numbers.
Flocks of choughs are to be seen and heard every day. The yellow- billed species is the commoner, but the red-billed is not uncommon, and these two 'mountain-crows' often occur in flocks together. We noticed a few jungle crows and half a dozen ravens—the latter is the huge Tibetan raven, the largest crow, I believe, in all the world. Neither of these birds breeds in Lahul, but they are said to come with the flocks of sheep and goats that is, in the early summer.
The only other moderately large birds in Lahul are pigeons. The common rock pigeon is plentiful, and just as tame as it is in the plains. Here and there you may also s< < the beautiful snow pigeon, with grey head, white underparts, dark wings, and black-and-white tail.
Among the groves of willows a noisy common species is the variegated laughing-thrush; and the smaller, dark-brown streaked laughing-thrush is also locally plentiful. The abundance of the variegated laughing-thrush amazed me. Its usual habitat is the dense, high jungle of the Himalayan hills, as for instance on some of the slopes above Simla; and it usually hides itself in the foliage and only allows an occasional fleeting glimpse to the bird-watcher. In Lahul they can hide themselves when they like in the dense foliage of the willows; but I saw several out in the open, even hopping on the ground, where their bright colours might lead one to mistake them for jays. Of the true thrushes the whistling-thrush is much the com- monest. His black form and yellow bill are to be seen well up to 11,000 feet above the sea, usually near water. Sometimes we heard his fine song. Occasionally we also noticed the blue rock-thrush, a smaller, bluer, but much less glossy bird than the whistling-thrush.
Finches are abundant in these high desolations. We came upon several parties of rose-finches. There are at least a dozen different species that breed in the high Himalaya, and they are not easily distinguished. In Lahul we saw at least two distinct species. In both the male bird was a brillaint red colour.
Great flocks of mountain-finches, a plain-coloured bird dressed all in various hues of brown, were frequently encountered along the mountain-sides. And then there was a smaller, darker brown finch, with a brilliant gold forehead, the gold-fronted finch. About Jispa, in particular, among the junipers, they were abundant, and it was a charming sight watching dozens of them hovering in the breeze and settling from time to time on rocks or low bushes. They kept up a gay little twitter. Usually some I limalayan gold-finches were associating with them, and once at least I saw Himalayan green-finches in a party. These gay little finches seemed to me among the most attractive birds to be found in Lahul. Another common bird of the finch tribe is the meadow bunting.
A bird that was quite new to me and which we only found in the neighbourhood of trees, whether juniper or willow, was the blue- headed robin. This bird gave us a lot of t rouble. It was fairly common in the wooded strip of the Bhaga valley. As it flitted among the trees, or sat in full view on a rock or bush, it looked to be a small black bird with white, or dirty greyish-white, on the under-parts, a patch of white in the wing, and a white cap. Was it some kind of fly-catcher, or a chat, or what? Though we searched through the pages of Stuart-Baker we could not find it. Then I happened to see that the description of the blue-headed robin fitted it in every respect except the blue head. As it happened, the very next day, close to Keylang, I saw one settle on the path below me. Through binoculars I could now see that the 'white' cap was in fact pale bluish. But the man who first called it 'blue-headed robin' must have named it from skins. The blue is very difficult to detect in the field. In shape and behaviour the bird is a true robin. Its mate is a modest brown little bird.
The two rivers and their side-streams provided few7 special birds, such as wagtails—grey and Hodgson's pied, dippers—both brown- and white-breasted, and the beautiful white-capped water-redstart in gorgeous black, chestnut, and white plumage.
The stony screes were apt to seem birdless; but if one stopped to watch a few birds might soon be found. Thus, on our last day in Lahul I sat on a rock among some scree for my lunch, 2 miles below Khoksar, and while I sat there I saw a pair of white-capped redstarts, a pair of Indian redstarts (this is a common species all through Lahul), a blue rock-thrush, several pairs of mountain finches, a pair of gold-fronted finches, and a greyish willow-warbler.
It is not necessary to mention every bird that we saw. In some areas one of the most characteristic sounds was the persistent song of the chiff-chaff. The striking five-note silver-bell-like song of the large-billed willow warbler was also heard more than once.
Two or three times we had the good luck to see that beautiful bird the wall-creeper, with the flaming patch of red in his wings. The Himalayan tree-creeper also occurs and we saw it at least twice. This is almost the only species we saw which was not recorded by the late Mr. Hugh Whistler, when he wrote of the birds of Lahul in the Ibis of 1925.
