J. de V. Graaff
Box 1609, Cape Town,
South Africa ZA 8000
18 September 1983
Dear Mr Kapadia,
It is very kind of you to have sent me an account of your doings in the Lingti valley. What a wonderful choice you made — it must be one of the very few genuinely unexplored areas left. In September 1952 my wife and I, with 5 Sherpas (Pasang Dawa Lama was the Sirdar), camped at Langja in the Shilla nala and tried to (i) identify the original Shilla peak (23,050 ft), (ii) determine what J. O. M. Roberts had done in 1939, and (iii) see if there was a high path into the Upper Lingti. Very briefly, our findings were as under.
Our general impression was of a fascinating region, in which we would much have liked to spend longer. Instead we went south to Mani Kang and then over the Pin Parbati pass back to Kulu. Earlier in the trip we had been in the Dibibokri with Snelson, and on Deo Tibba with K. E. Beviill.
With kind regards,
P. F. Holmes
4 October 1983
Dear Mr Kapadia,
Thank you indeed for sending me a photograph and also your report on your expedition to Lingti in Spiti. Trevor Braham also sent me a copy of the letter you wrote to him.
I do envy you travelling to Spiti. Although it was a long time ago, we had two years in 1955 and 1956 map making, climbing and generally studying the area.
I found very interesting your comments on what has happened in the way of communications and development. The idea of regular bus services sounds very strange to me. Even more strange is the idea of a 9 km motorable road at Ratang valley leading to a major dam. I had not heard of the 1975 earthquake in Spiti, and it is sad that places like Ki Gompa may have been severely damaged.
Saddest of all was to hear of the fate of Shering Dawa of Rangrik. We found him a delightful boy; but I suppose you are right to say that it is difficult to go against tradition. I have had news from Ringzin from time to time so have followed his progress over the years.
It is extraordinary how everyone seems to climb Guan Nelda in not very good weather. Trevor Braham and I climbed in very poor visibility; of all the fifteen peaks I climbed over two years in Spiti, that was the only really bad day of visibility we had. However I have a very good photograph of Guan Nelda from high up on the southern side of the main Spiti valley should you ever need it.
Thank you once again for sending me your report.
With best wishes.
A COMMENT ON THE NOTE ON
'LIVING WITH AN ANGRY MOUNTAIN’
I have read carefully, Sanjeev Saith's note (H.J. Vol. 39, p. 239) on my article 'Living with an Angry Mountain' (H.J. Vol. 38, p. 77) and would like to record my observations on it:
Paragraphs 2 and 3 of his note reveals an incorrect appreciation of the decision-making process of the alpine outing. In my group perhaps Nirmal and Pratiman were more experienced in Himalayan climbing than I was; Mr Bisht was a mountaineering instructor detailed by the I.M.F. In other words my role was more as a co-ordinator and almost a sinecure. If as Saith says, I 'managed* to convince my companions to climb in adverse circumstances, it i& I presume a tribute to my powers of rational reasoning. Else they themselves felt open to having a go at the summit.
Saith has written of contradiction in my account. In paragraph 3 he I think means to say that apart from me the others were not planning to head for the summit but only to recce the route because we were not carrying sleeping-bags and that 'at least one of them had even left his feather jacket behind*. 'Maybe this was so because he was not planning to go for the summit I wish to record that that person was me. My jacket was lying in his tent the night that I was sitting out in the snow. Surely then, by his reasoning I had not been heading for the summit.
He goes on to suggest that I may have been under a state of mental shock to excuse me for not moving towards his flashlight or for freeing Pratiman from 'the rope'. I have already discussed in para 7, page 80 of my account, the predicament I found myself in minus crampons, glasses, etc. which prevented me from acting otherwise. Assuming that the shock factor was in fact prevalent I however find it difficult to reconcile with what poses to be a contradiction in Saith's account of the rescue: why did he not come up to what he states was 20,300 ft (the spot where we were) that night but instead returned from 'beyond 20,000 ft* retreating, in his own words, 'in the steps of Bisht down to camp.' For whatever reason he did come out in answer to our shouts, why did he not complete the climb to us especially when as he says, he got no response from us?
During an inquiry conducted on behalf of the I.M.F. by Col L. P. Sharma and in my own article, I had deliberately refrained from making any allegations against Saith's group which did not reach us that night. I believe as do genuine mountaineers that certain risks are implicit while choosing team-mates: one of them is that in the eventuality of an accident to yourself, you must be prepared to face the consequences alone without ipso facto expecting a rescue squad to materialize to bail you out.
In para 4 Saith alleges that my estimates of heights and distances are inaccurate. I would admit that my estimates are impressionistic but in consultation of maps. Also since I did get up to the top and got down, neither of which Saith did, it is logical to assume that I would be in a better position to estimate distances. Even though I may have been in a state of mental shock after the accident, surely I could have gone over events afterwards to fix heights and distances.
When he writes of 'the rope' being coiled around Nirmal and Pratiman, I am tempted to comment on this. It was not the climbing rope that had caused all the trouble with Pratiman. No, it was the coils of thin grey nylon rope which we had been carrying to fix, that had given so much trouble to rescuers. Bisht in fact told me later that he had to cut this rope to free Pratiman.
Lastly, on p. 241, Saith says that I was 'almost ostracized’ by many in the camp after the accident. I fail to understand what he means. It is only true that I was allocated the luxury of a roomy tent by myself so that I could rest and so that the doctor could examine me at ease.
P. M. Das
Dr S. A. Craven,
14 Mount Road,
14 July 1983
Dear Mr Kapadia,
Since your letter I have received with thanks the Himalayan Journals 37 and 38. I was particularly interested to read of the disappearing rivers in Tibet on the way to Kailash-Manasarovar, Shortly after the Chinese takeover of Tibet, Arnold Waterfall, a past-President of the Craven Pothole Club and noted student of Tibetiana, was entertaining a refugee Lama in the Yorkshire Dales, a typical karst area where the rivers sink in the limestone hills and reappear lower down the valleys. This Lama was most enthusiastic, and said that it reminded him of home. I am convinced that there is a virgin caving area in Tibet. If you have a gap to fill, you may like to mention this in your next Journal.
With kinds regards.
Dr S. A. Craven