This broadcast was given by Mr. Hugh Richardson, C.I.E., O.B.E., in June 19519 before the Communists had gained control over Tibet and it may be considered out of date. Nevertheless it is hoped, and indeed may well be, that the age-old conservatism of the Tibetans will not be too deeply impaired, and that future generations from non- Communist nations will be able to visit, without undue restriction, that fascinating land with its lovable people—Ed.
A very early fragment of Tibetan verse dating from the eighth century a.d. which I shall quote because I hope you will like the sound of it, describes Tibet as rang ri thon po niu; ghhu bo ghhen po ni go; yu tho sa tsang: 'The centre of high snow mountains; the head of great waters; a lofty country, a pure land.'
That is an apt description of a country bounded by the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Kuenhun mountains, and containing the sources of many of the greatest rivers of Asia: the Indus and the Sutlej, the Ganges and Brahmaputra, the Yellow river, the Yangtse, the Suleveen, and the Mekong. But I like also to see—perhaps without justification—in that word which I have translated as 'pure', the earliest expression of the idea of Tibet as a holy land. For that is the conception which explains the exclusion of outside influences. Indeed, it explains most of Tibetan thought and actions today.
Tibetans are always careful to tell one, in explaining their policy, that 'Tibet is a Religious Country'. That is no mere form of words. State and Religion arc one and the same. The single conscious aim of the administration is the maintenance of religion which automatically means the maintenance of the State.
That idea sends its roots deep into Tibetan history—perhaps as far as the great days of the Tibetan kings—1,300 years ago. It has certainly dominated Tibet for about 900 years and since the sixteenth century has unified the country under the present line of Dalai Lamas.
The Tibetans see the justification of their system in its long survival. They see threats to it in change of any sort. And, as the ideas of all other peoples are now different from their own, they seek to keep all new ideas out of their country. They have succeeded so well that they have preserved a form of government and a social structure unchanged for 300 years and containing elements that go back many centuries earlier.
The Dalai Lama is sincerely believed to be a divine reincarnation; the feelings of awed but affectionate devotion which surround him dominate the minds not only of the peasants but also of the most intelligent nobles. This devotion is largely responsible for the ready acceptance by the Tibetan peasantry of a position that must be described technically as 'feudal serfdom'. But if the Tibetan peasant is technically a serf he certainly does not groan under any intolerable hardship. However strange it may seem to would-be reformers, he is in general well contented. I would add that signs of real poverty are very rare. The peasant and his family get enough food and clothing in return for their work; they have time for holidays and for idling. And there seems to be something in their nature that satisfies them with their life and with the belief that by accepting their destined place in the scheme of things they are serving the Dalai Lama and upholding the Religious Government.
In political matters Tibet has always been more closely involved with China than with her other neighbour—India. The Tibetans have at no time been willing to be absorbed by the Chinese Empire, but they had a common ground with China so long as the emperors were Buddhist or made a show of Buddhist sympathies. It was for centuries a political theory convenient to both sides, that the Chinese emperors were the disciples of the great Tibetan lamas and that their interest in Tibet was in the role of Defenders of the Faith. In fact, for a very long time there was no real danger to Buddhism in Tibet; for the Muslim conquerors of India, although feared and hated by the Tibetans as persecutors of religion, did not stretch out more than tentative hands to the fringes of the Himalaya. The Jesuit missions in Tibet in the eighteenth century represented no more than a mild and scholarly invasion of religious argument which was met by an equally resolute logic and a polite but adamant opposition. Mere persuasion was no danger to Tibetan Buddhism on its own ground.
Heretical force first broke into the seclusion of Tibet with the Younghusband Expedition of 1904. The Tibetans were surprised to find that the invaders didn't want to occupy their country and upset their religion but were in fact moderate, humane, and tolerant. So, apart from some new light on the British character, little in the way of new thought came in with the Expedition and, as soon as the party withdrew, the puncture in Tibetan spiritual defences sealed itself automatically.
The next shock to the established order in Tibet came from the east. Foreign infections suddenly jerked China from the Middle Ages to the threshold of modernity; and the collapse of the Chinese Empire before the Republican Revolution in 1911 carried off Tibet's last spiritual ally against innovation. The disappearance of the Divine Kmperor, the Protector of Buddhism, removed the one bond with China which Tibetans had been prepared to accept. With that gone, Chinese political influence, which had always been distasteful, appeared suddenly as a threat to the Tibetan form of government. The Tibetans took the opportunity of confusion in China to shake off the last remnant of Chinese control; and since then, Chinese approaches to Tibet were viewed with bitterness and suspicion because of the revolutionary outrage to religion and constitutional propriety.
