1. The Nilkanta Expedition, 1961
  2. Kangchenjau



1 The Nilkanta Expedition, 1961

We have received from Mr. S. S. Mehta a review of a study by Mr. Jagdish C. Nanavati (one of our members) entitled 'Nilkanta—Still Unclimbed' with a request that it be published. In it Nanavati questions the claim of a successful first ascent by the Nilkanta Expedition of 1961 led by Captain Kumar. The following is a comprehensive summary of the paper:

In spite of its comparatively low height Nilkanta (21,640 feet) has earned a reputation of being one of the most difficult peaks in the Himalayas—the north face rises some 8,000 feet in only two horizontal miles from the Satopanth Glacier. A gigantic ice-wall separates the steep rocky mass below from the icy tower above. Previous attempts had been over the south-east ridge, the northeast ridge (reconnaissance only), the north face, and the west ridge. The west ridge has been considered the most promising route, but none of the previous attempts have succeeded in climbing beyond about 19,000 feet.

Captain Kumar selected the north face for his attempt. From a snow basin at about 16,000 feet a rocky spur leads to the ice-wall near its western end. Camp II was set up on this spur; Camp III in an ice-cave in the great ice-wall. The party then followed a route through a steep ice-gully and over the upper ice and snow face, towards the summit ridge at its 4 extreme west. The summit was claimed to have been reached on June 13, 1961, at 5.15 p.m. by a rope of three from Camp V said to be at 21,200 feet, i.e. 440 feet below the peak.

A chance inspection of a photograph of Nilkanta in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVIII, 1954 (facing page 104), led Nanavati to compare it with the accounts available at the time. This included an official brochure, articles by the leader in the Press, other Press reports, and two lectures by O. P. Sharma who along with two Sherpas had comprised the summit team.

The discovery that the photograph in the Himalayan Journal was taken from a high position at a distance of some seven miles, almost at right angles to the west ridge of the mountain, over whose upper part the final assault was carried out, enabled Nanavati to produce a photo-altitude scale by which the relative heights of the various features on that ridge and on the north face could be read off within an accuracy of about 75 feet. From this he deduced that the heights of camps as stated by the expedition were wrong.

On the basis of the expedition's own account of the climb and the description of the location of its camps Nanavati concluded that their final Camp V could not possibly have been a mere 440 feet below the summit, as claimed, but at a height of about 19,600 feet only—2,040 feet lower than the peak. He questions whether it was feasible for three climbers in an exhausted condition, having been without adequate food and water for the previous two days and having passed two sleepless nights before (seven persons in a one-man bivouac tent), to have ascended 2,040 feet, under monsoon conditions with poor visibility, high winds and heavy snowing, over a difficult pitch of ice and snow in only seven hours, five of which were spent in reaching the ridge at a point about 1,500 feet below the summit. Nanavati suggests that the climbers labouring under such a strain could have probably mistaken the identity of the summit for a lower prominence on the ridge (also perhaps due to their mistaken impression that they had only 440 feet to ascend to reach the summit), a very natural miscalculation under the circumstances.

This review Nanavati sent to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for its comments.

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation deputed an officer of the Survey of India to check the heights of the various camps and in its reply gave explanations to the items raised in the review. It admitted serious errors in the original account of the expedition and gave different heights to the camps and also the timings and description of the final climb without however giving any detailed account of the basis on which the corrections were made.

