The crossing of mountain passes by kings and armies has always been a laborious affair. The most famous crossings in history are those of the Alps by Hannibal and Napoleon, but the record of Baber's winter crossing of the Afghan hills between Khorasan and Kabul, a less historic exploit, is yet one which exhibits the qualities of a modern mountaineering party.
It was in December 1506. He writes in his memorable memoirs:
The winter was come, and the snow began to fall in the mountains that separated me from my dominions. . . . Leaving Langer-Mir-Ghias, and passing the villages on the border of Gharjestam, we reached Ghakeheran. The farther we advanced the deeper was the snow. Two or three days after we had passed Chakeheran the snow became excessively deep: it reached up above the stirrups. In many places the horses hoofs did not reach the ground, and the snow still continued to fall. When we passed Ghiraghdan, the snow not only continued deep, but we did not know the road.-One Sultan Pashai was our guide . . . having once lost the road, he never found it again. . . . The road was not to be found with all our exertions, and we were brought to a complete stand. Seeing no remedy left, we returned back to a place where there was abundance of fire wood, and despatched sixty or seventy chosen men to return by the road we had come, and retracing our footsteps to find, under the high grounds, any Hazaras or other people who might be wintering there, and to bring a guide who was able to point out the way. We halted at this sp>ot for three or four days. They did indeed come back, but without having been able to find a proper guide. Placing our reliance on God therefore, and sending our Sultan Pashai before us, we again advanced by that very road in which formerly we had been stopped and forced to return. In the few days that followed many were the difficulties and hardships which we endured; indeed, such hardships and sufferings as I have scarcely undergone at any other period of my life. It was at this time that I composed the following verses:
(Turki): ‘There is no violence or injury of fortune
that I have not experienced;
This broken heart has endured them all.
Alas! is there one left that I have
not encountered ?'
And that from a hardy prince who, since the age of thirteen, had lost and won kingdoms in Central Asia in scores of battles and skirmishes. He writes on.
For about a week we continued pressing down the snow, without being able to advance more than a Kos [2 miles) or a Kos and a half. I myself assisted in depressing the snow. Accompanied by ten or fifteen of my household and two or three servants, we all dismounted and worked in beating down the snow. Every step we sank up to the middle or breast, but we still went on trampling it down. As the vigour of the person who went first was generally expended after he had advanced a few paces, he stood still, while another advanced and took his place.
The future emperor of Hindustan thus learnt and noted the difficulties of stamping out a snow-path in the high hills 450 years ago.
The rest of the troops, even our best men, and many that bore the Title of Beg, without dismounting, advanced along the road that had been beaten for them, hanging down their heads. This was no time for plaguing them or employing authority. Every man who possesses spirit or emulation hastens to such works of himself.
Here was the understanding of a born leader of men of action.
Continuing to advance by a track which we had beaten in the snow in this manner, we proceeded by a place named Anjukan, and in three or four days reached a Khawal, or cave, called Khawal-Kuti, at the foot of the Zirrin Pass. That day the storm of wind was dreadful. The snow fell in such quantities that we all expected to meet death together. When we reached this Khawal the storm was terribly violent. We halted at the mouth of it. The first of the troops reached the Khawal while it was yet daylight. About evening and night prayers the troops ceased coming in; after which every man was obliged to halt where he happened to be. Many men waited for morning on horseback. The Khawal seemed to be small. I took a hoe, and having swept away the snow, made for myself at the mouth of the cave, a resting place about the size of a prayer-carpet. . . . This hole afforded me some shelter from the wind, and I sat down in it. Some desired me to go into the cavern, but I would not go. I felt, that for me to be in a warm dwelling, and in comfort, while my men were in the midst of snow and drift—for me to be within, enjoying sleep and ease, while my followers were in trouble and distress, would be inconsistent with what I owed them, and a deviation from that society in suffering that was their due. It was right that whatever their sufferings and difficulties were and whatever they might be obliged to undergo, I should be a sharer with them. There is a Persian proverb, that 4Death in the company of friends is a feast5. I continued, therefore, to sit in the drift, in the sort of hole which I had dug out for myself, till bedtime prayers, when the snow fell so fast, that as I remained sitting crouching down on my feet, I now found that four inches of snow had settled on my head. That night I caught a cold in my ear. About bed-time prayers a party, after having surveyed the cave, reported that the Khawal was very extensive, and was sufficiently large to receive all our people. As soon as I learnt this, I shook off the snow that was on my head and face, and went into the cave. I sent to call in all such of the people as were at hand. A comfortable place was found within for about 50 or 60 people, . . . and thus raped from the terrible cold, and snow, and drift, into a wonderfully : 177:; and comfortable place, where we could refresh ourselves.
