7 Newton Hall,
Essex, CM6 2AS
Great Dunmow (0371) 2434
18 July 1988
In H.J. Vol. 44 (Correspondence, p. 251) Joydeep Sircar mentions the attempt on Buni Zom by White and Edelman in 1939. I enclose a letter extract, from White I received that year after my return to UK. Unfortunately it does not make clear whether they actually went to the top of North Peak though they must have passed very close to it. Their sights were set on the main peak. The letter does not say if the Sherpas were with them on the rock
I enclose three photos, the original from White; an enlargement of same; the ice wall they had to negotiate, up the rocks on the left.
I have a photo of the 19,000 ft peak they subsequently climbed, but it is not spectacular except for the view from it. (All available In the Club archieves)
In other letters I have, White mentions that they taught the Sherpas to ski and did a long trek up north with them.
Edelman was killed at the battle of Karen. White retired to Ireland. I was in correspondence with him some years ago but have since lost touch.
J. R. G. Finch
Extract from Letter from M. R. White, Chitral Scouts 17 September 1939
'We've had our shot (at Buni Zom) which was more in the nature of a reconnaissance and failed though we got to about 20,400 ft.
We tried your way up the Kara Bohrt glacier. There is no one In Chitral that will acknowledge that Bobby Lawder ever attempted It. (Buni Zom). All our own Indian officers say he definitely did not, as do the inhabitants of Laspur and Harchim. The reason he may have spoken about a donkey getting to the top was because the other glacier on the east of the mountain is called the Gordokhan (donkey) glacier. Our information was that the survey party (1929) went up it but failed even to get on the mountain.
We, as I said, followed your route and camped at Kulakmali, at 16,000 ft on the glacier which was some 300 ft above your camp, which was spotted, and at 18,300 ft just underneath the steep slope to the col (between Buni Zom and North Peak). One look at it showed me it would be impossible at that time (25 August) without considerable hard work and the certainty of having to put a further light bivouac up underneath the col. There was a layer of about one metre of snow on top of green ice and we would have had to cut an enormous number of steps. With the unskilled labour available it would have taken a couple of days and a third day at least for the final ridge to the summit. We had food for only two days up with us as we were going very light. We only had John and myself and two Sherpas (including Tenzing) whom we have taken on as bearers!
As the main summit seemed out of the question I decided to try for the left hand summit to the north of the col. The only feasible route was up the rocks.
I could have done it too, I think, only for a miscalculation at the beginning. Then sun did not reach us till 9 a.m. About 8.30 a.m. I left the tent for 10 minutes urgent exercise. I definitely wasn't outside for more than 10 minutes. Even so it took the united efforts of the two Sherpas until after 10 a.m. get the circulation back in my feet. What with one thing and another we didn't get away till nearly 11 a.m. The rocks were not too bad but one had to go very slowly on them and John was very badly effected by the altitude as he had never been above 14,000 ft before. At about 3.30 p.m. I had reached very nearly to the point I have marked in your photo which I return. The difficulties were just about over then but I did not think I had enough time to make the summit and return to camp and so gave it up. From there the main summit ridge does not look too difficult. On the way back John fell some 600 ft down the steep gully to the left of the rock ridge and cut his hands badly. It was his own fault in a way as I warned him not to get into it. He turned back some half hour before I did. This gully was sending a ceaseless bombardment of rocks down all day long, it was ice and not snow, with a river running down the middle of it.
The next day we climbed a 19,000 ft peak on the rim of the basin and had a superb view of the whole of Chitral. . . . . '
23 September 1988
chief of the Army,
Sena Bhavan, New Delhi 110 011.
As you may know the Himalayan Journal is one of the foremost record of mountaineering in the Himalaya in the world. Published by 'The Himalayan Club’ our news carries great reference value.
We were deeply disturbed at the deliberate wrong claim of ascents of two peaks in Sikkim made by an officer of the Indian Army Maj K. V. Cherian, who has been climbing for some years. We had not only recorded the full article, but circulated to many international affiliates. The wrong claim was brought to our notice by Dorjee Lhatoo, Hon. Local Secretary of the Club at Darjeeling and Col. K. S. Mall, deputy leader of the same expedition. The wrong claim is now confirmed by Maj. K. V. Cherian. There is no reason to believe that it was done as a mistake.
We have always taken the report of climbs by the Indian Army as absolutely correct, even if no photographs or details could be sent due to security reasons. With such incidents it will destroy the credibility of the claims that follow and make us the laughing stock in world mountaineering circles.
We view this very seriously. All the relevant papers are sent herewith for your study. We would request you to look into the matter and take whatever action you feel necessary to ensure that this is not repeated.
Soli S. Mehta
Correction regarding the wrong claims of Forked Peak and Kabru Dome, 1987 (H.J. Vol. 44, p. 48)
A Note by the Editor - HJ
The H.J. Vol. 44, p. 48 - carried an article by Maj. K. V. Cherian on their ascent of Rathong, which also claimed the ascents of Forked Peak and Kabru Dome.
