THE MOUNTAIN WORLD, 1958-59. English Version edited by Malcolm Barnes. Pp. 208. Maps. Illus. Published for The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research by Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. 1958. 25s.
We have come to expect, I had almost said to take for granted, a very high standard from this annual publication. Such standards begin to grow demanding, for there always lurks the danger that in subsequent numbers they may not be maintained. But with each new number this publication seems to get better and better, which makes its appearance all the more eagerly awaited. Before the appearance of the present volume we learnt with deep regret of the death of the Director of the Swiss Foundation, Mr. Othmar Gurtner, in his 63rd year. As its Editor, Mr. Gurtner imbued The Mountain World with the ingredients that make it the leading mountaineering review. To Mr. Marcel Kurz, Joint Editor, and his colleagues we offer our best wishes for the continuance of the work initiated by Mr. Gurtner.
In his preface, Mr. Gurtner comments on the increase in the number of accidents in the Alps. The first two articles, profusely illustrated, deal with the Mont Blanc Tragedy of December, 1956 (by Rene Dittert), and the history of the Eigcr North Face climbs up to the tragedy of August, 1957 (by Othmar Gurtner). The latter is an interesting survey, prefaced by a discussion on the geological structure of the mountain.
Once again the Himalayas occupy a large part, almost one half, of the volume which contains accounts of expeditions to Manaslu, Gasherbrum II, Machapuchare, Bara Shigri, Broad Peak and Chogolisa. There is also an instructive paper, enriched by a distinctive map of the Khumbu glacier, by Fritz Miiller who was invited by the Swiss Foundation to join the 1956 Everest Expedition in order to carry out a programme of scientific research. During the eight months he spent in the area, between spring and late autumn, the author studied among other things the structure and movement of the glaciers around Everest.
From North America two new climbs are recorded. The first ascent of the East Peak of Mount Logan, 19,850 ft., in July, 1957 ; and a descent of the South side of Mount Rainier, 14,410 ft., in August, 1956. In Peru we have the British ascent of Huagaruncho in 1956. And in 1957, a very active year in the Peruvian Andes, the Austrian attempt on Jirishhanca, and the German expedition to the Cordillera Vilcanota. Rene Dittert describes the experiences of a small expedition to the volcanoes of Mcxico.
Some of the photographs in this volume are outstanding. There are several double plates, two triple plates and one with an unusual vertical fold-in. I have not seen in any comparable publication photographic reproduction of such exceptional quality. There is only one criticism. Juxtaposition of plates, especially where no margins are used, tends to spoil the appearance of the page and the picture (e.g. Plates 7 and 8, 20 and 22, 29 and 30, etc.).
T. H. Braham
CORONATION EVEREST. By James Morris. Pp. 144. lllus.
Faber & Faber, London. 1958. 165".
The story of Everest 1953 is so well known that any further book dealing with this subject would seem to be redundant. Hunt, Noyce and Gregory (not to mention Stobart) have all provided superb records, cach in its own way complementary to the others. James Morris, in a short, attractively written book, has succeeded in providing a dilferent kind of story. He presents us with the objectives of a reporter, at first diffidently accepted, later accorded a courteous place in the team, tackling the job of getting news home by the swiftest and safest means, always faced with the possibility of interference and interception. Descriptions of the methods he adopted to outwit his rivals, and of the swiftness and integrity of his runners makes pleasant reading. How he ultimately achieved success, exceeding his wildest hopes, by transmitting his news undisturbed to London on Coronation eve, June 1, 1953, is the climax of his story.
Certain passages in his narrative will be familiar to readers of this Journal, in which they first appeared together with accounts by members of the climbing party. Any repetition of detail in a story so well known would be out of place, and we are given instead personal impressions seen through the eyes of a reporter primarily engaged in his own duties, with here and there an incisive portrait thrown in, I like in particular the picture of Hunt on p. 62 ; and the characteristic reference to Hillary in the episode on p. 81.