In order to support their reasserted independence, the Tibetans were glad to cultivate closer relations with the government of India. The expedition of 1904 had left no hard feelings. Indeed the moderation with which it was conducted and its speedy withdrawal from Lhasa are still remembered with appreciation. Moreover, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had come into close and friendly contact with a British official. This was Sir Charles Bell, an officer of the Political Service of the Indian Government who was then in charge of relations with Tibet. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama was a man of strong will. He had seen something of the world as an exile, first in China when he fled from the British expedition, and then in India when he had to escape again, this time from the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1910. From his friendship with Sir Charles Bell he acquired sound and reasonable ideas of where the best interests of Tibet lay and of methods by which he might gradually bring the country on to a more progressive way of government. I lis efforts to put his ideas into practice were simple enough some training in India for a few army officers and men, a small police force for Lhasa, a simple hydroelectric lighting plant. I ie was an ardent Tibetan and did not want to see Tibet managed or influenced by any other government, and his aim was to make it possible for Tibet to stand on its own feet and defend its independence against China.
The Dalai Lama's modest reforms were the first deliberate introduction of western ideas into Tibet; and the system rose up silently and overwhelmingly and blotted them out. No one openly resisted the innovations and there are faint material traces of them visible to this day. But anything likely to change the existing social system or alter the balance of power inside the country was soon reduced to a shadow. The reception of these reforms showed clearly from where a Dalai Lama derives his power and on what conditions. It was the monasteries that put on the brake and asserted themselves as the guardians of conservatism against all forms of change.
Now the monasteries in Tibet are believed to contain between 200,000 and 300,000 men. In a population which may number about 3,000,000 that is a large proportion. But it was at least a threat that a well-armed and well-trained army—even if it were not increased beyond its existing size of about 10,000—could be an effective check on the influence of the monasteries and could make it possible for a Dalai Lama to be independent of their support.
I do not intend to suggest that it is thoughts of personal advantage which lead the monks to oppose all forms of change. All goes back to the idea of the Religious State which commands an especially fanatical devotion from those who feel that by taking part in the religious order they are protecting and perpetuating the flame of the faith. Hatred of change is so much a part of their thought and habit that the monastic order would protect their conservatism even against a Dalai Lama.
Since the death of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama there has been an acceleration of the speed with which western ways have become known in Tibet. It is no new thing for Tibetans to visit India. They have gone there for pilgrimage and for trade for many centuries. But in the war of 1939 to 1945, as all other approaches to China became blocked, Tibet found itself a busy channel of trade between India and China. Tibetans are naturally traders, and all classes—monks, yak- herds, farmers, noblemen turned to this promising business with enthusiasm. The number of Tibetan visitors to India increased greatly and the range of their visits extended beyond Calcutta and the places of religious pilgrimage, to Delhi and Bombay. And I am afraid that contact with war-time India led the Tibetans into ways of black marketing and undesirable business sharpness.
In Lhasa itself the presence since 1936 of a political mission representing the Government of India must have given many Tibetans some insight into the ways of life and thought of other peoples. Tibetan officials also have been on missions abroad and have seen the ways of industrial countries and have exchanged views with British and American business men and officials.
All those new contacts must have had some effect on the Tibetan mind. Perhaps the successful business men would like some change that would give them a more active part in the direction of affairs. Perhaps some of the younger officials see difficulties in the way of maintaining Tibetan isolation in a world of modern communications. Perhaps—and I hope this may be so—some officials have begun to appreciate that some liberalization of the land-tenure system could ensure that the government continues to rest on the loyalty of a contented people.
But in the background still looms the restraining authority of the monasteries—still resolute against new ideas, still strong to impose their will on the country by the power of faith and ancient tradition. So I would say that the tide of new ideas is only washing round the shores of Tibet. It has made no breach yet.
The danger point lies, of course, in the expressed intention of the Chinese government to 'liberate' Tibet. In pursuance of that purpose, Chinese troops have entered Tibet; and although they have halted just inside the borders and have not followed up their initial success, it is clear that matters cannot rest like that. Some change in Tibetan internal affairs seems inevitable.