Next morning the snow and tempest ceased. Moving early, we trampled down the snow in the old way, and made a road. We reached the Baladaban. Before we reached the Parjan-daban, the day closed on us. We halted in the defiles of the valley. The cold was dreadful, and we passed that night in great distress and misery. Many lost their hands and feet from the frost. Kupek lost his feet, Siyunduk Turkoman his hands, and Akbu his feet, from the cold of the night. Early next morning we moved down the glen. Although we knew that this was not the usual road, yet, placing our trust in God, we advanced down the valley, and descended by difficult and precipitous places. It was evening prayer before we extricated ourselves from the mouth of the valley. It is not in the memory of the oldest man, that this pass had ever been descended, when there was so much snow on the ground; nay, it was never known that anybody even conceived of passing it at such a season.
Then to the flesh-pots, as with most of us.
It was bed-time prayers when we reached Yake-anleng and halted. . . . To pass from the cold and snow into such a village and its warm houses, on escaping from want and suffering, to find such plenty of good bread and fat sheep as we did, is an enjoyment that can be conceived only by such as have suffered similar hardships or endured such heavy distress.
The foregoing account strikes one as an interesting episode in the intrepid life of a prince who was a joyous adventurer, one who lived and fought in the mountain kingdoms beyond the Hindu Kush, which he loved, yet ended his days by establishing a great empire in the plains of Hindustan which he detested Tor three reasons, its heat, its hot winds and its dust5. All that is now old history, but Baber's crossing of the Zirrin Pass surely rouses the admiring interest of contemporary mountaineers. He would have made a grand leader of a Himalayan expedition in our times.
A. D. Moddie B.
Tht author of this article was a member of the German expedition which attempted Aunga Parbat in 1939. He was interned during the war at Dehra Dun, escaped, and in company with another internee, made his way to Lhasa where he was employed by the Tibetan Government. He returned to India a few months ago, and in this artkle he describes an attempt—unsuccessful but exciting—on one of the Himalayan peaks.
When in 1939 I left Europe for Nanga Parbat, I hoped it would be the first of many Himalayan climbs. Though, in the meantime, have seen most of the giants, l have never had the fortune to try another one again. Seven years with Peter Aufschnaiter in Tibet, without serious climbing, was tantalizing; lack of equipment frustrated all longings. When some months back I left Tibet and met Frank Thomas, he suggesting trying to climb Panch Ghuli in Almora District. It was so tempting, that I immediately went to Darjeeling to buy old equipment from Sherpas, on top of which I borrowed some more from the Himalayan Club and Thomas.
I think there is no other big mountain closer to a city than Panch Ghuli is to Delhi. In one week you can reach the Base Camp. The train brings you to Tanakpur whence a bus goes to Pithoragarh in one day—sometimes it does, sometimes not. My bus stopped in the middle of the jungle and all the fame Indian drivers have in Europe —that they can repair any motor damage with a wire and a cigarette tin—was of no avail, when the driver murmured 'piston hogia5. Hogia it was, and how, the next day, I covered 90 miles in fourteen hours, is a story by itself.
From Pithoragarh onwards there is only a bridle-path for the next 50 miles; then you reach Madkhot at the entrance of the valley coming down from Panch Chuli. Here I met our Sherpas Gyaljen and Lhakpa. After a steep ascent we reached the last inhabited place, Jilkhot. From here onwards it was unexplored and practically trackless. It was always interesting; up and down it went, crawling through bamboo and rhododendron, climbing rock and grass slopes, often wondering where the path would continue. Gay-coloured birds tried hard to make themselves heard in the rushing noise of waterfalls, and once I frightened a bear from his bamboo meal. The deafening noise of the glacier torrent drowned all speech. A pleasant surprise was a hot spring amidst old oaks and giant rhododendrons.
Above the tree line it got even more interesting. The glacier terminal was well below 10,000 feet and must be one of the lowest- reaching glaciers in the Himalayas. Kailas Sahni of the Forest Research Institute in Dehra Dun, who joined us later, collected nearly 400 different flowers around here, and a hunter, too, would have found his thrills.
