Himalayan Journal vol.22
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.22

Publication year:
1960

Editor:
Dr K. Biswas
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. INDIANS ON MOUNT EVEREST, 1960
    (BRIGADIER GYAN SINGH)
  3. AMA DABLAM, 1959
    (J. H. EMLYN JONES)
  4. ANNAPURNA II, 1960
    (Lt.-Col. J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  5. DHAUL AGIRI, 1959
    ( DHAUL AGIRI, 1959)
  6. DHAULAGIRI, THE 'WHITE MOUNTAIN': A CHRONICLE OF THE 1960 EXPEDITION
    (KURT DIEMBERGER)
  7. THE ASCENT OF MASHERBRIJM
    (THOMAS F. HORNBEIN, M.D.)
  8. YUGOSLAV EXPEDITION TO TRISUL GROUP, 1960
    (A. KUNAVER)
  9. SIKKIM, 1960
    (H. V. R. IENGAR)
  10. ACROSS THE INNER LINE
    (ANNE DAVIES)
  11. SURVEY OF KASHMIR AND JAMMU, 1855 TO 1865
    (COLONEL R. H. PHILLIMORE, C.I.E., D.S.O.)
  12. WANDERING IN THE HIMALAYAS
    (FUKATA KYUYA)
  13. A SMALL EXPEDITION TO GANESH HIMAL
    (P. J. WALLACE)
  14. NORTH-EAST OF POKHARA
    (GORDON JONES)
  15. DISTEGHIL S AR, 1960
    (GUNTHER STARKER)
  16. THE ASCENT OF TRIVOR
    (WILFRID NOYCE)
  17. HIMALAYAN SCIENTIFIC AND MOUNTAINEERŽING EXPEDITION, 1960-61
    (NORMAN HARDIE)
  18. A HIGH WALK IN THE CENTRAL HIMALAYA
    (A. D. MODDIE)
  19. ASCENT OF NOSHAQ
    (DR. YAJIRO SAKATO)
  20. OBITUARY
  21. REVIEWS
  22. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1959-60

REVIEWS

PILGRIMAGE FOR PLANTS. By Frank Kingdon-Ward, O.B.E., M.A., F.L.S., Y.M.H. George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd.,

London.

In the 15 chapters and 187 pages the author has dealt with in a nutshell his experience and association with some of the striking plants studied by him in the field during his many adventurous expeditions and journeys in the far-flung mountainous countries of East Asia for a period of over 45 years. His notes based on personal observations on some of the alpine, sub-alpine and temperate rain orests are of considerable scientific value. The seeds collected during Kingdon-Ward's plant-hunting expeditions proved to be a valuable asset not only to the horticulturists in the United Kingdom but also to the botanists and gardeners in other countries overseas, where most of these ornamental exotics have been successfully introduced, acclimatized and grown much to the advancement of horticultural science. His notes on the habitat and distribution of some of the most beautiful flowering trees, shrubs and herbs are extremely valuable to systematic botanists and phytogeographers. His field observations on magnolia, cherry (Prunus) trees, blue poppies (Meconopsis), enchanting primulas, magnificent rhododendrons, lilies, dazzling blue gentians, musk plant (Mimulus moschatus), attractive slipper orchids, glorious Rima dogwood (Cornus chinensis) and coffin-trees supply inexhaustive materials for solution of the much-vexed botanical problems of endemism and migration of species. The subject also provides ample food for thought to all plant lovers and field botanists.

Frank Kingdon-Ward's venture risking his life many a time with his equally adventurous wife, Jean Kingdon-Ward, led to the discovery of many plants new to science, several unknown rivers and ranges of mountains on the border of North Assam, Burma and China. Both took infinite pains and underwent great hardship with a view to tracing the wild 'Tea plant'. His dramatic discovery of the large-fruited Camelia species, a doubtful ancestor of the cultivated species Thea sinensis, while camping near the Glo lake atDapha Bum near the head of the Kamlang in Sadiya, North Assam, offers an interesting hypothesis which is worth exploring by prolonged field research and phytogeographical and cytogenetical investigation.

