Himalayan Journal vol.31
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Soli S. Mehta
    (T. S. BLAKENEY)
    (A. C. WALTHAM)
  15. DHAULAGIRI IV, 1969
    (LEO GRAF)
  17. CHUREN HIMAL, 1969
  19. CHUREN HIMAL, 1971
  22. DHAULAGIRI II, 1971
  25. PUNJAB, 1970
  28. PAPSURA, 1971
    (FLT. LT. V. P. SINGH)
  31. THE ASCENT OF K6, 1970
  32. FIRST ASCENT OF CHONGRA PEAK (22,390 FT = 6,830 M.)
  37. SHAH FULADI (5,135 M.), 1971



[Reprinted from the Geographical Journal, Vol. 136, Part 3-Sept. 1970 by kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society and the author.]

Half a century ago, on 15 December 1920, the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford, telegraphed to the India Office as follows:

‘Bell telegraphs that he has explained to Dalai Lama object of desired exploration (i.e. Mount Everest) and necessity of travelling through Tibetan territory, and obtained Tibetan Government's consent.'1
This information was promptly communicated to Sir Francis Younghusband, President of the Royal Geographical Society, and, thus, two years of effort came to fruition.

Various earlier ideas about climbing Everest had at times been bruited,2 but the only one of real significance was in April 1905, when D. W. Freshfield heard from Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India, that he was willing for the Government of India to con- trilmle up to £3,000 towards the cost of an expedition to Everest or Kangchenjunga. The proposal was put to the Alpine Club, who welcomed it (A. C. Committee Minutes of 6 June), and the matter began to assume a serious aspect. Major C. G. Bruce was in England in 1906 and induced two Alpine Club men, T. G. Long- stair and A. L. Mumm, to form with him a committee to push the idea as well as being members of the actual party. The RGS was then brought into the project, and was ready to assist, both financially and by approaches to the Secretary of State for India. The route to Everest would be through Tibet. However, the expedition was vetoed by John Morley, the Secretary of State, He had greatly disapproved of Girzon's Tibetan policy, resulting in the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa in 1904, and though Lord Minto, Curzon’s successor, was favourable, Morley banned the venture as being contrary to the spirit of the newly concluded Anglo- Russian Convention. Bruce's party switched their attention to Garhwal, where Longstaff made the first ascent of Trisul (23,360 ft.) on 12 June 1907.

In 1913 Captain J B. L. Noel made an exploration towards Everest via NW Sikkim, but could not get close to the mountain or examine the northern approaches (Noel, 1927). Major C. G. Rawling who had been with Younghusband m 1904, applied in 1914 for permission to explore the northern side of Everest, but was refused, and the outbreak of the First World War put an end to the proposal, Rawlang himself being killed.

The war was hardly over before the subject was taken up again. On 19 December 1918 Sir Thomas Holdich then President of the RGS, reopened negotiations by writing to the Secretary of State for India on behalf of the RGS and the Alpine Club, urging that Everest was now the major unsolved problem for both geographers and mountaineers, and seeking sanction for an exnedition in the coming year. Lt. Col. C. K. Howard Bury was willing to go out to India to press the matter with the Government on the spot (see Appendix, No.1), but in fact political exigencies prevented anything being done in 1919. The Government of India's main objection was that the RGS expedition might prejudice a scheme they had for installing wireless stations at Gyantse and Lhasa, in order to counter feared Japanese Activity in that direction, due to Japan's growing control over China's internal telegraph and wireless communications.3

The matter, however, was not allowed to rest Noel had lectured to the RGS on his 1913 journey, on 10 March 1919,4 and Younghusband and others had followed him by speaking strongly of the need to carry out a full-scale attempt on Everest. With the backing of the RGS, Howard Bury visited India in 1920 and conferred with Sir Charles Bell Political Officer as well as with the Viceroy and others in Simla. By that time the position as regards Japanese infiltration into Tibet had improved, and the real obstacle was Bell, who frankly admitted he was opposed to the expedition. In addition, friction existed with the Tibetan Government over the British Government's refusal to allow a few thousand rounds of ammunition to be sent there, despite the fact that we had already sent them rifles. Hence, although the Dalai Lama remained friendly to us, his Council was inclined to turn to China for help, Eventually it was arranged that Bell should visit Lhasa that winter, and demi official instructions were sent him by the Government of India, asking him to sound out the Tibetan Government regarding an expedition under the aegis of the RGS, adding that if no reason existed to fear serious objection on Tibet's part the Government of India would be glad if permission was granted. This was now done. In the preparations that had rapidly to be made to mount the expedition in 1921, A. R. Hinks, Secretary to the RGS, played a large part, as he was to do on numerous subsequent occasions.

