Himalayan Journal vol.35
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.35

Publication year:
1979

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. THE STORY OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB, 1928-1978
    (JOHN MARTYN)
  3. FIFTY YEARS RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT
    (TREVOR BRAHAM)
  4. THE PASSANRAM AND TALUNG VALLEYS, SIKKIM
    (DR EUGEN ALLWEIN)
  5. NANDA DEVI AND THE SOURCES OF THE GANGES
    (H. W. TILMAN)
  6. THE MOUNT EVEREST RECONNAISSANCE, 1935
    (ERIC SHIPTON)
  7. THE SHAKSGAM EXPEDITION, 1937
    (MICHAEL SPENDER)
  8. GANGOTRI TRIANGULATION
    (Major GORDON OSMASTON)
  9. EVEREST, 1976
    (MAJOR M. W. H. DAY, R.E.)
  10. LHOTSE, 1976
    (KANJI KAMEI)
  11. THE SECOND ASCENT OF LHOTSE, 1977
    (DR HERMANN WARTH)
  12. MAKALU, 1976
    (ANDERS BOUNDER & OTHERS)
  13. THE CLEAN-UP TREK, 1976
    (MICHAEL CORDELL)
  14. THE THIRD KOREAN MANASLU EXPEDITION, 1976
    (JUNG SUP KIM)
  15. THE HONGKONG KANJIROBA EXPEDITION, 1976
    (DICK ISHERWOOD)
  16. AVALANCHE ON SISNE, 1977
    (R. A. L. ANDERSON)
  17. DHAULAGIRI IV, 1975
    (KUNIAKI YAGIHARA)
  18. NORTH SIKKIM, 1976
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  19. NANDA DEVI FROM THE NORTH, 1976
    (H. ADAMS CARTER)
  20. NANDA DEVI SANCTUARY - A NATURALIST'S REPORT
    (LAVKUMAR KHACHER)
  21. A BOTANICAL SURVEY IN THE NANDA DEVI SANCTUARY, 1974
    (N. C. SHAH)
  22. AN ATTEMPT ON NITALTHAUR, 1974
    (MANIK BANERJEE)
  23. CHAMRAO GLACIER EXPEDITION-1977
    (M. DEY)
  24. CHIRING WE, 1977
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  25. KINNAUR-1976
    (LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BALWANT SANDHU)
  26. BLACK PEAK, 1976
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  27. NILAMBAR EXPEDITION, 1977
    (RANVIR SINGH)
  28. POLISH K2 EXPEDITION, 1976
    (JANUSZ KURCZAB)
  29. A CRAWL DOWN THE OGRE
    (DOUG SCOTT)
  30. ISTOR-O-NAL NORTH I, 1976
    (RONALD NAAR)
  31. THE ASCENT OF SHERPI KANGRP 1976
    (PROF. KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  32. AFGHAN DARWAZ, 1975
    (RYSSZARD W. SCHRAMM)
  33. SWISS THUI EXPEDITION, 1975
    (DR ADOLF DIEMBERGER and HANS SCHIBLI)
  34. CLIMBING SHERPAS OF DARJEELING
    (DORJEE LHATOO)
  35. OF MOUNTAINS & MEMORIES
    (SITU MULLICK)
  36. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  37. OBITUARIES
  38. BOOK REVIEWS
  39. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
  40. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1976
  41. EXPEDITIONS 1975-1977

THE SHAKSGAM EXPEDITION, 1937

MICHAEL SPENDER

(Reprinted from the Himalayan Journal, VoL X, 1938)

That I should join Shipton and Tilman on their journey to the Karakoram was not decided until a few weeks before the party left England. I knew that Shipton had been making various plans of approach to the Shaksgam valley; in particular that he had been hoping to make the traverse from Leh to the Shimshal. He had investigated an approach up the Siachen glacier and discussed in which direction to travel; but not until every detail of these plans had been worked out did he decide to take a party into the middle of the unexplored area and send people out on radial journeys from a central dump to the margins of known territory.

It was impossible to discuss a journey into an area such as this one without it becoming increasingly apparent that nowadays a traveller is under an obligation to bring back at least a map. Shipton felt this strongly enough to cause him to enlarge the original party of himself and Tilman to include eventually Auden, of the Geological Survey of India, and myself. It is a point to be noted about this expedition that the leader and his companion put themselves to inconvenience and denied themselves many of the pleasures of exploration in order to help Auden and myself to do our more formal work.1
We met in Srinagar where, kindly and generously entertained by Sir Peter and Lady Clutterbuck, we enjoyed a week of not- too-strenuous preparations and sight-seeing in Kashmir. We were not the first party of the year to cross the Zoji La, but conditions were still very wintry. The coolies from Sonamarg made the worst of the unfavourable conditions and staged all the conventional devices to force the exasperated traveller to give them further backsheesh. The actual crossing by candle-light on the 11th May was, however, easy and without incident, though the amount of snow still lying at 11,500 feet made us wonder what it would be like at 18,000 feet.