For example:

  1. The Base Camp was lowered from 15,500 feet to 15,000 feet.
  2. Camp III was lowered by 1,100 feet-from 20,000 feet to 18,900 feet. Consequently the height of the climb from Camp II to Camp III was reduced from 2,000 feet to 900 feet (Nanavati's photo-chart indicates Cam III at only 18,400 feet).
  3. The height of Camp IV was lowered by 950 feet- from 20,600 feet to 19,650 feet, thereby increasing the climb from Camp III to Camp IV by 150 feet. (The photo-chart shows Camp IV to be at 19,000 feet).
  4. Camp V was lowered by 750 feet-from 21,200 feet to 20,450 feet, thereby increasing the climb from Camp IV to Camp V by an extra 200 feet.
    The location of Camp V was changed from 150 feet to only 40 feet below the summit ridge on level with the last hump and the ascent was changed in direction—the climbers cutting steps in ice diagonally to a point on the ridge claimed to be 450 feet higher than that of Camp V. No explanation was given why such a course was necessary when a 40-foot pitch was all that separated the camp from the ridge. Moreover the pitch indicated in the revised version is not over snow and ice, but over rock, as seen in photographs presented by other mountaineers. (e) The time taken by the climbers to reach the summit ridge was reduced from 5 hours to 3J hours although ‘step-cutting' was increased from ' 150 feet' to 450 feet'.
  5. The original account described the summit team as having followed the ridge to the top across three painfully-deceptive intervening humps, a distance of 600 yards to 800 yards. The revised account gave the team crossing over to the south face after reaching the ridge where, it is stated, not much step-cutting was involved and this took 3J hours instead of the original 2 1/4 hours to reach the summit.
  6. The summit was changed from ‘a cone' (according to Captain Kumar's original account) to ' a horseshoe eminence . . . and no more the apex of a cone' (according to him in a subsequent publication— ‘The Himalayan Endeavour', Times of India, June, 1962).

Nanavati then prepared a Supplementary Note', which examined in considerable detail the revised account and all other evidence available to him.

He concluded that further contradictions were revealed in the revised account.

Note by the Editor

In December, 1963, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation issued a report on the ascent, of which the following is a comprehensive summary:

After Nilkanta was climbed, doubts were expressed about the summit party having reached the summit. Accordingly, the I.M.F. set up a Committee, consisting of Col. B. S. Jaswal, Principal of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, as Chairman, and Lt.-CoL M. M. Datta (an expert from the Survey of India) and Maj. John D. Dias (leader of the 1962 expedition to Everest) as members, to check up on the claim. The terms of reference were:

  1. (i) What were the heights of the various camps ?
    (ii) What are the heights of the features: (a) Fifth Hump, (b) Ice-wall, and (c) West Col ?
    (iii) If the expedition has given any of the heights incorrectly, what are the circumstances in which these errors have been made ?
  2. What was (i) the height of the ridge above Camp V, and (ii) the height at which the ridge was crossed by the second summit party ?
  3. What was the time of departure of the second summit party from Camp V on June 13, 1961 ?
  4. What was the time (i) when the summit party crossed the ridge above Camp V, and (ii) when the party reached the summit or the highest point ?
  5. Circumstances in which the summit film got exposed.
  6. Difference in the difficulty of climb from Camp V to the top as compared to the climb up to Camp V.
  7. Was it possible for the summit party reasonably to reach the summit in the time available to them ?
  8. Circumstances in which the incorrect announcement was made to the effect that the first summit party led by Flt.-Lt. A. K. Chowdhury got within 200 feet of the summit.
  9. Any other relevant point or matter which comes up during the investigation.

The Committee reported as follows:

The Committee went through all the available records of the expedition, paying special attention to the articles which appeared in newspapers, the statements made by members of the expedition at different times and the comments of Jagdish Nanavati of the Climbers' Club, Bombay, regarding the non-acceptance of the claim.

The Committee examined Capt. Narendar Kumar, leader of the expedition, Flt.-Lt. A. K. Chowdhury, a member, Sherpa Lhakpa Giyalbu Lama and O. P. Sharma, members of the summit party, and J. C. Nanavati, and recorded their statements. Sherpa Phurba Lobsang, the only other member of the summit party, could not be interviewed as he had died on the Pumori expedition.