Arthur Robert Hinks (1873-1945) was a formidable personality and his career is given in his obituary notice in the Geographical Journal for November 1945. His tendency to blunt expression of his views might irritate or anger those whom he criticized, and as T. G. Longstaff observes in his notice in the Alpine Journal (55 (1945/46) 216), Hinks made too little allowance for the difficulties that might confront a worker in the field. Nevertheless, Everest expeditions, especially the first in 1921, owed much to him, and it is appropriate, fifty years after the event, to pay tribute to him.

Following the good news from Tibet, the first meeting of a joint Committee of the RGS and the AC was held on 12 January I92I ; membership was soon finalized under Younghusband's chairmanship, with E. L. Somers-Cocks and Col. E. M. Jack from the RGS, and Professor J. N. Collie, J. P. Farrar and C. F. Meade from the AC. Hinks from the start was Secretary to the Committee, though a joint Secretary, J. E. C. Eaton from the AC, was appointed a little later, but in a rather nominal role. The oil ice end of the expedition was in the hands of Hinks. Formal peimission from the India Office was only received on 12 January 1921 but some steps had already been taken,5 and the Committee, on 26 January, passed the following resolution:

‘The main object this year is reconnaissance. This does not debar the mountain party from climbing as high as possible on a favourable route, but attempts on a particular route must not be prolonged to hinder the completion of the reconnaissance.'

Time was short; throughout January and February steps were being taken to secure the support of the Indian Army, for transport mules; and of the Survey of India and of the Geological Survey, for trained assistants. Money had to be raised rapidly, the bulk being obtained through appeals from the RGS and the AC to their members, though private donations were also welcomed, examples being set by King George V and the Prince of Wales.6 The programme for the expedition was submitted by Hinks to the India Office on 8 March (Appendix, No. 2).

When the attempt on Everest was first adumbrated, Brigadier- General C.G. Bruce was thought of as leader, in view of his great experience of the Himalaya and his influence with porters. Hisage fifty-five was against his going high, nor indeed had he ever been in the narrower sense a notable mountaineer. But as a mountain traveller, in the Himalaya and Karakoram, he had no equal in his day. He was not, however, available in 1921, and the Committee, already well in Howard Bury’s debt for his visit to India the year before, chose him to lead the party in 1921.

At that time Howard Bury was not a member of the Alpine Club (he was elected in 1922) and in the strict sense was not a mountain climber. But he had been brought up to spend holidays on a family estate in the Tyrol, so he was accustomed to mountain travel from an early age. In 1905 he paid an unauthorized visit to Western Tibet and in 1913 he went on a shooting trip to the Tien Shan mountains, and also visited Kashmir and the Karakoram. He was a first-rate shot, a good photographer, and a keen amateur botanist.

He was therefore, an experienced traveller in Central Asia and adequately fitted to lead a survey -cum-mountaineermg party such as that of 1921. He also had valuable contacts with numerous highly-placed officials in India. In choosing personnel for the expedition its two sides had to be kept in mind; the surveying and the mountaineering. These corresponded with the particular interests of the RGS and AC. The central object of the whole enterprise was to climb Everest, but a necessary preliminary was to explore the eastern, northern and western sides of the mountain with a view to finding a practicable route to the summit. Survey and mapping were essential, for almost nothing was known of the northern approaches. Hence, it was judged necessary to contemplate two seasons’ work, that of 1921 to find the route most probable of success in attaining the summit, and so paving the way to an all-out assault in 1922.