We quickly left the snow and marched down to the Indus valley. By the time we reached that torrid gorge it was not the cold but the heat which bothered us, though we were still as high as about 8000 feet. At last the green parks of Skardu were reached and the expedition began to assume a less ramshackle form. Here supplies could be bought and letters posted. The local tahsildar would be the last official we could meet and talk to, and to him we went for advice about food and porters.
1. The folding map opposite p. 49 [of Vol. XJ, compiled by the author of this- paper from the surveys of the expedition, is reproduced by the courtesy of the Royal Geographical Society. For the leader's account of this expedition see- Geographical Journal, vol. xci, 1938, pp. 313-339.-Ed.

Our route to the Shaksgam valley and the area Shipton wanted to explore was the most direct, but technically likely to be the most difficult. We intended to reach it by going straight over the great Karakoram at, or near, the Muztagh pass. To do this we would take the normal route to the Baltoro glacier and from there find a way over the main range.

Thus on the 20 May we left Skardu, having bought rice, tsampa, sugar, paraffin, salt, ghee, and blankets. The bulk of our ata we would buy at Askole, and there we would also take on most of our porters for the first transport, which was to get three months supplies into our area. We crossed the Indus that sunny morning with about twenty coolies from Skardu, who turned out to be on the whole better men than the Askole fellows. The Shigar valley was one of the most pleasant we saw on our travels. We asked whether sahibs were accustomed to come there, but were that though they used to come for shikar, they no longerdid so. We followed up the valley, on each side of which were massive moraines of a great glacier which once had filled it. At the point where it turns east towards the Baltoro glacier it narrows to a gorge, and we had to cross the river by a zak, or raft of inflated skins. Here, as also in crossing the Indus, the craft is not so much propelled as persuaded across the flood by the cries and incantations of the passengers. In any case, the boat or raft is swept downstream through rapids and hazards which give much anxiety to those responsible for money and instruments,

At Askole, reached on 24 May, final arrangements had to be t in turn our walking-tour into an expedition. The number of porters was increased to one hundred and ata for them and for us was bought and made up into 60-lb loads. Our own equipment was once again examined and everything not really essential was rejected. From now onwards we would have to carry personal things and sleeping-bags ourselves. In spite of, or because of a famine in this land the local people sold us about 2 tons of flour. From the moment they left Askole on 26 May this vast horde was consuming flour at the rate of 230 lb a day, so it was imperative to move as fast as possible. The men were given one rupee and 2 lb of flour a day and bonuses according to the distance covered. This was good pay; but for them there was nothing to be gained by marching long stages. We, on the other hand, could not forget that every extra day spent in crossing the main range would shorten our possible stay beyond it by a week. Our calculations were based on a daily ration of 2 lb. For our party of four sahibs, seven Sherpas, and four locals, 3000 lb of food would be required for one hundred days; but to get this load over the range to a point ten marches distant meant leaving Askole with something like 7000 lb of supplies and one hundred porters, who would themselves eat more than half of what they were carrying.

Paiju, at the foot of the Baltoro glacier, is a pleasant spot with grass and plenty of fuel. Conditions on the road so far had not been too cheerful. Auden and I had mapped the snout of the Biafo glacier in chilly, overcast weather, and later I was knocked down by the Panmah river during a snowstorm. At last, after traversing the first of the many cliffs of mud and stones which we were to meet that summer, we joined Shipton and Tilman, comfortably camped amongst the verdure. No sooner had we arrived than we discovered that Tilman was ill with fever. This was most unfortunate, and the only possible course was to leave Tilman and Auden behind, just when mountaineering judgment was most required.

When Shipton and I left next morning, 29 May, we were still discussing which pass to attempt over the main range. We took a route on the north side of the Baltoro-which was not the usual one used by coolies moving up the glacier towards Urdokas or the Muztagh pass-with the object of attempting the saddle between the Sarpo Laggo and Trango glaciers, which had seemed passable to Professor Desio on the Italian expedition of 1929 It seemed unlikely to be more difficult, and would certainly be shorter, than the route over the east Muztagh pass. By the time we had led the coolies on to the north bank of the Baltoro, however, taken them over the broken ice at the foot of the Uli Biaho glacier, and pointed their footsteps up the Tango valley, they were altogether without enthusiasm. They could not understand why we rejected the usual route, of which they well knew the difficulty, nor why we should go up a nameless valley from which the 'Dook Sahib' had retired.

We therefore had to coax them along over country which might turn out to be impassable. After two hours they tried to persuade us that it was time to pitch camp again : it was hard work resisting the stubbornness of a hundred men. We were haunted by dreadful facts : that we must have fuel for them to bake their bread, that we had no tents for them, that their boots would not be good enough for snow. After two days on the ice we got them 'ashore' on a large piece of ancient moraine from which some kind of scrub could be stripped that would burn. We were at about 15,000 feet and it was desperately cold at night; but as long as they could be lazy they seemed happy. They had to be bullied again into making some kind of shelter against the frost and snow. Some refused to do this, camped right out in the middle of a windswept plain, and finally, to keep themselves warm, had to take some of our precious reserves of wood fuel, which made our prospects of crossing even more hazardous.