All the witnesses were permitted perusal of and references to the I.M.F. photo album of the 1961 Nilkanta expedition and the latest Survey of India 1:50,000 map (1963). The oblique aerial photographs taken during October, 1963, when the leader himself was carried in the aircraft while the photographs were being taken, were also used by all concerned. Nanavati saw all the photographs, the album and the map and, in addition, showed some of the recent photographs of the Nilkanta peak taken by him during the summer of 1963.

The route followed by the 1961 expedition in climbing the peak was stereoscopically examined by Lt.-Col. Datta, a member of the Committee, from vertical aerial photographs taken during 1962 in the precision stereo-plotting instruments of the Survey of India. In these instruments, a three-dimensional spatial model of the peak is obtained with the help of vertical aerial photographs in which heights can be measured with an accuracy of ± 3 feet. A 1:10,000 scale map with 100 feet contour intervals was plotted for this purpose.

The Committee had the following observations to make regarding the points raised in the terms of reference:

None of the members of the expedition could provide the correct heights of the different camps as they did not carry any altimeters or any maps beyond the Base Camp. The Committee had the heights of the following positions measured in the precision stereo- plotting instruments from the locations indicated on the photographs taken during the expedition:

West Col 17,960 feet
Camp II 17,940 feet
Ice-wall 18,330 feet
Camp III 18,300 feet
Camp IV 18,760 feet
Camp V 19,970 feet
First Hump (Fifth Hump of Nanavati) ... 20,170 feet


The circumstances in which the errors in heights were made were (a) no altimeters were carried, (b) no large-scale maps for determination of heights were available, (c) ½ inch Survey of India map was not carried beyond the Base Camp, being of too small a scale, and (d) the heights given out to the Press were mainly based on those of the 1959 I.A.F. Trekking Society Expedition to Nilkanta which had not been corroborated.

The height of the summit ridge above Camp V was estimated by Chowdhury to be about 40 feet and by Sharma to be about 400 feet. The height of the summit ridge directly above Camp V, as measured in the precision stereo-plotting instruments, is 20,200 feet, i.e. about 230 feet above Camp V.

The second summit party did not climb to the summit ridge directly above Camp V but traversed to the left and crossed the summit ridge slightly higher up at a height of about 20,350 feet, i.e. about 380 feet above Camp V. The height of the point on the summit ridge where the second summit party crossed the summit ridge above Camp V was correctly estimated by Chowdhury of the first summit party to be 400 feet as he had claimed to have cut steps half the way up for about 200 feet.

The time of departure of the second summit party from Camp V on June 13 was given by Kumar as about 10 a.m. though Sharma thought it to be 8.30 a.m. This difference in time is possible as the watches of Kumar and Sharma were not synchronized.

The time of crossing the summit ridge by the second summit party is slightly earlier than 1.30 p.m. as the party, having crossed the summit, were resting on stones on the southern face of the mountain at about 1.30 p.m. Thus, the time of 1.30 p.m. is acceptable.

The time of reaching the summit or the highest point of the peak is 5.15 p.m. as given by Sharma.

The film containing the photographs of the summit were accidentally exposed by Kumar while unloading it at Camp V. The Committee examined the official album of the I.M.F. and saw some photographs up to Camp IV, but no conclusive photographs of Camp V or beyond were available.

The type of climb from the Base Camp to Camp V was described by all the members of the expedition as generally difficult and extremely difficult at places. The climb from Camp V to the summit ridge has been described both by Sharma and Lhakpa Giyalbu Lama to be very difficult. The same two climbers have stated that from the point where they rested on reaching the summit ridge to the summit, i.e. the highest point, the slope was easier and the climb was generally easy and fast, involving no step-cutting except the last bit before reaching the highest top.

Kumar, Sharma and Lhakpa Giyalbu Lama were all confident that it was possible to reach the summit within the available time. Considering that both the Sherpas of the second summit party were experienced climbers and the climb involved was comparatively easy, the Committee is of the opinion that it was well within the capabilities of the climbers to reach the summit in the available time.