His enormous collection of fruits and seeds during a period of over four decades found their way into numerous gardens in Europe. Some of them even are now found growing almost wild along the roadsides in England and Scotland. All these flowers immortalize Frank Kingdon-Ward's achievements much to the admiration and respect of his many friends and horticulturists at home and abroad who happen to know Kingdon-Ward-the world-famous naturalist and the plant collector of the highest order.

Valuable suggestions given in the concluding chapter on 'Geography and Living Standards' deserve careful consideration by all concerned. He remarks: 6 So far as the actual species are concerned, the foundation of forestry is botany. Botanic gardens, herbaria and research institutions are essential tools for the exploration and utilization of forests; the correct identification of species is a strict necessity. But with the material and literature so widely scattered as it is today, and the changing modern nomenclature of species, this becomes ever more difficult. The amount of time, money and human effort wasted because of wrong identifications, or because people are really discussing two different plants, is almost incredible. However, today the time and expense involved in building up a modern research centre have made such an enterprise a rather remote possibility, although, of course, in India (e.g. Dehra Dun, Calcutta Botanic Garden and many other places),. Singapore, Java (Buitenzorg-modern Bogor-was the finest tropical botanic garden in the world), and elsewhere, such research stations have long existed, but need to be kept up to date. Recourse must therefore be had to other means. It is suggested that a botanist from each country of South-east Asia might be attached to one or other of the botanical institutions in Europe, where he would have access to the collections of Asiatic plants and their literature, and then act as liaison between the European pool of knowledge and his own Government institution, while working on the materials for a Flora. The ideal to be aimed at would of course be a Flora for each sovereign State, or at least regional Floras. (There would have to be several of these for Burma alone.) While there exist for India a number of good regional Floras (none of them very modern, however), and a comprehensive, though still less up-to-date, Flora of India, there is very little of the sort in existence for the other countries of South-east Asia. Ceylon and Malaya have their Floras -the former far from up to date-and the magnificent Flora Malesiana is appearing periodically. But much remains to be done elsewhere, especially in the realm of local Floras which could be used in schools. For, unless interest can be aroused in the young,, the required number of biologists in general, and of botanists in particular, to study and make use of the rich tropical vegetation will never be forthcoming.' This valuable advice needs special attention of the botanists and administrators of South-east Asia, particularly of India where along with the progress in other fields, Herbaria and Botanic Gardens demand special attention in order to preserve them properly and bring them up to the highest standard.

The biographical Introduction by William T. Stearn and the list of Kingdon-Ward's publications and index are valuable additions to the book and these are very useful indeed to botanists and horticulturists.

The printing of the book is good and the photos and sketches are excellent.

The book deserves to be widely read with profit and pleasure.

K. Biswas

COMMON MEDICINAL PLANTS OF DARJEELING AND SIKKIM HIMALAYA. By Dr. K. Biswas, M.A., D.Sc. (Edin.), F.R.S.E., F.N.I., F.A.S., F.B.S., Ex-Superintendent, Indian Botanic Garden, Calcutta, and Director, Medicinal Plants, Government of West Bengal. Pp. vi + 157, Government of West Bengal, Commerce and Industries Department. Superintendent, Government Printing, West Bengal Government Press, Alipore, West Bengal. 1956. Rs.l or lis. 3d.

Dr. K. Biswas has written a valuable book on ' Common Medicinal Plants of Darjeeling and the Sikkim Himalaya' with a Foreword by Lt.-Colonel Sir R. N. Chopra, Kt., C.I.E., Sc.D. (Cantab.), F.R.C.P. (Lond.), F.N.I., etc. The book is composed of 157 pages, 9 photographs of vegetation of Darjeeling and Sikkim and pen-ink sketches of 50 species of medicinal plants.