On the survey side, the Survey of India provided the personnel, a handsome contribution to the work of the expedition Colonel C.H.D Ryder, Surveyor General of India, had viewed Everest from the north in 1904, after the Younghusband expedition to Lhasa; he now chose Major H. T. Morshead (who had been with A. M. Kellas on Kamet in 1920, reaching over 23,000 ft) and Major (later, Sir Oliver) Wheeler, as Survey Officers with Major Kenneth Mason in reserve. To avoid upsetting Tibetan susceptibilities, Delhi asked that instructions be given to surveyors not to go off he beaten track. The latter proved a flexible term and there were repercussions later. Mostly, the Tibetans were to prove very friendly and visits to outlying areas were invited and gladly accepted, Morshead taking every opportunity to extend his survey and, with Wollaston, wandering almost as far as the great mountain of Gosainthan. The Rongshar Valley, south-west of Everest, was one of the few regions where an unfriendly reception was encountered; this area was particularly touchy, and Major F. M. Bailey was reporting as late as 1924 on the annoyance caused in the past by visits to this valley. Wheeler, an expert in photo-surveying, then something of a novelty, confined himself to a detailed survey of Everest and its immediate surroundings.

The Geological Survey of India sent Dr. A. M. Heron, whose investigations covered a wide area, reaching as far north as the Tsangpo river (see Howard Bury, 1922 ; geological map). In his case, complaints were later made by local Dzongpens to Lhasa, and thence, via the Viceroy of India, to the India Office, who passed them on to the RGS, that stones and earth from the sacred soil of Tibet had been dug up, thereby releasing fierce demons that would destroy the local crops. The story grew with repetition, the stones soon becoming precious ones, and the charge was laid against the party in general. Younghusband patiently pointed out that no members back in England had brought away any stones, let alone precious ones, and it was probable that the activities of climbers with their ice-axes had been misinterpreted as digging up the soil. Dr Heron could answer about geological samples, and it was suggested that Lhasa be gently told that it would be of value to Tibet to have her geology examined, and this was impossible without taking samples. Lhasa replied that they were alive to the value of soil examination, and had engaged Sir Henry Hayden to make a geological survey of the interior (See his Sport and Travels in the Highlands of Tibet, 1927); but he had undertaken to send all samples first to Lhasa, where they could be subject to divination before being taken out of the country.9
Since surveying was Hinks's great interest, he was to have clashes with Ryder and the surveyors during the expedition, and some remarks of his in the October 1921 Geographical Journal (pp. 276 ff.) caused considerable heartburning. Minor points of dispute had arisen over the existing maps of the Survey of India ; Hinks writing on 22 September 1921 to Ryder, queried the existence of two peaks shown on one map, and Ryder answered: ‘1 think you are right about those two fictitious points ; we are investigating their origin. At any rate the Survey have never discovered naked hairy savages wandering in the snow ; I give full credit for that to the Mount Everest Committee, which I rather think was organized under the auspices of the RGS!'10 But it was not the Abominable Snowman that caused friction: Hinks s complaint was that though numerous photographs had been sent home, the surveyors had provided no sketch-map of any sort, and it was extremely hard for those in London to plot the positions of mountains. Yet money was being raised from newspaper articles, and Hinks had to supply a map. Part of the delay seems to have been due to postal difficulties, owing to floods in Tibet during the monsoon months; part to one of Morshead’s Indian surveyors having got lost for some weeks, with resultant shortage of data for a sketch-map.

In the selection of climbing personnel, the AC naturally had the main voice, and in J. P. Farrar, Hinks had a foeman worthy of him for Farrar was no less dogmatic in his views and trenchant in his expression of them. He proved a prickly member of the Committee ; he held a very authoritative position in the AC and had few rivals in the mountaineering world, at home or abroad. He was accustomed to having a deciding voice in anything that interested him ; Hinks did not take to this and periodical clashes of opinion took place. In some matters Farrar would seem to have been in the wrong, such as trying to retain under his control the money raised by AC members, rather than paying it automatically into a common Expedition account. On the whole, between the two men, Hinks and Farrar, neither of them were disinclined to manage affairs, it may be said that Hinks was the winner. After the 1922 expedition, Farrar resigned from the Committee.