The Chinese have only to study the centuries of their relations with Tibet in order to recognize the power of religion in that country. Their alternatives—to put them roughly and in an over-simplified way—are to break that power as the Russians did in Mongolia, or to use it as the Chinese Empire did under the Yuan and Ch'ing dynasties.
An attempt to break the power of religion quickly would need the use of force on a considerable scale. The successful use of force might leave the country in a state of chaos; so a body of administrators would have to be ready to restore order. There is no sign that the Chinese want to follow so violent a course even if they were in a position to commit men and money on a task so far from home for the sake of an uncertain reward. On the contrary, they seem deliberately to have restrained various forces and elements which could be used to create internal dissension in Tibet. And they have been making conciliatory offers to the existing regime, promising to maintain the political status of the Dalai Lama and the property of the monasteries. Liberation, it seems, is to be the delivery of Tibet from the entirely imaginary threat of Anglo-American imperialism. So one gets the impression that, for the present, the Chinese hope to re-establish in Tibet a form of control similar to that which existed under the Ch'ing dynasty and to exert their influence through a Tibetan government based on the old model. To be successful in such a plan it would be necessary to secure the co-operation or obedience of the Dalai Lama. A comparatively moderate programme of that sort does not rule out the possibility of measures to reform the social system from within, but it does imply the adoption and continuance of an old method of government. A good deal could be done under that old method to improve the conditions of the agricultural class without directly challenging the power of the monasteries; but if any considerable social changes were to be proposed and if a government headed by the Dalai Lama were used to put them into effect, there would be the probability of a clash between the executive and the monasteries.
In the field of foreign affairs the maintenance of a traditional Tibetan government would indicate that professed Chinese fears of 'imperialist intrigue' in Tibet were either a blind or a mistake. If the Chinese government has genuinely feared external interference in Tibet, it should by now have realized that there is no cause for anxiety on that score. Unless, therefore, the Chinese have aggressive designs on India, we may see Tibet continuing for some time to fulfill the function for which it is peculiarly well fitted—that of a buffer—with the difference that the present amicable links with India may be replaced by a closer control from Peking. I do not propose to speculate about Chinese intentions towards India. That would lead us away from Tibet, from one hypothesis to another and from one continent to another. It will be easier to look for indications of those intentions by watching what the Chinese seek to do in Tibet.
For myself, I think that what we are now seeing is a swing of the political pendulum which, regardless of social ideas, in the long centuries of relations between Tibet and China has brought the two countries now nearer together and now farther apart. Perhaps the Chinese approach to Tibet is still explanatory and the first aim is the restoration of Chinese face. Of course, the threat of a new and revolutionary way of society and of government lies behind any approach from Communist China. But so far, it is the fear of new ideas and not their power that has entered Tibet.
Western minds accustomed to the complex, impersonal administration—should I say over-administration ?—of modern countries may find it difficult to appreciate the simplicity and intimacy which are among the merits of the ancient and still surviving Tibetan form of government. The local official knows personally almost every one under his control; anyone with a grievance can, by persistence, bring it personally before the Cabinet; anyone can go to the throne of the Dalai Lama and receive the blessing of his divine ruler.
It is not, of course, all purely idyllic. There is no lack of imperfections. But it would, I think, be short-sighted and over-exacting to concentrate doctrinaire criticism upon the inequalities and to deny strength and virtue to a system through which Tibetans have lived for nine centuries at least in the enjoyment of internal peace and absence of poverty to a degree which I do not think any of their Asiatic neighbours could equal. In all those centuries, too, the Tibetans have never threatened the peace of their neighbours.
It may be even more difficult for Western minds to comprehend the survival into this cynical age of sincere religious devotion as a living and unifying national force.
We have become used to seeing attempts to inspire unquestioning faith in the rulers of Russia and now of the new China by voluble propaganda, supported by the removal of those whose loyalty is doubted. But in Tibet such faith in the ruler is traditional and habitual. It is woven into the life of every Tibetan from his childhood up.
Communist planners may hope to make use of that habit of faith for their own ends by providing it with a new object. Perhaps such hopes are not impossible. But before they could be fulfilled it would be necessary to break down or melt away the barriers set up by that firmly entrenched, uncompromising defender of the faith—the Tibetian religious hierarchy.
Very recent reliable information from Sikkim indicates that the Chinese, are not interfering in internal administration in Tibet.—Ed.
Map reference. Survey of India maps, 4 miles to one inch.