It has been published at a time when botanists, pharmacologists, chemists and industrialists are taking a great deal of interest for identifying and utilizing the indigenous and exotic plants for the manufacture of herbal remedies for human ailments. Mountaineers are more and more keen in knowing the properties of such plants in order to use them in inaccessible areas, if and when occasion arises.

From a very remote past the Himalayas are known to be very rich in medicinal plants. In recent years several foreign and local expeditions have been made for the collection of useful plants from the remote regions of the Himalayas. In this context this treatise by Dr. Biswas will be a valuable guide for location and collection of medicinal plants, some of which are yet to be studied thoroughly by botanists, pharmacologists and chemists to assess their proper medicinal properties. His interest in this aspect of botanical studies principally arose from his long association with the famous Indian Botanic Garden, Calcutta, as its first Indian Superintendent and worthy inheritor of the celebrated botanists like Roxburgh, Wallich, Griffith, King, Prain, Gage and others. Dr. Biswas is at present Director, Medicinal Plants, Government of West Bengal. Thus he has, in his various capacities, been able to gather sufficient information on the flora, ecology and geographical distribution of plants in the Sikkim Himalayas.

The book has six chapters dealing with different aspects of the vegetation. The first chapter begins with the historical background of some of the plants which were then known and used by the ancient people for healing diseases with charms and spells as prevalent at the early period of civilization. It also gives a concise account of the present-day common indigenous plants used by the local people in these hilly areas. Important works on Indian medicinal plants have been briefly described in the next chapter, pointing out the need for further detailed studies in the systematics, life- history and ecology of medicinal plants in these and adjoining regions. In chapter III general features of. the vegetation of Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas have briefly been dealt with for the benefit of those who might be travelling in these mountains and are interested in the medicinal plants occurring in their natural habitats. The position of cinchona cultivation and the limitation of the output of this vegetable drug in view of the present uses of the synthetic substitutes for quinine has also been mentioned in this chapter. Chapters IV and V deal with classification and nomenclature and glossary of botanical terms which will undoubtedly be helpful to those interested in medicinal plants and their identification. The last chapter presents a systematic enumeration of the plants of Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas. About 147 species of medicinal plants have been described briefly with their diagnostic characters, distribution and parts used for medicinal purposes. It is a handy publication for collection and specific determination of medicinal plants common in the East Himalaya.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that the treatise is an embodiment of profound knowledge in dealing with the flora of the Eastern Himalayas which the author has been studying since the beginning of his career as a botanist. I congratulate Dr. Biswas for his endeavour in bringing out such a valuable treatise which will inspire others to take interest in the plant resources of our country.

S. M. SARCAR

FLORA OF AFGHANISTAN. Published by the Committee of the Kyoto University Scientific Expedition to the Karakoram and

Hindu Kush. Kyoto University. 1960.

This is a botanical publication which embodies the results of Kyoto University's scientific expedition to the Karakoram and Hindu Kush. The temperate and alpine plants dealt with in the book are, therefore, of considerable interest to the mountaineers. This magnificent volume of 486 pages contains one full-page coloured plate, two maps and forty beautiful photographs and also pen-ink sketches of all the plants new to science described in detail in Latin in conformity to the rules of ' International code of botanical nomenclature '.

The plants recorded in the volume were collected by the members of the expedition to the Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains. The leader of the expedition was Hitoshi Kihara, D.Sc., Director of the National Institute of Genetics. The Hindu Kush team consisted of seven members of the different university staff of Japan, namely Hitoshi Kihara, Siro Kitamura, Kosuke Yamashita, Shinobu Iwamura, Tadashi Yamazaki, Tadao Umesao and Takashi Oka- zaki. The Karakoram team was composed of five members, namely Kinji Imanishi, Susumu Matsushita, Kazuo Huzita, Sasuke Nakao and Naohilco Harada.