Not all climbers will accept the author's analysis of the motives which attract men to the mountains ; but this is qualified by the admission that the same motives do not apply to all mountaineers. He has an amusing chapter on the Snowman and the faithful debunking thereof: and a chapter on the Sherpas. Evans, Haiclie and others who have lived in closeo contact with Sherpas for many months in their homes may or may nopt agree with his verdict on the heartiness and insensibility of the; Sherpa. But their loyalty and toughness clearly shine through tli^pir shortcomings, and the author concludes with a feeling of gratitude for having known the Sherpa as he was—a different being from tithe sophisticated, dapper, porter-cum- guide that he has become toifiay. Sola Khumbu has been the focal point of too many expeditions since those far-off days of 1953.
Above all, this book is imbued with a congenial humour that overrides the professional anxieties and unaccustomed hardships. After the return of the victorious summit party to Camp IV the author, tied to Westmacott's rope, undertook the long journey to Base Camp the same afternoon. In his description of the seemingly .endless descent of the decomposing icefall, he heartily commiserates with himself yet is able to laugh it off with the feelings of one who has obviously enjoyed having partaken of a great adventure.
T. H. Braham
CLIMBING THE FISH'S T'AIL. By Wilfrid Noyce. Pp. 150.
Maps, lllus. HeinemannU London. 1958. 18s.
Although Machapuchare (which is Nepali for ‘Fish's Tail) is less than 23,000 ft. high, it is a very impressive peak, overlooking as it does the town of Pokhara, which is a mere 3,000 ft. above sea level. This book describes an attenupt on the mountain in 1957, which was almost successful despite the fact that two members of the party were out of action for the greater part of the expedition.
The route which was follovwed could not be surveyed adequately beforehand, and the party h#d to 6 rub its nose' against the mountain before a reasonably sajfe route could be found. One is constantly struck by the frequent surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, that the mountain provided, and even more by the courage and ingenuity of the climber in overcoming technical difficulties of a very high order. It seems a pity that these qualities could not have been rewarded by complete success, but the wisdom of turning back less than 150 ft. from the top, in bad weather and on steep ice, seems obvious. (Incidentally, what were Noyce and Cox carrying in those enormous rucksacks in their attempt on the summit ?)
As a factual account of wjhat went on, this is an excellent book, but somehow it fails to ho Id the attention, and the party never really comes ' alive The English capacity for understatement is all very well, but carried too far it makes for dull reading for the non- mountaineer, at whom this book is presumably aimed, as well as at the aficionado.
This criticism can be levelled against riiany books on climbing, and in the main the fault, if not excusable, is understandable, since few climbers aspire to do more than describe their exploits in simple language. From Mr. Noyce, however, something a little bit out of the ordinary might be expected, and one puts the book down with a feeling that good as it is, it could have been a great deal better.
E. J. Clegg
MOUNTAINS AND A MONASTERY. By Peter Holmes.
Pp. 191. Maps, lllus. Bles, London. 1958. lis.
The title is misleading. The chief figures in this book are neither the mountains nor the Kee Monastery, but the people of Spiti, that little-known and desperately poor province on the far flank of the Himalayan Divide which belongs politically to India and ethno- logically to Tibet. These, that is to say, and the party of three Europeans and their ' boys' which moved among them in the summer of 1956.
Peter Holmes had been here before. In 1955 he had combined getting married with taking his finals at Cambridge and organizing a first Himalayan expedition. In this book he wisely keeps to the second journey, the official purpose of which was to fill in blanks on the map left by the first. Perhaps for that reason the book has turned out differently from what might have been expected. It is chiefly a travel rather than a mountaineering book, and the most enjoyable travel book that I have read for a long time.
It is difficult to say why. Partly perhaps because Peter Holmes is not a ‘professional' traveller but comes at the job with the unclouded eye of an observant amateur. His pictures stick in the mind: the poor, backward yet gay Pitoons, who have to send younger sons to the monastery in order to keep the population within the limits imposed by food production ; the land they live in, stark and inhospitable yet fascinating too ; the Nono, once ruler of the people and now, under India, demoted to Magistrate Third Class (Honorary); Rinsing and the other loyal servants ; above all the twelve-year-old Shiring Dawa, the boy who defied tradition, punishment, opprobrium by refusing to go to the monastery.