Sheets 51D and 52A.
So much is done for Mount Everest: it is explored, examined, discussed, photographed, and in fact is the centre of all mountaineering activities. Even the stony-hearted band of publishers, who will not consider the ordinary volume of climbing reminiscences, are at once melted by any mention of Everest, and indeed will produce anything to do with that peak. Yet Mount Godwin Austen (let it be so called rather than call it K2, in memory of that great man who first saw and mapped it, and who is one of the glories of the Survey of India) is 28,250 feet high and only 750 feet lower than Mount Everest. It is thus the second highest summit in the world, and is as noble a mountain as any one would wish to see. It is, moreover, politically 'safe'. There is no need to approach the authorities in Tibet or in Nepal for a government permit to visit an area in which they are not interested. Indeed, the taste for heights is a purely Western one, and incomprehensible to the bored but polite Oriental.
There have been in recent years three attempts to climb Mount Godwin Austen and all have failed. Indeed, the record of failure is quite astonishing, and very much to the credit of the peak itself. But it can be climbed: there is no doubt about that.
The first, and incidentally the most elaborate, of these three attempts was made by an admirably equipped American expedition, and an account of the enterprise appears in a book called Five Miles High. The whole affair was dogged by bad luck, and in spite of the careful and elaborate preparations, which should have enabled someone in the party to reach the summit, Mount Godwin Austen remained untouched by man. One of the attractions of the book is the food taken by these American stalwarts. It is fascinating to read the lists of good things and the exciting menus, and the author in his wigwam in the snow used to think sadly 011 the privilege of being a member of such a show. The menus made one's mouth water. It is true that there was once a mountaineering team who went to the wilds of Baltistan and took vast stores of asparagus and of pate de foie gras in tins. The tale is that large quantities of these delicious and expensive viands were abandoned in Baltistan, and the local peasants benefited greatly. They opened the tins, threw away the contents, and used the containers for boiling their tea. It doubtless shows a lack of appreciation on the part of the Baltis, but then why take these stores to the back of beyond?
The second expedition to Mount Godwin Austen was that led by Mr. Eric Shipton in 1938. The account of the whole venture is given in his book Blank on the Map, and very good it is. The volume is adorned with excellent photographs, and a really good map, an addition so often omitted in books of travel.
Photo by the Duke of Abruzzi
Photo by the Vittorio Sella
Mustagh Tower, 23,860 ft.
But the expedition did not succeed in climbing the mountain. The great peak had again defeated man.
A third attempt to reach Mount Godwin Austen was made by the writer of this article in 1945. His party ascended the Mustagh- Shaksgam river from Shingshal Aghzi, and arrived opposite the mountain. The weather had been unfavourable, though not greatly so. It was, however, impossible to ford the stream from the Sarpo Lagga glacier, and that in spite of having rafts with us and two experts to work the contraptions. Besides, if any man can ford a stream, the men of Shingshal can do so. We had to abandon the attempt. The real cause why we could not wait was the food question. When we did cross the stream it was too late. I found Mr. Shipton's camp, and groped about hopefully but uselessly in the foolish expectation that he may have left a cache of food, but we saw nothing except a wolf sitting in a bush. We dared not stay. Anyone who knows these remote places will realize the worry that feeding a number of men always causes.
What, then, are the difficulties about this mountain, for it surely will be climbed one day and it deserves to be. Mount Godwin Austen is a magnificent peak, a noble object worthy of any trouble to ascend. As we approached the area from Shingshal Aghzi, I had ample opportunity of gazing at this stupendous mass. It is true that it is remote. It is not, however, particularly inaccessible as far as merely reaching it is concerned. It is always a matter needing great care and forethought to convey the food and the men so far from any centre of supplies. Mr. Shipton took Balti coolies with him, and a lively account of these folk is given in his book, in the chapter 'The Hungry Hundred'. Baltis have many virtues, but it is wiser for any expedition to dispense with their invaluable services.
This is only a brief account of this wonderful mountain, but it may encourage someone to organize a party and to reach the top. It is beyond the influence of the monsoon, and, in spite of what I have said about myself, the weather can usually be trusted. Storms seldom last long in the Karakoram. A thorough reconnaissance is essential before the actual attempt on the mountain is made, and careful preparations are needed regarding transport and, above all, rations. There is no worthier mountain in the world than this giant.