The party chosen from England were: Howard Bury, as the all-over leader; A. F. R. Wollaston, aged 36, an AC man and an experienced traveller, as doctor and naturalist ; and Harold Raeburn, aged 56, as head of the mountaineering team. Dr. A M. Kellas, aged 53, was also chosen for the climbing party, though Farrar had doubts about his mountaineering skill.11 Still, Kellas had reached three major Himalayan summits (Chomiomo, Pauhunri and Kangchenjau) and had attained to over 23,000 ft. on Kamet in 1920, and had, moreover, devoted the last ten years of his life to the study of the physiological effects of climbing at high altitudes (Pye, 1927, p, 107). It was realized, but insufficiently that the ages of Raeburn and Kellas were against them going high, though extravagant ideas were entertained of how high they might go. Two younger men were therefore chosen for greater heights, G. H. Leigh Mallory, aged 35, and G. I. Finch, aged 33, the latter to be responsible for experiments with oxygen.

An allowance of £50 (later liable to increase to £100) was given to the climbers towards the cost of their kit, which they themselves provided. This rather casual approach contrasts with the more highly organized expeditions of a later date; Howard Bury and Wollaston, indeed, not only provided their own outfits, but paid all their own expenses out to Darjeeling into the bargain.

With the climbers of the party Hinks had limited contacts. Kellas he knew already, but the latter's absence in the Sikkim mountains during the early months of 1921 prevented correspondence Kellas's inclusion was almost inevitable, since it was desired to study the use of oxygen for high altitude climbing. What was so disastrous was the failure to appreciate that he was entirely unfit before he ever left Darjeeling and today it seems fantastic to read of him being carried over the Tibetan plain in a litter. Kellas refused to be left behind at Phari, when his condition was bad ; indeed, all the party suffered from stomach upsets due to bad cooking at an altitude where water does not boil properly. Hinks had recommended a form of pressure cooker for the expedition, but this had not been adopted.12 Kellas moreover, was a bad patient, and very averse to taking drugs or stimulants,13 and as Hinks wrote to Howard Bury after the news of Kellas's death on 5 June 1921, it would have been difficult in practice to have examined him medically at Darjeeling 'because he was a very obstinate little man', and that it was a pity that he should not have had more sense than to exhaust himself just before the great expedition'.14
Raeburn’s selection proved unfortunate; not only was he too old, but he had become very difficult to get on with-Howard Bury Wollaston and Mallory all found him so, and it was evidently a relief when, immediately after Kellas's death, Raeburn had to be escorted back ill to Sikkim by Wollaston. He showed pi eat determination in rejoining the party beneath Everest, but his presence was by no means welcome, and at a later date still he seems to have been a nuisance to those planning the lecturers to be given on the return to England. Indeed, his breakdown on the march in, and his virtual supersession among the climbers, brought on, after his return home, a complete nervous collapse which led, after more than four years of getting steadily weaker, to his death. Hinks does not appear to have corresponded with Raeburn but he came to realize how unsuitable he was in the party.

Apart from Howard Bury himself, it was with Mallory that Hinks had most dealings. Their relationship soon showed signs of strain and this was to continue. Mallory had sized up Raeburn as incompetent (Robertson, 1969, p. 149), and his main concern from the start was that he felt that, with only two high climbers, himself and Finch, the expedition was under strength. What upset matters further was the rejection by the doctors of Finch as being unfit, and a proposal that W. N Ling, an old Mend of Raeburn, and aged 48, should replace him Mallory auiterightly, was disturbed at the prospect of another elderly climber in his view, the climbing of Everest was likely to depend on endurance rather than technical skill, and he pressed this point on Hinks in a letter less than a fortnight before he left for India.15
'For the final push we want men who can last I don't doubt the value of either Ling or Morshead but from the point of view of this final effort they have too much against them ... Ling his age .. and Morshead the fact that he will be engaged on his surveying work and consequently will not be able to train systematically for this mountaineering effort; and in any case we know very little about him as a mountaineer I have all along regarded the party as barely strong enough for a venture of this kind, with the enormous demand it is certain to make on both nerves and physique. I told Raeburn what I thought about that and said I wanted to have Finch because we shouldn't be strong enough with him.

You will understand that I must look after myself in this matter. I'm a married man and I cant go into it bald- headed.'