The flora of Afghanistan has been treated exhaustively under three chapters, namely Introduction, Phytogeography and Enumeration of the flowering plants. List of Literature and Index have also been added. This volume is the most important contribution towards the advancement of our knowledge of the flora of Afghanistan. The plants of Afghanistan were studied by E. Boissier in his famous volumes entitled ' Flora Orientalis ', J. E. Aitchison, the English Surgeon-Major, and several others in the past, as mentioned in the book, but never so exhaustively the plants of the two mountains were treated as in the present volume. Hence this volume fulfils a long-felt want in the floristic studies of plants of Afghanistan. Observations on the phytogeography, the endemism and the distribution of floras are original contributions which throw much light on the difficult problem of migration of plants in this part of the world. Cryptogamic flora has been left out, but this will perhaps be the subject of study in future by some of the enthusiastic workers whose botanical exploration has resulted in the production of such a splendid volume.

In its synopsis the floristics has been summarized as follows:

‘Ferns are few. The rarity is due to the arid climate. Gymnosperms are represented by 14 species and are mainly Himalayan, and some of them are found in China. In the greater part of Afghanistan, the climate is too arid for the distribution of tall trees. The Himalayan members immigrated rather recently and have not changed in the new habitats. Monocotyledons are few. They are represented by 397 species, including 165 species of the Gramineae which are well represented, and the most advanced family of the anemophyllous are also well represented. The Orchidaceae which are the most advanced family of the entomophyllous monocotyledons have many genera and the species in the adjacent land, India, are very poorly represented, because of the aridity. Other monocotyledons, which are mainly either hygrophyllous or old primitive groups, are few in Afghan flora. Among dicotyledons, Choripetalae, the assemblages of the orders with free petals, are represented by 1,254 species and not so well developed as compared with Sympetalae, the assemblages of the orders with united petals. The latter are represented by 1,015 species'.

Notes on Subtropical zone (400 m.-l,200 m.), Warm temperate zone (1,200 m.-2,400 m.), Stepping-stone, Cold temperate zone (2,400 m.-3,600 m.), Subtropical zone (Chaga-sarai 820 m.-Gossalik 1,020 m.), Warm temperate zone (Gossalik 1,020 m.-2,000 m.), Cold temperate zone (2,000 m.-3,000 m.), Alpine zone (300 m. upwards). Floristic analysis and Comparison between the Afghan flora and the Japanese flora are valuable additions indeed, which offer considerable materials for floristic researches.

The book is extremely useful for mountaineers, students, teachers and research workers in Botany. It is of particular interest to the systematic botanists all over the world. The book will undoubtedly be a valuable possession to the botanical libraries and herbaria interested in the flora of the mountains of Afghanistan in particular and Central Asia in general.

LURE OF EVEREST. By Brigadier Gyan Singh. The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Delhi. 1961. Rs. 12.50.

This is the story of the Indian Expedition to Mount Everest in 1960. When some of us British climbers who had followed the blossoming of Indian Himalayan mountaineering with sympathy and admiring interest heard the Indians were going to Everest in 1960, it was difficult to resist the thought that this was a premature move, made more in the interests of national pride than in the development of Indian mountaineering along sound and non- sensational lines. There seemed little doubt that given good management, weather and luck some Sherpa gladiators could be placed on or near the summit but the value, to Indian mountaineering, of such a costly undertaking was less obvious.

And such thoughts would have been further strengthened had one had the privilege of following then the events so vividly described in the early chapters of Brigadier Gyan Singh's book: The Training Course; 'for many of the students it was their first experience of an ice-fall'. And reading of the various events and crises connected with the preparations phase and the collection! of equipment, told with a freshness of approach how difficult for a British writer to emulate, one can sympathize with the Swiss friend whose hair, on p. 34, 'stands on end' when he learns of the problem faced by the Brigadier and his gallant band of innocents.