According to Kumar, the incorrect announcement regarding Chowdhury's climb within 200 feet of the summit was made due to some misunderstanding of Kumar's wireless message by the Base Camp party who mistook the message of ‘half-way up to the second hump' as ‘half-way up to the summit'.

The Committee had the following further observations to make:

  • The exaggerated and contradictory statements of Sharma regarding his own performance, specially while giving talks to the public, gave rise to suspicions in the minds of mountaineers. Making statements which were at variance with the leader of the expedition further complicated matters.
  • Sharma's description of the summit climb was neither complete nor convincing. This is probably because he had very hazy ideas regarding the various terrain forms and topographical features, and can be attributed to this being his first major climb.
  • Preparations for the expedition were rather inadequate, because the leader had been assigned another mission from which he returned only about a week before the departure of the expedition.
  • Early publication of newspaper articles and a brochure led to some contradictions in heights and timings. All facts and figures should be carefully checked before publication in the Press or in brochures.

The Committee came to the following conclusions:

  1. Based on the height of Camp V, determined in the precision stereo-plotting instrument, as 19,970 feet, the climb to the summit ridge is about 380 feet which was covered in five hours from 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. Considering the difficult type of climb from Camp V to the summit ridge, where step-cutting was involved, the time of five hours taken to climb 380 feet is reasonable.
  2. According to Sharma, the second summit party rested on a few stone boulders on the southern face of the mountain at about 1.30 p.m. The altitude of this group of stone boulders has been measured to be about 20,330 feet. The remaining climb to the summit consisted of traversing a distance of about 700 yards and a vertical height of 1,310 feet in 3J hours from 1.30 p.m. to 5.15 p.m., i.e. 350 feet per hour at an average slope of 39 degrees. According to Sharma, the time observed by him while traversing between the second and third humps was 3 p.m. Measuring this height to be about 20,900 feet, the rate of climb up to this point works out to 380 feet per hour and the rate from this point to the summit works out to 330 feet per hour, both of which agree well with the average rate of climb of 350 feet per hour. This performance is well within the capability of average mountaineers, considering that the altitude was only 21,640 feet. The second summit party, which had two experienced Sherpas in addition to Sharma, though starved and fatigued, could still have done it. The uniformly high morale was a contributing factor. The Alpine Journal, Volume 68, May, 1963, No. 306, states that 4 on a mountain of Nilkanta's size, 1,190 feet is not excessive, certainly for a final climb
  3. The crux of the problem lies in fixing the height and location of Camp V. The location of Camp V, unanimously agreed to by members of the expedition, was not accepted by Nanavati mainly because of the description of Sharma of the climb above Camp V. In view of Sharma's hazy ideas about terrain forms and snow features, his account should not be given too much weight. The location of Camp V, as indicated by members of the expedition on the photographs, is quite probable and its height is 19,970 feet.
  4. The stereoscopic examination of vertical aerial photographs in the high-magnification precision stereo-plotting instrument revealed three distinctive features, namely the stone boulders on the southern face where the second summit party rested after crossing the summit ridge, some rock features between the second and third humps and the crescent shape of the summit with a depression of about 30 feet in the centre which Sharma described as U-shaped. None of these features could be noticed and referred to by persons who had not climbed the peak. In view of this conclusive evidence the Committee is of the opinion that Sharma and the two Sherpas, Phurba Lobsang and Lhakpa Giyalbu Lama, climbed to the summit, i.e. the highest point of the Nilkanta peak in June, 1961.
  5. The Committee recommends that Nilkanta, being an important and difficult peak, should be tried again, preferably in 1964, by a team consisting of some of the members of the 1961 expedition and a few other climbers.

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation has accepted the findings and report of this Committee.

June 20, 1963.

The Hon. Editor,
Himalayan Journal,
c/o Himalayan Club,
Post Box No. 904.9,
Park Street,
Calcutta 16.
Dear Sir,

I refer to Commodore S. N. Goyal's article ‘Neelakantha- Chowkhamba Expedition published in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII, 1961, and have to point out the following grave inaccuracies in the account.