Horace G. Alexander
An Historical Sketch
The first recorded attempt to climb the highest of the three main peaks of the Kolahoi Group in Kashmir (Survey of India Map, 1 inch, 43 N/8) was made by Captain Corry and Lieutenant Squires in 1911. This peak, locally known as Gashibrar (interpreted as meaning 'The Goddess of Light'), is 17,799 feet in height and the loftiest in Kashmir proper. The climbers reached a point within 40 feet of the summit, Dr. Neve's party finding a cairn of stones at the spot the following year.
The two other main peaks are Buttress peak (16,785 feet), a mile to the south of Gashibrar, and Bur Dalau (16,764 feet), a mile and a half to the south-east. Dr. Ernest Neve and Kenneth Mason made the first ascent of the latter on 21 st June 1911, by the eastern arete.
In 1912 the same party made the first ascent of Gashibrar,2 following the Armiun Nar, crossing the Har Nag pass (Hari Gati on the Survey of India Map) and reaching the ice-field south of Kolahoi from the east, where, at an altitude of about 15,000 feet, camp was pitched. Facing them was the pyramidal peak, rising steeply 2,500 feet. The next day, accompanied by twelve porters, they crossed a mile of glacier and began the ascent up the right side of the eastern couloir. Traversing, they continued on the left side up steep rocks and finally halted on a rocky ledge at about 16,200 feet, where, after clearing a space in the snow, a Whymper tent was pitched.
Before dawn on the following day, 28th June, the climbing party began the final ascent, occasionally cutting steps up the snow-filled couloir, and reaching the main eastern arete after five hours' climbing. The remainder of the ascent consisted of a 300-yard scramble along and up this jagged arete. This took 4J hours owing to the need for caution, as the party frequently found itself compelled to walk on the junction of snow-cornice with arete edge. The summit was attained by 2 p.m., the last 60 feet of the climb being on snow. The summit itself was (and still is) snow-capped and heavily corniced to the north and west and less so to the east.
From here the chief points of the Pir Panjal range to the west were visible. To the north the Nanga Parbat ridge stood out in dazzling whiteness, while the snowy plateau of Nun Kun and unclimbed Nun (23,410 feet) were prominent in the east.
Dr. Neve's party found the descent more difficult than the ascent, the negotiating of the main arete down as far as the couloir taking five hours, and the descent to the little shelter tent had to be by completed by moonlight. The total time spent on this climb from 16,200 feet to 17,799 feet (about 1,600 feel) and return was about sixteen hours.
The next ascent of Gashibrar was made by Mr. C. R. Cooke and Lieutenant B. W. Battye, whose route was very similar to Dr. Neve's. They also camped near point 15,314, but their first attempt was made up a long rib of steep but easy rock at the eastern end of the south face. They were brought to a halt at the 'Castle', a formidable mass of rock at about 16,200 feet on the crest of the east ridge, but managed to turn it and regain the eastern arete. Instead of camping at this height, as Dr. Neve's party did, they descended by 'Neve's Couloir' and, presumably on the next day, 10th July 1926, made a second attempt; this time ascending to the east ridge via Neve's Couloir. They left camp at 6 a.m. and reached the summit at 1.30 p.m.1
In 1935 Lieutenant, now Colonel, John Hunt with Flight-Lieutenant Rowland Brotherhood, R.A.F., who had both returned recently from Peak 36 in the Karakoram and were unaware of the details of the climb led by Dr. Neve, made a new ascent of Gashibrar.2 Instead of approaching the glacier by the Har Nag route, they turned off at Armiun in a northerly direction, climbing up steep grass slopes and snow-beds to the summit of 'Roof Peak' (so named by Dr. Neve) marked on the map as 15,193. They continued up the west edge of the Musa Sab-in Qabr glacier until, at 10.45 a.m. they reached a col between Buttress peak and Bur Dalau. A mile's walk across the glacier south of Gashibrar brought them to the foot of the peak, and, although the previous route to the summit was not known at the time, they decided to attempt an ascent via the east ridge. They did not choose Neve's Gouloir, however, but a prominent rib well to the west of it. This rib is continuous until just below the summit and forms the western edge of the largest snow couloir on the south face.
They commenced climbing, unroped, up fairly precipitous rock, which improved with the height, but following some difficulties at a point about 1,000 feet above the glacier they decided to rope up. Higher up the rib is interrupted by a horizontal band of snow which cuts across it from the south-west ridge and joins the great couloir. After a short traverse Hunt and Brotherhood were able to negotiate the snow-band and regain the main rib. Shortly afterwards the steep snow-slope below the summit was reached and, kicking steps in the snow, the climbers joined the east arete at the point where it disappears into the ice-cap.