R. G. F. SCHOMBERG
The following account of the crossing of the Patra La in August 1905 is taken from letters written at the time to my parents which I have now come across.
The Patra La is a pass on the range between the Lachung valley in Sikkim and the Chumbi valley in Tibet and is about 3 miles north of the Tanka La and 7 miles south of the Gora La. The more direct and easier pass for me to have taken would have been the Tanka La itself; but as I was having difficulty in getting permission to enter Tibet I thought it better to take the pass which led me direct to the hot springs in the Kambu valley without troubling the military authorities at what was then known as New Chumbi but is now called Yatung.
In 1904, during the Tibet Expedition, I had been ordered to take a patrol of mounted infantry from Phari to the hot springs in the Kambu valley to report on the possibility of a Tibetan force gathering there and attacking the lines of communication from the west. I had to go out and back to Phari in the day. When I reached the hot springs I found on the hills many herds of burrhel with some fine heads, and this determined me to visit this valley again after the expedition was over.
Leaving Darjeeling on 14th August I spent my first night with Mr. Lister at his tea-garden at Peshoke. Lister was a wonderful naturalist and knew more about the people and the country in that part of the Himalayas than any other man. He had, I believe, come out to India when a young man as botanist to the Abor Expedition of 1854.
There were, of course, no cars in those days and the cart road from Rangpo to Gangtok was new and in an uncertain state, especially in the rains of August. So to reach Gangtok I travelled via Rangpo and Pakyong. I reached Lachung on the fifth day from Darjeeling. Here I was delayed a day as the coolies had to make themselves boots and undertake other preparations for the journey over the pass. I was delayed a second day as Mr. Claude White, the Political Officer, who had just arrived in north Sikkim direct from Gyantse, had sent for coolies to take him on to Gangtok. Luckily these were not required after all and I succeeded in getting off on the third day. There were two pleasant Swedish missionaries, Miss Fredericksen and Miss Johansen, in Lachung who fed me with delicious scones, fresh butter, and jam made from wild strawberries. I had some difficulty in persuading any coolies to take me over the Patra La, which none of them had ever crossed, and they tried to persuade me to cross the Tanka La.
The first night we slept at an overhanging rock called Menpupya. ' This was only 4 miles by the map but took me and my men 6 ½ hours. It is called 'Monphu Cave' on the map. My aneroid showed an altitude of 11,700 feet. The next day, six hours 'travelling took me to Sumdendzong at 15,500 feet. This was above fuel level and I did not expect to find yak dung on this little-frequented track, so just before leaving the fuel level I made each man collect a little firewood, enough for one night. On 23rd August we made an early start. I came on some snowcock and in futile pursuit of them I got lost in a fog; but by good luck I found my coolies again. There was now no track of any kind, but I had an inaccurate map on a small scale. After crossing two low passes we descended to a valley where there were a few rhododendron bushes. From here on our journey was pure guesswork, but we happened to strike the right valley. After going up this for two hours we reached a fork with no indication as to which branch to take. It was very cold and pouring with rain. I sent some of the men up the most likely branch to see if they could find any indication as to the way to the pass. My Indian servant and I, who were both mountain sick, took what shelter we could among the rocks and had a calorit of hot pea-soup. I have often wondered why calorits went out of fashion. Perhaps because they had an unpleasant flavour and were more bulky than ordinary tins of food; they were, however, handy and comforting, quick to prepare, and carried their own fuel. As I have not heard of them since those days I may explain that the tin of soup or stew was surrounded by an outer tin about a quarter of an inch larger all round. This outer casing was pierced in three or four places with a skewer. This allowed two chemicals to mix and in a very short time the food inside was heated and was then opened in the ordinary way. After 2 ½ hours the men returned. They had found a single stone balanced on another and this was sufficient to indicate the road. The clue seemed slight but we followed up that valley and came on several more of these faint signs. We had to scramble over loose stones among patches of snow. Near the summit I was so bad with mountain sickness that I had to be helped up to the pass, and several of the coolies were in the same state. The fit ones left their loads at the pass and gallantly returned to carry the loads and generally assist those who were ill. The summit was 17,500 feet by my single small aneroid; but I think the pass cannot be quite so high as this.