We were wrong. Owing to impossible weather conditions the first assault group had to turn back at a height of 28,300 ft. and the second never got started from the South Col. But the height attained, and that this was short of the summit, is much less significant than the fact that ' Sherpa gladiators' apart, four climbers whom one must describe in this context as a 6 non-hillman' (for lack of a better term) reached the South Col or beyond. And on the morning of May 24 Kumar's party had nine Sherpas capable of continuing from the Col to Camp VII: on May 25 Kohli retained five of his twelve Sherpas for the same task-the Swiss in 1952 and 1956 and the British in 1953 had different tales to tell. No doubt familiarity eases the way but none the less this subsidiary achievement of Brigadier Gyan Singh's party deserves special mention.

Brigadier Gyan Singh's book is easy to read and attractively written in a style sometimes reminiscent of Continental climbing literature. With Everest, 1960, and first ascents of Annapurna III and Nilkanta in 1961 Indian Himalayan mountaineering has come of age in a remarkably short time-the achievements of Indian mountaineers are rightly a subject of national pride carried out in the limelight of a good deal of publicity. There is the danger that the result may be rated more important than the adventure. The closing chapters of Brigadier Gyan Singh's book are not unnaturally somewhat concerned with what their country thought of the expedition's efforts. The author is the last person whom one could accuse of confusing the issues at stake. There remains the danger that young climbers coming on the scene at this inspiring time may be encouraged to do so.

J. O. M. Roberts

NO PURDAH IN PADAM. By Antonia Deacock. Harrap,

London. 1960. 16s.

I must admit that I find a book of this sort, slashing right across all the accepted conventions, thoroughly refreshing. Of course, this is partly because of the reasons whereby it came to be written. Also because the narrative manages to retain the wonderment and surprise which many of us tend to lose in the Himalayas once the first element of thrill has died down.

To these three women, drawn together by the departure of their husbands for the expedition to Rakaposhi in 1958, a visit to the Himalayas seemed a symbol of the unattainable. The whole thing began jokingly as a challenge. But once the plan was conceived, the seriousness of purpose with which preparations were made, does them great credit. Of course, this was not the first journey of this sort. (If ' firsts ' must be claimed, as on p. 11, surely the palm goes to Mrs. Dunsheath in 1956.) Indeed, ladies1 expeditions to the Himalayas are no longer as uncommon as they used to be.

Summed up briefly, their achievement rests in accomplishing, almost without a hitch, the 7,000-mile overland drive from Britain to the Himalayas and back, and fitting in a 300-mile trek, with several mountain passes and an 18,000-ft. peak thrown in. Only those who, like them, can arrange an informal interview with the Prime Minister of India can hope to have ' Inner Line' restrictions thrown overboard for them. With a permit in their hands, they possessed the key to a journey in a fascinating and seldom-visited part of Zaslcar within range of the borders of Ladakh. They were well looked after by their two Ladakhi porters engaged in Manali; and the carefree, holiday atmosphere generated cannot have occurred purely by chance. Indeed, good public relations characterize the whole venture.

This is essentially a travel book aimed at the lay reader, and written in a light-hearted feminine vein. Mountaineers, familiar with the phases of exploratory travel, would be unkind to carp at the ingenuous approach as the expedition unfolds. The book is well illustrated with photographs, end-papers and a map.

Praise is due to the three women for the way in which they handled their preparations, wheedled out the right contacts, carried forward their journey, and later recouped most of their private outlay on the expedition by presenting lectures, articles, and a thoroughly readable book. The wise, cautious and inexperienced, who have to make sure of all these things before they can start planning, will never get there.

T. H. Braham

THE LAST BLUE MOUNTAIN. By Ralph Barker. Chatto

and Windus, London. 1959. 21s.

This is the story of a small British reconnaissance expedition to Haramosh. 24,270 ft., in the Karakoram in 1957. Unlike other expedition books, it is not written by a member of the climbing party, but narrated in the third person by a ' non-mountaineer unknown to any member of the expeditionAmple facilities were accorded to the author, however, to study the climbers' personal diaries and to discuss the expedition with the climbers in detail after their return.