For me, of course, there was foremost the excitement of finding a route which would enable us to reach the summit. Panch Chuli, 22,650 feet high, had been tried by Scots, Australian, and South African expeditions, but none had reached very high, owing to technical difficulties. The local population, whether Indian or Tibetan, said it was impossible, because of the guarding gods.
There was a tiny place in the gorge-like valley, at 13,500 feet, -here among dwarf junipers I decided to establish the Base Camp. This was already on the second terrace, above the first ice-fall, of v.-hich there are three before reaching a huge basin west of the mountain.
By 3rd June, when Thomas joined me at the Base Camp, I had found a route to the Basin and even brought up some of our things. We left the same day to reach the second terrace above the second glacier fall. We crossed many avalanche fans, but otherwise there were no technical difficulties. To find a safe place on the second terrace for our tents was difficult. We finally decided on a site under a rock several hundred foot high, almost vertical. It snowed all night and half of the next day. Our camp was rather a noisy place; from the eastern slopes avalanches roared down, but all were nicely canalized into chutes, only to fan out in cones, to stop a few yards from our tents. There was also the continuous thunder of the seracs breaking loose from the 2,500-foot high third glacier fall. They, too, however, left us in peace, though once we got the blast of an exceptionally big one.
To overcome the third ice-fall and reach the Basin needed some technical work. When reconnoitring with the Sherpas I had climbed a ioo-foot high vertical rock face, but there we had to heave the rucksacks separately, and now the heavy loads would have given great trouble. Moreover, for some rope-lengths it continued to be difficult and exposed and so I had decided for the big chute. All the huge steps I had some days back cut into the frozen waterfall of the chute had disappeared and so I had to make them all over again. Fortunately there was a huge boulder squeezed into the chute, which gave absolute protection from avalanches for people standing under it.
I had nearly finished cutting the new steps when the well-known thunder of an avalanche reached me from above. Relying on my ice-axe, I hurried a few steps to the left and hardly had I rammed in my ice-axe, when the avalanche roared past me for what seemed an eternity. Only the smaller debris rushed over me, shaking my hold and reminding me of the Eiger North Wall, where we endured for hours the same ordeal. Using the interval before the next avalanche, Thomas and the Sherpas followed quickly. We traversed some more steep slopes and ravines till we reached the huge snow couloir leading up to the Basin without difficulty. Once an avalanche made us give way to the right, but that one proved even useful, having given us a hard track which brought us soon to the Basin.
It was a perfectly clear day, the summit with its approaches looked promisingly down on us; all were happy and content. The camp site was safe and we had a wonderful view of the huge Basin, feeding the only outlet from all sides, probably the reason why the glacier reaches so far down into the forest.
Next morning I went again ahead to do the weary work of making a track in the deep snow. Climbing gradually, I reached, after a mile or so, the foot of the giant slope, nearly 3,000 feet high, which would bring us to the foot of the last pyramid. Knee-deep, at times hip-deep, it took us the whole day to get to a place where we were fairly safe, half-way up the slope. The tents were protected by a solid looking serac, and huge crevasses above it would prevent big avalanches from making a surprise visit. I was tired and so must have been the Sherpas who did a wonderful job by going the whole distance twice, carrying loads.
The next day saw us doing the same work. At some places the slopes were so steep and the snow so powdery that I feared the worst. These are difficult moments to make up one's mind. There have been so many disasters; to return, however, would be the cause of endless self-reproaches too. Anyhow, everything went all right and in the early afternoon we reached a most beautifully situated little plateau. Nearly 20,000 feefehigh, we had the pyramid- shaped summit of our ambition standing close by; Nanda Devi with her satellites, together with us, stood above a solid sea of fog, submerging everything mortal, leaving only the glorious peaks of the Himalayas to savour the warmth of the setting sun. The gigantic South Ridge, with the glacier shooting down for 10,000 feet, in one single sweep, were unforgettable sights.
Only slow progress was made next day; the rarefied air and the tracking in the deep snow, radiating terrific heat into one's face, made themselves felt. One could get the skin blistered by the sun and the toes frozen by the snow, all at the same moment. At noon, fog closed in and we were forced to pitch tents. We knew we were already close to the ridge we had chosen, and though we had to put our tents near some crevasses we saw, later on when it cleared up, that we were in quite a safe spot.