An enquiry for details of these two preliminary ascents, brought forth a surprising letter from Maj. Cherian the leader, who writes '. . . It is submitted that, it is true that the team had reached only 70 m short of Kabru Dome summit and 40 m short Kabru Forked summit. The error is highly regretted. As a true mountaineer my true appologies to the readers for the wrong claim which had taken place due to mistakes committed at the briefing, assuming 70 m/40 m short as taken for granted as a climb. . . . I am enclosing a copy of this to all persons concerned.'
While we are glad that Maj. Cherian has corrected the record, we find it strange that he should be blaming the mistakes at the debriefing session regarding a non-ascent, since he was a 'Summiter' on the Dome himself, and gives us a most positive indication of the ascent of Kabru Dome. . . ' This soft snow was inescapable. We had to plod through it for about 300 m to reach the top of Dome peak, at 1.30 p.m. ..." He could not possibly get this part wrong, since he was there. (H.J. Vol. 44, p. 50)
Communication from the forces is always a difficult thing and we are grateful for every bit of detailed information we can get from them. It also therefore places equal responsibility on the-scribe to submit an honest and detailed account of the expedition without the vagueness that stretches the readers credibility to its limits and leaves doubts and suspicious hanging in the air.
Soli S. Mehta
23 September, 1988
97, Hatfleld Etreet,
Cape Town 8001.
Republic of South Africa
The Himalayan Club,
P. O. Box 1905, BOMBAY-400 001,
Dear Mr. Naoroji,
It has come to our attention that the Himalayan Club will celebrate its diamond jubilee in February 1988. The Mountain Club of South Africa extends its sincere congratulations on the occasion of this notable event, and our very best wishes for the future of your Club
The Mountain Club of South Africa will celebrate its centenary in 1991 and in the course of our history we have had contact with your Club. We do realise that circumstances beyond the control of mountaineers make formal ties between our Clubs very difficult but we would assure any of your members of a very warm welcome if they should ever visit South Africa. Do not hesitate to contact us.
You may be interested to know of an article which appeared in the 1960 Journal of the MCSA. General Sir Roger Wilson was President of the MCSA from 1954 to 1961.
Yours in mountaineering
L. Paul Fatti (Prof.)
The Himalayan Club,
P.O. Box 1905,
BOMBAY 400 001,
The Mountain Club of South Africa,
Republic of South Africa.
Dear Prof. Fatti,
It was a pleasure to receive your felicitations on the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the Himalayan Club. Our sincere thanks to you and the members of the Mountain Club of South Africa.
The reprint of an article from the 1960 Journal of your Club is indeed very interesting. The pattern of membership has naturally changed from the time when Sir Roger Wilson was in India, but the U.K. still continues to hold second place in number of membership; Indian membership being the highest now.
I am really surprised that your Club preceded the Himalayan Club by over 30 years. May I take this opportunity to offer on our Club's behalf as also on my personal side felicitations and best wishes for the centenary in 1991 of the Mountain Club of South Africa, and hope that perhaps circumstances will come about in time between our countries such that our two Clubs could have closer and more meaningful ties.
K. N. Naoroji
Shri Rajendra Wani
A-16-62, Chittaranjan Nagar,.
Vidyavihar, 400 077.
27th March, 1989
Sub: Kanchenjunga (sic) expedition, 1988 (Bombay);
The above Indian expedition was widely publicised as the 'first civil expedition of India' to any eight thousander. It was a mammoth expedition consisting of 24 members plus several other support parties. During conversation with most of its. members and after seeing the slide-show, I failed to understand how a team of 24 members can consist of barely 6 to 7 actual climbing members. We were told that a few climbers were struggling on high altitudes having left behind a large gathering enjoying the hospitality of the base camp. On close scrutiny one finds that many of these base camp squatters were visiting Himalaya for the second or third time and were not seasoned mountaineers as one expects in an expedition like 'Kanchenjunga' (sic). I failed to understand this especially when I remember the conversation with V. V. Limaye (leader) who was talking of ushering an era of 'Alpine-style climbing in India,
During its publicity campaign, attention of the public was largely focused on 'being a first civil expedition to any eight thousander'. But as members themselves say, though the expedition was civil, the leader was more suitable to Army expedition. He was mainly a base camp member and could barely manage to climb up to C2 with the help of two porters. The general opinion was that Limaye should have handed over climbing charge to the more experienced climber Sanjay Borole immediately after reaching the base camp as he was not to take part in the actual climbing. The tragic death of our friend Sanjay Borole was caused due to extreme exhaustion. He was at C2 and above for more than 15 days at a stretch. How can a leader keep one member away from base camp for 15 days at a stretch ?
I happened to ask some members, as to how they had chosen to attempt Kangchenjunga, which is considered to be fairly tough among eight thousanders? Their reply was, and I quote, 'After the success on Kamet, we wanted to go still higher. So we thought why not the highest peak available. As Everest is booked well in advance and K2 is out of the question as it is under Pakistan's control, we were left with no other alternative but to Btoose Kangchenjunga'.
I am writing this letter not to discourage any climbers but a huge sum of money, Rs. 25 lakhs, was spent on the expedition. This money has come either through government grants or donations from large companies. But ultimately it is the tax payer's money and this tendency is growing in Indian mountaineering scene. A lot of political influences were used, which is also a most unhealthy trend. I suggest stringent measures on mountaineering expedition monitored by government with the help of seasoned mountaineers.