Hink's reply was not calculated to smooth matters over:

'I don't think that you need feel any anxiety about your own position, because you will be under the orders of very experienced mountaineers who will take care not to call upon you for jobs that can’t be done. The fact that you have been in close touch with Farrar all along has no doubt made you imbibe his view, which is hardly that of anybody else, that the first object of the Expedition is to get to the top of Mount Everest this year. Raeburn has been given full liberty to get as high as possible consistent with the complete reconnaissance of the mountain and it is left at that. As for Morshead, after all he has been more than half as high again as you have ever been, and he did this at rather short notice I suspect you will find him a hard man to keep up with when he has been in the field for several months on his survey work, which is I should imagine the best possible training.'16
To emphasize to Mallory that he would be under orders of very experienced mountaineers, with its implication of Mallory's own lack of experience, was no way to please, as Mallory was never very ready to accept orders, save possibly from his old climbing mentor, Geoffrey Young. And the remark about Morshead, who had accompanied Kellas on Kamet in 1920, was to rub salt into a wound. It fell to Wollaston to soften things:

‘1 got hold of Mallory alone to myself this afternoon and told him a number of things. He was evidently hurt in his pride by your letter, which was perhaps just as well-and said that he was going to write to you, but I persuaded him not to do so, at all events in the way that he intended, and I don't think you or we will have any trouble with him.'17
Fortunately, Ling refused and G. H. Bullock, aged 34, who had climbed with Mallory in the Alps in pre-1914 days, was able to take Finch's place. Hinks found Mallory oddly incapable and needing to be nursed along considerably before he got on board the Sardinia with a quantity of baggage. Later on, his unhandiness asserted itself for, as Hinks observed to J. N. Collie,18 'he (Mallory) cannot take photographs and cannot make primus stoves work when other people can'. Indeed, Mallory's unpracticability was to strike others in 1922 (see Robertson, 1969, PP 186, 214). Howard Bury left later, Hinks travelling to Paris to see him off there. In contrast with present-day practice, care was taken to prevent any Press publicity at the start of the expedition. Hinks congratulating himself heartily on having avoided anything of that sort.

Part of the money for the expedition was raised by articles in the times , Howard Bury sent these regularly and would have been glad at times of assistance from Mallory. But he found the latter so apt to he almost unintelligible in what he wrote that his services could not be employed ; those who have read Mallory's article the Alpine Journal for September 1918, on 'Mont Blanc from the Col du Geant by the Eastern Buttress', will know that, in his efforts at fine writing, Mallory was liable to be very obscure. As David Pye (1927) wrote of him, Mallory could write well, but his taste leaned rather to the impassioned and the elaborate and he was apt to be diffuse rather than economical with words. This defect seems to have cropped up in the first drafts of his section of Mount Everest: the Reconnaissance, the book of the 1921 expedition, and Howard Bury had to insist on some changes, to Mallory s great annoyance.

Throughout the expedition, Mallory appears to have been rather ill at ease, evidently disliking any orders being given him- what he called, rather quaintly, Howard Bury coming 6 the landlord' over them. He was probably conscious of being a 'new boy' on this sort of expedition, since all his companions were much more travelled than he. Though friction with Hinks was short lived, there seems to have been some strain left, and Hinks was apt, in 1922 as in 1921, to be mildly sarcastic about 'Master Mallory' (a term actually used by Collie to Hinks (July 23, 1922)). Mallory disliked Howard Bury ; felt contempt for Raeburn (' Was he always such a stupid man?', he writes to Geoffrey Young); and even got irritated with Bullock. It is unlikely that the faults were all on one side.

With Wollaston, Hinks, like everyone else, seems to have been on good terms throughout; Wollaston himself thoroughly enjoyed the expedition, making light of any hardships and saying that Tibet was a picnic after Dutch New Guinea.19 Unlike Mallory, he found Howard Bury a delightful man and a first-rate leader: Morshead said much the same. With Bullock, Hinks had no correspondence, for Bullock had to be roped into the expedition and got on board his ship in very short time, and as he had to return to his Consular work immediately after his return home, he played no part in the lectures about Everest. A man of equable temperament, he got on with everyone and was, at high altitudes, a useful counterweight to the more highly-strung Mallory. Howard Bury wrote warmly of Bullock in an obituary notice in the Alpine Journal for November 1956.20

In the main, Hinks's 1921 correspondence lay with Howard Bury of whom he formed a high opinion-much more so than he did of C. G. Bruce, the 1922 leader. Howard Bury, in addition to his despatches to The Times, wrote regularly to both Young- husband and Hinks, and was the principal photographer in the party. The 1921 expedition was run economically and had a balance of money over for the next year.