We decided to make an attempt on the summit next day. We had food only for a few days more and we had never intended to beleaguer the mountain. Though there was still some fog, I went with Lhakpa to make the track as high up as possible. Tomorrow it would be difficult enough, when we wanted to reach the summit and come back to the camp. For one hour it was good going, but then it got so steep that we had to retreat and put on crampons.
There was no snow, but the ice was softened by the sun and the crampons alone did the job, without the necessity of steps. Every 40 feet or so I cut a stand for rest and to secure my Sherpa. After a few rope-lengths we returned to the tents.
Thomas volunteered for the most troublesome job—to wake us at 2 a.m. and make tea with Gyaljen. It was the cold morning of 10th July; Thomas and Gyaljen must have been cooking all night because we were on our way up the track well before dawn. Soon we were at the foot of the pyramid; we fixed our crampons. When I tried the first steps, it was incomparably more difficult than the day before. The surface was as hard as glass. We continued however for some rope-lengths till it got steeper and steeper. Crystal-clear ice from the stand I was hacking jingled down on my comrades; suddenly I saw Thomas slip with his crampons. Gyaljen, who was roped to him, immediately started sliding too, but Thomas, with great presence of mind and skill, arrested the accelerating movement with his ice- axe. Gyaljen had had enough and so Thomas conducted him down to a safe place. I waited with Lhakpa for Thomas to join our rope.
When after some time he did not return, I traversed a bit downward to a tiny black rock, peeping through the ice, where it was not so tiring to stand. When Lhakpa followed, he, too, slipped, swinging wildly and yelling, probably thinking it wras his end. However, I had no difficulty in holding him, but it was the signal to give up. Thomas and Gyaljen were already traversing through the Basin at the foot of the west-wall towards the North Ridge.
Lhakpa and myself followed them and, reaching the sun on the saddle at the foot of the North Ridge, I had to take off my boots to rub my already blue and red and swollen toes. We had a good look at the North Ridge, which was almost as steep as the Western one, which had just repulsed us. On our return, the sun had reached the western side of the mountain and was reflected as though in a mirror; photographs which were taken without a polarizing filter showed only blank spots.
We packed immediately and went half-way down the slope the same day. Shortly before reaching the camp site, Lhakpa, who was standing above me, suddenly threw himself down in order to slide down the extremely steep slope with his heavy load. The moment he had done it, there was a thud and the whole slope to the right of my stand went down with him. When the rope tightened and I thought that I held him, the pull also loosened my side of the slope and down we went together. Tumbling and pushing the snow-blocks under us, we came to a stand still after a few seconds; Lakhpa was there beside me and all we had lost was his ice-axe.
There were no more incidents till we reached the chute next day. One week of good weather on the mountain had melted all the ice in the chute and now there was a waterfall there. Everyone and everything was roped down the overhanging boulder in a few hours and when we reached the Base Camp safely, exactly ten days after leaving it, we could call our climb a successful one, having all four returned without major harm.
To reach the summit of one of the Himalayan peaks, even a lower one like our Panch Chuli, needs careful planning in every detail; the slightest error or underestimation brings failure. We mountaineers are thankfull that it is so, and for many generations to come there will remain unclimbed peaks to fulfil the longings in the youth of all nations for peaceful adventure.
A Japanese reconnaissance party of six members2 including two scientists and one medical doctor left Kathmandu on 14th September 1952 with the object of exploring the Manaslu area, especially the Buri Gandaki side of the mountain, and collecting specimens and materials there in the field of natural history. Led by Dr. K. Imanishi, Professor of Animal Ecology at the Kyoto University, the party concentrated the first part of its journey on the Marsyandi side of Annapurna; it attempted first Annapurna IV following the Tilman's route of 1950. The attempt, however, was frustrated by a heavy snowfall. The Japanese team, therefore, returned from 5,700 metres at the foot of the first ice-step. The ropes fixed there by the Tilman party still remained intact, and an axe-head which had been left by the same party was recovered by our party. Before the team turned to Manaslu, they climbed Chulu [c. 6,200 metres) on the northern side of the Marsyandi valley. Three camps were pitched at 5,300, 5,500 and 5,850 metres, respectively; the 'Waldgrenze' was passed at 4,500 and the 'Schneegrenze’ at 5,500 metres. Ascent was made on 23rd October without technical difficulties.
On the return journey to Thonje, one group of three members traced part of the route to Namun Bhanjyang to photograph the western face of Manaslu.