The next day when I looked round the camp at daybreak it seemed that either they had all gone, or else they were ail dead; but first one, then another, snow-covered object rose and revealed itself as a man wrapped in a blanket. The one thing they never thought, of complaining about was the cold: activity was what they disliked. We let them thaw out, and then moved up the glacier in beautiful sunshine; but we had only gone a little way before we reached new snow, covering everything. Rather than make too long a delay issuing snow-glasses, Shipton and I told them to wait while we trudged on to look for the pass. We hoped it would be up the first valley to the right. A preliminary glance up its glacier was not encouraging, so we plodded up through the soft new snow to gain a better view. The better view always showed the worse prospect. At about 17,000 feet under the powerful sun and without food, I had had about enough; but Shipton went up farther, only to return with the information we had expected, that the valley ended in an ice-fall quite impracticable for our party.

The return was a wade through deep and treacherous slush. We both wondered silently why the exploratory element had been prematurely introduced into the expedition. The men could see the degree of our depression when we arrived; but they gave us no rest and there followed two hours of such confusion, shouting, and protests that the immediate geographical problems were put into the background. In the silence which followed after sunset,we made three plans, based respectively on complete revolt, partial revolt, and the improbable willingness of the men next day.

As it turned out next day, 1 June, was fine, and we made good progress to a camp-site on a snow-covered moraine-terrace at 17,000 feet. The pass seemed to be in sight, the weather settled. We still had most of our men and they appeared willing to stand one night at this halt. All the time we were ourselves drying the men’s boots, building their huts, and generally mothering them. The night was bitterly cold, even in a sleeping-bag inside a tent. It must have weakened the porters, because next day, tramping through deep powdery snow towards what we took to be the pass, they were exhausted and some of them even mountain-sick, when we got to the top we found that the true pass was a mile and a half away across the slight dip of a hanging glacier terrace. The snow was steadily getting worse and now the whole situation was too much for them. We persuaded them to come down to the lowest point of the depression and there, on an ice-fall at 18,000 feet, between two unexplored passes, we solemnly paid off eighty three of them and saw them wind their way quite briskly back along our tracks towards Baltistan.

We sacked the loads in a dump, took as much as we could ourselves, and plodded on. Besides the two of us, there were now six Sherpas and twenty locals. The seventh Sherpa, Sen Tensing, himself a little unwell, was with Auden and Tilman. With us were the famous Ang Tharkay and his friend, new to the work, Lobsang; And Tensing, like Sen Tensing, was known to us from earlier expeditions; Lhakpa Tensing, from the French Himalaya expedition of 1936, and Eilar and Nuku, young and new to the business, but good Sherpas. We crossed the real pass (Sarpo Laggo pass) in a snow flurry; but there at last was the view we had been hoping for. Below us the country fell away to ranges of a reasonable size. The Sarpo Laggo glacier led down into central Asia, past gently sloping open country. It looked like a district in which it would be pleasant to work.

The next few days were laborious for everybody but myself. I started by making a long base in order to get K2 and a number of local points plotted on to my plane-table sheet. Meanwhile, the rest of the stores had to be fetched. On the 4th June Auden turned up and told us that Tilman and Sen Tensing were better and on their way. Our fears that they might have been ill with typhoid were thus allayed; but this curious fever returned from time to time, and Auden also had a few bouts of it later on. Both Tilman and Auden, having experience of malaria, denied that this was malaria. Slowly loads were got down to Changtok and Moni Brangsa. Changtok is a fine place for a summer camp, with extensive grassy slopes. There are a great number of houses and tent-rings up there. For my part, I found it difficult to think of all of them as the temporary erections of passing caravans : some of the places seemed to have been inhabited for longer periods; but not all my colleagues agreed with me. Moni Brangsa, reached from Changtok after a rather stony and tiresome walk, ending up with a very tedious excursion out on to the glacier to cross a side glacier, is shut in and not so charming, but has a little fuel and plenty of good water.

The weather had been splendidly fine at first, though in early June the cold was intense in the shade or in the wind. While this delayed the survey a little, especially the cold wind at 19,000 feet, the loads were all the time being brought over by Shipton or his porters. On the 6th June Tilman came over, having had a return of his fever just short of the pass, and looking very ill. By the 10th everything was down at Moni Brangsa; but here some more of our local porters left us.

Below Moni the glacier was not much fun. The going got bad and there was no fuel. It took two days, with a long march on the second one, to reach the site selected for the expedition base dump below the snout of the Sarpo Laggo glacier and opposite the valley of the Crevasse glacier. The Sarpo Laggo seemed to have shrunk enormously, so that at the edges the lateral moraine was tumbling down over slopes of ice high above the present level of the glacier; and in the middle every kind Of irregularity, such gorges, bridges, crevasses, lakes, and rivers kept us on an in certain course, while the moraine material was constantly on if move. At the snout an enormous piece of glacier is deadice cut off from the main body of the ice by the river. Possibly the collapse of these glaciers is as much a cause of the routes becoming impracticable as the alleged increase of the ice.