In 1921 no real trouble or friction arose, though the announcement of Brace's appointment for the next year was timed unfortunately, as Howard Bury had not yet left for India, and was vexed to find that the news was interpreted out there as he was himself being sacked for not having secured the summit of Everest. Actually, he had been pressed by Hinks to go again, as second-in-command to Bruce, but he felt obliged to get back to his home in Ireland, where the times were troublous. Considering how hurriedly the 1921 venture had to be launched ; how all the Indian Army transport mules broke down soon after leaving Darjeeling ; that half the climbing strength was lost soon after they reached Tibet; that few of the Tibetans they dealt with had ever seen a European ; that the ground was almost unknown and the ability of the country to feed an expedition was most uncertain; the expedition remains a remarkable one, paving successfully the way for all future Everest parties through Tibet. It is no injustice to later books to say that Mount Everest : the Reconnaissance, remains the most fascinating of all books written on Everest, for it was the most novel.

But 1921 cannot be considered quite in isolation, since it was the first half of a double effort. The North Col on Everest had been reached, but to a great extent the 1922 party had to initiate climbing activity on the mountain. Mountaineering predominated and there was no survey party in 1922 ; Ryder had hoped to make gravity observations by pendulum, but this came to naught. 'I am very sorry no further geographical work was done this year... it is a thousand pities to lose chances and if no survey work is done, to my mind the Mount Everest expedition becomes merely a mountain climbing effort, a fine physical performance, but of no geographical interest whatever.' ‘Hinks continued to have his hands full, both in 1922 and during 1924 expedition. Money troubles arose in 1922, and the balance brought forward from the previous year was soon expended. As Hinks wrote to Farrar in April 1922, when arranging for a bank loan, Bruce is evidently the man to spend our money'. What galled Hinks over Bruce was that the latter was by no means regular in sending home despatches for the Press, with the result that money did not come in as it should, and eventually, in an angry letter to J.E.C. Eaton, Hinks wrote that if 'you Alpine Club people' would not provide a guarantee of £1,000 for an overdraft, ‘some of your eminent members will have to be left in India to work their passages home '. The early departure of Longstaff, with Strutt, Morshead and Finch, from the 1922 party led to further misunderstanding, again occasioned by lack of proper information from Bruce. Hink's forthright style of comment nearly led to an outburst from Strut, but an epistolary battle of the giants was fortunately avoided.

With Mallory, Hinks was on much better terms than in the year before. Mallory was no longer the novice, but the most experienced man on Everest, though not, in Brace's estimate the outstanding one of the party, a position unhesitatingly allotted to T. H. Somervell. The year 1924 was to end in the deaths of Mallory and Irvine, and the subsequent memorial service in St. Paul's gave Hinks his share of work on that. But the great troubles of this third expedition arose out of two, unauthorized adventures by two members of the party J. de V. hazard, on the return journey to India, broke away from the normal route in order to visit Tsangpo, while Noel, the photographer raised a storm by bringing to England a party of lamas to give dances during the lecture programme. As Noel had paid a large sum to the Expedition's funds to have the sole rights m the films and photographs taken in 1924, Hinks sought to excuse the Everest Committee by saying that Noel ran his own show over which they had no control. The India Office, the Foreign and Political Officer in Sikkim, all joined issue over this and an increa ingly irate correspondence was to drag on into 1926, the tone of Hinks’s letters becoming so severe that firm complaints were made. A formidable note to the Mount Everest Committee from the India Office, on the name of Lord Birkenhead (and perhaps drafted by him?), tore to pieces the excuses made by Noel, and Hinks s reflections on Major Bailey ; and a distasteful matter ended with Hinks having to admit that he was in the wrong.23
The result of all this was that Tibet refused pleas for another expedition, and though General Bruce went out to India in February 1926 to try and smooth matters over, the ban on bverest lasted until 1933.


EA (Box 12, file 1)

Howard Bury to The Secretary, R.G.S.

The Bath Club,

34, Dover Street, W 1

March 19th, 1919.