Firstly, the photograph printed opposite page 108 of the Journal (on which the expedition route and the three camp-sites, viz. Camps II, III and IV, are shown) is not the photograph of Nilakantha, which the expedition claims to have attempted. (For comparison see photographs of Nilakantha in the Himalayan Journals, Vol. XIV opposite pages 64-65 ; Vol. XVII opposite page 48 ; Vol. XVIII opposite page 104). The photograph used by Goyal to show the route is that of Balakun, 21,230 feet, which is situated about 4 ½ miles north-west of Nilakantha. It is most astonishing that the leader who spent a number of days in the region attempting to scale Nilakantha should make such a serious error and illustrate the route on a photograph of an entirely different mountain! For your ready reference I enclose a photograph of Balakun taken by me from Majna Chakratirtha during my trek to Satopanth Glacier in October, 1951.

Secondly, the leader's claim about the altitude of Camp IV ‘at about 20,000 feet almost at the threshold of the notorious ice-wall' (which spans the north face of Nilakantha) is quite erroneous. As per the half-inch Survey Map No. 53 N./N.-W., the altitude of the ice-wall's base in the relevant section (near the west end) is no more than about 18,200-18,300 feet. This is also corroborated by the photo-scale of Nilakantha worked out by Jagdish Nanavati in his study, ‘Nilakantha—Still Unclimbed ?' Camp IV and any further point claimed to have been reached by the expedition were, therefore, far lower than the altitudes claimed by the leader. The highest point reached could not be 'well above 20,000 feet' as claimed, but well below about 18,200-18,300 feet since the expedition had not admittedly gone beyond the base of the ice-wall.

Thirdly, the arrow indicating the 'Avalanche Peak' as northwest of Satopanth Glacier as shown on the sketch map on page 109 is also erroneous. The known Avalanche Peak named and climbed by Jackson and Bryson in 1952 is situated about 8 miles north of Nilakantha on the Bangneu-Arwa divide and is shown on the Survey Map No. 53 N./N.-W. by Pt. 20,330 feet (vide Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVIII).

Yours truly,
Malati Jhaveri

It is gratifying to note from the comments received that considerable interest has been taken in the publication of the article on ' Neelakantha- Chowkhamba Expedition ' by Air Vice-Marshal S. N. Goyal. It is, however, regrettable that the photograph, printed opposite page 108 of the Journal(Vol. XXIII), is not a photograph of Nilkanta. A photo of Nilkanta has since been received for replacing the wrong photo. This tallies with the photographs of the true Nilkanta peak already published in the Himalayan Journals, Vol. XIV opposite pages 64-65 ; Vol. XVII opposite page 48 ; Vol. XVIII opposite page 104. Those who are interested in the article will of course consult the photos already published. Printing the photos of Nilkanta subsequently received is not therefore necessary to avoid duplication and unnecessary expense.—Editor.

Balakun from majna chakratirtha, october, 1951. (MALATI JHAVERI)

Balakun from majna chakratirtha, october, 1951. (MALATI JHAVERI)



⇑ Top


T. H. Braham.
Roberts Cotton Associates Ltd.,
Khanewal, West Pakistan,
July 1, 1963.


The Editor,
Himalayan Journal,


2 Kangchenjau

The account by Mr. Sonam Gyatso of his climbs in Sikkim (Vol. XXIII, pp. 169-170) with its lack of topographical detail inevitably raises serious doubts as to its accuracy. Three ascents have been claimed, but none has been substantiated in language intelligible to mountaineers.

If one assumes that deliberate understatement was not Mr. Gyatso's intention, one can only suppose that in the author's estimate the climbs were insignificant enough to merit the cursory note he has written. However, for the benefit of those like myself, who in happier days visited these mountains and knew them well—they have been barred to all but Indian nationals for over ten years— further enlightenment is necessary for an appreciation of Mr. Gyatso's claims.