We were now not so much interested in establishing the dump as in getting sufficient supplies for the Aghil trip. We debated a good deal how long this excursion should last. In the end we decided to strain our carrying capacity to the limit and make it three weeks. This would bring us back to the Shaksgam river by the10 July-that is, with some days to spare before 15 July, which Mason and others had suggested to us as the latest day for the safe fording of that flood. There were some delays, at the time irritating; and we had to get rid of all but four of the local coolies. When they left, handsomely paid, they took 1000 of the Sherpas' cigarettes with them; but the theft was discovered by their escort of Ang Tharkay and Lhakpa within a few miles of the camp.

During the relaying of the necessary supplies we Visited Sughet that landmark in this desert. At its centre there is a spring, a small grassy meadow, and a coppice of willow trees; - below this the bushes, which grow at any place where there is a spring in the gravels of the river plain, spread for a mile in each direction. Not only were there hares and wild horses (kyang) to be seen, but many remains of habitation. In particular, one well built square house with a door, the stones set up to make a flat faced wall, could hardly have been a temporary habitation. Auden found and photographed a grave which seemed to be very recent; besides that, there were many temporary stone-shelters and some ruins, possibly some very old large houses.

These deserted places provoke one into thinking about the people who once were there. We felt that we should bring back as much information as we could discover about them, but in fact it was hardly possible. It must always be remembered that it is difficult enough for a man on an expedition to keep up his own job: to take up other observations is practically impossible. Some day no doubt, people more learned in this kind of work will visit these parts. There are some queer things to explain : for instance,opposite our dump, that is, off the caravan route and on the other side of the Sarpo Laggo river, there was a camp with about ten houses and on the way into the Shaksgam valley I found a cave, blocked from the south by a stone-fall and from the north by an awkward precipice. This had been occupied by people for many years and cannot have been on any route. The actual way from the Aghile pass seemed to cross from a point near the debouchment of the K2 glacier stream over a pass south of the 4500-metre rock-ridge dividing the Sarpo Laggo and Shaksgam valleys. The route was in good condition and cairned.

From the heights above Sughet Jangal, Shipton shot our first meat, some bharal. I had meanwhile laid out a further base and got another connexion to K2, so that I could combine the two systems. At last we could manage to shift the loads without relaying and set off up the: Shaksgam valley to look for the turning to the Aghil pass. The river already looked somewhat alarming and sent us from time to time scrambling up cliff and rock faces when it swept against the southern edge of its valley. In the forenoon of 19 June we came abreast of the Valley2 which Desio's map indicated as 'to the Aghil Pass'. But we argued that there must have been, some mistake, as the valley would not coincide with Younghusband's description. But we took the chance of crossing the river. Ang Tensing gave me an anxious moment when he fell into the water with the plane-table; but he reappeared none the worse, though shaken. Almost at once after that, we, now on the north side of the river, were forced up 500 feet, where the river closed with a conglomerate cliff. Thence we worked along a terrace and crossed the gorge of a little muddy stream coming out of what we thought by now to be the Aghil valley.

As far as I was concerned, any excitement or' pleasure at finding and reaching the Aghil pass on the 20th was overshadowed by the magnitude of my blunder in not having brought the subtense bar. On the way up we passed many signs to show us that we really had found the old route : there were stone-shelters, cairns, and from time to time smaller indications such as cast horseshoes. The summit was just as described by Younghusband, open and with a fine lake practically at the pass itself. But no known point could be seen; nothing except a glimpse down a narrow valley past a host of unknown minor peaks. It was obvious that

I could not rely on getting a resection and must send for the base gear. Ang Tensing was very annoyed. Meanwhile, we measured a tent-pole with my slide-rule, and an alpine-rope with the tent-pole, and a base-line with the rope. The inaccuracy was about 2 per cent.

The days we spent in this district were some of the pleasantest I have ever had on any expedition. The country was neither too large nor too high. Fuel and water were within reach. The weather was excellent and the wind never excessive. Our diet was enriched with chives and rhubarb. Beds of primula were in all the gulleys, bharal in large herds on the mountains. We split up into three parties. The others got away first while I waited for my subtense bar. One evening I observed to Polaris : it was a night full of comedy. The lighting came from a cigarette tin filled with paraffin, with a piece of pyjama cord as a wick. The pass at 16,000 feet was draughty at night, so all hands had to hold a blanket as a windshield. The lamp flared, my hair caught fire, and I could not get the pole-star into the telescope. Sen Tensing was sent out to get a candle on a rock as a 'reference object' for the azimuth observations. Of course the light blew out, the clouds came, the wrong screws were turned in the confusion. It took until about midnight before the last sight, a time observation to Spica, was finished.

I crossed the pass just east of the point 5462 and descended into the large valley running south of the points limiting my map, which were identical with those determined both by Deasy (1897) and Wood's surveyor (Jamna Prashad, 1914). There were several huts had clearly it was the custom of some nomads to comeup this valley with their yaks once a year. Unfortunately we were too early to meet anybody. Probably these pastures are occupied in the autumn, after the rivers have gone down. We decided from the ornaments and utensils in the houses that who ever came here was of a Tibetan or Mongolian culture. Our hopes of meeting the people themselves were raised when at 5.30 on the morning of 29 June a collie-like sheep-dog turned up. Directly we started down the track towards the Yarkand river he overtook us, returning presumably on tracks which must have led from the people Auden met at the limit of his journey to the junction.