Into this world Peter Holmes, with his wife and brother-in-law and small entourage, moves in a friendly sort of way that gives a ring of familiarity to each scene. The narrative is unpretentious, almost colloquial, so that legend and anecdote find their place unobtrusively and carry a willing reader on to the next stage of the journey. There is more skill in the camouflage of sociological and geographical research than meets the eye. Certainly there was more skill involved in the mountaineering, which starts some three-quarters way through, than the author's modest and amusing account admits. The party was not, by modern standards, high- powered. Yet they climbed a number of new peaks around the 20,000-ft. mark at the head of the Ratang; nulla, and finished with a hair-raising first crossing of a pass which they mistakenly (from the map) imagined to be Snelson's, leading from the Parahio to the Parbati valley. This experience, involving a nightmare descent and two days without food, forms the climax to the book.
The maps are lucid, the photographs enlightening. They add clarity to a story which cannot but interest the most armchair reader in the fortunes of this strangely remote land.
MOUNTAINS AND MEMSAHIBS. By Joyce Dunsheath, Hilda Reid, Eileen Gregory and Frances Delaney. Pp. 198. Maps, lllus. Constable, London. 1958. 21s.
This is a book in the best tradition of the ‘Do It Yourself' series. Admittedly, considerable help was forthcoming from many firms and societies, but that would not have been so but for the initiative and enthusiasm of these four women in their own words, a housewife, a nursing sister, a research worker and a field geologist.
Following this theme of ‘how it is done', approximately half of the book is taken up with a description of the journey out to Manali by car undertaken by two members. This is both entertaining and delightfully descriptive while, at the same time, enough is omitted to hint at considerable problems overcome most successfully. Particularly exciting were the vignettes of life in Turkey and Persia.
There is a useful chapter on the background of the region of Spiti chosen for this two-month expedition, but a more explanatory map covering the area in general and, indeed, the various movements of the party, would have been welcome, particularly to the lay reader.
Once the four members gathered and the expedition got under way in the Bara Shigri area, the individual approach displayed by each is an interesting study. There seems to have been some 4 committee leadership' and, in fact, one can perhaps be excused for assuming that there were probably two expeditions rather than one.
However, some useful surveys were undertaken and one is left full of admiration for the courage and tenacity of all four, who certainly displayed, most effectively, that 4 it' can be done. One member, in particular, put in some very hard days and, after the main party had departed, had the great satisfaction of climbing Deo Tibba on her own, accompanied by two largely untried, if enthusiastic, Ladakhi porters.
This was obviously a wonderful experience for all four women and the detailed appendices giving particulars of ration-scales, equipment, etc. will, it is hoped, encourage others to follow suit.
One small word of concern should, it is felt, be noted by this Journal—that our illustrious President, Robert Hotz, should be disguised under such a mangled title on page 65.
A. B. Marshall
A SHORT WALK IN THE HINDU KUSH. By Eric Newby.
Pp. 247. Maps, lllus. Seeker & Warburg, London. 1958.
This must be the only book about a mountain expedition which begins in a dress-shop in London ; and the unexpected constantly crops up during this hilarious story of two novices travelling in country almost completely unknown to Europeans, and trying to climb a peak of 19,800 ft. in the Afghan Hindu Kush.
Quite apart from its light-heartedness, the author manages to tell us a great deal about the inhabitants of Nuristan. He would probably be the first to admit that he is extremely lucky to be alive to tell the tale. This is a book well worth reading.
E. J. Clegg
THE SPRINGS OF ADVENTURE. By Wilfrid Noyce. Pp. 233.
Illus. Murray. London. 1958. 18s.
Many activities indulged in by human beings for pleasure can be made to appear ridiculously eccentric by the unsympathetic; trying to kick a leather sphere between posts for example, or to knock each other unconscious with padded gloves. The more popular pleasures, however, seem to require less justification than those crazy pursuits in which people risk their lives, even slightly. The nature of mountaineering as seen by the non-climber is probably sufficiently eccentric to lead most climbers at some time to wonder why they do it, even though they may be no more introspective about their motives than the average golf player. The extent to which the individual can find a satisfactory answer to this question of motive, without being conscious that he has left unexplored many parts, probably subconscious, of a complex psychological drive, must vary from one person to another. The more easily recognizable motives dominant in particular individuals must vary also, perhaps more so in adventurous pursuits than in the simpler pleasures.