The ascent from the glacier had taken only 2 ½ hours—evidence of the party's fitness and state of training after the Karakoram climb. Unfortunately they were denied the wonderful vista afforded Dr. Neve's party, as huge monsoon clouds had been piling up during the ascent, and now completely obscured the panorama.
Having observed that belays suitable for roping down were scarce on the route by which they ascended, the two climbers followed Dr. Neve's route down the main eastern arete, taking great care on account of their fatigued condition. Before reaching the couloir used in 1912, however, they turned off down a rib running directly down to the glacier, which they reached in 3 ½ hours. Hurrying across the snow they returned to the col by 6 p.m. and, after a snack, pressed on to Armiun, 5,000 feet below, arriving at 8 p.m.
In the following year Gashibrar was climbed for the first time by a lady, Miss M. V. Sanderson, who made the ascent by Hunt and Brotherhood's great couloir route in August, with the shikari Aziza.1 She visited Kolahoi again in July 1937 with Lieutenant James Waller, R.A.2 They approached the massif from the north and camped on the north-east ice-fall. At one time they contemplated an ascent via the 5,000-foot-high great north ridge, but on further consideration worked their way round to the south face and tackled the peak by the more popular east ridge. They too encountered and negotiated the formidable 'Castle', finally regaining the ridge at the point where it is joined by Neve's Couloir, and reaching the summit at 3.15 p.m., eight hours after setting out. They descended by the great couloir, the western edge of which had been used by Hunt and Brotherhood in 1935 for their ascent, but considered too tricky for a descent. Waller, though describing the snow as unpleasantly icy in places, reported that a climb down the centre of the great couloir seemed considerably easier and shorter than the usual descent via the eastern arete and Neve's or some other minor couloir.
Gashibrar has, I understand, been climbed several times since 1937, although details are not to hand. Captain R. E. A. James, who is at present planning his second attempt on Nun, made the ascent in 1941.
A solitary ascent was made by R. D. Leakey on 30th June 1945.1After a trek from Sonamarg he bivouacked at the foot of a peak a mile and a half east-north-east of Gashibrar, and ascended the peak by the east ridge, taking ten hours. He returned by moonlight along the same route.
An Indian student expedition organized by the Punjab Mountaineering Club and led by W. Cowley tackled the peak during the succeeding month. A base camp was established in the West Liddar valley near the north Kolahoi glacier. After a two-day reconnaissance of the area, an advanced camp was pitched on the rocky island dividing the north glacier. A reconnaissance of Gashibrar itself up to 17,000 feet preceded the ascent made on the fifth day by a party led by H. A. Hamid Khan. The value of a careful reconnaissance is proved by the fact that the three who attained the summit took only four hours.2
Lieutenant James Waller climbed Buttress peak (16,785 feet) for the first time in 1933.3 He camped at the snout of the Musa Sab-in Qabr glacier at a height of about 13,200 feet. On 1st September he and his tiffin-coolie, whom he had trained to climb, ascended the Buttress peak without difficulty by 10.30 a.m. During most of the climb they fed on sugar, with a light meal at 6 a.m. They returned to camp by 1.30 p.m.
Among the minor peaks of the Kolahoi Group are Roof peak (15,193 feet) and a point about half a mile north-west of the Buttress and due east of the pass between Katarnag and the western glacier of Kolahoi. This is sometimes called Katarnag peak and has not, I believe, yet been climbed.
In June 1947 Mr. Graham Dorsett and I made a brief photographic reconnaissance of the Kolahoi Group.4 We had some diffi- culty in crossing the Hari Gati pass (12,729 feet) as the track on the south side ends below a rocky waterfall, practically impassable for baggage ponies. We pitched camp on the south shores of the Lake Har Nag.
On 25th June we ascended the grass and snow slopes to the west of the lake until we reached a precipice overlooking the Bur Dalau glacier and facing the steep south face of the mountain. A scramble along this cliff to the west brought us to a hump from which we could look across the higher slopes of the Musa Sab-in Qabr glacier to the Buttress peak.
The following day we skirted Lake Har Nag—which was still partly frozen over—and followed the Dacchinpor Nar for a couple of miles, finally turning west and labouring up the large tumbled boulders forming the moraine of the east Kolahoi glacier. The Kashmir winter of 1946-7 had been unusually severe and snow conditions on the glacier were bad. We therefore kept to the slopes bounding the north side of it and climbed to the summit of a ridge which divides the north-east and east glaciers. From this point, at a height of about 15,000 feet, we had a view of the three main peaks from an unusual angle and could also see the Amarnath Mountains to the north-east and Nun Kun to the south-east.