2. Skam Lungma on the expedition map.

The gorge of the Surukwat is rather different from other valleys. Most of the Karakoram gorges are narrow and very steep, or, like Shaksgum valley, have broad flood plains between vertical rock walls. But the Surukwat has cut down 300 or 400 feet into the travels at the bottom of a wide U-shaped valley. Side streams are proportionally incised, which makes travel difficult and desiccates the plain. The route from the pass runs down by the river past various spring-fed Jangals with this or that sign of temporary habitation. But from the bottom of this gigantic ditch nothing whatever can be seen of the landscape.

Shipton and Tilman had meanwhile concentrated on making a connection with the river which Mason in 1926 had called the Zug Shaksgam. They had climbed a peak above the Aghil pass and were fairly sure of the lie of the land towards Mason's country. While Auden and I were each busy with our own problems they searched for a pass into the neighbouring country to the east. In Shipton’s own words,

Our object was to find a way over into the large valley which we had seen from the tops of the peaks we had climbed, and which we suspected would prove to be the lower part of the Zug Shaksgam..... . We reached a saddle (about 19,500 feet) at one of the eastern heads of the Kharkul Lungpa glacier, and after crossing it we found ourselves in a large glacier system with numberless branches.

Leaving the glacier, we entered a difficult conglomerate gorge. As we had made a very early start we found the stream to be fordable and were able to follow its bed without being forced upon to the most unclimbable flanks of the nullah. We were obliged to cross the river about twelve times, and had to go as hard as we could to reach its end before the late afternoon floods. Even so, we had to camp half a mile above its junction with a large valley running from south-east to north-west. There was a plentiful supply of birch-wood and other fuel. When we reached this valley early next morning we found that it contained very large river-certainly bigger than the Shaksgam at the place where we had crossed. We concluded that this must be Mason's 'Zug-Shaksgam'. We decided to follow it upstream for a day or two and then make our way down it. On a well-wooded spit of land at the junction of the valley we- had just come down and this big one we were surprised to find a collection of stone shelters. As there was no possibility of grazing in the vicinity, this spot must have been used as a regular halting-place on some route. But from where and to where we could not guess. Below this point the river entered what appeared to be an almost impassable gorge. Ang T'harkay was sent with one Balti to see if it were possible to force a way through this, while the rest of us were exploring up the river. Each party took food for one night. The weather being fine, we were able to dispense with tents and, carrying very little equipment, to travel at a great speed.

Along the floor of the valley, or on the ancient river terraces which are such a prominent feature of this country, the going was good, though we were held up from time to time by deep ravines cut into the conglomerates by side streams, and sometimes by the side streams themselves. We came upon several oases caused by springs of water. At each of these we found buildings of various types; at one was a collection of interesting dome-shaped huts. It seemed as though a little simple irrigation of these terraces would render the valley very fertile, but we did not see any traces of cultivation, recent or ancient. The problem presented by these relics of former habitation in such difficult country is a very interesting one and should be more closely investigated. By nightfall we had covered a lot of ground and fancied that we must be approaching the farthest point reached by Mason from the opposite direction. The valley had opened out enormously and we could see a lot of the surrounding country. We started again at 3.30 next morning, went several miles farther up the valley, crossed a large side nullah which we fancied came down from the peaks above Durbin Jangal, and climbed a prominent spur standing some 2500 feet above the valley at the corner of a big bend in the river. We recognized several of Mason's points which now stood around us. After taking a round of angles and photographs with the Watts-Leica instrument, we descended to the valley and, marched up it to a point nearly opposite that which Mason had reached. The river appeared to be unfordable.

We failed to get back to our dump that day and spent a hungry night on the way back. When we reached it next day Ang Tharkay reported that he had failed to find a way through the gorge. He had found, however, that it was possible to circumvent the gorge by climbing some 4000 feet up the steep side] of the valley. Two days later we got down into a valley which flowed back into the Zug-Shaksgam 4 miles lower down. We made two high photo-theodolite stations on the way. We reached) this side stream at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and, badly misjudging its volume and steepness, attempted to cross it, Tilman was swept off his feet but managed to climb out on the other side. He and I held a rope across the water and Lobsang and Ang Tharkay started across. A rolling boulder upset the latter and although Lobsang made tremendous efforts to hold on to him. Ang Tharkay was carried away down the river, his waterlogged load making it impossible for him to struggle effectively. It was a sickening sight, and we could do nothing to help for had we let go of the rope Lobsang would have gone too. Ang Tharkay was being crashed against the rocks with tremendous force and I expected any moment to see his head go under for good. However, before this happened, by a stroke of luck he got hung up on a rock in mid-stream, and Lobsang aid across, the Baltis were able to drag him ashore, He was badly shaken, and so bruised that for once he was unto laugh at his own misfortune. But fortunately no bones were broken, and wrapped in dry sleeping-bags he recovered quickly. We had to remain where we were. It rained and snowed heavily throughout the night, and Tilman and Lobsang on the other side of the river, without any covering, fared badly. By dawn, when we started, the stream was reduced to ridiculously small dimensions and we were able to make our way down the valley by continually fording it. But it was an alarming business, for the rain and snow had soaked into the conglomerate cliffs which towered thousands of feet above us. Stones and boulders kept up a continuous bombardment all the way down the valley, and we had repeatedly to take cover.