It was thought about this problem of motive that led Wilfrid Noyce to write this book, and he begins his analysis of the ‘Springs of Adventure' with the point that the satisfaction found by many in climbing is identical with that which other people find in different pursuits. His dissatisfaction with the simple answer, ‘I climb because I like it. Isn't that enough?' has led him to consider the way in which such motives as self-discipline, escape, curiosity and the multiple smaller pleasures in surroundings and the exercise of skill, are common to a variety of adventurous pursuits. The resulting book, classified by these motives, and covering the broad field of adventurous living, makes very interesting reading, and the discussion is enriched by extracts from the writings of adventurers in many fields.
Particularly enjoyable are the two chapters on ‘The Anatomy of Pleasure'. The selection of extracts is absorbing here, and it is good to see Gaston Rebuffat quoted on the sheer delight of climbing. If this level of interest is not sustained throughout the book this may be simply the result of the reader's own sympathies, or lack of them. I found the discussion of the scientific motive least satisfactory. Noyce here dismisses the idea of 4 laboratory adventure ' as not his concern, but is hard to see how this adventure of the mind can be dissociated from the urge to explore. There is probably as much common ground here as there is between other fields correlated in the book, although it is true that many people have found the marriage of scientific enquiry with enjoyable travel or mountaineering no more than uncomfortably convenient.
The vision behind this book is however broad and in many places most penetrating. It is much more than another contribution to the now large collection of literary tales of adventure. To classify it in that way would be to ignore the more serious nature of the thinking that has produced it. The climber who realizes that there is more to the relationship between men and mountains than there is to that between men and skittles will find this book of great interest.
MAP OF MOUNT EVEREST
This new map of Mount Everest (scale 1:25,000) published in 1957 jointly by the Deutscher Alpenverein, Osterreichischer Alpenverein and Deutscher Forschungsgemeinschaft is a beautiful production and a pattern for mountain cartographers. It is the first and eastern of two sheets of the Mahalangur Himal and covers the southern aspect of the Everest group from the Changri La and Pumo Ri to Baruntse, the glacier basins of the eastern tributaries of the upper Dudh Kosi, and in particular the Khumbu glacier and the Imja Khola. Based primarily on the geodetic triangulation of the Survey of India with a datum altitude of 29,028 ft. for Mount Everest, additional triangulation and most of the detailed topography are from Erwin Schneider's survey during the International Himalayan Expedition of 1955. Much of this is from stereo- photogrammetric survey as can be seen from the fine contouring. The north and east faces of Everest are from Michael Spender's photogrammctrie survey during the expedition of 1935 and from Sir Oliver Wheeler's original work during the reconnaissance expedition of 1921, the photographs of the latter being interpreted by the old Canadian method. The extreme south-east of the sheet is from Charles Evans' work in 1953. Use has also been made of a few air- photographs taken on the Houston flight to Everest in 1933 and to the excellent ones taken by the Indian Air Force in recent years. These have enabled the cartographers both to fill in the few gaps inevitable in ground stereo-photographic survey and also to interpret the rock features with accuracy. Full credit to these sources is given in the margin, but the actual interpretation of the photographs and the compilation from all the different types of material, the recognition of rock-forms, their reduction to plan, and the harmonizing of the whole map are the work of highly trained cartographers, the chief of whom appears to be Fritz Ebster. The reproduction in six colours with its perfect registration, fine contour lines and clear legibility is worthy of the fine draughtsmanship. The final map is a work of art and a delight.
A few names are not in accordance with accepted practice, but every care has been taken to get them correct. Their spelling has been controlled by our old friend Peter Aufschnaiter, who is authoritative. All should be readily acceptable by mountaineers and geographers alike.
I am told that a reviewer or critic of a work of art is not worthy of his salt unless he can pick a hole somewhere, I am unable to do so and am reduced to remark an irrelevance in the extreme bottom right-hand corner of the margin of the map. Here there is a list of the fourteen highest mountains in the world, the height of some being not quite in accord with the latest official figures issued by the Surveyor General of India. Various research workers will get slightly different values of height, but the policy of successive Surveyor Generals has been not to change the official figures until some finality is acceptable. That it is dangerous to do so is well illustrated by the persistent acceptance in some quarters of an unofficial height of 29,141 ft. for Mount Everest.