I should like to bring before your notice for your approval the following proposals for a preliminary reconnaissance of Mount Everest, with a view to preparing the way for a largerexpedition the following year, which could then attempt the ascent of Mount Everest and thoroughly explore its surroundings

If the approval of the India Office can be obtained I propose to proceed to India this summer for the purpose of visiting Dingri Maidan and the northern slopes of Mount Everest in order to find a suitable base for the ascent of the mountain and to obtain photographs of the peak.

(a) With the permission of the Government of India, I would proceed to Gyantse to obtain through the Trade Agent permission from the Tibetan authorities, or if possible the Tashi-Lama himself, to make this reconnaissance, and obtain permission also for the expedition for the following year.

(b) If possible also I would visit Kathmandu to obtain the permission of the Nepalese authorities to approach Mount Everest from the side of Nepal, and to interest them in the proposed expedition.

(c) I would also see the Surveyor General of India, and try and arrange through him and the Director General of Flying in India for an aerial reconnaissance and photographs of Mount Everest.

I have the honour to remain,

Yours very truly,

C. Howard Bury,

Lt. Col.


E A (Box 1, file 2)

Seerctary, R.G.S. to Under-Secretary of State for India, Political department.

March 8th, 1921


In reply to your letter of 7 March 1921, No. P. 1290 received this morning, I have the honour to say that the proposals of the Joint Committee of this Society and the Alpine Club which is responsible for the organization of the Expedition to Mount Everest are as follows:

(I) The principal work of this year will be the reconnaissance of the surroundings and approaches to the mountain and the party will not be organized primarily for an attempt to reach the summit though it is hoped that if conditions are favourable and a satisfactory route is found they may be able to push high up on the mountain this year in preparation for a successful assault in the following year.

(2) The party will be led by Colonel Howard Bury as Chief of the expedition who is already well known to the Government of India The mountaineers will be Mr. Harold Raeburn in charge of the climbing party ; Dr. A. M. Kellas ; Mr. G. H. Leigh Mallory and Mr. George Finch. Mr. A. F. R. Wollaston will be surgeon and naturalist.

(3) Mr. Harold Raeburn leaves for Calcutta on 16 March. Dr Kellas is already in India. Other members of the party leave early in April and assemble at Darjeeling with the intention of leaving Daejeeling about 14 May.

(4) The propose to travel by the Chumbi Valley, Phari and Kamna Dzong and to proceed from the latter place towards Tingri with the intention of exploring the approaches to the mountain from the north.

(5) The Surveyor General of India is asking for two of his officers with a detachment of the native staff to be attached to the expedition, and it is understood that he is applying o the Government of India for their consent that the cost of the survey party shall be borne by the Survey of India.

(6) The Director General of the Indian Observatories has been asked whether he would wish that a native observer of his staff should be attached to the survey party, but no reply has yet been received.

(7) The Commander-in-Chief in India has agreed to lend for the use of the expedition 100 transport mules with drivers on the understanding that the forage and pay should be provided from the funds of the expedition.

(8) Arrangements are being made to enlist the services of a party of Sherpa Bhotias as porters-some of whom have already been trained in Alpine work by Dr. Kellas and Mr. Raeburn.

(9) In asking the Government of India to transmit to His Excellency die Dalai Lama the thanks of the Society and A pine Club for permission to enter Tibet, the President asked at the same time that Mr. Bell at Lhasa should convey to His Holiness the suggestion that, if he was pleased to appoint one of the young Tibetans trained in England to accompany the expedition, his assistance would be welcomed.

The President of the Joint Committee will be much obliged if in transmitting this information to the Government of India, the Secretary of State will be so good as to thank them for their inquiry what assistance is desired by the expedition and to say in replay first that the Committee would be very glad of a grant from the Government of India towards the expenses which are necessarily heavy ; secondly, that the stores and equipment of the expedition might be admitted duty free to India as the President has already asked; thirdly, that they would hope that the conditions under which the Commander in-Chief has promised to lend transport mules may be interpreted as liberally as possible, so that the charges to be borne by the expedition may be limited to additional expenses arising from the employment of the mules on the expedition ; fourthly, that the very valuable assistance suggested by the Surveyor General of India may be sanctioned; fifthly that the political officers on the Sikkim frontier may be allowed to rive all possible facilities to the expedition.