Just over the pass we had to cross two patches of ice—small incipient or dying glaciers. We had an easier time down and soon got on to open turf which we descended until to our joy we saw a black Tibetan tent surrounded by a herd of grazing yaks. I was glad to get warm and to dry my soaking clothes before the drukpa’s fire, and here we spent the night at 16,100 feet. The next morning it cleared and I saw that the pass behind us was white with snow. Our host the drukpa said that now the pass would be closed till next July, so that my efforts to avoid the military authorities in Chumbi were of no avail!
According to my map I should have dropped straight from the Patra La into the upper Kambu valley, but this did not turn out to be so; I had to descend 3,000 feet and then rise 2,000 feet over a spur called the Gepa La before dropping into the Kambu valley itself. The latest maps are accurate compared with those available to me in 1905, and I see that the Gepa La is now marked at 15,420 feet, though no height is given for the Patra La itself.
I hope I have not exaggerated the difficulties of this pass; perhaps my impressions were coloured by mountain sickness. When all is said and done I was able with difficulty to have my pony led over the pass.
I remained in the Kambu valley for over three weeks and shot several burrhel besides pigeons and partridges for the pot. I travelled up and down the valley, moving my tent several times. Once I went up to the head of the valley, whence from a hill I had a view of the real dry Tibetan country in the direction of Kambu Dzong—such a contrast to the green hills of Kambu with the comparatively large rainfall.
I came on one curiosity in this valley. Going through a patch of fir forest at the lower end of the valley I suddenly came on a gilt turquoise-studded choten (shrine), roofed and protected from the weather on three sides but quite open in front. It was, if I remember rightly, 5 or 6 feet high and must have been of considerable value. I was told that when the Nepalese sacked Shigatse in 1790 this was removed and hidden in the valley for safety and no one had ever taken the trouble to take it back. I paid repeated visits to this valley in subsequent years, the last being in 1928; but the people professed not to know or even to have heard of such a thing. The choten may still be there. I can say from memory that it was low down on the west side of the valley.
F. M. Bailey
Made by the Ballon-Fabrikwerke, Augsburg
This is designed for regions of great cold, such as the Arctic and the high Himalaya. It insulates against cold, can be used on any kind of ground, will serve as a boat, weighs very little, and packs up very small. It consists of tubes made of rubber-cum-linen fabric, each tube being inflated either by the mouth, with bellows, or compressed air. Damage is thus localized. The arched roof, which can be fastened from inside after folding over, is secured permanently on one side. The inflation of the tubes stiffens it against collapse through external pressure. The special pattern supplied to Himalayan expeditions is a light-weight design, a rather heavier type being produced for military purposes. The former weighs just over 11 lb. and when packed measures 20" X I2"x8". Two climbers in ordinary clothing demonstrated the feasibility of occupation by two persons if necessary.
Zurich, den 6 Aug. 1952.
In reply to your letter of July 26th, I wish to inform you that our party did take with them the ‘Zelt-Schlafsacke' made by the Ballon-Fabrikwerke of Augsburg, Germany. However, they were not tried out for their real purpose, i.e. for shelter during a storm in high altitudes. They just offer enough space for one man, at the maximum for two, but no cooking apparatus can be used, they are too small. Consequently, these tents were left at Camp I, where they served to store provisions.
I wish to thank you very much for your kind words of congratulation on behalf of our party.
With very best wishes,
Schweizerische Stiftung Fuer Alpine Forschungen
The International Himalayan gathering at Munich at the end of September 1951 was a thoroughly good show; as was to be expected, very well organized. Representatives of mountaineering clubs in Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Austria were there and the Alpine and Himalayan Clubs had also their own representative. We were met individually on arrival at the Hauptbahnhof and accommodation had been arranged and paid for by our very welcoming hosts. Transport, too, was provided free throughout the three days.