On the whole the narrative has been carefully handled. In drama and tragedy there is not much that can equal it in the Himalayas, except perhaps the Annapurna expedition of 1950. Capt. H. R. A. Streather, with his wide Himalayan experience, was invited to lead a party of four young climbers from Oxford University to .attempt a mountain that had not been seriously reconnoitred before. Despite prolonged spells of atrocious weather, the very determined team pushed their reconnaissance to a point on the mountain where the route to the summit appeared practicable. (An Austrian party in 1958, following an almost similar route, climbed Haramosh.) At the point of descent, two of the party were involved in an avalanche and miraculously survived. Then began a terrible chain of events in which one fearsome tragedy followed another. Two climbers, despite overwhelming odds, set out on a rescue attempt. Without ice-axes, gloves, food or shelter, but united by a selfless team-spirit and by the will to survive, the party of four climbers spent three nights and three days on the mountain, attempting to climb back to safety. It is a story of immense courage. Two climbers perished; one from exposure and the other by a fall when he was within reach of safety. The two survivors were severely frost-bitten.

Mountaineers will not approve of some of the author's descriptions of the mountain scene. Nor will they agree that the Hunzas are the Sherpas of the Karakorams. There are a few printer's slips and some errors. Sassli is Sassi on p. 6 and Sursi elsewhere. The height of the Haramosh La is 15,752 ft., not 17,000 ft. It was a German expedition in 1955 and not an Italian one in 1954 that first explored the approaches to Haramosh. Despite these minor faults and the rather poor quality of the illustrations, this is a well-told story of great bravery and devotion.

BECAUSE IT IS THERE. By George Lowe. Cassell, London.

1959. Allied Publishers, Calcutta. 21s.

By far the largest part of Mr. Lowe's book is concerned with the Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Vivian Fuchs which was planned and carried out during 1955-58 for the International Geophysical Year. George Lowe was invited by the leader to join the British team as photographer. The official record of Fuchs' enterprise is contained in his book, 'The Crossing of Antarctica', and George Lowe's narrative supplements the story, enriching it with a wealth of personal detail and anecdote which is necessarily lacking in the official account.

In the course of a few preliminary chapters dealing with the author's initiation to mountains at the comparatively late age of 22 (at 12, after an accident to his arm, he was told he would be a cripple for life), we are given a short summary of climbs in New Zealand; a first expedition to the Himalayas in 1951 with Hillary and others; the 1952 Cho Oyu expedition. Finally, an excellent chapter on Everest, 1953 (but why 'an easy day for a lady' ?).

The author is unnecessarily modest about his 'amateur' status as a photographer. Results, after all, count. He made quite an important contribution to the film ' The Conquest of Everest'; whilst the Antarctic film was all his work. In a short appendix there are details of the equipment used, and one can appreciate the particular difficulties involved in trying to produce the expedition film: a dark-room, devised by Kodak in London, accompanied him on the journey.

The story is told in an easy, light-hearted vein with personal portraits and amusing sidelights. In December, 1955, the author sailed south with the Theron party, leaving a team of eight at Shackleton to consolidate the Base. In December, 1956, in the Magga Dan the party returned for the main effort, and there is a keen account of their life at Shackleton Base during the Antarctic winter of 1957. In November, 1957, the party left Shackleton for the crossing of the continent. There follows a simple factual record of this incredible 99-day journey of over 2,000 miles across Antarctica; the meeting with Hillary at the South Pole; and the final race to reach Scott Base before the onset of winter.

A very enjoyable book. There is one criticism which, strangely, concerns photography; scarcely any of the illustrations depicts the atmosphere of Antarctica and the rigours of the journey.

THE WHITE SPIDER. By H. Harrer. Rupert Hart Davis, London. 1959. 30s.