When we regained the Zug-Shaksgam at 9 o'clock we found that we were just below the mouth of the gorge down which Ang Tharkay had failed to find a route, We hurried down along the wild gravel flats as fast as we could, for our food was running short and we were by no means sure how long it would take to get back to the Surukwat, though by now we were certain that it was to there that the Zug-Shaksgam flowed. After a mile the river swept against the cliffs on our side of valley rending further progress along the river-bed impossible. Again we were obliged to climb 4000 feet up steep mud cliffs and traverse along above the valley. Going was difficult and complicated. We were continually being forced to perform some hair raising feet of rock climbing on vertical conglomerate cliffs, The Baltis excelled at this, as they did in dealing with dangerous rivers. Lack of water forced us to go on until long after we succeeded in regaining the river-bed near an extensive Jungle a mile above the junction of, the Zug-Shaksgam and the Surukwat. On 2 July we marched up the Surukwat and found Spenders party encamped at the foot of the Kharkhul Lungpa.

Auden’s journey into the Skam Lungma completed this piece of exploration. He crossed from the Surukwat west head into the Skam Lungma by a pass about 18,500 feet high and found himself amongst a system of small glaciers and lakes. He followed this very stony and barren valley down to the Shaksgam; after visiting Durbin Jangal he returned to the main dump near Sughet Jangal.

Now that this principal division of the expedition's work had been finished, there remained the exploration of the valleys north of K2 and the investigation of the Crevasse glacier. While the others went into the K2 region I had to return up the Sarpo Laggo glacier as far as the hill opposite Moni Brangsa, which was climbed, and connect up the two areas of survey already begun. The journeys made by the others were much more interesting than mine : in the days between 9 and 16 July they investigated' and mapped with the Watts-Leica instrument4 the area between the Sarpo Laggo valley and the glaciers above the Shaksgam which the surveyors of Visser's expedition of 1935 had already mapped. From the peak 6350 between the K2 and Sky and glaciers they photographed one of the finest mountain panoramas imaginable. To the south were the colossal northern faces of K2 and other peaks of the main watershed, and they could see the crest of the entire Aghil range from the neighbourhood of the Karakoram pass to the Oprang river. Later they went up the K2' glacier and stood in the cirque at its head, with the stupendous north face of K2 rising sheer out of the glacier in one continuous sweep of 12,000 feet. Tilman reverently collected a piece of rock for the Alpine Club.

They joined me on 17 July at the spit of an old moraine opposite the main dump. Shipton was snow-blind from stalking bharal, but he had shot his quarry, and all were glad of the fresh meat. We now had fifty-five days' food left and began to compute the possibilities of taking the party up the Crevasse glacier. We could only see as far as the 'First Divide' and had no notion of the lie of the glacier beyond; but it was hoped that if Auden and Tilman had to leave us fairly soon, some way through to the Biafo or Nobande Sobande glaciers would reveal itself. Shipton and I were primarily interested in the connexion to and exploration of the Braldu glacier-a lower tributary of the Shaksgam; but it was very important also to clear up the problem of 'the Snow-Lake'. This expression originated from a casual, but apt, remark Mr Conway's (Climbing the Himalayas, p. 378) made on first seeing the head of the Biafo glacier from the Hispar- Biafo pass, but admittedly a few pages later the expression stands with capital letters. The Workmans, seven years later, retained the capital letters and by degrees 'the Snow Lake' developed agreat importance in geographical speculation. In fact, it was recently expected that there might exist a vast ice-cap from which flowed at least the Biafo glacier to the south, the Braldu to the north and the Crevasse glacier of Younghusband to the east.
  1. The name 'Crevasse glacier', which at first sight seemed a curious description for a major glacier of the Karakoram, was, after some discussion, adopted by the expedition and incorporated in the map because of Younghusband’s definite pronouncement: 'The glacier we did our best to surmount I called the Crevasse Glacier, on account of the great number and size of the crevasse! which were wider and deeper and far more frequent than I have seen on any other glacier's (Geographical Journal, vol. xiv, 1892, p. 216).
  2. Himalayan Journal, vol. ix, 1937, p. 175.
Getting up this glacier was rather a duller business than the expedition had so far provided. Three-banked relaying means that 20 miles have to be marched to cover 4 miles. If those 4 miles are over the lower part of a Himalayan glacier they seem like 8, even when one is carrying no load. But it gave me time for Auden to examine the geology and for me to make my survey. At 4410 metres we established the second camp. Already at that height there was no more fuel worth carrying farther up, so that we had to fetch some from the camp below. The 'First Divide' was passed on 27 July and the 'Second Divide' camp occupied on the 31st; this camp was on the south side of the glacier. Here we were faced with a real puzzle. The southern branch seemed to lead to a col, but that in turn might not be a pass, and if it were, where did it lead? We used to discuss probabilities and possibilities a great deal in the tent; admittedly there were critics present who said it was no good arguing about things which the next day could not fail to reveal.