  1. From which direction was Yulhekhang peak climbed ? It was apparently decided from the top that Kangchenjau could not be climbed from the south side. A fact which is obvious to anyone viewing the peak from within five miles of its southern face.
  2. The ascent of Chombu, the Pumori of North Sikkim, is dismissed in a single short sentence. Can we have details about the line of approach, the route followed, and the number and location of camps ?
  3. Since the party apparently lost their way on Kangchenjau, there is some confusion as to where they were actually operating. The only point made clear is that they were somewhere on the northern side. A Col is referred to, and a rock cave. Apparently they climbed from the cave for seven hours before reaching the top. Which top ? The summit ridge is a plateau almost two miles long (see illustration facing page 74, H.J., Vol. XVI) with the farther west summit slightly higher than the east summit. In 1912, Dr. A. M. Kellas from a 19,000-foot camp had climbed direct to the east summit in six hours via a 21,000-foot Col. From which direction did Mr. Gyatso's party approach their Col ? It is given no height; and it may not have been Kellas' Col; especially as they could hardly have taken seven hours to climb 1,500 feet from the Col. Finally, did they reach the untrodden west summit ?

Yours faithfully,
T. H. Braham

P.S.—The two illustrations, like the article, are evidently not intended to divulge any information about the route followed.


July 16, 1963.

The Hon. Editor,
Himalayan Journal.


Dear Sir,


The article published in Vol. XXIII of the Journal on the expedition to Kangchenjau was a bitter disappointment to those of us interested in exploration in Sikkim.

Mr. Sonam Gyatso is a well-known mountaineer with considerable Himalayan experience. It was all the more surprising that his contribution to the Journal could be so vague as to be altogether incoherent to the reader.

Although not stated in the article one surmises that his party travelled via the Lachung valley and that his Base Camp was near the club hut at Mame Samdong; where was the Advance Base Camp if it was within reach of both Chombu and Yulhekhang ? Both these mountains were climbed for the first time and yet they received one sentence apiece! We know little of Yulhekhang, but Chombu was last visited by Braham in 1952 (H.J., Vol. XVIII, 1954) when he observed a serious cleft 200 to 300 feet below the summit on the routes covered by the north and north-east ridges—his suggestion was that the south ridge should be explored (in spite of its length). We obtain little help from Mr. Gyatso on this score.

Again, we are not informed as to how the party travelled from the south to the northern side of Kangchenjau. Did they cross the Sebu or Dongkhya La ? Which ' Col' and which summit does Mr. Gyatso refer to ? Has he any observations on the eastern Col referred by Kellas and which was the subject of an independent, if unsuccessful, exploration of the North-east Kangchenjau Glacier by lengar in 1960 ?

It is a pity that the published photographs convey very little of importance ; perhaps a photograph or a sketch depicting the route, or even one of the shots taken from or near the summit, might have been of greater interest.

Without wishing to belittle the climbing achievements of Mr. Gyatso's party I feel that the precise and careful recounting of an expedition's experience and observations is as important, in mountaineering, as the actual climbing, and could in this case have been presented in greater detail for the benefit of fellow mountaineers.

Your’s faithfully,
Soli S. Mehta



Gammon India Limited,
P.O. Mundali,
Dt. Cuttack (Orissa),
August 21, 1963.

The Editor, Himalayan Journal.

Dear Sir,

I have read with interest and admiration the articles in Vol. XXXI (November-December, 1962) of the Rivista Mensile of the C.A.I, and the current volume of Himalayan Journal about the Italian Expedition to the Punjab Himalayas in 1961, which climbed Peak 20,830 feet by the difficult south-west face ridge.