Kolahoi is the most alpine of the more easily accessible Kashmir peaks, as it is possible to motor and walk or ride from Rawalpindi to Base Gamp in 2 ½ days with ease. Without doubt June is the best month for climbing in this region. Lieutenant Waller, in August 1933, was forced to camp at Armiun for ten days in vile weather.
On Gashibrar, from all reports, the climb is impressive and awe- inspiring, but presents no outstanding difficulties, for there is almost always secure hand- and foot-hold. The rock is a very stable trap and affords good practice. The difficulty depends on the amount and condition of the snow.
The route taken by Lieutenant John Hunt in 1935, via the col between Buttress peak and Bur Dalau, seems shorter and more attractive than the Har Nag detour. Most parties, however, would be well advised to make a bivouack at or near the col, in order to avoid the ascent of 7,500 feet and descent of the same amount, with a horizontal distance of 5 miles each way involved by climbing from Armiun.
In the Himalayan Journal, vol. viii, 1936, p. 106, in a footnote to an account by Hunt of a new ascent of Kolahoi (17,799 feet) by the south face, the editor wrote that he would be glad to hear of any other ascents of Kolahoi between 1912 and 1935, and by what route. The subject is referred to again in vol. xii, 1940, p. 122, by no less an authority than Dr. Ernest Neve, who writes: 'The first ascent was made by Kenneth Mason and me in 1912. Since then it has been climbed several times, generally by the same route (the east ridge), but once by a new route, the southern face, by Hunt and Brotherhood in 1935.'References in the Himalayan Journal finish with a note in vol. xiii, 1946, pp. 100, 101, deprecating the misleading publicity given in the Statesman to a lone ascent of the east ridge by R. D. Leakey, and welcoming an ascent a lew weeks later by three Indian climbers led by H. A. Ilamid Khan. It may be of interest, therefore, to record some details of an ascent I made in September 1941, by the south-west ridge, in company with a Kashmiri shikari employed by Bahar Shah of Srinagar.
Under the auspices of the said shikari, one Ahdoo, a young man of confident and engaging disposition, I was making the best use I could of an unexpected spell of leave from Waziristan. We had walked up the Sind valley, ascended iwo peaks from the Thajiwas valley, and another from Baltal, whence we crossed to a pleasant camp site about a mile south of Har Nag Life here was enriched by a patch of blue poppies, enlivened by quantities of large-sized marmots, and invigorated by swimming in the cold waters of Har Nag.
We were already 2,000 feet higher than the camp in Armiun Nar from which Hunt and Brotherhood had climbed the peak in 1935, but it was not high enough for us. We intended to camp on the glacier basin enclosed by Kolahoi, Buttress peak, and Bur Dalau, and if there had been anyone to see us setting out they might have been excused for thinking that we were spending a week there. Ahdoo was clad in a smart plus-four suit of superb Harris tweed. His climbing boots and eiderdown sleeping-bag were of French make, the best that money could buy. He modestly informed me that they had been presented to him by a grateful client. An extra camp coolie was entrusted with the task of carrying his hookah; I had seen nothing more incongruous since a chance meeting with a trio of Japanese students on the Bietschhorn in 1938, one of whom had an umbrella sticking out of his sack, a piece of climbing equipment which sent my brother into fits of uncontrollable laughter whenever he thought of it for the next three days.
The usual way from this side on to the glacier east of Kolahoi runs up a corridor between the snout of the glacier and a broken rock- ridge containing it on the north (see map in Himalayan Journal, vol. viii, 1936, p. 104). The mountain was first seen from above this corridor, and after staring haughtily at us for a few minutes it disappeared in cloud.
We subscribed to the erection of an exceedingly draughty and cumbersome tent on the windswept glacier about half a mile to the south of the peak, which had not reappeared, and sent the coolies down. After our evening meal Ahdoo kindly invited me to share his hookah. I mistrusted the look of his tobacco but unexpectedly found it a cool and refreshing smoke.
At that time I knew little more of Kolahoi than its name, and we had decided to try the south-west ridge for the simple and excellent reason that we liked the look of it. The subsidiary peak (or is it an enormous gendarme?) on the lower half of this ridge looked as though it could be turned by a traverse across its face to the little snow-col which divides it from the upper part of the mountain. Amid Ahdoo's continuous flow of entertaining and more or less fanciful talk, I never discovered for certain whether in fact he had climbed Kolahoi before. He certainly pointed out correctly the original route followed by Mason and Neve.