The title of this history of the Eigerwand climbs is taken from the name given to a prominent feature on the upper part of the wall. Once the climber has reached the White Spider there is no turning back; no escape except to the top, and many a drama has been enacted there. Why, then, is a book about the Eigerwand really necessary? The early Eigerwand climbs provoked much harsh and, let it be admitted, justified criticism. 'Eigerwand' tactics were widely condemned in general mountaineering practice. In the last 25 years, however, we have seen startling and revolutionary changes in mountaineering technique. Question Two-if the book had to be written, why did not someone do so earlier when the climbs were front-page news?

The answer to the first question is that harder climbs, technically, than the ascent of the Eiger's 6,000-ft. wall have certainly been accomplished; but none has equalled it for relentless exposure to danger and difficulty. Its ascent has been the ambition of some of the world's leading climbers; besides attracting many who were ill-equipped either mentally or physically to face its demands. It has been the scene of countless tragedies, involving dramatic rescue attempts. As to the second question, the answer is that only now, after several ascents have been accomplished, can the climb be seen in perspective and chronicled dispassionately.

There will be many future climbs on the Eigerwand and they will always be important climbs. The history of past climbs emphasizes how narrow is the margin of safety, even for climbers who possess all the essential qualities, technical, moral and physical. Harrer is well qualified to present this chronicle. He was one of the party of four who made the first successful ascent in 1938. He writes graphically and he has taken great pains to collect and verify his facts. The scrupulous might quibble on points of detail; but on the whole this book achieves its main object by providing an accurate and objective review of the Eigerwand climbs.

The accusation that the early attempts were motivated by attitudes quite out of character with the sport of mountaineering is strongly refuted. With a few admitted exceptions this judgement is now generally accepted. Those few men, amongst them many great climbers, who have climbed the wall have expressed the wish never to do so again.

The Eiger was first climbed in 1858. In 1932, two outstanding Swiss climbers with two leading Swiss guides reached the summit by the N.E. face-a remarkably fine ascent. The 6,000-ft. wall itself was regarded as ' absolutely unclimbable'.

In 1935, two Austrians launched the first serious attempt on the unclimbable wall. After three days and two nights they died of exposure in their bivouac two-thirds of the way up. By 1938, the Eigerwand had claimed eight lives. But it was in that year that a team of four Austrians, including Harrer, succeeded in making the first ascent after three bivouacs on the face. The chapter describing this climb is the longest in the book and the most gripping, despite a brief ethical extravagance on p. 114. The survival of the party during a fearful avalanche on the White Spider is little short of miraculous. In 1947, the second ascent was made by the two French climbers Terray and Lachenal. A third ascent followed in the same year. In 1950, the fourth ascent was accomplished by two Austrian climbers in the remarkable time of 18 hours, a performance never since equalled.

During the 22 years since the first ascent, there have been about two dozen attempts. Fourteen have succeeded and nine more lives have been lost. In 1952, six ascents were made. One was a remarkable rope of nine climbers, Austrian, French and German (including Hermann Buhl and Gaston Rebuffat), who battled up the face under desperate conditions in which a less expert party might not have survived. It is interesting to compare Harrer's account of this climb with the accounts Rebuffat and Buhl have written. Finally, the author discusses the tragic events of August 3-12, 1957, which led to the rescue, under almost superhuman difficulties, of an injured Italian climber after three other members of the party had perished.

The illustrations are of great interest. Apart from a vertical plate of the entire face (originally published in The Mountain World') on which distinctive features of the climb are shown, there are several remarkable climbing shots and four colour plates. Few pictures convey the dangers of the ascent and the desolation of the face better than those which face p. 112 and p. 145. There is a useful topographical sketch; a table of all the attempts; and a climber's route guide at the end. The translation by Hugh Merrick is good. One feels that the price places the book beyond the means of the average climber, to whom perhaps the book will be of the most value.

T. H. Braham