I should like to make the following topographical comments:

Signor Consiglio considers that the col of 5,850 metres reached at the head of No. 2 Glacier, to the west of Peak 21,760 feet, overlooks the head of the Parahio. He must have been misled by the direction of the subsidiary glacier here which flows north-east before joining the Bara Shigri and swinging round to flow north and west round the flanks of the ‘Schreckhorn' above Concordia. That Peak 21,760 feet lies on the Bara Shigri and not on the Parahio is clear from the upper photograph facing page 58 of the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII. The Italian col is between 347 52H (20,500 feet) and 21,760 feet on the map facing page 60 of the same volume. Our party in 1961, and the Abinger party of 1956, both penetrated to the head of the Bara Shigri and can hardly both be wrong.

It is also a pity that their sketch-map in R.M., page 336, shows the 'Lion ' in a position from which it was removed by Holmes as long ago as 1956 (Himalayan Journal, Vol. XX).

On the credit side, it is pleasant to note that they have replaced Snelson's Rubal Kang in its old position, from which Pettigrew (Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII, map facing page 130) had moved it. This is also confirmed by my photographs from ‘Gunther's Ice- Pass ' in 1961, which shows the vertical step in the south-west ridge of 20,830 feet, the saddle at 20,350 feet reached by the Italians from the other side, and Rubal Kang itself further along the ridge with its profile recognizably the reverse of Snelson's photograph facing page 112 of Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVIII, 1954. Pettigrew's moving of Rubal Kang seems to have been caused by a misreading of Snelson's article. Snelson never said (as Ashcroft, Pettigrew's Surveyor, maintains he did in Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII, page 131) that Rubal Kang was 20,830 feet; he actually writes (Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVIII, page 113), ‘a little to the left (of Peak 20,830 feet), however, was a peak about 500 feet lower . . .' This height for it is confirmed by the Italians who show Rubal Kang as 6,150 metres. Snelson does appear to be in error in showing Rubal Kang on a subsidiary ridge. It now seems quite certain that it is on the Divide between the Tichu Nal and the Western Glacier.

Another point in Pettigrew's map is that he has reduced 'Cathedral' from 20,500 feet to 19,960 feet. I took several sights on ' Cathedral 'in 1961, the mean of which worked out at about 20,000 feet; but I had hesitated to reduce the height of a peak already climbed by another party until I was quite sure of my figures ! It would seem now that4 Cathedral' definitely does not exceed 20,000 feet.

Yours faithfully,
J. P. O'F. Lynam



August 21, 1963.

The Editor,
Himalayan Journal,
Post Box No. 9049,
Calcutta 16.


Dear Sir,

After reading Vol. XXIII of the Himalayan Journal I am impressed by the eagerness with which British expeditions have climbed and surveyed in Kulu and Lahul in the last ten years—surely a by-product of the frustrating Inner Line restrictions ? I think, however, that the naming of some of the peaks could have been better. Does not Rubal Kang sound better than Tiger's Tooth ? It was disappointing to find that the half-inch-to-a-mile maps on pages 60 and 130 of Vol. XXIII of the Himalayan Journal do not overlap on the Bara Shigri/Tos-Tichu Divide ; presumably the latter map is the more accurate here. Some unfortunate typographical errors have crept in, e.g. page 114, last line ... get to grips with Deo Tibba in 1939, not 1959; page 121, line 5, Kulu Makalu 20,830 feet, not 28,800 feet; page 123, line 2, White Sail, not White Seal; map on page 130, peak south of P. 21,148 is P. 19,530, not P. 13,530 ; page 131, line 7, Rubal Kang was the lower of two peaks one of which was assumed by Snelson to be P. 20,830.

On page 193 of Vol. XXIII of the Himalayan Journal it is reported that an Indian Expedition led by P. Chaudhuri climbed Nanda Kot (22,510 feet). On page 2 of the Himalayan Club's Newsletter, No. 18, dated May, 1962, it is stated that Mr. P. Chaudhuri led a party of seven members and made the first ascent of Nanda Khat (21,690 feet) and that P. Singh reached the summit on October 20 (1961). Are these two reports about the same expedition ? If so, which one is correct ? I shall be grateful if you will also clarify whether Mr. P. Singh made a solo ascent as is implied in the Newsletter.