We left camp in the morning about 6.30 and plodded up the easy glacier slopes leading to the lower end of the rocks south of the subsidiary peak. We ascended these until we judged we were approaching the level of the snow-col which is such a conspicuous feature of this ridge, when we edged out on to the east side and found a convenient series of cracks and ledges by which we outflanked the peak and found ourselves on the col. From here the ridge, which is steep, is much less sharply defined than it appears to be from the south-east. The rock is for the most part sound and nowhere particularly difficult. There is a continuous succession of cracks, flakes, chimneys, riblets, and ledges, and by following the line of least resistance we soon saw the peak across the col sink down into insignificance and then disappear in the mist. There were a few inches of wet snow on the mountain and more started to fall, so that on the upper part of the climb visibility was barely a rope's length. Ahdoo, who was then leading, though a little primitive with the rope had all the hillman's natural balance on rock, and showed obvious pleasure whenever he was on a mountain. He was as disappointed as I that there was no view.
It is hard to evaluate character when vision is restricted to a few yards of rock-edge rendered featureless in the unicoloured mist, more especially when the next few yards are clearly of no difficulty. We went on climbing steadily with barely a pause and quite suddenly reached the bottom of the triangular snow-slope stretching to the summit, the top of which we treated with exaggerated respect where we felt it might be corniced over the tremendous precipices of the north face. We had taken hours, though some of this time included a prolonged halt for a second breakfast.
Khangkyong Plateau. Looking NNE. Peaks 22,674, 23,072, 22,686, 22,079, and 21,997
The Karpo La (17,660 ft.) Across glacier above Fakhtan Chu Valley
The comparative straightforwardness of this route may be judged by the fact that during the descent to the col it was only twice necessary to move one at a time. At the col the mist had cleared and we could see our dutiful coolies sitting idly in the snow, having already packed up the tent. We turned down the snow gully leading to the glacier and joined them. Our time from the summit was just over two hours.
It only remains to add that I dropped my red filter in the snout of the glacier, and that we spent three days sitting at Arau in torrential rain, and two more in Islamabad because floods had rendered the road between Islamabad and Srinagar impassable to all traffic.
I make no excuse for describing in some detail an ascent which, at the time, I felt fairly sure must have been something of a highway. Now I am less certain. If it has been already recorded elsewhere let it be admitted that I am one of, I think, a not inconsiderable number who often regret that they are now living so far from the I limalaya, and who enjoy the recollection of a climb there, be it never so modest.
Time. 20th November to 14th December 1948.
Weather. 20th to 25th: Fair in the mornings but rain in the afternoon. 26th to 29th: Very bad, snow. 30th onwards: Very good, hardly any clouds, except for the period from 6 th to 9 th December: cloudy, but hardly any precipitation.
Bungalows. The fees have been raised to Rs. 3 per head, no maximum. (That means 10 persons would have to pay Rs. 30). Gangtok bungalow is at present occupied by officials. No booking for it is accepted at Darjeeling. It is better for anybody intending to stay at Gangtok to ask well in advance.
Transport. There is plenty at Gangtok at that time of the year. We managed to get donkeys for Rs. 4 a day from Gangtok to Lachen. On the way back from Lachung we had to pay Rs. 6 per day (which is the usual rate) and Rs. 6 for the return journey (e.g. Rs. 30 per horse). Coolies are available for Rs. 3 a day at Gangtok. From
Lachung onwards we had to agree to pay Rs. 5 per day per coolie owing to the deep snow.
Food. Eggs (all the way) Rs. 1 to 1/8 per dozen. Milk (sometimes difficult to get) As. 6 to 8 per seer. Potatoes (all the way) As. 6 to 9 per seer. Meat was difficult to obtain; it is normally brought by the Tibetans, but this time the traffic was temporarily interrupted.
General remarks. Miss Vitants, of the Finnish Mission, is very helpful. She works alternatively at Lachen, Lachung, and Mangen. At Lachen the headmaster is willing to give any help required. So is the teacher at Lachung (if you give him some bakshish!). There is a constant traffic from Lachen via Thangu and over the passes to Tibet even at that time of the year. It is not so at Lachung. The Donkya La is hardly used at all so late. At about the middle of December half the village of Lachung goes over the Donkya La to Tibet to buy sheep. There is then a very good track; all the people agreed that the heavy snowfall this year was quite exceptional. There is normally good weather up to the middle of December or even later.
Snow-line. At about 12,000 feet before the snowfall, then down to 7,500 feet. On steep southern slopes it receded to 12,000 feet (now 20.12 ins. at about 15,000 ft.), on level ground to 10,000 feet, but the snow-line hardly changed on northern slopes.
L. O. Krenek and Dr. (Mrs.) E. Krenek