Proceedings began with a stag dinner-party of some score in all, the guests being welcomed by Herren Paul Bauer, Max Mayerhofer, and Fritz Bechtold. Oral bouquets were handed round and the A.C. cum H.G. representative did his best with the limited German he speaks. He conveyed the greetings of the Alpine Club—the Himalayan Club committee having cabled their own. Politics were kept out except for the nem. con. agreement that mountaineers abhor them. Next day the conference took place, mainly on equipment, clothing, and diet. The most interesting exhibit was a combined sleeping-bag-bivouac-shelter. It is made by the Ballon-Fabrikwerke in Augsburg of cloth and rubber tubes, each inflated by a sturdy-lunged porter or climber. Two can squeeze into it and the top closes over. When occupied it seemed to me reminiscent of the old Michelin advertisement, 'Biben- dum'. I was unable to find out what happens when a real High Asian blast strikes it, but Bauer had tried it out on Nanga Parbat in 1938 and spoke well of it. It is not, however, yet in full production. Another departure, new to me, was footgear made of rubber-cum- leather fabric with nails welded in. After a very pleasant mixed lunch- party we assembled to see films of various expeditions, with running commentaries and speeches interspersed. Speaker included Bauer, Allwein-—conqueror in 1928 of Pic Kaufmann (now Pic Lenin)— Mayerhofer, and Bechtold. The latter's Nanga Parbat narrative was most moving. In the evening another mixed party dined at small tables and mingled after each course. Bed, if my memory serves, at about 3 a.m. The final day began with a unique procession of dogs, 2 miles of them, schnauzers, boxers, terriers, dachshunds, &c., and many 'any other variety5. At intervals there came big drays drawn by fine horses with glittering harness and loaded with polished barrels of Munich's many beers. At the head and at the tail of the procession rode a section of smart mounted police. Before dispersing in the late afternoon we paid a visit to the 'October Fest' which began at least 300 years ago as a sort of harvest thanksgiving and has now developed into a sort of combined Hampstead Heath, Blackpool, and Butlin's, but very orderly and extremely happy.
H. W. Tobin
With the permission and by the courtesy of The Times.
An expedition in the Himalayas is largely a transport undertaking— transport by train, boat, and lorry, then by coolies, and from the base camp it is Sherpas who have the task of carrying all the material up the mountain. The Sherpas are a caste of mountain dwellers whose main centre is at Namche Bazar. These attractive people carry on a big trade with Tibet, Nepal, and India. Men, women, and children carry everything on their backs. There do not seem to be beasts of burden in that part of the country; roads are too precipitous and pack-animals apparently too difficult to feed.
The Swiss Everest Expedition's team of Sherpas have been absolutely first class. Their sirdar, Tensing, who is in the prime of life, has taken part in more expeditions than he can remember, including four expeditions to Everest by the northern route.
There are two things one admires in these men. First is their unfailing friendliness to everyone. Year after year they travel with a variety of strange mountaineers. One of these may be surly, another a little boastful, but without any real knowledge of the mountain. The Sherpa is always the same. In camp he puts up the tents, blows up the pneumatic mattresses, fixes sleeping-bags, helps you change your shoes, prepares food, in fact does everything. If a storm has broken out he brings you hot soup or tea in your tent when you are wrapped in warm rugs. If it snows or rains he lends you his waterproof and gets wet himself. If you shiver in your warm sweaters he gets on with his work unconcerned in just a shirt. The second thing one admires in the Sherpa is the way he manages the transport of baggage up the mountain.
We climbed the tongue of the Khumbu glacier with our coolies as far as the foot of the fearful ice-fall. It was the first of three important obstacles which we had to overcome in order to reach the foot of the South Col of Everest. Two attempts by Dittert, Chevalley, Aubert, and Lambert to get through failed, and in the end we managed to construct a rope bridge. It can hardly be said that the Sherpas, in their turn, took that rope bridge 'in their stride', but they negotiated it with their heavy burdens time and again, and it was an almost unbelievable feat. Each day they left Camp I at the foot of the ice-fall, crampons on their boots, three or four roped together. Every day some of the crevasses widened, making it necessary to change route, take a new direction, look for new bridges. Half-way up the ice-fall, on a kind of platform of great given blocks, they came to a colony of seven tents. That is Camp II. From there the climb continues through a small couloir, and then begins a circuit through pyramids left by avalanches from the west spur of Everest.
This circuit would not be difficult if it meant only climbing. What is disagreeable is the constant danger of slipping and sliding, and of avalanches. We are always glad to get out of that menacing region and reach the rope bridge. There burdens are lowered and slung on the rope one after another. Then there is a further march between cracks enormous enough to contain a few apartment houses to Camp III, situated on a sloping terrace between crevasses inside the West Cwm. On this journey to Camp III enough material, equipment, and food to last twenty men for three weeks has to be carried. It has been divided into portable packs and the Sherpas carry a load each day. The sirdar Ang Tharkay, chief of Shipton's porters, said to Tensing after the 1951 reconnaissance: 'You'll never carry a single pack on the upper Khumbu glacier.' Actually the ice-fall has been climbed every day by at least six Sherpas. All my companions stand amazed at their performance.