The monsoon was already over. In the forests the crimson foliage of creepers and the yellow leaves of birches and maples looked beautiful under the blue sky, but the only flower especially impressive in the season was the purplish gentian. The party ascended along the Dudh Khola. Some Bhutias were still found at Bimtakhoti as Larkya Bhanjyang had been opened for yak, zho, and sheep caravans. On 9th November the party crossed the pass, the watershed of which was covered by a thin layer of fresh snow.
Observable from the Sama side of the pass through the glaciers and snow-clad slopes was a direct route to the upper plateau region of Manaslu. It was inferred that this route is more advantageous; for the two cols, one of which is situated between the main peak of Manaslu and the northern peak and the other between the northern peak and its spur, can be used to set up advanced bases. This route may probably be the one discovered by Major Roberts and was later described by Mr. Tilman in his book, Nepal Himalaya (p. 201).
The Base Camp was established at Sama. The north-eastern face of Manaslu had been continuously explored until this camp was evacuated on 29th November. The porters were recruited from Lidanda, as Sama was badly infested with typhoid fever. The water of the Buri Gandaki receded and permitted passage on the winter route along the riverside. Since the corn and rice fields were cleared and dried up, any spot could be used as a camping-ground. Near Arughat Bazar, butterflies and dragonflies were again found active. The party returned to Kathmandu on 15th December.
From the experience of this expedition, the Himalayan Committee of the Japanese Alpine Club decided to send another party in 1953 to scale Manaslu from the Sama side in the pre-monsoon season.
My old friend Colonel Schomberg's note on K2 in the Himalayan Journal, vol. xvii, 1952, is misleading and incorrect in more than one particular. Godwin-Austen was not cthe great man who first saw and mapped it'. Captain T. G. Montgomerie is the first recorded Britisher to have seen it and to have recognized its great height; this was from his triangulation station Haramukh in Kashmir in 1858; it was seen again by the Shelvertons in 1858 and 1859, and its height and position were fixed from their and other contemporary observations. Both height and position were known to Godwin Austen when he made his rapid reconnaissance of the Baltoro glacier in 1861.1
Younghusband in 1887 was the first European to cross the Muztagh pass, shown very tentatively and not very accurately from hearsay on Godwin-Austen's plane-table; and he was the first recorded European to see K2 from the north. It was during the discussion2 after Younghusband's lecture to the Royal Geographical Society on 14th May 1888 on his great journey across Central Asia in 1887, that General J. T. Walker made a suggestion, on the spur of the moment (and it was only a suggestion), that K2 'should be known as Peak Godwin-Austen, after the officer who first surveyed the Mustagh range and glaciers'. Godwin-Austen, who was present, had already spoken and given a brief account of his work in 1861 'when serving under Captain Montgomerie' and admitted that 'the position of K2 had been fixed by Captain Montgomerie's assistants5. With the exception of Sir Henry Rawlinson, no one else present supported General Walker's suggestion, which in fact was not approved by the Royal Geographical Society and was definitely rejected by the Surveyor-General of India and by the Indian Government.
Towards the end of his long life I discussed this question with Godwin-Austen. He told me definitely (i) that before the R.G.S. meeting he had no idea that General Walker would make his suggestion; (ii) that he had never wished his name to be attached to the mountain; (iii) that he was against the use of personal names for Himalayan or Karakoram peaks, with the exception of 'Mount Everest'; (iv) that if any personal name were given, it should be Montgomerie's, not his.
How wise has been the decision of our predecessors in the Survey of India not to scatter personal names over the maps of the Himalayas and Karakoram! Farther north Soviet Russia has expunged the personal names applied by Imperial Russia, and moves those of more recent 'heroes5 about like pawns according to whether they are in political favour or not. Moreover, K2 is established in all the literature of the Karakoram for nearly a hundred years. It was used by Conway who led the first mountaineering expedition to the region and it was so shown on his map in 1892; by the Pfannl- Guillarmod-Eckenstein expedition; by the Duke of the Abruzzi in 1909; by all his and the Duke of Spoleto's assistants; and by the many recent expeditions. K2 is not an elusive but a dominating mountain; it stands in almost international ground. It is indeed now so well known that porters who go there with expeditions from all sides refer to it as Kechu, Cheku, and even as Kechu Kangri. If a name must be given, the last mentioned, meaning 'the K2 ice- mountain', seems most appropriate, for it records the fact that its height and position were known, and that the mountain was seen, before any European had any idea of going near it, and before its nearest inhabitants were in the least interested in it.