In regard to the first of these requests, I should explain that the members of the Alpine Club and this Society have between them subscribed already more than half the estimated sum required for the first year's work of the expedition, but the time has been short and the circumstances none too favourable for the collection of funds, and the Committee hope that they may look to the Government of India for such financial support as was given to the expedition of Dr. de Filippi. The Joint Committee trust that the Secretary of State may be willing in transmitting this reply to the Government of India to give his support to these requests.

I have the honour to be Sir,

Your obedient servant,



Frequent reference to notes in journals, minute books and correspondence has made it necessary to vary the usual style of references in the Journal. Such sources are identified by numbers in the text, and are given below under A; abbreviations are listed. Books referred to are given alphabetically under B.

Mount Everest foundation Trust Archives EA

Alphine Club records AC
Alpine Journal AJ

Geographical Journal Geogr. J

Indian Office Records IOR


1. E A Box I, file I.

2. AJ 98, 306 (1963), 115 n; 69, 308 (1964), 143.

3. IOR L- PS- 10-777, 5692/1918, pt. 1. Japan's growing interest in Tibetan affairs is noted by Alastair Lamb (1968a, ii, p. 480) as early as 1913/14, and the same writer (1968b, p. 216, n*) refers to Japanese influence in China in 1919.

4. Geogr. J. 53 (1919), 289.

5. Joint Committee AC/RGS Minute Book, p. 24.

6. EA Box 1, file 2

7. AJ 69, 308 (1964), 171-3.

8. IOR L-PS-10-778, 5692/1918, pt. 3: correspondence from Bailey in September and October 1924.

9 IOR L-PS-10-777, 5692/1918, pt 1; Viceroy to Secretary of State India 10 Jan. 1922 ; Younghusband to Under-Secretary of State 13 Feb.'1922; Bailey to Foreign and Political Department, Delhi, 2 Jan. 1922 enclosing correspondence received by Bell from Lhasa; Prime Minister of Tibet to Bailey, 22 Jan. 1923.

10. EA Box 4, file 1 ; letter of 25 November 1921.

11. AC archives; letters of Farrar to H. F. Montagmer, 20 March 1919.

12. EA Box 12, file 1 ; Hinks to Howard Bury, 14 July 1921.

13. EA Box 3, file 1 ; Wollaston to Younghusband, 11 June 1921.

14. EA Box 12, file 1 ; Hinks's letters of 30 June and 14 July 1921.

15. EA Box 3, file 2 ; Mallory to Hinks, 27 March 1921.

16. EA Box 3, file 2 ; Hinks to Mallory, 29 March 1921

17. EA Box 3, file 1 ; Wollaston to Hinks, 30 March 1921.

18. EA Box 11, file 5 ; Hinks to Collie, 3 October 1921.

19 EA Box 3, file 1 ; Wollaston to Hinks, 13 August 1921. Wollaston had been medical officer to an expedition to Dutch New Guinea in 1910 and again in 1912; earlier (1905) he was on a British Museum expedition to the Ruwenzori. His Everest diary is printed by Wollaston 1933.

20. Aj 67, 304 (1962), 130-49 and AJ 67, 305 (1962), 291-390 contain the Everest diary of G. H. Bullock.

21 EA Box 4, file 1 ; Ryder to Hinks, 11 September 1922.

22. IOR L-PS-10-778, 5692/1918, pt.w. Miscellaneous correspondence during 1925.


Howard Bury C. K. (1922). Mount Everest: the Reconnaissance 1921.

Lamb Alistair (1968a). The MacMahon Line : a study in the relations between India, China and Tibet, 1904-1914. (Studies in political history: General Editor, Michael Hurst, 2 vols.); (1968b). Asian frontiers
Noel J. B. L. (1927). Through Everest to Tibet.

Pye, 'David (1927). George Leigh Mallory.

Robertson, David (1969). George Mallory

Wollaston, Mary (1933) (ed.). Letters and diaries of A. F. R. Wollaston.

The Nilgiris from the west below Dhampus Pass  (Photo: Soli S. Mehta)

The Nilgiris from the west below Dhampus Pass (Photo: Soli S. Mehta)