It was kind of you to send me the copy of the Himalayan Journal and of course I have read it with great interest.
One technical point—the absence of a picture of Peak 19,777 ft. may lead to the caption of Photo No. 33 (in Himalayan Journal, Vol. 32), being misunderstood as referring to the 15,000 foot nodule in the background as 'the dominating peak'. In fact this one (in the photo) doesn't dominate anything, but I admit the caption can be taken two ways. The B.C. was a long way from the peak, and a sketch map would have been desirable to clarify the route.
I noted, with a wry grimace, your editorial footnote about our proposal that Peak 19,777 feet on the Ravi-Chandra Watershed should be named after Wangyl, our Sirdar. The suggestion came from Tony in the first instance, and I had my doubts as well, knowing the official attitude to these things. Yet when I pon¬dered over the situation, I thought—isn't it time that some more tangible recognition wras given to a mountaineer like Wangyal who had been recommended to me by Bob P'ettigrew as 'the finest alpinist I have, been with in Asia'. In fact, there was a proposal put up by Bob that those who had reason to be grateful to Wangyal should contribute to a fund to enable him to travel to this country as an honoured guest I Well, I didn't think that would come to anything, given the lack of money at the moment, and in any case the Wangyal contribution must cover expeditions of different nationalities. Simpler and more effective to have his name linked with one of the first ascents he's done, of which his total is an astounding 51.
In some ways I wonder if the matter is coloured by one's attitude to porters (and Sherpas) generally. Some parties seem to look on them as necessary but not particularly wanted part of an expedition. They dismiss them as soon as they reach a chosen objective. But when you are travelling small, on the kind of ventures that Pettigrew and we were tackling, the few porters become individuals linked with yourself in the carrying (especially that !), climbing and cooking. They deserve as much share of the limelight I wonder how many expeditions relied heavily on Wangyal, and bask in the approval of others afterwards with barely a grudging mention of him. And, in this connection, I was interested to see how our porters were given front page treatment (large coloured close-ups) by the American magazine Summit (April 1974) in the course of an article on our trip. Perhaps American mountaineers welcomed the opportunity to right the balance in a year when the Italian Army took on Everest, with the occasional help of 1,200 porters and several helicopters.
These are trends that are troubling, and I am glad to see that the Himalayan Journal is starting to wrestle with some of them. One is the more comprehensive approach needed in conveying Himalayan experience.
With regard to the litter problem, I do not have any particular articles on this subject, but I have read many comments and letters about the litter in the Himalaya and elsewhere. On Mt. McKinley in Alaska the problem, is very ;bad on the popular route.
I sent some comments to the LM.F, on this subject and have recently received a publication from them called 'Mountaineering Do’s and Don'ts'.
I agrree that education is the answer and enforcement by some means may be necessary. I list some points in this regard.
1. Climbers must make themselves and their fellow club members and expedition members aware of the problem .
2. The National organizations and clubs of the countries from which the expeditions come should make it their responsibility to educate this expeditionary members in mountain etiquette.
3. The local porters (and Sherpas) should also be educated in regard to the litter problem. The Liaison Officer could help here. Also the expedition members can lead a good example.
4. When a foreign expedition arrives in India and meets the I.M.F. beore the climb, the members should be briefed on the rules lay down by the I.M.F. The leaders must be made aware of his responsibility with regard to: (a) safe climbing—rescues are expensive, (b) the local people (and porters) being shown due respect (c) the camps, trails and mountains being left clean.
WHEN I read of the litter left by Expeditions in such beautiful places as Thyangboehe and find rubbish left scattered over camp sites in Garhwal (as we found garbage left by the JAPANESE AND Germans on our way to Trisul in 1975), then I suspect some mountaineers are going to the Himalaya for the wrong reasons. They are more interested in overcoming technical difficulties than enjoying the beauty of the natural scene; more deirous of bagging summits than gaining that refreshment of spirit which comes from being in the wonderful environment that they are visiting.
Thanks a lot for your recent letter. I have passed on to Dr. Pines your request for an article, and note that you refer to one on my expedition to Pt. 19,777 ft. However I did cover in a very shortened form the two-man venture undertaken to that peak and to he chief one in Lahul—Mulkila—in that previous piece in the Himalayan Journal.
Which brings me to your big theme and the reason for the enclosed, item from Climber and Rambler. It is the two-man climb (Messner and Habeler) of a 26,000 ft. plus peak using no ropes, no porters, no oxygen. The C. & R. editor describes the feat as seeming a big breakthrough in the history; of Himalayan mountaineering, and is indicating that it may lead to a new style of simple and unencumbered alpine-type assaults on the main peaks, I think he is sticking his neck out a bit—some big peaks have been climbed by very small parties—there's even been a four-man American attempt on Everest, Not to mention the famous Shipton-Tilman explorations or that of early pioneers.
Of course, the subject is of natural interest to me as my effort in Kulu and Lahul was precisely of a two-man nature, and 1 felt at the time that it could constitute a way forward although I was thinking more of peaks in the 19—24,000 ft. category. It struck me that it could entail undesirable risks to extend it to the big¬gest peaks, but the sensational age we live in being what it is, 1 suppose it was inevitable that a few competitive top- no tchers would go for the ultimate. I went for the smallness ethic because that type of endeavour attracted me, but that didn't mean that I didn't give a helping hand to Major Fleming (in advice anyway) who was engaged a year later in an endeavour involving 40 or so in two parties. To each his own. If an Italian party wants to tackle Everest employing over a hundred climbers and a thousand porters and two helicopters, so be it. 1 can see that one has got into that sort of situation with Everest anyway.
Perhaps the nub of the matter is that a certain kind of approach fits in with one's basic motive for making the all-out effort to get to the Himalaya, and it is very much tied up with that. To those who follow a Shipton-like trail, there is likely to be (as there is with me) a strong element of enjoying lightweight exploring, and the appeal of the Shipton-Tilman style has a lot going for it at a time when the bigness syndrome has started to go out of favour. Though I would imagine that Bonington will have cogent things to convey on the other, theme having just proved how it can overcome the immensity of the hard way up Everest. So where does that stand if Messner and Habeler come along and climb the same route up Everest on next to nothing? I'm not too sure. It would be really something, I think, if this were done without using oxygen—and I must say it has struck me as a weakness in the post-war triumph of the ascent of the highest peaks, that oxygen has been brought in on such a scale —for naturally the achievement is wide open to being upstaged by a subsequent attempt that is a success not using oxygen.
In some ways, though, I wonder if a certain blaseness doesn't creep in over these variations. Like a lot of people unconnected with mountaineering I cannot conjure up much interest in whether a rock face is climbed using a bolt gun or some other artificial aid. It is rather an inner question that relates to the validity of the endeavour with one's conscience—and for me the thing is bound up up with a fundamental that might be lamely referred to as true adventure. Which, rather regrettably, is an elusive quality to find in our highly technological age.
However, I have been sounding off a bit much.
All good wishes and power to your writing elbow.