On page 195 of Vol. XXIII of the Himalayan Journal is recorded the ascent of Koktang (20,990 feet) by an Indian Army Expedition led by Major K. S. Rana. I would draw your attention to the following account about Koktang on page 110 of Mr. Tucker's book, Kangchenjunga: ' In 1953 he (John Kempe) and a Sherpa managed to climb to the North Summit and to within 200 feet of the true summit only to be stopped by an almost vertical and knife-edged crest of hard ice.' One is prompted to enquire about the route taken by Major Rana's party. Did they avoid the obstacle found by Kempe ? 1 wonder if it is possible for you to obtain a more detailed account of the ascent of Koktang by Major Rana's expedition ?

Yours faithfully,
Dr. H. V. R. Iengar

Nanda Kot (22,510 feet) was a mistake ; it should have read Nanda Khat (21,690 feet). We are also obliged to Dr. lengar for pointing out the mistakes for which the printer is not necessarily responsible.—Editor.


The Editor,
Himalayan Journal.

Rajkumar College,
August 27, 1963.

Dear Sir,

I have read Signor Corisiglio's article on the Italian Expedition to the Punjab Himalayas, 1961, and Mr, J, P, O'F. Lynam's letter in which he comments on the combined topographical findings of recent expeditions to the Bara Shigri/Kulu Divide, both published in the current issue of the Himalayan Journal,

In general Lynam's observations seem to me to be indisputable, supported as they are by ample photographic evidence and the experience of two energetic and far-ranging seasons in the close vicinity of the Divide. His photograph from ‘Gunther's Ice-Pass' showing the formidable Peak 20,830 feet, Lai Qila of the Italian Expedition, and its supporting ridges convinces me that we were mistaken in shifting Rubal Kang to the south and I apologize, on behalf of Ashcroft and myself, to Kenneth Snelson for uprooting it. There is a moral here—never go to an area which is in the process of being unravelled with preconceived ideas about the peaks. We had the wrong idea about Rubal Kang from the start. We were searching for an isolated peak; indeed we spent several hours both in the field and at home using photographs trying to locate it. It was very difficult to reconcile its position from the description and sketch- map with the country as we observed it. So when we detected in Peak 19,150 feet a resemblance to Snelson's photograph of Rubal Kang in Himalayan Journal, Vol. XVIII, we clutched at it as the only possibility.

All the available evidence now points to it forming part of the Divide between the Tichu Nulla and the Western Glacier. Although I have not yet seen a copy of Alpine Journal, No. 306, May, 1963, I know that Part II of my article is illustrated by Ashcroft's panorama of the head of Tichu Nulla showing a photographic round from north-east through east to south-east: Tiger Tooth, Dome, D.H.E. Ice-Col, Peak.20,830 feet, and Peak 19,150 feet. Now that it has been shown that Rubal Kang forms part of the 20,830 feet massif, it should be possible to locate it. The photographs were taken from ‘Observation Point' at the extreme eastern end of the East Tos Glacier on our map opposite page 130 in Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII, 1961.

Peak 20,830 ft. (Kulu Makalu) and Rubal kang (rock point of D.H.E.) from North-West. (J. Ashcroft)

Photo: J. Ashcroft

Peak 20,830 ft. (Kulu Makalu) and Rubal kang (rock point of D.H.E.) from North-West.


Finally I wish to correct the captions beneath two of the photographs which accompanied my article in Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIII, 1961. The caption of the lower photograph opposite page 132 should read: ' In the Upper Tos Nullah. The peaks of the Bara Shigri/Kulu Divide. White Sail, 21,148 feet, just right of centre.' The caption of the full-page photograph opposite page 133 should read: 'The peak known as Ali Ratni Tibba, 18,013 feet (right), from Base Camp in the Malana Nulla.'

Yours faithfully,
R. G. Pettigrew


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