Each of us now started to look for a pass for himself. Auden and Tilman wanted to leave us, one possibly by the Panmah the other perhaps by the Biafo. Auden had amongst other things a date in Calcutta and Tilman wanted to be certain that the preparations for the Mount Everest Expedition of 1938 were made in good time. They left me to investigate the northern branch of the glacier on my own. We all met again about 5 August; every one of us had found a pass, and each thought his to be the best. Shipton and I were not really concerned with the others' passes, but we had to discuss which of ours to take. Shipton’s led over a col about 19,000 feet high, beyond him which he had to cut about 700 steps to get down towards the Braldu glacier. When he crossed on the 3rd the weather was bad, but it was certain that he had reached the basin of the Braldu, though he had an alarming accident on the way back. He was returning from his tiring reconnaissance to the camp at the head of the glacier after dark with Ang Tharkay. They were only two on the rope, and were within earshot of the camp when Shipton, leading, went down a large crevasse into a lake of icy water. Ang Tharkay had been walking rather close, so that shipton had time to wonder whether he was roped at all before he hit the water. Had he not been able to hoist himself on to a bollard of ice he would probably have been taken by one of two deaths earlier by the cold water or by the tightness of the rope round his body. Ang Tharkay, using his intelligence and his great streanth, got him out by lowering the free end of the rope as a stirrup.

This accident was of course of no significance in discussing which pass to take. The pass I had to offer (the Wesm pass) was a good deal lower and almost certainly much easier. While it did not lead directly into the Braldu, I held that the glacier leading from it would join the Braldu some miles above the snout. Map and diary both show that nothing of the sort was the case, but before considering our homeward route I will note the main points of the journeys by Auden and Tilman.

They had intended, if possible, to work together to 'the Snow Lake'. But Auden, who had only the four Balti porters, found that it was impossible to get them to remain any longer above the fuel line as long as his primus would not work. So after entering the head of the Braldu with Tilman he had to return and make his way down the Nobande Sobande glacier. We said good-bye to them on 11 August. Auden immediately took over the survey beyond my boundary. He took the Watts-Leica theodolite and in the course of his journey made sufficient stations to map the Nobande Sobande basin. This was a specially creditable effort in view of the difficulties lie had in negotiating the crevassed stretch of the glacier, and bearing in mind that his own work was geology.

Tilman had to cross the two arms of the head of the Braldu, after which he soon realized that he was in the north-east head of the Biafo and heading straight for 'the Snow Lake'. He took bearings and photographs along the route. On the farther (west) side of the Biafo he climbed a mountain next to the Hispar glacier and opposite the peak climbed by Mrs Bullock Workman called "Watershed peak'. Photographs from this summit included many points of the precise survey, and it was easy to resect its position after using some other pictures to calibrate Tilman's camera. Geographically this was a very important fixing, as it was a basis to an adjustment of the position of the Hispar pass and the neighbouring watersheds.

Tilman then found a pass into the glacier called the 'Cornice glacier' by the Workmaxis in 1903. These travellers claimed that here they found a remarkable new geographical entity-a glacier without an outlet. The Workmans' zeal for exploration never developed into a sense of topography. Their maps were as a rule made by some one especially attached to the expedition and whose work, like the cook's, was done without much interest or assistance from the leaders of the expedition. Never has a lack of topographical sense led to such an absurd conclusion as their postulated 'Cornier glacier'; as for the abuse showered on Sir Martin Conway for his careful and reasoned objections to a far-fetched hypothesis, it; must be put down to a rare obtuseness. The fact remains that their map was little help to Tilman in his exploration of the glacier system.

The Workmans, exploring the main Hoh Lumba glacier and its eastern tributary, the Sosbon glacier, found that cols at its head led into one and the same glacier, which they named 'Cornice glacier'. The next stagesA in their argument (Geographical Journal, vol. xxxv, 1910, p. 113) "were that no glacier debouched into the Hispar glacier at this point, and that this glacier flowed neither into the Biafo nor into the Huch Alchori glacier. All these observations were quite correct. But they then proceeded to come to two grossly improbable and actually incorrect conclusions: (a) that 'Cornice glacier' is an enclosed glacier without outlet, and (b) that the farther boundary of the glacier seen northwards from their cols was actually the Hispar south wall. Sir Martin Conway (ibid., p. 129) summarized the arguments against this theory in an R.G.S. discussion and ended: 'My conclusion is that there must be an exit somewhere, and I think that after Dr and Mrs Workman’s repeated journeys of exploration, they have got to go back again once more. They have got to climb into this glacier and find its outlet.' To this Dr Workman replied in a very disagreeable way, treating his theory as indisputable fact and rejecting Sir Martin's objections on the ground that he had neither seen the glacier nor any of its barriers.

Why it was necessary to invent so curious a feature for the ‘Cornice glacier' is not clear, because there existed the Kushuchun Lungma, whose outlet was known and whose glaciers had not been explored. Tilman's exploration shows that two glaciers flow into this nullah from the western side of the western wall of the Biafo. Tilman has a photograph from the 'Cornice glacier' of the 'Coldes Aiguilles', a readily recognizable array of pinnacles. North of the ‘cornice glacier' there is another massif and another glacier before the south wall of the Hispar is reached,

Shipton and I parted from the others at the head of the Crecerse glacier. After finishing the survey thereabouts we made our way to the Wesm pass. On 17 August we took the second set of loads up to the pass and started to find a way down the other side. The snow was very much deeper on the northern side and the descent more difficult than we had expected it to be. To get the loads down in a single shift the Sherpas shouldered more than 130 lb. each. The crevasses were disguised by a covering of fresh snow, but we got through without accident to a point from which we could see the farther course of the glacier. Below us was a 1000-foot icefall, and it was clear that the glacier did not reach the valley of the Braldu; in fact, we had a fear that it might turn into the Shaksgam, a horrid prospect. We took out a plane-table on to the glacier that evening, but when we both went into the same crevasse simultaneously, we went no farther.

During the climbs of the next two days we found that the valley led in a north westerly direction and was almost certainly the wesm- i -dur mentioned by Schomberg. From one of our stations we saw more of this Karakoram country than from any station I visited that summer. As far as we could see there was a turbulent ocean of high peaks without so much as a glimpse of earth in repose. It hardly seemed possible that there should be so much of so disturbed a land scape. K2, now more than 40 miles distant, towered over the ranges to the south east and the west and south-west the Kanjuts and Disteghil showed as excellent fixed points for checking the map.

We left the glacier on 20 August and came down to grass and fuel again with the greatest pleasure. Immediately below the glacier, that is, at the head of the Wesm-i-dur gorge, there was a fireplace and evidence that men came up here to hunt bharal. Shipton went after them too, but found them much shyer than the sheep of the Aghil country, who in their turn were more aware of being hunted than those from about Sughet Jangal. Nevertheless, he brought home a small ram-chikor, rather shot to pieces by Auden's .375 Mannlicher, which was our only weapon.

I remember the trip down the Wesm-i-dur as a laborious plod with a heavy load up and down steep slopes of conglomerate. In this way we covered 3 miles on 22 August and on the 23 only one, that is, horizontally. At last, however, we got out of the gorge on the third day and found ourselves at the foot of the Braldu glacier. I felt rather ridiculous, for, since we had failed to get into the Braldu valley, we would now have to make a special journey all the way up the Braldu and down again. These feelings were exaggerated because we both really wanted to get down to the verdure which we could already see at the end of the Braldu valley.

We set aside a supply of food for eight days and very carefully hid the rest, as the sheepfold, called Uchelga, near the end-moraine of the Braldu, seemed to be fairly regularly occupied. When we met the Shimshalis we learned that the people came up here with their flocks in the late autumn, so that actually nothing was to be feared in August from any acquisitive person. On 26 August we started up and reached an attractive grassy slope 5 1\2 miles from the start. The shooting expedition next morning was spoiled by a pack of wild dogs hunting the same herd of bharal as those being stalked by Shipton and Ang Tharkay. But in spite of a late start we made another 5 miles, helped by very easy clean ice. Cloud the next morning made us fear that bad weather might make all this effort futile: but we camped at midday at the 'Concordiaplatz' of the many branches of the upper Braldu.

For the next four days we worked hard in perfect weather. The country was fairly open and not difficult to survey. From one station I picked up in my telescope a large cairn topped by a glittering butter tin. Shipton sent out two men to visit it who brought back a note from Tilman, telling us of his discovery of a route to the Biafo. It was gratifying to have been able to complete our connexion to the Survey of India point, Peak 18/43 m 23,900 feet, the point which has variously been called the Ogre, Kailasa, or B15; and we knew that we had sufficient points on which to support any surveys made by Auden or Tilman.

Nevertheless, we were glad to be going down again. The whole party left Uchelga in the best of spirits. We never expected the Braldu river to give so much trouble; but even where it had spread into twenty or thirty channels it was a serious business to cross it. It seemed that we were fording far more water than we had ever met in the Shaksgam, and if it had not been for the view of green trees on the farther side of the valley we might have waited another day before attempting the crossing. It took us an hour and a half; the water was icy cold and the wind from the glacier brought a dust-storm to flay our already frozen limbs.

At Chikar, the oasis we had seen across the river, the expedition really ended. We had a few days' supply of food still in hand and made a programme to survey the Braldu as far down as its junction with the Shaksgam river. Our boots were worn out any extensive journey was now out of the question even if we could get enough food. Shipton went down the Braldu river as far as the Shaksgam and found it very desolate at the junction. Much water as there was in the Braldu river, it was a trickle by comparison with the flood still coming down the george of the Shaksgam.

At Chikar we met the first strangers we had seen since May. This was a party of Shimshalis who, bringing their yaks, had come to this valley to mine for salt. We found them generous and able. After spending a few days in their valley we crossed Shimshal pass on 9 September. It was hard to believe that we were crossing the main continental watershed, so great was the contract with the other sections of it which we had visited. It was a wide open grassy valley near which enormous herds of yaks and sheep were grazing. The journey home was a further four weeks of very interesting travel through Shimshal, Hunza, and Gilgit; but, entertaining as this was, it cannot well be described as part of the Shaksgam expedition.